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2014 BIO World Congress: Policy Affecting Advanced Biofuels & Renewable Chemicals

May 16, 2014
The 2014 BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology kicked off with a much needed policy discussion on the issues facing the industrial biotechnology industry. The exclusive Pre-conference Workshop was called “U.S. Policy Outlook: From the RFS to Tax Reform to Farm Bill Implementation – What Lies Ahead for Advance Biofuels and Renewable Chemicals?”.

U.S. advanced biofuels and renewable chemical companies have invested nearly $6 billion over the past 5 years to research and develop projects in nearly every state across the U.S. More than 100 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel capacity is being brought online in the United States this year in Iowa, Kansas and Florida. Another 100 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel is planned for the coming years in North Carolina, Minnesota, Louisiana, and Michigan.

With the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) facing potential changes, now is the time to gather like-minded groups to protect this important policy program and prevent any threat to the progress the program has made. Additionally, it took great effort by BIO, its affiliates, and the industry to achieve successful passage of the 2014 Farm Bill. Now, we must work to guarantee a successful implementation of this legislation. Lastly, there needs to be financial incentives available to companies and venture capitalists interested in investing in this sector. Tax reform and tax extenders are needed to ensure that innovative products are not just created in the U.S., but that, when they are able to be commercialized, they’re manufactured in the U.S. as well.

The panelists for this year's Pre-conference workshop included.

  • Moderator: James C. Greenwood, CEO, BIO

  • James Massie, Alpine Group

  • Ryan Stroschein, Green Capitol LLC

  • Tim Urban, Washington Council, Ernst & Young

  • Dr. Matt Carr, Managing Director, BIO

The landscape of the RFS will depend on the final 2014 RVO decision, said James Massie of the Alpine Group. The final 2014 proposal is expected to be announced within the next 45 days and has been of great congressional interest. However, Massie argued that before the EPA can work on its final ruling of the 2014 RVO decision, it has prioritized a tremendous number of policies to be decided on first. Additionally, he stated that November’s mid-term elections will have significant impact on the 2015 Congressional agenda which could impact the RFS. Next, returning back to the congressional agenda, Massie mentioned that we may expect a potential amendment on the RVO to appear in the Interior Appropriations Bill. Lastly, he concluded that opponents to the RFS will never talk about reform but will always encourage repeal of the policy.

Green Capitol provided a great overview of the newly improved 2014 Farm Bill and how the industry succeeded to get much needed policy reform included. The new Farm Bill was appropriated 900 billion dollars and includes significant expansion of energy programs important to the bioeconomy. First, the bill expands the USDA’s BioPreferred program to include forestry products and increases federal procurement. Additionally, it provides new funds and expands the program to include renewable chemicals and biobased products – mostly due to the work of the industrial biotech industry, Stroschein added. The bill not only emphasizes biobased products and the bioeconomy but also provides funding to promote planting of new crops for advanced bio-energy production as designated in the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). He noted that Green Capitol is working closely with the USDA to make sure the agency understands that Congress explicitly expanded eligibility for Section 9003, Biorefinery Assistance Program to include stand-alone renewable chemical and biobased product manufacturing facilities. Stroschein also stressed how essential it will be to work with the USDA to know when the industry can expect funding opportunities for these facilities along with other key energy programs.

Tim Urban, Washington Council of Ernst & Young, spoke on the uncertainty surrounding a suite of critical advanced biofuels tax incentives – the Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit, the Special Depreciation Allowance for Second Generation Biofuel Plant Property, the Biodiesel and renewable Diesel Fuels Credit, and the Alternative Fuel and Alternative Fuel Mixture Excise Tax Credit. He touched on the fact that two-year extensions for these credits in the Senate Finance Committee passed. Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act, S. 2260 was a decent start, he said, but there is always room to improve. Urban explained that the situation is less clear in the House of Representatives but that the industry will work to protect the extensions in the Senate bill and make sure they are adopted when the House and Senate tax bills come together later this year.

Dr. Matt Carr rounded out the panel by focusing on BIO’s role and advocacy efforts in these three important policy issues. With the Renewable Fuel Standard, the Farm Bill and tax reform becoming top priorities for Congress, the Obama administration and key federal agencies, BIO is stepping up to the plate to ensure that the industry remains cohesive and united when addressing and fighting for these programs and policy issues.

Finally, Jack Ferguson, President & CEO of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PCVB), interviewed Congressman Jim Greenwood with former Governor Mark Schweiker, now Senior Vice President (SVP) to Renmatix, on what to expect at this year’s World Congress. The two also spoke on why Philadelphia is the ideal location for this year’s event and a perfect setting for BIO’s 2015 International Convention. Check out the interview here.