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Senate Climate Crisis Committee Report Supports Biofuels in New Report

California, Opinions, Oregon, Policy, Sustainability
August 27, 2020

by Meghan Sapp (Biofuels Digest)  … The new report – which comes after dozens of hearings, meetings, and input from experts, labor unions, mayors, environmental justice leaders, and native communities, among others – details how bold climate action from Congress can create millions of new jobs, grow the American economy, and improve people’s lives across the country.

The Committee’s report calls on Congress to:

  •  Reduce U.S. emissions rapidly to achieve 100 percent global net-zero emissions no later than 2050;
  •  Stimulate economic growth by increasing federal spending on climate action to at least 2 percent of GDP annually — and ensure that at least 40 percent of the benefits from these investments help communities of color and low-income, deindustrialized, and disadvantaged communities; and
  •  Create at least 10 million new jobs.

Biofuels, especially advanced biofuels coupled with BECCS, are highlighted as a way to address commissions but the impacts of climate change on crops is noted as a concern.  READ MORE

Senate Democrats’ Climate Committee Releases New Report On Climate Action, Plan To Build Clean Economy For American People (Senate Democrats)

U.S. Flood Strategy Shifts to ‘Unavoidable’ Relocation of Entire Neighborhoods: Using tax dollars to move whole communities out of flood zones, an idea long dismissed as radical, is swiftly becoming policy, marking a new and more disruptive phase of climate change. (New York Times)

RFA Welcomes Inclusion of Renewable Fuels in Senate Democrats’ Climate Plan (Renewable Fuels Association)

Senate Democrats’ Climate Plan Includes Renewable Fuels (Energy.AgWired.com)

 

Excerpts from Senate Democrats:  It is time to decarbonize everything possible: our cars, our homes, our public transportation, and our office buildings. In the near term, we must continue to significantly grow solar and wind energy, energy storage, and electric vehicles while conducting more research into new technologies, advanced biofuels, and smaller and safer nuclear power.

Switching fuels for high-temperature heat
Many industrial processes require high-temperature heat, which is not suited for replacement by electrification.176 For example, making cement requires temperatures of 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, and melting iron ore to produce steel requires temperatures of 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit.177 One way to address these emissions is the use of low- and zero-carbon fuels, such as hydrogen, ammonia, and biofuels.

Promising negative emission technologies include: afforestation projects and other natural solutions; direct air capture (pulling carbon dioxide directly from the air); and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), which pairs
carbon capture technologies with biofuels.185 All of these technologies require more research and development to deploy them at the scale needed, but we likely need to pursue all options to achieve a net-zero economy.

Developing cleaner liquid fuels

Alternative liquid fuels could play a significant role in reducing the carbon intensity of the U.S. transportation system by transitioning it away from oil dependency. This is particularly applicable for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, including trucks, farming and mining vehicles that are more challenging to electrify, and for specific regions of the country. It is also true for transportation modes like aviation, rail, some freight trucking, and marine shipping,
where viable alternatives to liquid fuel are not yet available. It will also be important for the United States’ existing fleet of internal combustion engine vehicles. Advanced and cellulosic biofuels, coupled with carbon capture and storage technologies, have the potential to serve as alternatives to fossil fuels if we continue investing in their development.

One of the big drivers of biofuels in the United States has been tax subsidies. In December 2019, Congress retroactively extended the biodiesel tax credit for years 2017-2022 and the second generation biofuels tax credit for years 2017-2020. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated the value of the biodiesel tax credit at $15 billion and the second-generation biofuels tax credit at $43 million.

Currently, the primary driver of alternatives fuels in the United States is the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The RFS creates a mandate for volumes of renewable fuels that refiners and blenders must use in transportation fuels, and sets up a trading system so those volumes can be used most efficiently. If implemented properly, the RFS gives farmers revenue stability, allowing U.S. agriculture to play an important role in reducing U.S. oil usage and further supporting rural economies.

Although biodiesel use has expanded, the advanced biofuels segment has not otherwise developed as rapidly as the authors of the RFS envisioned. This is at least in part because the Trump administration continues to lower biofuel volumes and waive blending requirements under the RFS, jeopardizing the market stability that the RFS was intended to create. New policy tools may be needed to encourage growth of new advanced fuels beyond just corn starch ethanol and soybean biodiesel.

A Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) may also be an effective policy to reduce the carbon intensity of the fuel supply. An LCFS sets a maximum carbon intensity level for fuels that must be met each year, with the goal of increasing the range of commercially available low-carbon and renewable fuel alternatives.267

California was the first state in the country to implement an LCFS. The California system regulates refineries and distributors and allows emissions trading to increase economic efficiency. To date, California’s LCFS has helped avoid 38 million tons of carbon pollution and the use of 13.7 billion gallons of gasoline. The California LCFS was the model for a similar program in British Columbia, and Oregon recently followed California’s lead and adopted an LCFS of its own. In 2010, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and the District of Columbia formed the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI). TCI has developed a draft memorandum to create a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels and invest revenues to achieve additional emission reduction benefits. The
proposal is currently out for public comment, and TCI hopes to finalize it by September 2020.

ADVANCED LIQUID FUELS. One of the biggest challenges to reducing emissions from aviation is the continued 
reliance, at least for commercial aviation and freight, on liquid fuels. The weight-to-energy ratio of batteries
will need to come down significantly before electric aviation becomes a viable alternative for commercial flights.

However, some smaller airlines are investing in electric air fleets for shorter trips, including Cape Air in Massachusetts.284 Since the aviation sector will likely depend on liquid fuels in the near term, we must develop the next generation of cleaner fuels as quickly as possible. Advances are already being made in advanced and cellulosic biofuels. There have also been proposals to create a federal LCFS similar to the one in California for aviation fuels, to bring low-carbon fuels to market. Another potential opportunity is to make synthetic jet fuel from carbon removed from the air through direct air capture.

Investments in research, development, and deployment of new technologies will help bring technologies to market and achieve economies of scale. In 2012, President Obama created the Navy Biofuel Initiative under the Defense Production Act (DPA) to speed the development of “drop in” biofuel substitutes for diesel and jet fuel.”285 This initiative used Title III of the DPA to procure $510 million of biofuels for the Navy. As a result, in 2016 the Navy launched its “Great Green Fleet” using a biodiesel petroleum blend, utilizing biofuels it bought for less than the cost of gasoline.286

Additional federal R&D spending could aid the development of usable batteries and advanced fuels for aviation.

America’s farmers already have many of the tools they need to improve productivity, increase resilience to extreme events, and generate new income. Advanced biofuels and biomaterials are being developed as alternatives to synthetic plastics, building on the opportunity demonstrated by ethanol to continue lessening our dependence on fossil fuels. Certain farming and ranching practices can also draw significant carbon from the atmosphere, and when this service is assessed a value, it can mean new income for farmers and ranchers. The data show that these soil-enhancing practices can also make farms more productive and resilient to flood and droughts. Expanding methane capture, the use of tailored livestock feed mixes, and precision farming aided by satellites, broadband data, and sensors can substantially reduce both emissions and production costs from our working lands.

These advancements and others, when used at scale, can make farms more profitable while helping fight climate change.

The federal government can and should facilitate this transition by promoting stable markets, providing incentives and financial support to implement best practices, and delivering accessible, science-based decision-making tools. Specifically, Congress should:

  • Expand existing USDA agricultural conservation programs and include improved soil health and soil carbon storage incentives.
  • Invest in technical assistance and expand apprenticeship programs to support farmers and ranchers as they adopt and expand regenerative practices.
  • Facilitate participation in carbon markets by supporting research and development of accurate, low-cost, readily scalable methods to measure soil carbon.
  • Provide funding for research, development, and deployment of advanced biofuels and bio-based products from waste products and non-food crops.
  • Provide technical assistance and financial incentives to scale the use of methane digesters.
  • Fund grants, incentives, and tax credits to assist with the costs of building on-farm clean power generation and reduce the costs and technical barriers of connecting to the grid.
  • Invest in and maintain state-of-the-art universal rural connectivity, including rural broadband.

Growing the bio-based economy can reduce emissions and bolster rural economies

The federal government has invested in research and development of these products for years, but regulatory uncertainty and market volatility create barriers to private sector investment in advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol.590 Increased federal funding for RD&D of advanced biofuels and bio-based products from waste products and non-food crops could significantly accelerate the adoption of advanced biofuels and bioproducts in American commerce, thereby lowering emissions in the transportation, electric, and industrial sectors.

We need a stable framework that accounts for the climate and ecosystem benefits of these fossil fuel alternatives—and passes this value on to farmers and advanced biofuel producers. This would promote the sustained investment necessary to develop the next generation of these products and accelerate their use by consumers and industry. But as this sector grows, we must focus on increasing productivity on each parcel of land, while protecting high-worth
conservation areas.

There is also great potential in transitioning more farm technology and processes to systems fueled with clean electricity or to systems that pair electric power with biofuel-fueled vehicles and machinery.

Energy production from biomass includes biodiesel, energy crops, landfill gas and biogas, municipal solid waste, algae, and wood waste. U.S. investments in bioenergy R&D should prioritize advancing ways to efficiently produce bioenergy from agricultural, municipal, or industrial waste and development of renewable hydrocarbon biofuels. These forms of
bioenergy offer particular promise for decreasing emissions in harder-to-shift sectors. It is also important that biofuels be produced sustainably. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Center for Bioenergy Innovation has identified three overarching research targets:

(1) sustainable biomass feedstock crops using plant genomics;

(2) advanced processes to convert plants into specialty biofuels; and

(3) valuable bioproducts, such as chemical feedstocks made from lignin residue from bioprocessing.1010

In 2019, ARPA-E announced funding to develop technologies to quantify feedstock-related emissions at the field level.1011 DOE also announced R&D funding for projects related to improving algae yield, enhancing conversion efficiency, lowering costs of smaller wet waste systems, and using systems research to improve performance and lower costs of hydrocarbon biofuels.1012 Renewable hydrocarbon biofuels, or ‘drop-in’ fuels, present opportunities to replace petroleum in existing pipelines, refineries, and engines; this field particularly merits increased R&D funding.

Solutions are emerging for harder-to-shift sectors, but more work is needed

Aviation, freight, and shipping are additional areas for further innovation. Promising propulsion for planes includes renewable drop-in fuels, hydrogen fuel cells, and batteryelectric engines. Biofuels can be made from industrial process waste gases, reusing carbon.

A lignin and ethanol blend and cooking oil are two of the biofuels in R&D for use in shipping. Hydrogen and ammonia are considered promising alternatives, but RD&D is needed to advance green production and address the special storage considerations for these fuels. One manufacturer plans to deliver its first ammonia engine in 2024. Efficiency is another aspect of emissions-reducing RD&D in shipping, and ranges from rotor sails, to paints that improve glide, and “flapping foil” propellers.

The Department of Defense (DoD) has a sizable budget for energy-related RD&D and has funded projects related to solar PV materials, battery storage, fuel cells, biofuels, and microgrids.

Some references:

285 Anthony Andrews et al., The Navy Biofuel Initiative Under the Defense Production Act, Congressional Research Services, 22 June 2012. https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R42568.pdf

286 Jim Lane, “Navy to launch Great Green Fleet with 77 million gallon buy of costcompetitive, non-food advanced biofuels blends,” BiofuelsDigest, 7 Jan. 2016. http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2016/01/07/ navy-to-launch-great-green-fleet-with-77-million-gallon-buy-of-cost-competitive-nonfood-advanced-biofuels/

287 IPCC, Aviation and the Global Atmosphere, 1999. https://www.ipcc.ch/report/aviation-andthe-global-atmosphere-2/?idp=4

590 International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Advanced Biofuels: What holds them Back? Nov. 2019. https://www.irena.org/-/media/Files/IRENA/Agency/Publication/2019/Nov/IRENA_Advanced-biofuels_2019.pdf

READ MORE

 

Excerpt from Renewable Fuels Association:  “We look forward to speaking with the Committee about the value and contributions of grain-based ethanol under existing LCFS programs in California, Oregon, and British Columbia,”  RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper said. “Grain-based ethanol has already reduced transportation-related GHG emissions by 24 million metric tons in California, more than any other low-carbon fuel since the program began in 2011.”

Cooper said the LCFS model is spreading to other states and regions. “We are proud to be part of a broad coalition of stakeholders who recently developed a framework and set of guiding principles for a potential Midwest LCFS program. RFA served on the steering committee for the Midwest LCFS coalition, and we prioritized the inclusion of approaches that would reward farmers for reducing the carbon intensity of agricultural practices; we were happy to see the Committee recommend including incentives for lower-carbon farming practices.”

In particular, the senate report also endorses the value of carbon sequestration, noting that it can help sustainable farmers survive and thrive, and cites the important growth of bio-based products as smarter and healthier alternatives to those derived from fossil fuels – using corn ethanol as a prime example.  READ MORE

 

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America Latvia LCFS (Low Carbon Fuel Standard) lead Leadtree leaf ant Lebanon legislation Legislation-Federal Legislation-State lemna lend-lease Lesotho lesquerella leucaena Liberia Libya licensing lichens life cycle analysis (LCA) lignin Lignin Ethanol Oil (LEO) Lignocellulosic Biofuel lignocellulosic sugars Lipid liquefaction liquid liquidation liquid petroleum gas (LPG) liquid transportation fuels Liquified Biogas (LBG) Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) lithium Lithuania litigation Litigation-Federal Litigation-State livestock loan guarantees loans lobbying loblolly pine locomotives lodgepole pine logistics long-term contracts Louisiana low carbon emissions low carbon octane standard (LCOS) Low Emission Vehicle Standards (LEV) low sulfur diesel low sulfur fuel low sulfur marine fuel lubricants lumber mill Luxembourg lysis M3 M15 M50 M100 ma macadamia macauba Macedonia machine learning Madagascar magnesium mahua Maine Malawi Malaysia Mali mallees Malta Malyasia mamona management changes 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Missouri mixed prarie mobile refinery modeling modular molasses mold molybdenum Monaco Mongolia mongongo Montana Montenegro moose morama Moringa tree Morocco morula motorcycles MOVES (motor vehicle emissions simulator) modeling system MOVES2014 Mozambique MSW (Municipal Solid Waste) MTBE (Methyl tert-butyl ether) multi-fuel municipal/city mushroom mushroom substrate mustard seed Myanmar n-butanol nahar Namibia nano nanocatalysts nanocellulose nanomaterials nano particles naphtha/bionaphtha NASCAR National Academies of Science National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) National Guard National Highway Traffic Safety Administration National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Laboratory National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Oilheat Research Alliance National Park Service National Research Council National Science Foundation (NSF) national security National Transportation Safety Board Native American tribes natural gas Natural Gas Act natural gas input natural gasoline natural gas prices natural gas vehicles Navy Nebraska neem negative carbon emissions neodymium Nepal net energy balance Netherlands Nevada New Brunswick Newfoundland new fuel approval New Guinea New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico New South Wales New York New Zealand next generation biofuels next generation vehicles NHRA drag racing Nicaragua nickel Niger Nigeria nipa sap nitrate leaching nitrates nitrogen Nitrogen fertiliser nitrogen starvation nitrous oxide (N2O) Niue NO2 noodles nopal North Africa North America North Carolina North Dakota Northeast northern catalpa Northern Ireland Northern Territory North Korea Northwest Territories Norway Nova Scotia NOx (nitrogen oxides) noxious weeds NTSB nuclear Nunavut nutraceuticals nutrient credit trading nutrient management nutrients nutrition nut shells oak oat hulls oats oat straw Obligated Parties/Point of Obligation (PoO) ocean-based energy Oceania octane octane price/value octanol Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office of Management and Budget (OMB) offtake agreements Ohio oil oil embargo oil exploration oil monopoly oil price parity oil prices oil production oil refineries oil replacement Oils oil sands oil seed oil seed crops oil speculators oil spill oil subsidies oil taxes Oklahoma olefins olive cake olive oil olive pits olives olive water Oman Omega-3s on-farm algae production on-farm biodiesel on-farm ethanol production on-farm natural gas production on-farm processing one pound waiver onion waste online courses Ontario OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) open fuel standard open pond opportunity zones optimized flex fuel vehicles orange peel orchard grass orchard prunings Oregon organic solar cells OSHA Overseas Private Investment Corporation overview overview/survey course oxygen oxygenate ozone Pakistan Palau palm palm biomass palm fatty acid distillate palm fiber palm fronds palm kernel palm 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pollinators pollution pollution control polyfuel polymer polymerization polysaccharides pomace pomegranates pongamia pongamia pinnata poplar poppy population control Portable refinery Portugal poster sessions potamogeton potassium potato poultry litter power-to-x/gas/liquid prairie grasses pre-processing precision farming/agriculture precursors/biointermediates premium gasoline Pretreatment pretreatment equipment price price of water prickly pear Prince Edward Island process flow diagram producer tax credit Production tax credit productivity project insurance propagating Propane/Biopropane/Renewable Propane propanol property insurance propylene protectionism protein protests public comments public health policy Puerto Rico pulp Pulp/Paper Mill pump retrofit kit pumps pungam Punnai tree pyrolysis Q-RIN QAP Qatar quality assurance Quality Assurance Plans (QAPs) quality improvement quantum dots Quebec Queensland quote of the week r R33 rabbits race radiata pine Rahal Letterman Lanigan 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RME180 RNA (Ribonucleic acid) roadmap rocket fuel Romania RON (Research Octane Number) rotation crops royalties RTP (rapid thermal processing) rubber rumen ruminants rural development Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) Rural Energy Self-Sufficiency Initiative Russia Russian olive rutabaga Rwanda ry rye Rye grass s saccharification Safer and Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles (SAFE) safety safflower sago pond weed SAIC SAK Salicornia salt-tolerant saltbush saltcedar sal tree salt water Sanctions Santa Monica sardine oil Saskatchewan Saudi Arabia sawdust scale up Scandinavia scholarships/fellowships Science Advisory Board (SAB) Science Policy Scotland scum sea level rise seashore mallow seawater Seaweed/Macroalgae seaweed cultivation Section 526 Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) seed-to-wheel seed husks Senegal Serbia sesame sewage Seychelles shale shale gas shale oil shark oil sheep shipping shipping containers shipworm Sierra Leone silica Silphie/cup plant/Indian cup silver 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stranded assets Strategic Bioenergy Reserve STrategiv Petroleum Reserve straw students su sub-Saharan Africa sub-sim (substantially similar) succinic acid sucrose Sudan sugar sugar-to-biodiesel sugar-to-farnesane sugar-to-jetfuel Sugar Beets/Energy Beets sugarcane sugarcane prices sugarcane straw Sugar kelp sugar palm sugar platform sugar prices sugars sugars-to-fats sugar standards sulfur Sumatra sunflower supercritical fluid supercritical hydrolysis supply agreements supply chain Supreme Court surahart Suriname sustai Sustainability Swaziland Sweden sweetgum sweet potatoes Sweet sorghum swine waste Switchgrass Switzerland sycamore syngas syngas fermentation synthetic biology synthetic diesel synthetic gasoline synthetic liquified gas (SLG) synthetic methane Syria Tailoring Rule Taiwan Tajikistan tall fescue tall oil tallow tallow tree Tamarix tank-to-wheel tank cars tankers tanker trucks Tanzania tariffs taro tar sands Tasmania tax benefit tax credit taxes tax incentives tax parity tax policy tea teach-the-teacher teacher teacher resources teacher training technical course Technical Readiness Levels techno-economic analysis technology transfer tech transfer telephone utility poles Tennessee termites terpenes terrestrial carbon testing Texas textbook Thailand theft therapeutics thermal deoxygenation thermocatalytic conversion thermochemical conversion thermochemical liquefaction Tier 3 Tier 4 tilapia tillage Timor-Leste tires tobacco tobacco tree Togo Tokyo toluene Tonga tool Toronto torrefaction Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) trade trade dispute/discrimination trade group trade organization Trade Policy trade secrets training trains transesterification transgenics transition Transportation Fuels Policy Transportation Fuels Policy--Municipal Transportation Fuels Policy--State Transportation Policy Treasury Department trees Trinidad and Tobago triticale trucks tubers tung tunicate Tunisia Turkey UCOME (Used Cooking Oil Methyl Ester) Uganda UK (United Kingdom) 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