On June 24, 2014, BIO hosted a session titled Executives Perspective – 2014: Biofuels and Renewable Chemicals in the Balance? as part of the Biofuels and Renewable Chemicals Forum at this year’s International Convention.
Here, BIO’s Industrial and Environmental Section board members reflected on the 2014 transformation of the industrial biotech sector from pre-commercial promise to market threat – and the unprecedented policy challenges that have accompanied this transition.
Moderated by Jim Lane, Editor & Publisher of Biofuels Digest, panelists included Doug Berven, Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Poet, LLC, Adam Monroe, President of Novozymes North America, Anna Rath, President & CEO of NexSteppe, and Christopher Standlee, EVP, Institutional Relationships & Governmental Affairs at Abengoa Bioenergy.
Anna Rath commented on NextSteppe’s advancing technology which allows them to develop seeds for next generation feedstock solutions for biofuels, biopower and biobased products industries. Chris Standlee opened with exciting news about Abengoa’s cellulosic biorefinery in Hugoton, Kansas which is now scheduled to start up within the next couple of weeks. Adam Monroe touched on how Novozymes is exploring the hot new market of microbial soil to create greener home care products. Lastly, Doug Berven opened by noting that Poet is the biggest refiner of ethanol. Poet’s Project Liberty in Emmetsburg, Iowa is expected to produce 20 million gallons of ethanol growing to approximately 25 million gallons per year.
Here is what the group had to say about the EPA’s recent proposed RVO reductions to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS):
Chris Standlee argued that within the past 7 months, since the EPA proposed reducing the RFS, the “oil industry’s interest in cellulosic fuels has evaporated.” Anna Rath claimed that the biofuels industry “will grow more this year outside the US than inside because of instability in the RFS.”
Doug Berven stated that if the EPA bends to the whim of oil industry, the US will always be at mercy of OPEC:
“In the short term, all of use are going to fight for higher numbers in RFS.
“Changes to the RFS allows big oil to maintain a monopoly. This then becomes a national security issue.
“If we are allowed to compete for market share then biofuels will excel!”
Berven explained that the government as well as consumers should rally behind the RFS, CAFE standards, and Tier 3 policies which call for cleaner fuels and E10 blends.
Lane then proposed to the executives this question “Why don’t you just switch product tracks if there is such policy instability?”
“We have been a long time believer in first and second generation biofuels, said Standlee. My goal for Abengoa is to create sustainable second generation energy.
“The primary purpose of the RFS is to transition away from a reliance on petroleum. We need to remind the EPA that this is the purpose of the law.”
Lastly, the group explored the hurdles and benefits to next generation feedstocks.
With NextSteppe being a leader in this market, Rath explained that US policy has driven their efforts to achieve next generation feedstocks for fuels to outside the United States.
Standlee argued that it can be difficult but important to find a synergy between first and second generation feedstocks.