CREW Sues EPA for Documents Regarding 2014 Renewable Fuel Standards
(Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) today sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to provide documents regarding oil industry efforts to influence the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
Last May, following a Reuters article describing how the Carlyle Group and Delta Airlines had lobbied members of Congress and the administration to reduce the amount of renewable fuel required to be blended into transportation fuel, CREW asked for an investigation by the EPA’s Office of Inspector General and filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records. It took months for the EPA to release even the documents the agency already had provided to Reuters, and it has yet to hand over all relevant documents.
Based on a follow-up Reuters article, CREW also has concerns that oil companies leveraged high-level political connections to convince the White House and the EPA to insert special waivers into the RFS that could potentially allow oil companies to refuse to sell biofuels.
“It certainly seems as if the administration has backtracked on its commitment to renewable fuels. The question is why. Was there a back room deal orchestrated by big oil and high ranking officials in the Obama administration?” asked CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Even though it is nearly 2015, the renewable fuel standards for 2014 still haven’t been released. Is this to avoid potential political fallout in the mid-terms for siding with the oil industry over the biofuel industry?”
Each year, the EPA sets the RFS for how much renewable fuel must be blended into transportation fuel supplies. The most recent standards were proposed in November 2013 and were expected to be finalized last summer. For the first time since the RFS was created, the EPA proposed lowering the renewable fuel amounts. Also, earlier this month, Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) sent a letter to the White House expressing their concerns about EPA potentially inserting a waiver into the RFS, which would allow oil companies to refuse to distribute renewable fuel. Carlyle and Delta lobbied heavily for both of these modifications to the program and would benefit financially from the change. As Reuters revealed, they persuaded Reps. Robert Brady (D-PA) and Patrick Meehan (R-PA) to lobby administration officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, National Economic Council Director Ronald Minsk, and former National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling to weaken the RFS.
“Is the EPA slow-walking its release of these documents because it does not want the public to learn how political the RFS has become? The RFS should be based on sound energy policy, not politics. CREW’s lawsuit will shed light on what really went on at the EPA,” Ms. Sloan said.
Read CREW’s complaint.
Read CREW’s initial FOIA to the EPA.
Read CREW’s letter to the EPA inspector general.
Abengoa Celebrates Grand Opening of Its First Commercial-Scale Next Generation Biofuels Plant
(Abengoa/GlobeNewswire) U.S. Secretary of Energy Dr. Ernest Moniz, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and Kansas Senator Pat Roberts offer remarks during on-site event commemorating landmark occasion for advanced biofuels industry.
Abengoa’s proprietary enzymatic hydrolysis technology turns crop residue (stalks, stems and leaves) into a sustainable fuel source – cellulosic ethanol.
Abengoa (MCE:ABG.B/P SM) (Nasdaq:ABGB), the international company that applies innovative technology solutions for sustainability in the energy and environment sectors, today announced the official grand opening of its second generation cellulosic ethanol plant in Hugoton, Kansas, located about 90 miles southwest of Dodge City. The opening was attended by U.S. Secretary of Energy Dr. Ernest Moniz, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, Mayor of Hugoton Jack E. Rowden and CEO of Abengoa Manuel Sánchez Ortega.
Abengoa’s new industry-leading biorefinery finished construction in mid-August and began producing cellulosic ethanol at the end of September with the capacity to produce up to 25 million gallons per year. The plant utilizes only “second generation” (2G) biomass feedstocks for ethanol production, meaning non-edible agricultural crop residues (such as stalks and leaves) that do not compete with food or feed grain. The state-of-the-art facility also features an electricity cogeneration component allowing it to operate as a self-sufficient renewable energy producer. By utilizing residual biomass solids from the ethanol conversion process, the plant generates 21 megawatts (MW) of electricity – enough to power itself and provide excess clean renewable power to the local Stevens County community.
The Hugoton plant opening also marks the first-ever commercial deployment of Abengoa’s proprietary enzymatic hydrolysis technology, which turns biomass into fermentable sugars that are then converted to ethanol. Among the first wave of commercial-scale ethanol plants in the country, Hugoton builds on recent industry momentum showcasing cellulosic ethanol as a sustainable alternative fuel source that significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions and increases energy independence.
In addition to the plant’s crucial role in proving the commercial viability of cellulosic ethanol, its success provides a platform for the company’s future development of other bioproducts that reduce petroleum use, such as bioplastics, biochemicals and drop-in jet fuel.
“The Hugoton plant opening is the result of 10 years of technical development, roughly 40,000 hours of pilot and demonstration plant operation, and the support of the DOE,” said Manuel Sánchez Ortega, CEO of Abengoa. “This is a proud and pivotal moment for Abengoa and for the larger advanced bioenergy industry – and further demonstrates our longstanding commitment to providing sustainable energy alternatives in the United States. This would have been simply impossible without the establishment of the Renewal Fuel Standard.”
Abengoa received a $132.4 million loan guarantee and a $97 million grant through the Department of Energy to support construction of the Hugoton facility.
Industrial Biotechnology Renewed
At full capacity, the Hugoton facility will process 1,000 tons per day of biomass, most of which is harvested within a 50-mile radius each year – providing $17 million per year of extra income for local farmers whose agricultural waste would otherwise have little or no value. Of that biomass, more than 80 percent is expected to consist of irrigated corn stover, with the remainder comprised of wheat straw, milo stubble and switchgrass.
Abengoa plans to offer licenses and contracts to interested parties covering every aspect of this new industry – from process design, to engineering, procurement and construction (EPC), supply of exclusive enzymes, as well as operations and marketing of the completed products from the facility.
The proprietary enzymatic hydrolysis technology utilized commercially at Hugoton is also a focal point in Abengoa’s efforts to diversify the range of raw material feedstocks from which biofuels and bioproducts can be produced. For example, for more than a year the company has been operating a demonstration-scale facility that is capitalizing on the same technology and enzyme cocktail used at Hugoton to extract cellulosic sugars from municipal solid waste (trash), thereby allowing expansion of the renewable fuels industry from rural to urban areas.
Legacy of Innovation
With a biofuels presence on three continents, Abengoa is an international biotechnology company – one of the largest ethanol producers in the United States and Brazil, and the largest producer in Europe with a total of 867 million gallons of annual installed production capacity distributed among 15 commercial-scale plants in five countries.
Abengoa’s overall presence in the United States – including its solar, water desalination, biofuels and engineering and construction businesses – has grown exponentially since the company expanded its business more than a decade ago. Some 26 percent of the company’s assets are currently in the United States, which is Abengoa’s largest market in terms of sales. READ MORE and MORE and MORE (Bloomberg) and MORE (Triple Pundit) and MORE (Huffington Post) and MORE/MORE (Biofuels Digest) and MORE (The New York Times) and MORE (Ethanol Producer Magazine)
Excerpt from Triple Pundit: But as Standlee (Chris Standlee, Abengoa’s executive vice president of global affairs) explained to me, advancements in enzymes are proving to be the big difference. Four years ago, enzymes accounted for about $1.85 of the cost per gallon of cellulosic ethanol, which is why costs hovered between $6 and $8 per gallon. Albengoa manufactures their own enzymes, hence one reason why those costs have gone done as much as 30 percent since 2010. And Standlee claims the cost of enzymes per gallon of production could hit as low as 50 cents in a few years. The result: a gallon of cellulosic alcohol costing $2.30 a gallon in 2016 is not unrealistic—and could be very attractive considering fossil fuel’s price volatility.
The results are higher yields: in 2010 a ton of agricultural waste yielded about 55 gallons of fuel. Now that amount is up to 75 gallons, and Standlee sees that figure increasing to 85 gallons within two years. READ MORE
BlueFire Renewables Receives Unprecedented Export-Import Bank of China Letter of Intent to Provide Debt Financing for a U.S. Bio-Energy Project
(Globe Newswire/BlueFire Renewables) BlueFire’s Mississippi Fulton Project Paves the Way for Other U.S./China Renewable Energy Projects
BlueFire Renewables, Inc. (OTC:BFRE), a company focused on changing the world’s transportation fuel paradigm through the production of renewable fuels, announced that it has received a Letter of Intent from The Export Import Bank of China (China EXIM) to provide up to $270 million in debt financing for its bio-energy project in Fulton, Mississippi.
China EXIM’s interest in providing substantial financing to BlueFire is unprecedented and significant for the U.S. renewable energy sector and for U.S. renewable energy small businesses. Particularly in the capital-intensive energy industry, small businesses like BlueFire struggle to access capital amidst tightening credit markets in the U.S. since the financial crisis beginning in 2009.
“This is a significant feat, not just for BlueFire as it also provides a model for the U.S. small business community because it is a strong indication of China’s commitment to support and fund U.S. renewable energy technologies to improve the environment and build a strong foundation for cooperation between China and the U.S. in the field of renewable energy,” stated Arnold Klann, CEO of BlueFire Renewables, Inc.
“There are significant opportunities for replicating the BlueFire Fulton size or larger facilities in China and the U.S. to deal with problematic agricultural and urban waste currently being burned or buried,” Klann said. “Debt financing has been the most difficult part of the financing to obtain for the cellulosic biofuels industry. BlueFire’s business model and relationships with China EXIM will set the standard for future debt financing arrangements and could be the spark that leads to the more beneficial use of cellulosic wastes in the bio-fuels industry in the U.S. and China. We are cracking the code when it comes to striking a win-win business deal for China, the U.S. and energy consumers.”
Klann said that BlueFire has been working with China EXIM in response to the China Strategic and Economic Dialogue with the U.S., which encourages U.S./China cooperation in the renewable energy field. Due to the difficulty in obtaining financing for capital-intensive energy projects, many renewable energy projects do not get past the pilot phase and into the full commercial development stage. Dozens of renewable energy projects in the U.S. are languishing because of the debt-financing problem and the BlueFire solution could be the path to commercialization for many of these projects.
Because Loan Guarantee programs offered by U.S. Federal agencies (the Department of Energy and the Department of Agriculture) were not structured for small businesses, the BlueFire/China EXIM framework with major Chinese companies will open the door for more businesses in the U.S. to finance and build projects, not only in the U.S., but in China.
The Letter of Intent continues the international collaboration between U.S. and China initiated by BlueFire. “Combining the already announced engineering and project management contract with China Three Gorges, which is China’s largest utility, and now the addition of funding intended by the China EXIM Bank, both countries can work on the sustainable production of renewable fuels and chemicals while promoting jobs and the use of domestic and readily available biomass resources,” said Klann.
The companies will continue to work together to complete the standard due diligence procedures of the China EXIM bank and meet all credit criteria and condition precedent to reach definitive agreements in order to complete the financing as soon as possible. Once completed, China Three Gorges Corporation and its U.S. subcontractors will begin construction of the Fulton Project.
The Fulton, MS project will allow BlueFire to utilize green and wood wastes available in the region as feedstock for the ethanol plant that is designed to produce approximately 19-million gallons of ethanol per year.
About BlueFire Renewables, Inc.
BlueFire Renewables, Inc. was established to deploy the Arkenol patented and proven Concentrated Acid Hydrolysis Technology Process for the profitable conversion of cellulosic waste materials (“Green Waste”) to renewable fuel sources. BlueFire has demonstrated production of Biofuels from urban trash (post-sorted MSW), rice and wheat straws, wood waste and other agricultural residues.
BlueFire was awarded a grant totaling $88 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in December of 2009. BlueFire’s biorefineries will be located near markets with high demand for ethanol and will use locally available biomass. This should dramatically reduce delivery costs and increase biofuel supplies, while providing a unique waste processing technology to help America’s cities better manage the increasing problem of overflowing landfills. For more information, please visit www.BFREINC.com.
About The Export-Import Bank of China
The Export-Import Bank of China is one of three institutional banks in China chartered to implement the state policies in industry, foreign trade, diplomacy, the economy, and provide policy financial support so as to promote the export of Chinese products and services. It was established in 1994 and has a focus to promote foreign trade and investment as well as development assistance through concessional funding and other types of financing. Its main areas of business are energy, infrastructure, telecom, mining, and industrial sectors. READ MORE