The EPA has issued proposed RFS2 rules for 2011 that provide some indications that the agency is dedicated to jump starting the advanced biofuels industry. Most notably, the EPA held fast to an overall mandate of 13.95 billion gallons of renewable fuel. While the agency intends to deviate downward on cellululosic biofuels with a cut of 90% or more anticipated, the proposed rule maintains the overall Advanced biofuel mandate at 1.35 billion gallons and the Biomass-based diesel requirement at 800 million gallons. Thus the agency is paying significant attention to the existing capacity of the biodiesel industry despite the lack of approval for the blender's credit six months into the year. Biofuel supporters hope that this policy gap will be addressed shortly or that RIN values will continue to increase for Biomass based diesel.
The proposed rule contains two other notable components: tentative but retroactive RIN credit for canola, sorghum, pulpwood and palm oil biofuel producers; and a petition process for foreign countries to avoid the onerous feedstock obligations that now apply in favor of the aggregate approach available within the US. The referenced feedstocks have been under consideration by EPA for Life Cycle Analysis since prior to the original RFS2 Final Rule was released but the work has still not been completed. The severe challenge for this group of biofuel producers is that EPA has previously indicated that RIN generation would trigger only when the pathway was certified. EPA's proposed new flexibility is an improvement but still falls short of providing full RIN value for these producers due to the lag time and uncertainty associated with the approach. The proposed petition process for foreign countries is an apparent attempt to level the playing field for foreign producers who now must trace and certify feedstocks such as soy and corn in a manner not required within the US.
The rules will be published in the Federal Register shortly and the public comment period will likely run to approximately August 13th.
Stoel Rives, LLP has decided to sponsor the 2009 Algae Biomass Summit ("2009 ABS"). The Algal Biomass Organization ("ABO") is hosting the 2009 ABS in San Diego this October 7-9th. The event will take place at the Marriot San Diego Hotel & Marina.
This year's ABS will discuss the emerging issue of algae as a feedstock for biofuels and other products. In an earlier article (available here), oil giant Exxon-Mobil's $600 million investment into this area marks a significant upward trend of interest in this area. Exxon's investment involves a partnership with Synthetic Genomics, a biotechnology company founded by the genomics pioneer J. Craig Venter. Venter, along with other leaders in the algae biofuels world, will be attending the 2009 ABS, and will also be the opening keynote speaker.
Shortly after Exxon's announcement, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") announced that it will measure the greenhouse gas impacts of algae-based biofuels in its final rule to implement the renewable fuels standard (for the article, click here). Algae as a renewable feedstock for biofuel is a hot area of development and those that are interested in getting involved and learning more about it, should consider attending the 2009 ABS.
Registration is currently open. Those interested in taking advantage of early registration prices must register for the 2009 ABS prior to September 1st.