What's next for biofuels

March 25, 2020
It's Wednesday – Day 2 of BIO’s COVID-19 virtual summit. The event kicked off yesterday, featuring biotech innovators, leading academics and government agencies on the frontlines of the rapidly evolving coronavirus public health crisis. Roughly 45 BIO members working…

It's Wednesday – Day 2 of BIO’s COVID-19 virtual summit. The event kicked off yesterday, featuring biotech innovators, leading academics and government agencies on the frontlines of the rapidly evolving coronavirus public health crisis. Roughly 45 BIO members working on treatments, diagnostics and vaccines joined government officials including Ambassador Deborah Birx and Dr. Robert Kadlec for a robust discussion about the most effective approaches to respond to pandemics.

In other news, we take a closer look at some of the latest developments on the biofuels front, as well as a new tool to track #COVID19 chatter, in about 700 words, or 3 minutes, 30 seconds.

What's next for biofuels

While you’ve been quarantining, there have been developments on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and what the biofuels industry can expect with regards to exemptions moving forward. Here’s what we know right now.

Help. I can’t remember anything that happened before the coronavirus lockdown. As a refresher, Trump’s EPA granted an unprecedented number of Small Refinery Exemptions (SREs) to the RFS, which requires a certain percentage of biofuels in transportation fuel in the United States. 

The RFS provides certainty to the biofuels industry—and the exemptions severely undercut biofuel demand and prices, leading many biofuel facilities to stop production or shut down entirely, even before the transportation fuel market and demand were disrupted by the coronavirus.

But then, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled the EPA “overstepped” on some 2016 SREs, and said the EPA needed to reconsider them.

Of course, oil refineries urged the court to rehear the case, as Agri-Pulse reported yesterday

The Trump administration had until the end of the day yesterday (midnight) to challenge the ruling—but they did not

Now, the ruling might be applied nationwide, meaning just a few U.S. refineries will be eligible for SREs, explained Bloomberg

Meanwhile, the administration is expected to “look for other ways to help oil refiners,” Reuters reported over the weekend

Stephanie’s Sage Words: This news gives a little bit of hope to America’s biofuels industry, which was suffering in the wake of the SREs and the trade war, and now, the coronavirus. BIO urges the administration to move quickly and apply the 10th Circuit ruling nationwide and we will continue to urge EPA to increase volumes for advanced and cellulosic biofuels in the RFS to ignite the market for adoption of sustainable fuels. Sustainable fuel development is an important, needed source of rural and clean jobs, and a big player in the effort to clean up air pollution, which is even more important now that people are suffering from the respiratory effects of COVID-19. – Stephanie Batchelor, VP of BIO’s Industrial and Environment Section


New tool tracks COVID-19 media chatter

BIO’s state affiliate in California has developed a cool new tool to track coronavirus stories and how Twitter is reacting to the spread.

Developed by the California Life Sciences Association, COR, the COVID-19 Communication Center, is a unique platform providing a one-stop source of curated COVID-19 information, “enabling anyone to track and share the most relevant content and voices.”

Powered by analytics, the platform is refreshed every 60 seconds, and analyzes and curates social media posts specifically mentioning “coronavirus,” “covid19,” and “covid 19” on Twitter, sorted by posts from Health Care Providers, Life Sciences, Media, and California.

You can also perform your own search queries, for posts on specific topics, mentioning specific hashtags, or from certain time periods.

Click here to visit the platform.


More Health Care News: 

AP: Trump, Congress agree on $2 trillion virus rescue bill
“The unprecedented economic rescue package would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home.” 

Axios: Over 100 drugs are in testing in the race to treat coronavirus
“A vaccine is likely a long way off, and failures are inevitable. But some experimental treatments, while they still require more research, are showing promise.”

The Wall Street Journal: Coronavirus drugs, vaccine are many months away, health experts say
“Amy Abernethy, principal deputy commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said antimalarial drugs like chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine must be tested to determine whether they can fight off the deadly respiratory illness.”

The Washington Post: The coronavirus isn’t mutating quickly, suggesting a vaccine would offer lasting protection
“That relative stability suggests the virus is less likely to become more or less dangerous as it spreads, and represents encouraging news for researchers hoping to create a long-lasting vaccine.”

BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Wednesday: After yesterday’s surge in the markets, he’s talking to non-profit organizations about coronavirus response. The Coronavirus Task Force is scheduled to hold a press briefing at 5pm ET.   

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: We have a deal. The Senate is expected to vote on the coronavirus package today, and the House could vote on it later this week—possibly remotely.

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