Advanced Biofuels Industry Weighs in on #RFS

The advance biofuels industry is fairly positive about increased volumes in the final Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rules that were released yesterday but leaders are stressing that this isn’t enough to keep the advanced biofuels industry growing and get investor confidence back on track. In the past year, four commercial scale cellulosic ethanol biorefineries went online and when they are in full production will produce more than 100 million gallons of advanced biofuels each year.

Leaders continue to express frustration with the EPA and legislators- especially when they point out that the #RFS is the most effective energy policy ever implemented. So what exactly is the industry saying? Read some of their responses below:

Brooke Coleman, Advanced Biofuels Business Council Executive Director:
abbc“What we’re seeing in the RFS final rule, volumetrically at least, is continued growth in renewable fuel blending. That counts for something, predominantly in markets already inclined to offer consumers more renewable fuels. But it is frustrating that the Administration missed this opportunity to fix two waiver issues that are undercutting U.S. investment in low carbon, advanced biofuels. Waivers are absolutely critical to U.S. investment, because they define for investors when the field of play can be altered. It is confounding that the Obama Administration would side with the oil industry against Democratic members of Congress and the advanced biofuels industry in reinterpreting its waiver authority to allow for “distribution waivers,” which would permit EPA to waive the RFS if the oil industry refuses to make arrangements to distribute renewable fuel and comply with the law.” Click to read entire ABBC statement.

Brent Erickson, Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO):
bio-logo“Today’s rule is a severe blow to American consumers and the biofuels industry. To date, BIO member companies have invested billions of dollars to develop first-of-a-kind advanced and cellulosic biofuel production facilities. EPA’s two-year delay in finalizing the rule created untenable uncertainty and shook investor confidence in the RFS program. BIO estimates that investment in the advanced biofuel sector has experienced a $13.7 billion shortfall due to EPA’s delays and proposed changes. Unfortunately, this final rule exacerbates the problem.”

Michael McAdams, President, Advanced Biofuels Association:
Advanced Biofuels Association logoThe Advanced Biofuels Association applauds EPA’s support of next-generation biofuels…While we appreciate EPA’s efforts, we continue to believe that legislative reform is required to address ongoing hurdles facing next-generation biofuels. Congress needs to strengthen the RFS to help focus and expedite the production of advanced biofuels. Outdated definitions, cellulosic waivers, as well as overall program uncertainty have created significant barriers to entry for the advanced and cellulosic industry. That’s why ABFA will continue to work with Congress and the Administration to reform and strengthen the RFS so it can deliver on the promise of next-generation renewable fuels.”

Fuels America TV Ad Blasts Anti-RFS Congressmen

Fuels America has launched a new TV ad that blasts the Congressional leaders who sent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy a letter requesting that corn-based ethanol volumes be reduced in the final Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rules. The final rules for 2014, 2015 and 2016 are expected by the end of this month.

The ad calls out Representative Peter Welch (D-VT) for protecting oil company profits and criticizes the signers who Fuels America calls climate change deniers. It continues by urging viewers to “Remind Peter Welch to stand up for Vermont, not oil companies and climate deniers.”

As noted in a previous story, the 184 Members of Congress who signed on have collectively received more than $39 million from the oil and gas industry throughout their careers. When combined, the signers have a National Environmental Scorecard of 2.74 out of a possible 100 (based on voting records) from the League of Conservation Voters (LCVs). The Scorecard is a nationally accepted yardstick used to rate members of Congress on environmental, public health, and energy issues. In addition 154 signers have an LCV score below 10, 140 have an LCV score below 5, and 76 have an LCV score of 0.

“After years of pleading with Congressman Welch, it is time to inform Vermonters about his beltway exploits with the oil industry attacking renewable fuels,” Advanced Biofuels Business Council Executive Director Brooke Coleman said in regards to the Congressional letter. “Mr. Welch didn’t just join an anti-biofuel campaign underwritten by the oil industry, he led the effort to recruit others. It is time to shine a brighter light on those encouraging EPA and the President to gut the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). It’s not a chorus, it is the oil industry, climate deniers and EPA bashers disguised as one. This letter and the millions of dollars of oil contributions flowing to its signers tell you everything you need to know about the anti-RFS crowd.”

The anti-RFS letter came shortly after several members of the Congressional Black Caucus called on the EPA to support the RFS citing negative health an environmental benefits of biofuels and the negative effects of emissions especially in vulnerable communities. Continue reading

BIO Applauds Renewable Chemicals Act Bill

Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Coon (D-DE) and Al Franken have introduced a new bill, S. 2271 the Renewable Chemicals Act of 2015. If passed, the legislation would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide credits for the production of renewable chemicals and investments in renewable chemical production facilities. The companion bill in the House is H.R. 3390.

bio-logoAccording to the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) the Renewable Chemicals Act would create a targeted, short-term tax credit of 15 cents per pound for production of eligible renewable chemicals from produced from biomass-based feedstocks. Instead of the production tax credit that is currently in place, producers could choose to take a 30 percent investment tax credit for qualified investments for new renewable chemical production facilities.

Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section, said in response to the legislation, “Creating incentives in tax policy will help drive U.S. industrial biotech companies to continue to innovate and develop new renewable products in the chemical space. Incentives that support renewable chemicals will promote enhanced innovation in the chemical industry, the construction of next generation integrated biorefineries while creating new jobs and enhancing environmental benefits.”

“We thank Senator Stabenow for her leadership in support of initiatives that help grow the bio-based economy and boost the agriculture and manufacturing sectors in America,” Erickson continued. “This legislation will allow U.S. companies to better compete in a rapidly growing global chemicals market.”

NCGA Disappointed in Congress’ Lack of RFS Support

The National Corn Growers Association is “deeply disappointed” that Members of Congress who represent corn-producing states have sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requesting a reduction in the volume of corn-ethanol blended into the fuel supply as required by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The letter was signed by 184 Members of Congress and according to Open Secrets, collectively, these legislators have received $39 million from the oil industry throughout their careers.

Photo credit Joanna Schroeder

Photo credit Joanna Schroeder

“I’m disappointed to see Members of Congress turn their back on farmers and rural communities,” said Wesley Spurlock, First Vice President of the National Corn Growers and a farmer from Stratford, Texas. The Renewable Fuel Standard has been one of the most successful energy policies ever enacted. The RFS works. It has reduced our dependence on foreign oil. It has made the rural economy stronger. And it has been better for the environment. It’s puzzling that these Representatives would not want to support it.”

On November 4, 2015, the House members made a request to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to reduce the Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) for corn-based ethanol, the amount of biofuels blended into the transportation fuel supply each year. NCGA states that this action would violate congressional statue. The organization cites an article from Bloomberg News that claims that the initial drafts of the congressional letter were written by an oil industry lobbyist.

“This letter has Big Oil’s fingerprints all over it,” continued Spurlock. “The letter includes false attacks on ethanol that have been disproven time and again. The blend wall is a false construct. We have known from the beginning that eventually we would need higher blends of ethanol to meet the statutory requirements. That was the point: to replace fossil fuels with renewables. The oil industry doesn’t want to hear that. That’s why they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to repeal the RFS, even to the point of having their lobbyists write this letter.”

Also responding to the letter was Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). “It should come as no surprise that, as the November 30th deadline for the EPA to issues its final rule on the 2014-2016 RVOs looms, the Big Oil spin machine has gone into overdrive and the petroleum industry is pulling out all the stops in an attempt to confuse the public and mislead policymakers about this important program. The fact that members of Congress are parroting Big Oil’s blend wall narrative is shameful evidence that money talks. Continue reading

EPA Submits Final RFS Rules to OMB for Review

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has transmitted its Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rules to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review as one of the final steps before publishing the final 2014, 2015 and 2016 final RFS rules for renewable volume obligations (RVOs). While the details are not public, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) is calling on the EPA to correct its course and stop undermining the goals and requirements of the statute. The uncertainty, the organization said, is undercutting much needed investments in advanced and cellulosic biofuels as well as raising greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation fuel sector.

bio-logoMany cellulosic and advanced biofuel companies are members of the organization including several companies who have brought commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol biorefineries online in the past year including Abengoa Bioenergies in Hugoton, Kansas; DuPont in Nevada, Iowa; and POET-DSM in Emmetsburg, Iowa. In addition, several leading advanced biofuels companies focused on waste feedstocks have also seen commercial scale success including INEOS Bio in Vero Beach, Florida; Enerkem in Alberta, Canada; GranBio in Alagoas, Brazil; and ZeaChem in Boardman, Oregon. All of these companies, along with those companies still in development stages, have a significant vested interest in achieving increased mandated volumes for second generation biofuels.

According to BIO, its members are improving conventional biofuel processes, commercializing advanced and cellulosic biofuel production technologies and speeding the development of new bioenergy dedicated crops.

Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section, said after hearing the news that the final rules were sent to OMB for review, “The RFS has been a critical piece of our nation’s energy and climate policy. It has driven the investment of billions of dollars in the development and commercial deployment of ultra-low-carbon biofuels. It has spurred innovation beyond biofuels to the development of greener technologies and manufacturing processes while curbing our dependence on foreign oil.”

“Unfortunately, Erickson continued, “as we explained in our official comments on the proposed rule, EPA’s new interpretation of its statutory authority to waive the requirements of the RFS statute has already chilled investment for advanced biofuels and has increased U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. If EPA issues a final rule that adopts the approach set forth in the proposed rule, the result will be continued market uncertainty and market constraints that will further undermine sustained investment in advanced biofuels.”

The deadline for the release of the final RFS rules in November 30, 2015. Should the RVO’s not be returned to at minimum, mandated levels, the biofuels industry has voiced intent to sue the EPA.

Fuels America Launches New Ad Campaign

Fuels America is launching a new seven-figure TV and digital ad campaign today urging President Obama to make a choice between the oils industry and renewable fuels for the future.

fuels-americaThe campaign depicts President Obama’s choice of who to listen to when it comes to the Renewable Fuel Standard: his own experts who have repeatedly shown that ethanol and renewable fuel is dramatically reducing carbon emissions, or the oil industry, which has spent decades covering up the science and facts on both renewable fuel and climate science.

“President Obama’s choice on the Renewable Fuel Standard is clear. He can choose to listen to Big Oil’s distortions and lies, or he can listen to his own scientists who have shown that the RFS significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions,” said Brent Erickson, Executive Vice President at BIO.

“The truth is that slashing the amount of clean, domestic renewable fuel in our motor fuel supply would dramatically increase pollution and carbon emissions, while strengthening the RFS and building on the progress of the past 10 years would help in our efforts to combat climate change,” said National Corn Growers Association president Chip Bowling, a Maryland farmer.

The 30-second TV spot and digital ads are both airing in the Beltway. The campaign follows aggressive attempts by oil industry-funded special interest groups API and Smarter Fuel Future to discredit the climate benefits of renewable fuel—and as usual, their claims are false and wholly unsupported.

Listen to Erickson and Bowling announce the new campaign here: New Fuels America campaign

BIO Analysis: Oil Companies Set to Lose Trillions

A recasting of oil industry data from a recent NERA Economic Consulting study prepared for the American Petroleum Institute (API) found the oil industry would be economically harmed by more than $12.3 trillion in potential profits in 2015 if the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) obligations below statutory levels. The analysis, “Economic Impacts Resulting from Failing to Implement the RFS2 Program,” was conducted by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), and finds the same result; however, views the information slightly differently.

“The Renewable Fuel Standard was designed to drive investment in renewable fuel production, and some oil companies have partnered with biofuel producers to do just that,” said Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section. “Since many of the oil refiners are publicly owned companies, they have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders to maximize earnings and generate a return on that investment.”

dreamstime_xs_23776976Erickson continued, “The oil industry reported earnings of a paltry $77.2 billion for 2014, as prices at the pump fell during the year. But if EPA sets the RFS at the statutory volumes in 2015, the industry would be able to earn $12.3 trillion in profits this year by again raising the price of gasoline and diesel. The oil companies owe it to their shareholders to urge EPA to set RFS volumes at the statutory levels.”

According to BIO, the oil industry study from NERA Economic Consulting assumes that if EPA sets the RFS at levels established by the U.S. Congress, oil refiners will elect to export their products rather than sell them to American drivers. The resulting artificial shortage of fuels within the U.S, NERA’s proprietary economic modeling predicts, will raise gasoline and diesel prices to “outrageously high” levels – $93.64 per gallon for regular gasoline and $103.00 per gallon for diesel. NERA’s data indicates that ethanol is the lowest cost fuel component and that higher renewable fuel blends such as E85 would be the lowest priced fuel choice for consumers. Continue reading

Study Shows Biofuel Use Saves Carbon Emissions

bio-logoA new study from the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) shows that use of biofuels over the past decade has saved nearly 590 million tons of carbon emissions.

According to the study, the requirement under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) over the past 10 years to substitute biofuels for fossil fuels has displaced nearly 1.9 billion barrels of foreign oil and reduced U.S. transportation-related carbon emissions by 589.33 million metric tons.

“The Renewable Fuel Standard was signed into law ten years ago this month by President George W. Bush. The law’s purpose was to end America’s addiction to oil, reduce reliance on foreign oil and lower carbon emissions from the transportation sector,” said Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section. “The RFS program has demonstrably achieved those goals. The total reduction in carbon emissions achieved under the program is equal to removing more than 124 million cars from the road over the decade.”

The study also finds that EPA’s recent proposed rules for the RFS would cut short achievable future carbon emission reductions. In 2015 alone, the proposal would add 19.6 million tons of CO2e for the year, equal to putting 7.3 million cars back on the road, compared with achievable levels of biofuel use.

“It is unfortunate that the Environmental Protection Agency has delayed issuing new rules for the program and is now proposing to halt growth in the biofuel market,” said Erikson. “The agency’s delay will continue to allow fossil fuels to be used when cleaner, lower carbon biofuels are available, reversing some of the progress made in the past ten years.”
Read the study here.

Hope for Renewable Energy Tax Credits

The Senate Finance Committee is set to vote Tuesday on a two-year extension of tax benefits, including the production tax credit for wind power, and credits for biodiesel and cellulosic biofuels production.

wyden-hatch“This markup will give the Committee a timely opportunity to act on extending a number of expired provisions in the tax code that help families, individuals and small businesses,” Hatch said. “This is the first time in 20 years where a new Congress has started with extenders legislation having already expired, and given that these provisions are meant to be incentives, we need to advance a package as soon as possible.”

“The tax code should work for, not against, Americans,” Wyden said. “We need to extend these tax provisions now in order to provide greater certainty and predictability for middle class families and businesses alike. However as we look beyond next week, it’s critical we all recognize and take action to end this stop and go approach to tax policy through extenders.”

A group of biofuel trade organizations have sent a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) encouraging extension of the critical advanced biofuel tax incentives. The incentives include the Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit, the Special Depreciation Allowance for Second Generation Biofuel Plant Property, the Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Fuels Credit, and the Alternative Fuel and Alternative Fuel Mixture Excise Tax Credit. Groups supporting the extensions are the Advanced Ethanol Council, Advanced Biofuels Association, Algae Biomass Organization, Biotechnology Industry Organization, Growth Energy, National Biodiesel Board, and Renewable Fuels Association.

BIO to Put Innovation in Name

bio-logoSame acronym… new innovative meaning. The Biotechnology Industry Organization… better known as BIO will soon become the Biotechnology Innovation Organization. This news release from BIO says the change is to highlight the scientific innovation the group brings.

“I’m pleased to announce that the BIO Board has approved a change to BIO’s name… from the Biotechnology Industry Organization to the Biotechnology Innovation Organization,” said BIO’s new Board Chair, Ron Cohen, CEO of Acorda Therapeutics. “Still BIO, but now with a name that better expresses the essence of what our member companies represent.”

BIO’s President and CEO, Jim Greenwood added, “This is a great move that will help clarify for policymakers and the public the heart of our industry – scientific innovation that will help to heal, feed and fuel the world. Each day, our members use cutting edge science and technology to deliver game-changing products, therapies and cures to improve the human condition.”

The new name will be launched in early 2016.