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No Farm Bill, No Tier 3—Not until after the Election; Sundrop Fuels Presents an Alternative

Submitted by on March 23, 2012 – 12:58 pmNo Comment

By Joanne Ivancic (Advanced Biofuels USA)  At the March 21 Bioenergy Day on Capitol Hill, discussion focused on the need for a continued Renewable Fuels Standard, reviews of the history of biofuels, assessment of current questioning of biofuels as viable future transportation fuels; and of the role of biomass as an energy feedstock for heat/power and transportation fuel.

BioEnergy Day on Capitol Hill begins with a briefing in the House Science, Space and Technology Committee Room

The first group of presenters at a morning briefing represented a wide range of renewable biomass feedstock providers, users and their trade groups:  American Council on Renewable Energy, National Association of Forest Owners, Biotechnology Industry Organization, National Farmers Union, American Farm Bureau Federation, Advanced Biofuels Association, Growth Energy, Algal Biomass Organization and the Energy Future Coalition.

Each presenter illustrated a point with a success story, emphasizing that biofuels and bioenergy are real; biomass is being sustainably used for feedstock; hundreds of farmers, growers and forest owners are engaged in on-the-ground practical development of crops and logistics to create this new industry.

Roger Johnson of the National Farmers Union summarized this activity, “You have to walk before you can run.”  He spoke of the need to build on experiences with first generation biofuels to develop next generation systems and products.  Andrew Walmsley of the American Farm Bureau Federation seconded that sentiment, emphasizing that we are “building a brand new industry from the ground up.”

Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn (USN-Ret) notes the benefits of ethanol as a replacement for toxic aromatics in gasoline.

Brent Erickson of BIO looked forward, explaining that we are “establishing new value chains” and moving from single-product ethanol or biodiesel plants to true biorefineries that make multiple bioproducts.

Tom Bius of Growth Energy and Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn (US Navy-retired) of ACORE emphasized the impact that ethanol has had on lowering gasoline prices at the pump and the benefits of ethanol as a less carcinogenic octane enhancer, particularly valuable in tomorrow’s high efficiency engines.

Success stories of “steel in the ground” that illustrated these points included Abengoa in Kansas and POET and Fiberight in Iowa, making cellulosic ethanol; Gevo in Minnesota making biobutanol; INEOS in Florida making cellulosic ethanol and electricity; Sapphire Energy reviving a poverty-stricken area of  New Mexico growing algae; and Green Plains Renewable Energy in Iowa using CO2 from an ethanol plant to grow algae.

These presenters highlighted real work resulting in decreasing the $1 Billion sent out of the US and into foreign economies daily to pay for fuel.

Reid Detchon of the Energy Future Coalition drew one of the best pictures of the importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard.  He said that the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (“VEETC”) and the RFS were like a belt and suspenders holding up the industry.  With the VEETC expired, the belt is off.  If the RFS suspenders are taken away, the pants will fall down.

Reid Detchon expounds on the value of suspenders as Denise Gitsham of Sapphire Energy and the Algal Biomass Organization looks on.

John Ferrell of the US Department of Energy reviewed department resources and studies. Sarah Bittleman of the US Department of Agriculture stressed the importance of development of bioenergy to rural economic development.  She also urged participants visiting Representatives and Senators to tell their stories, to show how each Member of Congress and their constituents enjoy the benefits of bioenergy products.

During visits at Capitol Hill offices and at a wrap-up reception, the scuttlebutt focused on speculation about  the chances for passage of a new Farm Bill, about whether anything that looks like a regulation will make any progress and about the general tenor of legislative activities.

In the opinions of many seasoned professionals, both Congressional staff and lobbyists, discussions of agricultural policy and farm bill issues may make an appearance, but we shouldn’t expect a comprehensive revision of the Farm Bill until after the election, if at all.  Similarly, any work on revisions to EPA rules aimed at curbing emissions from cars and light trucks known as Tier 3, will remain in Limbo with the White House delaying submission of EPA’s proposal to the Office of Management and Budget.

Advanced Biofuels USA volunteers Peggy Alpert and Josh Rathod take a break from visiting Congressional staff.

I asked, if we can’t expect substantial support from Congress or the Obama Administration this year to help this industry move in a positive direction, what options does the bioenergy industry have with regard to enhancing bioenergy and advanced biofuels development and deployment. Most Hill professionals continued to focus on the need for tax incentives and legislation-related proposals.

Barry Schaps, Senior Vice President of Sundrop Fuels provided another perspective.  If federal support is not forthcoming, the industry needs to concentrate on state, county/parish and local levels, including developing relationships in communities that will be partners in the development of this industry.

Echoing a sentiment often discussed at Advanced Biofuels USA meetings, he observed that many in this industry anticipate that the resources they will need will be there when they need them just because this is all such a good idea.  His experience has taught him the importance of building knowledge and understanding of the industry “where the rubber meets the road” with the people who will be involved in the nitty gritty of creating this industry.  We plan to explore this topic with him in more detail in future Advanced Biofuels USA articles.  READ MORE and MORE (25 x ’25)   and MORE (Biofuels Digest on Sundrop)(photos by J. Ivancic)

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