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Ethanol gas standard in jeopardy?

7 Sep

This summer’s drought has caused livestock feed prices to soar and livestock producers are feeling the heat on their bottom lines as well.  In order to lower feed prices, producers are asking the U.S. EPA to waive the Renewable Fuels Standards, which requires 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol to be added to gasoline this year.  If past years are any indication, they shound not expect any action from the agency.  For example, in 2008 the EPA did not issue a waiver even though corn prices rose due to increased fuel, fertilizer and other costs.

If you have questions about the Renewable Fuels Standard, contact us at 773-609-5320, info@thornenvironmentallaw.com, or through our web contact form.

Disclaimer: This article cannot, and does not, create any attorney/client or consultant/client relationship.

So you think you know what is biomass?

5 Sep

At its most basic level biomass is usually considered organic material that may be burned to generate heat/electricity or converted to a liquid or solid fuel.  Biomass may be plant material: crops grown specifically to be a fuel (e.g., switchgrass and various prarie grasses); “waste” components of a plant (e.g., corn stover or sawdust); or plant derived products that no longer serve their original purpose (e.g., waste pallets or wood from demolished building stock).  Biomass may also be animal waste, aquatic plants or municipal wastes.

Anyone contemplating a biomass project is most likely doing so with the intent of receiving (state or federal) funding or inclusion in a certain government program and should pay attention to how biomass is defined in that program.  On the federal level alone, biomass has over a dozen different definitions and several statutes actually have multiple definitions (the Energy Policy Act of 2005 has 6 different definitions).  These statutory definitions include and exclude various of the above mentioned biomass categories.  Several of the federal statutes also distinguish between biomass located on federal and private lands. 

Biomass energy also faces an uncertain future as US EPA determines whether to consider biomass energy as carbon neutral.

If you have questions about biomass and whether your project complies with a specific program, contact us at 773-609-5320, info@thornenvironmentallaw.com, or through our web contact form.

Disclaimer: This article cannot, and does not, create any attorney/client or consultant/client relationship.

Is biomass energy clean?

9 Apr

Generally speaking, biomass is material from living or recently living organisms, most typically plant matter.  In turn, biomass energy is usully derived from burning these materials.  Biomass energy sources can take many forms: people most often think of wood chips from tree branches or stumps; however, it can also include crops grown exclusively, or in large part, for energy production such as corn, sorghum, sugarcane, and palm oil.  Many scientists and policy makers have assumed that biomass energy does not lead to a net increase in Green House Gas emissions (carbon dioxide in particular) because the plants consume and sequester carbon dioxide during their life cycle and, therefore, off-set the GHG emissions that occur when they are burned.   As a result, many states have included biomass in their definition of renewable energy resource for their Renewable Energy Standards (RES) (which require that a certain percentage of power is generated from renewable energy).    Recently, the assumption that biomass energy is always clean has been challenged. (more…)

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