Advanced producers play defense on Capitol Hill

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Biofuels executives yesterday took to Capitol Hill to tout their accomplishments as they face criticism from oil companies for low production.

At a briefing for Hill staffers sponsored by the offices of Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and organized by the Fuels America coalition, company officials said they were making demonstrable progress toward commercial-scale production.

They emphasized that a strong first-generation ethanol industry was vital for cellulosic biofuels made from plant-based materials like agricultural residues, perennial grasses and municipal solid waste. They also denounced attempts to dismantle the renewable fuel standard, which sets yearly goals for both conventional corn-based ethanol and advanced biofuels.

In attendance were Christopher Standlee, executive vice president of Abengoa Bioenergy U.S Holding Inc.; Dan Cummings, vice president of commercial and external affairs at INEOS Bio; Doug Berven, vice president of corporate affairs at POET LLC; and Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Ethanol Council. The event was closed to the media, but participants provided an account to E&E Daily.

“We wanted to make the people aware of the development in second-generation biofuels,” Standlee said after the briefing.

Advanced biofuels producers have been in town already several times this year to defend their industry and the 2007 renewable fuel standard. Later today, the American Petroleum Institute is expected to release a report on the problems with the “blend wall,” or the cap in the feasible amount of ethanol that can be fed into the motor fuel supply (Greenwire, March 18).

The oil industry has also this year ramped up its criticism of the low numbers of cellulosic biofuel production seen so far in the market. Last year, producers generated 22,000 gallons of cellulosic fuels, though that number is expected to be in the millions by the end of this year as companies like Abengoa, POET and INEOS roll out new cellulosic biofuel facilities.

“The industry has really broken through at commercial scale,” Coleman said after yesterday’s briefing.