3 bioenergy-related House bills introduced in late July

By Erin Voegele | July 31, 2015

During the final week of July, several pieces of legislation were introduced that aim to impact the biorefining industry. Two of the bills aim to benefit bioenergy technologies, while a third would limit the U.S. EPA’s ability to set cellulosic mandates.

On July 27, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., introduced H.R. 3228. The bill would require the EPA to limit the volume of cellulosic biofuel volume requirements under the renewable fuel standard (RFS) to the volume that was commercially available for the most recent calendar year for which such total volume is known. That requirement would remain in effect until the National Academy of Sciences completes a comprehensive study.

According to the text of the legislation, the study would focus on the current production capacity for cellulosic biofuel, and the resources needed to ensure transportation sold in the U.S. contains at least 16 billion gallons of cellulosic biofuel in 2022, including the number of cellulosic ethanol facilities to be constructed, the acres of land use, and total capital investment needed. The study would also address the energy produced by the cellulosic fuel when compared to the energy required to produce it, the environmental impacts of producing cellulosic biofuel, and the processes being developed to produce cellulosic biofuel. In addition, the study would include information on the economics of a cellulosic facility, including information on the cost of feedstock acquisition, the typical facility size, the relative economics of a corn ethanol facility compared to a cellulosic facility, and the price per gallon of transportation fuel that contains cellulosic biofuel required for such fuel to be profitable. For the purposes of the study, cellulosic biofuel would not be defined to include compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, or electricity produced from biogas.

To date, no additional members of Congress have signed on to cosponsor Sensenbrenner’s legislation. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

On July 29, two pieces of legislation were introduced that could benefit the biorefining industry. One bill, introduced by Reps. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J.; Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.; and Richard Neal, D-Mass., aims to provide renewable chemical producers access to production or investment tax credits currently available to other renewable energy producers. The bill, H.R. 3390, was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

“Federal policies that provide production or investment tax incentives for renewable chemicals will stimulate venture capital and domestic production of innovative renewable chemicals, pay strong dividends in the future of U.S. chemical manufacturing, improve trade balance, maintain U.S. leadership in biotechnology, clean tech and manufacturing, create thousands of high quality U.S. jobs and provide stability to volatile petroleum prices,” said Brent Erickson, vice president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s Industrial & Environmental Section.

“By creating a level playing field in tax policy, U.S. industrial biotech companies can innovate and develop new renewable chemicals for the production of biobased products,” Erickson continued. “Putting homegrown technologies to work will create high-quality rural jobs, spur economic growth, and will impact a cleaner environment. This bill will help us grow our emerging biobased economy. We thank Representatives Pascrell, Fitzpatrick, and Neal for supporting innovation and helping U.S. companies compete in a rapidly growing global chemicals market.”

The second bill, introduced by Reps. Scott Peters, D-Calif.; Matt Salmon, R-Ariz.; Sam Farr, D-Calif.; and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., aims to amend the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to spur research and development of carbon utilization technologies. The bill, known as the Carbon Capture Research and Development Act, or H.R. 3392, was introduced July 29 and referred to the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. The legislation is a companion bill to one offered in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.

“We are so pleased that Congressmen Peters and Salmon have introduced the Carbon Capture Research and Development Act,” said Matt Carr, executive director of the Algae Biomass Organization. “Their bi-partisan collaboration shows that this common sense approach to dealing with carbon emissions is something that we can all get behind. We look forward to others in the House co-sponsoring the bill and moving it forward.”