Member Update on Biofuels in DC

Biomass 2012, RFS, Farm Bill, National Defense Authorization Act 

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Dear ABO member,

 

Last week, the Department of Energy held its annual Biomass Conference — Biomass 2012. This was only one of many events of interest to the biofuels industry which took place in DC last week. In addition to the conference, the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power held a hearing on the RFS, a group of retired military brass held a press conference to show their support for the Pentagon’s investments in biofuels, and the House Agriculture Committee marked up their version of the Farm Bill. I would like to take this opportunity to fill you in on these DC happenings.

Biomass 2012
Like past years, this conference included speeches by Senators, Members of the House of Representatives, and Administration officials in support of the biofuel industry. The Department of Defense was showcased with a speech from Sharon Burke, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Operational Energy Plans and Programs, who explained that the Department of Defense supports biofuels for mission-specific reasons. In other words, the Pentagon’s support for biofuels is not based on environmental or economic reasons, but rather because of biofuels’ role in making the US DOD more effective in its ability to defend our country. DAS Burke discussed this memo (PDF) outlining DOD’s policy support for biofuels.

Also of significance at Biomass 2012 was an unmistakable increase in the discussion about the Renewable Fuel Standard.

High-value co-products — and chemicals in particular — were also discussed. In fact, when asked about the major pathways to development of the biofuels industry, Secretary Chu said that we need to use higher value co-products as we are getting to scale for fuel. Finally, I am pleased to report that algae has clearly become part of the biofuels lexicon. There was a panel dedicated to algae which included panelists from two ABO member companies, Algenol and Sapphire Energy. Algae was mentioned in almost every major speech. In fact, Secretary Chu mentioned algae’s use of non-arable land in the second sentence of his presentation.

House Energy and Power Subcommittee Hearing on the RFS
In one of a series of hearings on energy issues, the Subcommittee on Energy and Power heard from the petroleum industry as well as the biofuels industry on the usefulness of the RFS. A summary of the hearing can be downloaded here (PDF). This hearing definitely provided the RFS detractors with a forum for expressing their frustration with the program.  To give you some flavor of the press coverage, a link to an article from “The Hill” Newspaper — a newspaper circulated mainly in Washington, DC for Hill staff, associations, law and lobbying firms – is here.

Farm Bill Mark Up in the House Agriculture Committee
I was very pleased with the version of the Farm Bill, which passed the Senate in late June.  That bill includes a robust Energy Title with mandatory funding — exactly what we had been lobbying for! As expected, the House version of the Farm Bill is not as favorable toward biofuels as the Senate bill. The House Agriculture Committee marked up their version of the Farm Bill on July 11. A mark up is a meeting where the bill is amended. The bill which resulted from this mark up does contain an Energy Title, however, the mandatory funding for this title is not included. Without mandatory funding, the biofuels industry will have to fight for funding through a separate appropriations process.

We understand that Congressman Boswell (D-IA) had intended to offer an amendment to include mandatory funding, but he withdrew his amendment after it became clear that it would not pass.

The next step is consideration of the House Farm Bill on the House floor, however, the prospects for House consideration are speculative. House staffers with whom we have spoken believe that the bill will not be brought to the House floor in the near future.

National Defense Authorization Act
Although we do not expect the Senate to vote on the National Defense Authorization Act until September, it is not too early for ABO members to reach out to their Senators asking for support for biofuels when the bill does come to the Senate floor. In fact, ABO members who were in Washington for Biomass 2012 paid visits to their Senators to ask for support.  As you know, the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act includes language prohibiting the Department of Defense from purchasing biofuel unless it is cost-competitive with fossil fuel. It also prohibits the DOD from investing in biorefineries unless specific authorization language is approved into law. We are working with Senate offices to garner support for an amendment that would give the Pentagon the ability to purchase biofuels and invest in biorefineries.

DOD Solicitation – Submission deadline – August 13 , 3:00 EST   
Please review the Department of Defense’s Advanced Drop-In Biofuel Production Project solicitation (PDF). This solicitation anticipates funding five “Phase 1” (planning and preliminary design) projects with a possibility for future funding. This solicitation is intended to accelerate commercial scale manufacturing of drop-in replacement transportation biofuels for aviation and marine diesel applications.  You can also download a summary of a conference call (PDF) regarding this solicitation in which the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Navy participated.

Sincerely,

Mary Rosenthal

Executive Director, Algal Biomass Organization

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