|Biobased and Renewable Products Update|
|January 16, 2020|
Congresswoman Axne Announces GAO Response To Investigation Report On EPA Misuse Of SREs
On January 13, 2020, U.S. Representative Cindy Axne announced that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has responded to a bipartisan letter submitted by members of the House Biofuels Caucus (HBC) requesting an investigation into misuse of small refinery exemptions (SREs) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Submitted in August 2019, the bipartisan letter requested that GAO examine EPA’s review and approval of SRE waivers under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). HBC’s letter also included a request for inspection of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) viability scores for SREs reviewed in 2018. HBC’s concerns were mostly related to the economic consequences to rural communities due to the exemption of approximately four billion gallons of fuel from the RFS in 2018. In addition to the aforementioned requests, HBC members asked that GAO also consider the following questions:
- Has DOE changed the criteria,
the interpretation of the criteria, the methodology, or any other
significant aspect of how it makes its recommendations to EPA for SREs?
- Other than the viability score
provided by DOE, what other factors are being considered by EPA in
awarding SRE waivers? How has this changed since the previous
- Since the development of DOE’s
2011 methodology, what percentage of applications that received a
disqualifying viability score from the DOE were granted?
- How many times has DOE
recommended a partial waiver for a refinery?
- Has EPA granted a partial
- Does EPA or DOE consider the
economic viability of the parent refiner company when considering an
application from an individual refinery?
- Does DOE take Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN) into account when assessing relief petitions?
On January 10, 2020, GAO responded to the bipartisan request, agreeing to review matters related to the approval of SRE waivers and stating that it will begin its work shortly. Mark E. Gaffigan, Managing Director of GAO’s Natural Resources and Environment, and his staff will be in charge of the investigation.
In August 2019, Axne had also submitted a letter to EPA’s Acting Inspector General (IG), Charles Sheehan, requesting an investigation of this matter. In its response letter to HBC, GAO stated that it will be in contact with the cognizant IG’s office to ensure that efforts are not duplicated.
DOE Announces Funding For Bioenergy Crops Research
On January 10, 2020, DOE announced that it will provide up to $75 million for research and development (R&D) of sustainable bioenergy crops within a period of five years. The bioenergy crops to be developed should be tolerant of environmental stress and resilient to changing environment conditions. Funded projects will focus on better comprehending the genetic and physiological mechanisms influencing plant productivity, resource use, and resilience, among other factors. DOE is encouraging researchers to draw on resources of its Office of Science user facilities and to take advantage of “omics” tools and techniques, including genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics. Funding applications will be open for industry, non-profit research institutions, and universities with possible collaborators at DOE national laboratories and other federal agencies. Beginning this fiscal year, funding will be awarded in the form of five-year grants ranging from $1 to $3 million per year. DOE’s funding opportunity announcement (FOA) and a companion laboratory call can be accessed here.
NFUS Pushes Scottish and UK Governments To Address Biofuel Issues
On January 10, 2020, the National Farmers’ Union of Scotland (NFUS) announced its pursuit for high level solutions to machinery problems linked to biofuel content. According to NFUS, many Scottish and UK farmers are experiencing issues because of the percentage of biofuel content in fuel for farming machinery. In December 2019, NFUS submitted a letter to Grant Shapps, Member of Parliament (MP) and Secretary of State for Transport, requesting long-term solutions for this problem. NFSU’s key requests include:
- Broker a fuel replacement
scheme to enable farmers with problematic fuel to receive a fuel uplift
and refill of alternative fuel suitable for their needs;
- Conduct a review of the
specification and testing protocols ensuring that fuel produced in the UK
is fit for farmers’ purposes and is reliable;
- Ensure that the review of
specifications and testing protocols occur in a timely manner to prevent a
future crisis; and
- Lead further research into the behavior of recycled oil and animal fats within diesel to determine if specific components need to be excluded from it.
Also in December 2019, NFUS representatives attended a meeting with industry experts, which resulted in the creation of a task force to begin working on this issue immediately. NFUS Policy Adviser Zoe Meldrum stated, “Fuel problems remain a top priority for our members and time and resource continues to be dedicated towards finding practical solutions and apply lessons from this event to ensure fuel issues such as this cannot impact agriculture again.”
Phys.org, “Microorganisms Fed with Toxic Gas to Produce Biofuel”|
siliconrepublic, “Major Breakthrough Can Turn Plant Waste into Cheap
Infrastructure Intelligence, “University Professor Launches ‘World-First’ Recycled
Good News Network, “Denmark Researchers Use Seaweed to Power a Car”|
c&en, “Self-Stick Adhesive Made with Black Pepper Derivative
Adjusts to Many Tastes”|
The Guardian, “Scientists Use Stem Cells from Frogs to Build First
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