Final #RFS Numbers Disappoint @EthanolRFA

rfalogo1The Environmental Protection Agency’s final rule for volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) “puts the future of biofuels and climate policy in the hands of the oil industry,” according to Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen.

“Let’s give EPA props, I guess, for recognizing that gasoline demand is increasing and that they needed to increase those numbers accordingly,” said Dinneen. “But they didn’t change anything with respect to the methodology … they still reduced the numbers from the statutory levels and embraced the notion of the blend wall … they are effectively turning the nation’s renewable energy program over to the oil companies.”

Dinneen says the ethanol industry will be evaluating its options when it comes to taking EPA to court over the final rule. “What EPA has done here is a dramatic departure from a program that was working,” he said. “I believe when we finish our review of the final rule that we will want to stand up for the program, stand up for consumers, stand up for carbon reduction, stand up for rural America and put this program back where it belongs.”

With President Obama in Paris this week for the COP21 climate change summit, Dinneen considers today’s announcement ironic. “How in the world can the president speak with any credibility on climate change when he is ripping the guts out of a climate change program in his own backyard?” Dinneen asked.

Listen to interview here: Interview with RFA CEO Bob Dinneen on final RFS rule

Biodiesel Industry Welcomes #RFS RVO Numbers

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the final renewable volume obligations (RVOs) for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for years 2014, 2015 and 2016 as well as the volumes for the biomass-based diesel category for 2014-2017 that includes biodiesel volumes. The volumes were raised since the proposal in May 2015 and the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) welcomed the improved #RFS rules; yet stressed that the EPA still needs to improve the amount of renewable fuels such as #biodiesel in years to come. Biodiesel is designated as an Advanced Biofuel under the RFS.

nBB“This decision means we will displace billions of gallons of petroleum diesel in the coming years with clean-burning biodiesel. That means less pollution, more American jobs, and more competition that is sorely lacking in the fuels market,” said NBB CEO Joe Jobe. “It is a good rule. It may not be all we had hoped for but it will go a long way toward getting the U.S. biodiesel industry growing again and reducing our dangerous dependence on fossil fuels.”

According to the EPA, biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 57 percent to 86 percent as compared with petroleum diesel depending on the fuel’s production pathway. Under the now final RFS rule, Biomass-based Diesel volumes would grow to 1.9 billion gallons in 2016 and 2 billion gallons in 2017. The Biomass-based Diesel category also includes renewable diesel, another diesel alternative made from the same feedstocks using a different technology.

Jobe says the new standards reflect modest but meaningful growth over recent years when the U.S. market has hovered around 1.8 billion gallons annually. “We certainly think the biodiesel and overall Advanced Biofuel standards could and should have been higher,” he added. “The production capacity is there, and we have surplus fats and oils that can be put to good use.”

ASA logoAmerican Soybean Association (ASA) President Wade Cowan seconded NBB’s promise that the biodiesel industry can do much more. “As an industry we have always advocated for RFS volumes that are modest and achievable and the biodiesel industry has met or exceeded the targets each and every year that the program has been in place,” said Cowan. “The Administration wants to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and biodiesel can contribute more to that effort.”

Accounting for approximately half of the feedstock used, soybean oil remains the largest source of oil for biodiesel production.

Final #RFS RVO Numbers from @EPA

epa-150The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced final volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program Monday for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016, and final volume requirements for biomass-based diesel for 2014 to 2017.

The rule finalizes higher volumes of renewable fuel than the levels EPA proposed in June, according to Janet McCabe, the acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.

“The biofuel industry is an incredible American success story, and the RFS program has been an important driver of that success—cutting carbon pollution, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and sparking rural economic development,” said McCabe during a press call with reporters. “With today’s final rule, and as Congress intended, EPA is establishing volumes that go beyond historic levels and grow the amount of biofuel in the market over time. Our standards provide for ambitious, achievable growth.”

The final 2016 standard for cellulosic biofuel — the fuel with the lowest carbon emissions — is nearly 200 million gallons, or 7 times more, than the market produced in 2014. The final 2016 standard for advanced biofuel is nearly 1 billion gallons, or 35 percent, higher than the actual 2014 volumes; the total renewable standard requires growth from 2014 to 2016 of more than 1.8 billion gallons of biofuel, which is 11 percent higher than 2014 actual volumes. Biodiesel standards grow steadily over the next several years, increasing every year to reach 2 billion gallons by 2017.

The RFS, established by Congress, requires EPA to set annual volume requirements for four categories of biofuels. The final rule considered more than 670,000 public comments, and relied on the latest, most accurate data available. EPA finalized 2014 and 2015 standards at levels that reflect the actual amount of domestic biofuel used in those years, and standards for 2016 (and 2017 for biodiesel) that represent significant growth over historical levels.

The final numbers were required to be released on November 30 under court order.

Listen to the EPA call here: EPA announces final RVO numbers

Study: Affordable Technology Can Reduce U.S. GHGs

A new study from the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP) details how the U.S. can reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) in line with the goal of limiting any additional temperature increases due to climate change by 2 degrees Celsius. The two-volume report finds that reductions are technologically feasible and economically affordable.

Pathways to Deep Decarb Volume 1Volume One, “Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States,” an update from last year, reviews technology requirements and costs of different options for reducing GHGs by 80 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050. The analysis, that looks at every piece of energy infrastructure from power plants to water heaters, was conducted by the San Francisco-based consulting firm Energy and Environmental Economics, Inc. (E3), in collaboration with researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

“This is by far the most rigorous and detailed study of what it will take to achieve a transition to clean energy in the United States,” said Dr. Dan Lashof, chief operating officer of NextGen Climate America, one of the sponsors of the research. “It demonstrates that a climate-friendly transformation of our energy system is not only achievable, it would increase our prosperity, protect our environment, and strengthen our national security.”

Policy Implications of Deep Decarb Volume 2The second volume, “Policy Implications of Deep Decarbonization in the United States,” provides a guide for what policy makers at the national, state, and local levels must do to enable a low carbon transition. It describes how businesses and whole regions could benefit in an energy economy where the dominant mode shifts from purchasing fossil fuel, with historically volatile prices, to investment in efficient, low carbon hardware, with very predictable costs.

“I think our work throws down a gauntlet to those who claim that decarbonization of the US energy system is impractical and out of reach,” said report lead author Dr. Jim Williams, chief scientist at E3 and director of the DDPP. “The more deeply you look at the energy system, the more optimistic you feel. Arguments that the US can’t achieve this technologically or economically don’t hold water – they are political arguments dressed in technical clothing.”

The reports are a part of a series by the DDPP, an international collaboration of research teams from the world’s 16 highest-emitting countries. This year it has issued country-specific strategies for deep decarbonization in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Study Raises Doubts About Dev of New Fossil Fuels

A new study is raising doubts about future development of new fossil fuel resources. Published in Global Environmental Change and authored by Richard Heede and Naomi Oreskes, the report looks closely at the potential of global warming emissions that could be unleashed from carbon reserves held by the globe’s largest fossil fuel producers.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 12.04.41 PMSome key findings of the study include:

  • Burning the reserves of the world’s largest fossil fuel producers will result in emissions of 440 gigatons of carbon—far in excess of the 275 gigatons of carbon scientists say can be emitted this century if global mean temperature increases are to stay at or below 2 degrees Celsius.
  • The future emissions from the proven reserves of the largest 28 state-owned entities, including the National Iranian Oil Company, Saudi Aramco and Russia’s Gazprom, collectively make up more than three quarters (76 percent) of the world’s remaining carbon budget.
  • The future emissions from the proven reserves of the largest 42 investor-owned companies collectively make up 16 percent of the world’s remaining carbon budget.

Funded in part by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) also found that “profound risk” to the climate exists from the prospect of development of these reserves.

“This study shows just how important it is that the world reaches a strong international climate agreement in Paris next month,” said Alden Meyer, the director of strategy and policy at UCS who has been involved in the climate negotiations for 25 years. “The fact is, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other oil producing counties are continuing to ramp up production, despite the threat climate change poses to communities around the world.”

The study shows the reserves of most of the 42 investor-owned companies will be exhausted in 15 years or less. But oil and gas companies are investing hundreds of billions of dollars to explore for and develop new reserves to extend production in the decades to come. Heede says the threat of exceeding the 2 degree Celsius target comes primarily from the investor-owned companies tapping new reserves and he states the study’s findings can help inform shareholder action.

“The threat of exceeding the 2 degree Celsius target comes primarily from the investor-owned companies tapping new reserves, less so from their relatively small existing reserves,” said Heede, the principal of Climate Mitigation Services.

Oreskes, a Harvard history of science professor and former exploration geologist, added, “The bottom line is that if we’re to have any hope of avoiding a 2 degree temperature increase, the largest state-owned companies cannot fully tap all of their proven reserves and the big investor-owned companies need to decrease rapidly, and ultimately eliminate, their capital expenditures for exploration and development of new reserves.”

20 Countries Pledge “Mission Innovation” at #COP21

Leading up to the World Climate Summit and #COP21 that kicked off in Paris today, three major announcements were make regarding the acceleration of technological developments in clean energy and clean technologies. The first announcement came from Bill Gates about the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, that will will working directly with Mission Innovation, a “pledge” by 20 countries to commit to doubling its governmental and/or state-directed clean energy research and development investment over the next five years. More countries are encouraged to join the efforts.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 11.29.02 AMThe third announcement came from President Obama who announced the U.S. will be participating in the Mission Innovation initiative.

According to the Mission Innovation website, all new investments will be focused on transformational clean energy technology innovations that can be scalable to varying economic and energy market conditions that exist in participating countries and in the broader world. The goal of the initiative is to reinvigorate and accelerate global clean energy innovation with the objective to make clean energy widely affordable.

The Mission Innovation website states that accelerating widespread clean energy innovation is:

  • An indispensable part of an effective, long term global response to our shared climate challenge;
  • Necessary to provide affordable and reliable energy for everyone and to promote economic growth; and
  • Critical for energy security.

In line with the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, Mission Innovation was formed to fill accelerate the time between innovation, scale-up and commercial scale availability.

Gates Launches Breakthrough Energy Coalition @ #COP21

In Paris this past weekend, leading up to COP21 and the World Climate Summit, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame, launched a new clean energy initiative, The Breakthrough Energy Coalition. Gates announced the news on his blog, “Gates Notes,” where he wrote that a global group of investors are taking innovative clean-energy ideas out of the lab and into the marketplace. The primary goal of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, says Gates, is as much to accelerate progress on clean energy as it is to make a profit.

The Principles of the Organization:

Technology will help solve our energy issues. The urgency of climate change and the energy needs in the poorest parts of the world require an aggressive global program for zero-emission energy innovation. The new model will be a public-private partnership between governments, research institutions, and investors. Scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs can invent and scale the innovative technologies that will limit the impact of climate change while providing affordable and reliable energy to everyone. The existing system of basic research, clean energy investment, regulatory frameworks, and subsidies fails to sufficiently mobilize investment in truly transformative energy solutions for the future. We can’t wait for the system to change through normal cycles.

The foundation of this program must be large funding commitments for basic and applied research, and here governments play the key role. Only our governments have the mandate to protect the public interest as well as the resources and mechanisms to do this. We know government investment in research can lead to the creation of industries that advance the common good and are driven by private capital. We have seen big successes before with government-funded research programs in space, defense, technology, and medical research, seeding private creativity which has produced many of the innovations that define our current way of life. The political will is emerging to do this again, through aggressive increases in government funding for basic and applied energy research, which can lead to breakthrough technologies for our energy future. However, current governmental funding levels for clean energy are simply insufficient to meet the challenges before us.

Gates writes that the Coalition will focus on early state companies that have the potential of energy future that produces near zero carbon emissions while providing everyone with affordable, reliable energy. He also announced the Breakthrough Energy Coalition will work in conjunction with Mission Innovation, a commitment by more than ten countries to invest more in research on clean energy that was also announced this weekend.

Watch Bill Gates’ video to learn more about why these global tech leaders launched Breakthrough Energy Coalition.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDF1The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) will present recent reports on carbon mitigation in the U.S. transportation sector achieved under the Renewable Fuel Standard during the World Climate Summit. The panel, “Building a Sustainable Bioeconomy,” will provide informal input into the COP21 agenda; showcase the potential of biobased products and low carbon biofuels to help mitigate climate change; and identify policy measures that can enable the low carbon economy.
  • Martifer Solar, a subsidiary of Martifer SGPS, has added 8 PV rooftop plants in a total of 7 MW of new third party O&M contracts to its portfolio in Italy. The plants are located in the North East of Italy and are being supervised and provided O&M Services for the company Garnell.
  • CNH Industrial N.V. has been recognised for its efforts to provide sustainable innovations in the transport sector. The Vision concept van, designed for the Company’s commercial vehicles brand Iveco, received the 2016 European Transport Prize for Sustainability in the distribution vehicles category from Huss-Medien. The prototype features a dual power electric/hybrid engine that would allow the vehicle to move from an out-of-town distribution hub into and around zero emission cities and back again.
  • Kaplan, creator of the test prep industry and its leading player, has acquired CleanEdison, a leading vocational school as a service platform specializing in the clean energy industry. The new unit, rebranded as Kaplan Clean Technology Education, offers job skills training and certification programs focused on energy efficiency, sustainable building, the solar thermal and photovoltaic sectors, and other clean energy related issues.

On #givingTuesday, Give to Biodiesel’s Future

NBFTomorrow, Tuesday, Dec. 1, is what is known as Giving Tuesday, a day during this time of year when you are asked to give to charitable causes. The National Biodiesel Foundation asks you consider giving to the future of biodiesel.

Interested in helping young scientists get involved with biodiesel? Your donation to the National Biodiesel Foundation on Giving Tuesday, December 1, will do just that. This year’s proceeds specifically support the Next Generation Scientists/Dallas Hanks Memorial Fund. NBF is proud to announce that your donation on Giving Tuesday will go further through a generous matching donation. Please make this unique opportunity count.

More information on the fund and how to donate to it are available here.

Emerging Nations Hit Record Clean Energy Investments

According to the new report Climatescope, developing nations have surpassed the world’s wealthiest countries in securing more renewable energy investments. Climatescope is a clean energy country competitiveness index, interactive report and online tool supported by the U.S., U.K. and Inter-American Development Bank Group. The report unveils a portrait of clean energy activity in 55 emerging markets in Africa, Asia and Latin America Climatescope2015and the Caribbean. The group includes major developing nations China, India, Pakistan, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa, as well as dozens of others. Energy solutions reviewed included solar, wind, small hydro, geothermal, biomass, and other zero-carbon emitting technologies (excluding large hydro).

The news came shortly before a round of UN-organized climate negotiations kicked off in Paris prior to the start of COP21. Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which released the report, says these talks often focus on the question of how much capital wealthier countries should make available to lesser developed countries to address the climate challenge.

Climatescope’s key findings include:

  • For the first time ever, over half of all new annual investment into clean energy power generating projects globally went toward projects in emerging markets, rather than toward wealthier countries.
  • New investment in renewables soared in 2014 in the 55 Climatescope countries assessed to hit a record annual high of $126bn – up $35.5bn, or 39%, from 2013 levels.
  • The results were substantially bolstered by the remarkable growth in China, which added 35GW of new renewable power generating capacity all on its own – more than the 2014 clean energy build in the US, UK, and France combined.
  • Meanwhile, “South-South” investment (funds deployed in Climatescope nations from banks or other financial institutions based in those countries) surged to $79bn in 2014 from $53bn the year prior.
  • Continuing declines in clean energy costs appear to be driving growth. Costs associated with solar photovoltaic power have ticked down 15% year-on-year globally. Solar is particularly competitive in emerging markets which often suffer from very high power prices from fossil generation while also enjoying very sunny conditions.
  • A total of 50.4 gigawatts (GW) of new clean capacity was built in Climatescope countries, marking a 21% uptick from the prior year. In another first, renewables capacity deployed in emerging markets topped that in wealthier Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations.
  • On a percentage basis, clean energy capacity is growing twice as quickly in Climatescope nations compared to OECD ones.

The report found that progress was achieved during 2014 despite a number of countries in the survey seeing economic growth rates slow. Average gross domestic product growth across Climatescope nations slipped to 5.7 percent in 2014 from 6.4 percent in 2013 with the slow-down most apparent in major nations, Brazil, South Africa, and China. Despite the pullback, these three countries attracted a total of $103bn in new clean energy investment in 2014.