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Let’s Take a Look Back at 2015: Industrial & Environmental

December 21, 2015
2015 was a year of challenges and accomplishments for the Industrial Biotechnology Industry. Several issues, especially the Renewable Fuel Standard, were up for discussion and debate.

Below are 10 noteworthy Industrial Biotechnology events that happened in 2015, making it a memorable year for the industry.

  1. Renewable Fuel Standard – On November 30th, the EPA announced its final rule setting the level of required volumes of biofuel for 2014, 2015 and 2016, with an additional 2017 requirement for biodiesel only.Under the rule, U.S. fuel blenders will be required to mix 16.93 billion gallons of biofuels into fossil fuels in 2015 and 18.11 billion gallons in 2016, a 4 percent increase from the amounts in the proposed rule issued in May but less than what Congress intended when it expanded the RFS program eight years ago. Read more about the news here in Greenwire’s piece “EPA ramps Up Blending Requirements in Final RFS”. BIO’s statement expresses disappointment in the ruling, arguing that it undermines the goals of the statute, and it will continue to undercut investment in advanced and cellulosic biofuels.

  2. Tax Extenders – The tax extenders bill made permanent the Research & Development Tax Credit and extended through 2016 the Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit and the Special Depreciation Allowance for Second Generation Biofuel Plant Property. You can view a section-by-section summary of the bill here. For more information please see BIO’s press release on tax extender legislation here.

  3. 2014 Farm Bill - In the 2015 final omnibus, two key Farm Bill Energy Title Programs are short of the full mandatory levels in the 2014 Farm Bill. The funding levels for these programs in FY16 are capped at $27 million for Section 9003 – The Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program and $3 million for Section 9010 – Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). The Section 9003 money is available until expended and will be available again next year; 9003 should also have a significant amounts of previous years’ funding available.

  4. DPA Advanced Biofuels Funding - The 2015 final omnibus contained $45 million in funding for the Defense Production Act (DPA) transfer authority that was provided for in the Senate Committee passed FY16 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill. These provisions will continue the advancement of the public-private effort to develop cost-competitive supplies of advanced biofuels under the Join Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

  5. Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) - The 2015 final omnibus provided a three-year reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and funds the program at $450 million in fiscal 2016, a major boost over the current level of just over $300 million. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) had placed a hold on the Senate version of Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) reform legislation, S. 697, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act until LWCF had been funded and reauthorized. As a result, Senator Burr will lift his hold on TSCA, clearing a way for the Senate to take up S. 697. Read more here in Plastic News.

  6. U.S. Becomes Home to World's Largest Cellulosic Ethanol Plant – On October 30th, DuPont Industrial Biosciences opened the world's largest cellulosic ethanol plant in central Iowa. The facility is capable of producing 30 million gallons of ethanol a year out of the residues left on surrounding farm fields after the corn harvest. It is the third large-scale cellulosic ethanol plant to open in the Midwest. Read more about the facility here.

  7. Coca-Cola Produces World’s First 100% Plant-Based PET Bottle - Coca-Cola has produced the world’s first PET plastic bottle made entirely from plant materials. PlantBottle packaging is Coke’s plant-based alternative to packaging traditionally made from fossil fuels and other non-renewable materials. Read more about it inEnvironmental Leader.

  8. COP21 – In December, 196 countries adopted an "ambitious" climate change agreement at COP21 in Paris that calls for countries to limit the collective greenhouse gas emissions increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius.The agreement will be open for signing by the countries on 22 April in New York. The agreement can only enter into force once it has been ratified by 55 countries, representing at least 55% of emissions. Representatives from the biofuels industry were active in the discussions and held a robust side event. The European ethanol trade group, ePURE, argued during the discussions that rollout of 10% ethanol blends throughout the European Union would help the region meet collective climate change reduction targets. Read more on the COP21 climate change agreement here:

  9. Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge - Every year since 1996, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) honors companies which use innovative efforts to tackle climate change with their Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge. This year two of the award recipients were industrial biotechnology companies - LanzaTech Inc. and Renmatix - both of which are also members of BIO. Read BIO’s blog on this year’s winners and their technology here

  10. Clinton Foundation’s “Ideas Matter Essay Contest” – Each year the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation holds its “Ideas Matter Essay Contest,” which is a scholarship competition for Arkansas high school students. Students are asked to submit an idea and a plan for how they would turn it into action to address one of these challenges- (1) improving global health, (2) increasing opportunities for women and girls, (3) reducing childhood obesity and preventable diseases, (4) creating economic opportunity and growth, and (5) helping communities address the effects of climate change. Among the winners was Taryn Imamura, from Conway, Arkansas, whoseidea was to use industrial biotechnology to transform agricultural waste into a clean, “green” chemical product. Read BIO’s blog here to learn more about the awards and Taryn’s essay.

  2015 was a big year for industrial biotech. BIO is excited to see what is in store for 2016!