Groups Ask for Advanced Biofuel Tax Extension

As the advanced biofuel tax credits get closer to expiring, six biofuel trade associations have called on federal legislators to pass a multi-year extension of the credits. In 2015, through the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015, several programs were extended including: the Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit; the Special Depreciation Allowance for Second Generation Biofuel Plant Property; the Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Fuels Credit; the Alternative Fuel and Alternative Fuel Mixture Excise Tax Credit; and the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property. While these were extended through 2019, the advanced biofuels tax credit is set to expire at the end of this year.

The letter sent today to Senate and House leaders, the Senate Committee on Finance leaders and the House Ways and Means Committee leaders and was signed by The Advanced Biofuels Business Council, Algae Biomass Organization, Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), Growth Energy, National Biodiesel Board, and Renewable Fuels Association.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 12.29.51 PMThe letter stated, “This short-term expiration of tax incentives is jeopardizing the long-term investment necessary for advanced biofuels. This creates uncertainty for investors and industry about the availability of these credits in the future. As leaders in a critical innovation sector in the United States, we are well aware of the financial constraints facing this country. However, as Congress works on developing energy tax extenders legislation, we urge you to ensure that advanced biofuels are part of the package. Extending some 2016 expiring energy tax provisions and not others creates a piecemeal approach and investment uncertainty across the energy sector and distorts the playing field for biofuel producers.”

Additional comments were made by each of the six organizations that signed the letter. These comments can be found below.

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association said, “Short-term tax incentives are akin to new drivers in a stick shift vehicle. The cars haltingly lurch forward for a time, but suddenly stall. The advanced biofuel industry needs certainty if it is to remain commercially viable, as it continues to bring new facilities and technologies online. Longer term incentives would go a long way to making sure the industry continues its growth, and don’t leave consumers stalled along the way.” Continue reading

NexSteppe CEO Anna Rath Wins BIO Award

Anna Rath Next SteppeThis year’s 2016 BIO Rosalind Franklin Award is being given to Anna Rath, CEO of NexSteppe. The award is given to an outstanding woman in the field of industrial biotechnology. According to the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), who presents the honor, Rath’s work led to a biotech breakthrough. Her research is focused on developing scalable and sustainable bioenergy feedstocks. The award will be officialy presented during the 2016 World Congress taking place April 17-20, 2016 in San Diego, California.

“Much like Rosalind Franklin, Anna Rath’s passion for science and strong work ethic has led to one of the greatest breakthroughs in industrial biotechnology. Optimizing crops for renewable energy has spurred the growth of the biofuels, biopower, and biobased product industries,” said Brent Erickson, executive vice president for BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section. “BIO is pleased to present Anna this year with the Rosalind Franklin Award and we are looking forward to her delivering what are anticipated to be inspiring remarks.”

“I’m extremely honored to be chosen for this award and flattered by the extraordinary company of former award winners,” said Rath. “NexSteppe is committed to enabling the bioeconomy by providing high-quality, cost-effective, scalable and reliable feedstocks for the entire range of biopower, biogas, advanced and cellulosic biofuels and biobased products. As the commercial scale of these industries grows, so too does the need for and focus on the availability of these sustainable and dependable raw materials. We are excited to be doing our part to help drive the continued growth and development of the bioeconomy.”

Karla Shepard Rubinger, executive director of the Rosalind Franklin Society added, “We know that this Award honors all women in science, and provides a role model for those who will no doubt follow in her footsteps, Next Steps!”

Renewable Chemicals Tax Credit Passes in Iowa

The Iowa Senate has approved a new five-year production tax credit for renewable chemicals. The goal of the incentive is to drive innovation in the sector within the state. Renewable chemicals will be defined in Iowa’s tax code as having at least 50 percent biobased content and not being used as food, feed or fuel. The value of the tax credit is limited to $105 million over five years. Identical legislation was approved yesterday by Iowa’s House Ways and Means Committee.

Joe Hrdlicka, executive director of the Iowa Biotechnology Association (IowaBio), said of the news, “Iowa is securing a leadership position in building a biobased economy, creating new economic opportunities for farmers and manufacturers, and generating well-paying jobs. We thank Gov. Terry Branstad and Director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority Debi Durham for championing this policy.”

Brent ENew-Bio-Logorickson, Executive Vice President of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section, added, “Renewable chemicals help protect the environment and create new jobs. Iowa’s new tax credit will encourage biotechnology and renewable chemical companies to make investments and deploy innovative homegrown technology in Iowa. BIO will continue to work with the Iowa legislature, other states and the federal government to level the playing field in economic development incentives for renewable chemical and biobased manufacturing technologies.”

Military Use of Biofuels Topic at BIO World Congress

World Congress-BIOsiteHeaderBanner_980x154Biofuel use and support will be a topic at the upcoming BIO World Congress. The Honorable Dennis McGinn, assistant secretary of the Navy, Energy, Installations & Environment, will be speaking about “Overcoming Challenges to Biorefinery Scale Up”. His remarks will take place Monday, April 18, 2016 at 4:30 pm. In 2009, under Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus established aggressive goals to increase the Department of the Navy’s energy efficiency, decrease its reliance on foreign sources of oil, and diversify its shore and operational energy supplies. On January 20, 2016, Secretary Mabus kicked off the Great Green Fleet (GGF), a year-long initiative highlighting the Navy’s efforts to transform its energy use to increase operational capability.

“The United States Navy and Marine Corps are diversifying our energy sources to increase our operational flexibility, which strengthens our ability to provide the global presence that is our mission,” said McGinn in advance of his presentation. “We’ve purchased drop-in, cost-competitive alternative fuel for our ships and we are helping to grow our domestic alternative fuel industry.”

Monday’s “Overcoming Challenges to Biorefinery Scale Up” General Plenary Session will address what is needed to ensure the successful scale up of a commercial industrial biotechnology process. The panel will be moderated by Dan Cummings, Chief Executive Officer, Guidewire Strategies and speakers include: Jeff Lievense, Senior Engineering Fellow, Genomatica; Dennis McGinn, Assistant Secretary of the Navy – Energy, Installations & Environment, U.S. Department of the Navy; and Alan Propp, Business Development Manager, Merrick & Company.

“The United States Department of the Navy has taken bold, determined steps toward energy security, by adopting cost-competitive biofuels and alternative energy sources. The Navy’s leadership has enabled advanced biofuel producers to create partnerships and put steel in the ground for new biorefineries,” added Brent Erickson, executive vice president for BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section. “We are looking forward to Assistant Secretary McGinn’s remarks about what the U.S. Navy has in store for the future.”

Groups Sue EPA Over RFS

A coalition has sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), over the final rules of the Renewable Fuel Standard for 2014, 2015 and 2016 that were finalized near the end of last year. The current levels for fuels do not meet legislative mandates for those years regardless of the fact that the biofuels industry has shown they can meet fuel volumes.

rfs-mess-2A group that consists of seven industry associations including BIO, Americans for Clean Energy, American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Growth Energy, National Corn Growers Association, the National Sorghum Producers, filed the suit on Friday, January 8, 2016 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (Case 16-1005).

According to a group statement, among other things, the petitioners intend to demonstrate that EPA’s interpretation of its general waiver authority is contrary to the statute. By focusing on fuel distribution capacity and demand rather than supply, and by failing to consider surplus RINs from prior years, the Agency erroneously concluded that there was an inadequate supply of renewable fuel to justify a waiver of the levels established by Congress. The petitioners also plan to point out other fundamental flaws and inconsistencies in the government’s rule.

A preliminary, non-binding listing of issues to be raised in the court of appeals will be filed by February 11. The statement concluded, “The petitioners look forward to presenting their arguments to the court of appeals to provide clarity and certainty to market participants concerning the requirements of the statute.”

Tax Extenders Package Includes Renewables

The broad spending and tax legislation compromise unveiled by House Republicans Tuesday night includes federal tax incentive extensions for renewable energy, including biodiesel, wind and solar.

nBBThe National Biodiesel Board (NBB) commended congressional leaders for reinstating the expired biodiesel tax incentive in the tax and spending proposal released late Tuesday but continued pressing to reform the incentive as a domestic production credit

“Restoring this tax incentive will create jobs and economic activity at biodiesel plants across the country, so we want to thank leaders in the House and Senate for proposing this extension,” says NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel. “Unfortunately the impact would be muted because this proposal would continue allowing foreign biodiesel to qualify for the tax incentive. This not only costs taxpayers more money but it paves the way for foreign fuels that already receive incentives in their home countries to undercut US production.”

Under the current blender’s tax credit, biodiesel produced overseas that is blended with diesel in the US qualifies for the $1-per-gallon tax credit. This has caused imports to rise sharply in recent years. In 2012, the US imported fewer than 100 million gallons of biodiesel. This year, imports will exceed 650 million gallons, and the Energy Information Agency recently estimated that volume will grow to more than 700 million gallons in 2016. Most of the imports are coming from companies in Argentina, Asia and Europe.

rfalogo1Bob Dinneen, CEO and President of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) said of the package, ““By including these important tax incentives in the spending bill, congressional lawmakers sent a strong signal that they are interested in ensuring and encouraging the continued growth and innovation of our nation’s biofuels industry” said Dinneen. “These incentives are crucial for leveling the playing field in a tax code that is, unfortunately, overwhelmingly tilted toward the oil and gas industry. Oil companies have long benefited from billions in accelerated depreciation, intangible drilling expenses, and countless other tax breaks that are permanently imbedded in the tax code. Fundamental tax reform is critical to correct this imbalance.”

Extensions for wind energy’s $0.023/kWh production tax credit (PTC) and solar energy’s 30% federal investment tax credit (ITC) are also part of the package. The wind PTC would be extended through 2020 and would decline in value each year after December 2016 until it is phased out entirely. The solar ITC would be drawn down gradually through 2022. Continue reading

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