The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) today issued comments on the proposed consent decree to resolve oil industry lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency over delays in promulgating final rules for annual biofuel volume obligations.
“BIO is supportive of EPA’s commitments contained in the proposed consent decree, which would establish definitive deadlines this year for EPA to take final action on the 2014 RFS rule and proposed and final action on the 2015 RFS rule,” Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section, wrote in the official comments. “EPA should withdraw its proposed 2014 RFS rule and reissue it by June 1, 2015, to include advanced and total renewable biofuel volumes that are consistent with the RFS statute.”
BIO recently released an analysis showing that instability in EPA’s administration of the RFS is responsible for chilling as much as $13.7 billion in investments that the advanced biofuel industry needed to build capacity to meet the RFS goals. The delays in rulemaking have also undercut the industry’s ability to create new employment opportunities, resulting in the loss of more than 80,000 direct jobs.
A dozen organizations and companies representing biofuels interests this week sent a letter to President Obama asking for a meeting on proposed rules under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) due to come out next month.
“The EPA’s proposal in 2013 was an enormous disservice to you and your legacy, Mr. President,” the letter states. “Prior to the release of that proposal, we had asked to meet with the EPA, but were rebuffed. We would like to work with you to ensure that the mistake is not repeated.”
In addition to the letter and the analysis from BIO, the Fuels America coalition is running digital ads this week on Politico’s Environment & Energy section that say, “Will the next generation of biofuels be created in the United States or China? It’s up to you, Mr. President. Support the Renewable Fuel Standard.”
According to the analysis, the industry has experienced an estimated $13.7 billion shortfall in investment over the past two years as the Environmental Protection Agency has delayed setting volume obligations for biofuels under the RFS.
(EPA) was nine months late issuing the 2013 RVOs and is more than 17 months late in issuing the 2014 rule. Further, the agency has made cellulosic biofuel producers wait an average of 29 months (more than two years) for approval of production pathways. Currently, 29 companies have unresolved petitions filed with EPA and they have been waiting on average more than 32 months for resolution. A majority of an estimated $13.7 billion shortfall in investment for cellulosic and new advanced technologies should therefore be attributed to EPA’s delays in issuing timely rules.
Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section, notes that the situation came about just as plants were beginning to reach the commercial stage. “The chill in investment has had the heaviest impact on cellulosic biofuel developers,” said Erickson. “The delays in rulemaking have also undercut the industry’s ability to create new employment opportunities, resulting in the loss of more than 80,000 direct jobs.”
According to BIO, the industry has invested more than $5 billion in first-of-a-kind demonstration and commercial-scale biorefineries around the world. The analysis finds that as of April 2015, there are five commercial cellulosic biorefineries with a combined capacity of more than 50 million gallons within the United States and registered to meet the goals of the RFS, along with several pilot and demonstration plants. Additional commercial biorefineries are under construction.
Longtime advocate for biobased fuels Iowa Governor Terry Branstad will speak at this summer’s Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) World Congress in Montreal, Canada. This news release from BIO says Branstad is slated to speak during the July 20 plenary session titled, “State and Regional Approaches to Developing the Biobased Economy.”
“Governor Terry Branstad is a true champion of our industry and the creation of a national biobased economy. He has voiced support for the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, advanced policies at the state level for a stronger rural bioeconomy and supported more research to advance second-generation biofuels,” said Jim Greenwood, President and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). “BIO could not imagine a better person than Governor Branstad to kick off the world’s largest conference on industrial biotechnology.”
“Governor Branstad has regularly provided leadership in articulating the importance of the biotechnology industry to our state,” said Joe Hrdlicka, executive director, Iowa Biotech Association. “We’re thrilled he will have the opportunity to share Iowa’s vision at such a critical industry event with an international audience.”
“Iowa is the nation’s premier leader in the renewable fuels industry and is capitalizing on its success in agriculture and its research capabilities in plant, animal and human biosciences to build a thriving biosciences industry within the state,” said Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority. “Iowa’s bioscience enterprises are discovering the innovations that will spur future economic growth and create jobs, improving the quality of life for people on a global scale — Governor Branstad is poised to tell our story.”
The CEO and founder of the nation’s largest agricultural residue and forage harvesting business will be discussing biofuel feedstocks on a panel at the BIO Pacific Rim Summit in San Diego this week.
Bill Levy of Oregon-based Pacific Ag will take part in the panel which will explore the realities faced by feedstock producers in today’s marketplace. Panelists will delve into issues in production and logistics, feedstock availability, ability to scale, competing applications for feedstock use, and new markets.
“There are many concerns surrounding the economic feasibility of harvesting biomass for food and fuel. The biggest hurdle of biomass conversion is price and volume predictability,” said Levy of his panel remarks. “What Pacific Ag offers is a sustainable supply at a consistent price necessary for industrial uses of biomass.”
Pacific Ag is leading the biomass harvesting revolution and has been expertly handling biomass logistics for more than 16 years – longer than any other U.S. company. Today, Pacific Ag is the exclusive biomass harvesting and logistics company for Abengoa’s cellulosic ethanol plant located in Hugoton, Kansas and is also working with DuPont’s cellulosic ethanol facility expected to go online in early 2015.
The “Feedstocks: A Global Comparison” panel is taking place Tuesday, December 9, at 8:00 am PT during the BIO Pacific Rim Summit.
On Monday, biofuels industry leaders will hold briefings for Capitol Hill staff and the media to discuss the implications of the decision and where we go from here. The Fuels America briefing will feature Buis, Dinneen, Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) Executive Director Brooke Coleman, and Brent Erickson with the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).
The Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to hold off on issuing a final rule for 2014 volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) continues the atmosphere of uncertainty for the advanced biofuel industry, according to the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).
“We appreciate that EPA will not be finalizing a proposed 2014 RFS rule containing a flawed methodology for setting the renewable fuel volumes,” said BIO President & CEO Jim Greenwood. “Unfortunately, the delay in this year’s rule already has chilled investment and financing of future projects, even as first-of-a-kind cellulosic biofuel plants are right now starting up operations. The industry needs a final rule that is legally appropriate and continues to support our efforts.”
Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) Executive Director Brooke Coleman says that pulling back on the 2014 RFS rule is “the right thing to do at this stage in the game when it comes to preserving the integrity of the program.”
“While the cellulosic biofuel industry will not get the policy certainty it needs from this decision, it does suggest that the Administration is listening when it comes to our concerns about giving oil companies too much power to avoid its obligations under the RFS going forward,” Coleman added. “This battle was never about the 2014 volumes for the oil industry, and we appreciate the Administration’s willingness to pivot in the right direction this late in the game. The key now for advanced biofuel investment is to move quickly to fix what needs to be fixed administratively so we can reestablish the RFS as the global gold standard for advanced biofuel policy.”
EPA hit the big reset button. Given the fact that we are already at the end of 2014, we appreciate EPA’s recognition that the real importance is to set the program on a clear glide path for 2015 and 2016. The numbers do matter, and utilizing the actual production will be a positive step from what was a proposed. We appreciate how EPA recognized that cutting requirements for advanced biofuels would be a mistake. This emerging industry deserves better considering it has already demonstrated the capacity to generate 3.2 billion gallons of advanced biofuel annually. But, at least EPA’s decision leaves the glass more than half full and allow us to get back on track next year.
BIO President & CEO Jim Greenwood said, “Industrial biotechnology applications once again are recognized in the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge for their ability to prevent pollution. Today’s award for Solazyme marks the first time that a microalgae biotechnology application has been recognized. Solazyme’s algae oils are a sustainable alternative to petroleum. Likewise, Amyris’ farnesane is a breakthrough renewable hydrocarbon that displaces petroleum in diesel and jet fuels. I congratulate both Solazyme and Amyris on receiving their accomplishments.”
Amyris received the Small Business Award for its design of farnesane, a hydrocarbon building block that can be converted into a renewable, drop-in diesel or jet fuel.
Solazyme received the Greener Synthetic Pathways Award for oils produced through microalgae fermentation. These oils can be tailored to replace or improve upon traditional vegetable oils and petrochemicals.
The Environmental Protection Agency has been handing out the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards each year since 1996. About a third of the nearly 100 annual awards given were awarded to biotechnology and biobased applications.
According to a new white paper, inaction by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on finalizing the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rules is increasing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) equal to 4.4 million additional cars on American roads. The paper, published by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) updated earlier estimates of GHG emissions due to the proposal to reduce biofuel use during 2014.
Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section, said, “During the U.N. Climate Summit this week, the Obama administration is sure to promote the regulatory actions it has taken to reduce climate change emissions from stationary sources such as power plants. But regulatory inaction on the RFS has opened the door to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.”
“Last November, EPA proposed a steep reduction in the use of biofuels in order to avoid hitting the so-called blend wall – a proposal the administration still has not finalized,” continued Erickson. “What the agency failed to consider is that demand for transportation fuel has been increasing – the United States is now using several billion gallons more gasoline and diesel than projected. The so-called blend wall is an invention of the oil industry and has simply been a red herring.”
In March 2014, Erickson and coauthors published the study, “Estimating Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Proposed Changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard Through 2022.” That study demonstrated that if EPA reduced biofuel use under the RFS, as the agency proposed in November 2013, the U.S. would experience an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and forego an achievable decrease in emissions.
In the updated white paper uses new data on transportation fuel demand for 2013 and 2014. The U.S. is now projected to use 2 billion gallons more gasoline and 0.5 billion gallons more diesel in 2014 than previously projected.
Erickson concluded, “The administration must finalize the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard using a methodology based on biofuel production and continue the program’s successful support for commercialization of advanced and cellulosic biofuels. The renewable fuel industry has already created hundreds of thousands of good jobs and boosted economic growth.”
“The People’s Climate March” has received worldwide attention to kick off Climate Week in New York and an ad in the New York Times is asking if President Obama is his own worst enemy when it comes to climate. The ad tells the president that if his administration accepts the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to alter the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) he “will have inadvertently done more to damage [his] climate legacy than [his] worst enemies.”
The ad warns that the proposal would let oil companies off the hook for blocking competition from American renewable fuels, and prompt an exodus of investment in cellulosic ethanol—the world’s cleanest motor fuel—to China and Brazil.
In the ad, the Advanced Ethanol Council and Biotechnology Industry Organization caution President Obama that investments in additional cellulosic production beyond these four plants will likely shift overseas if the President adopts the flawed methodology of the EPA proposal, regardless of whether he decides to actually raise the renewable fuel targets in the rule. This month, two commercial scale cellulosic ethanol biorefineries came online in Iowa and Abengoa will be hosting a grand opening for its cellulosic ethanol plant in Kansas in October.