DOE Biomass 2014 Conference Highlights Renewable Chemicals

Biofuels & Climate Change

This week, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) hosted its seventh annual conference—Biomass 2014: Growing the Future Bioeconomy, focusing on innovative technologies, financing strategies, and public policies needed to grow the bioeconomy.

Brent Erickson

Brent Erickson Remarks on the Need for Public Policy to Support Renewable Chemicals at DOE Biomass 2014

Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial and Environmental Section, spoke at a Plenary Session titled Policy Challenges and Opportunities for Growing the Bioeconomy, at which the head’s of several Washington trade groups discussed meeting the challenges and leveraging opportunities that could fuel the impact, growth, and expansion of the bioeconomy.  Erickson focused his remarks on the key role that renewable chemicals play in growing a greener bioeconomy, saying:

“Renewable chemical technologies are rapidly becoming cost-competitive and are presenting an opportunity for new jobs and economic growth. A number of companies have already made a strategic shift from commercializing biofuels to producing renewable chemicals, because profitability can be achieved more quickly and with less start-up capital.

“To accelerate development of renewable chemicals and keep the new jobs and other economic benefits here in the United States, we need a level playing field in federal policy….

“Helpful federal policy can then work in tandem to help BIO’s members accelerate the development of biorefineries.  The RFS has significantly accelerated the development of today’s biofuel based biorefineries, which produce fuel, animal feed, and food ingredients such as vegetable oil. Cellulosic biofuel technology is now coming online, which will allow biorefineries to incorporate agricultural residues, getting more products from the same crop. And the policies have accelerated development of synthetic biology and renewable chemical technologies….

“But renewable chemical developers have not been fully supported by U.S. policy until recently. And the RFS and tax credits have been helpful but unstable. As a result, renewable chemical companies are being lured to other countries that provide better support, through targeted tax credits and access to capital. So the United States is losing the opportunity for new jobs and economic activity that will be generated from these homegrown technologies.

“We also want to level the playing field for renewable chemicals in the U.S. tax code. Last year, Senator Stabenow and Representative Bill Pascrell introduced the Qualifying Renewable Chemical Production Tax Credit Act. The tax credit would put renewable chemicals on par with other energy technologies, including cellulosic biofuels and incumbent fossil fuels, in attracting scarce investment dollars. Unfortunately, election year politics have stalled progress on tax reform and getting the provision in major tax legislation…

“So, renewable chemical technologies have reached commercial status without much federal support because they are cost-competitive with fossil fuel technologies. But the United States could still lose the opportunity to create jobs and build biorefineries here with this homegrown technology and domestic agriculture resources. The U.S. Congress and the administration must continue to level the playing field in policy support if America is to keep its lead in biobased innovation.”

The session was moderated by Biofuels Digest editor Jim Lane and included:

  • Tara Billingsley, Senior Energy Advisor for Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee;
  • Matt Carr, Executive Director, Algae Biomass Organization;
  • Bob Dinneen, President and Chief Executive Officer, Renewable Fuels Association;
  • Michael McAdams, President, Advanced Biofuels Association; and
  • Todd Foley, Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Relations, American Council On Renewable Energy

A segment of Erickson’s remarks are available here.

Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology & Bioenergy

The ninth annual Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy is the original conference dedicated solely to the growth of the industrial biotechnology and bioenergy sectors in North America and the Asia-Pacific region. The 2014 event will be held in San Diego, California from December 7 -9, 2014 at the Westin Gaslamp Quarter.

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