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Biofuels Research and Development Enhancement Act

Bill Summary and Status

Reported (as amended) by the Full Committee, June 27, 2007

Amendments offered by Mr. Hall (R-TX) and Mr. Smith (R-NE) were defeated

Reported by the Energy & Environment Subcommittee (as amended) June 21, 2007

Introduced in the House June 18, 2007

Section by Section

Section 1 – Short Title

Section 2 – Biofuels and Biorefinery Information Center
Directs the Secretary of Energy, in cooperation with the Secretary of Agriculture, to establish a technology transfer center to serve as a clearinghouse of information related to the research, development, and commercial application of technologies related to biofuels, biogas and biorefineries. This section will help make readily available to interested parties the latest information on methods for biofuels development to help support the rapid growth and deployment of biofuels.

Section 3 – Biofuels and Advanced Biofuels Infrastructure
Recognizing the inherent problems with transporting and storing biofuels in the existing petroleum fuel infrastructure, in consultation with the Secretary of Transportation and the Assistant Administrator for Research and Development of the Environmental Protection Agency, this section establishes a program of research, development, and demonstration for modifications and treatments to existing infrastructure and allows for research into the development of new infrastructure for transporting biofuels.

Section 4 – Biodiesel
This section addresses two matters related to biodiesel:

The Secretary is directed to submit a report to Congress on any research and development challenges inherent in increasing to 2.5% the amount of biodiesel, as compared to the current level, the amount of all diesels sold nationally.

Concerns have been raised about the need for uniformity in the biodiesel market to ensure fuel fungibility and avoid damage to both engines and storage and transport infrastructure. Though private sector standards exist for certain biodiesel, new renewable forms of diesel continue to be presented. This section provides for the National Institute of Standards and Technology to make available the physical property data and the characterization of biodiesel to support the development of consensus biodiesel standards. .

Section 5 – Biogas
The Secretary is directed to submit a report to Congress on any research and development challenges inherent in increasing to 5% the amount of transportation fuels, as compared to the current level, that is biogas or a biogas and natural gas blend used as a transportation fuel. For the purposes of this study, the committee includes biomethane as a biogas.

Section 6 – Bioresearch Centers for Systems Biology Program
The Bioresearch Center program created in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 is amended to establish at least 5 regionally located centers. The centers authorized in this bill are to include those already established by the Secretary and are not to be in addition to already established centers. With centers already being established in 3 of the 5 PADDs, the committee expects that the next two centers to be established would be in the PADDs without an established center. This would result in a total of at least five regionally distributed centers.

Section 7 – Grants for Biofuels Production Research and Development in Certain States
Establishes a research and development grant program in states with low rates of ethanol production, as is determined by the Secretary of Energy.

Section 8 – Biorefinery Energy Efficiency
Adds two new subsections the Section 932 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (Bioenergy Program):

Biorefinery Energy Efficiency -- Establishes a program of research, development, demonstration and commercial application of technologies to increase the energy efficiency and reduce the energy consumption of biorefinery facilities.

Retrofit Technologies for the Development of Ethanol from Cellulosic Materials – Establishes a program of research, development, demonstration and commercial application of technologies that would enable facilities that currently produce ethanol exclusively from corn and corn starch, to accept cellulosic feedstocks. This would be done through the retrofit of the existing plants, and more specifically by adding pretreatment capability to allow the existing plant to accept the cellulosic materials.

Section 9 – Study of Increased Consumption of Ethanol-Blended Gasoline with Higher Levels
Directs the Secretary of Energy to conduct a study, in cooperation with the Secretaries of Agriculture and Transportation and EPA, on the feasibility of increasing the consumption of ethanol-blended gasoline at blend levels between 10 and 40 percent.

Section 10 – Study of Optimization of Flexible Fueled Vehicles to use E-85
Directs the Secretary of Energy, in consultation with the Secretary of Transportation, to conduct a study to determine if optimizing flexible fuel vehicles to operate using E-85 would increase the fuel efficiency while using E-85.

Section 11 – Study of Engine Durability and Performance Associated with the Use of Biodiesel
Directs the Secretary of Energy, to conduct a study on the effects of the use of biodiesel, at varying blend levels, on engine and engine system durability and performance. The Secretary is provided with 24 months to conduct the study.

It is the committee’s expectation that the department will use a representative sample of diesel engines, each of which has differing duty cycles, to conduct this study. This includes diesel engines of differing applications including on-road, off-road, marine, agricultural related uses, and construction related uses.

Section 12 – Authorization for Appropriation
This section makes the following authorizing changes:

  • Extends the authorization of Section 931 (Renewable Energy) Energy Policy Act of 2005 through 2010 (currently expires in 2009) and funds the programs at $963 million.
  • Increases the authorization levels for Section 932 (Bioenergy Programs) of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to:
      FY08 -- $377 million
      FY09 -- $398 million
      FY10 -- $419 million

Section 13. – Environmental Research and Development
This section amends section 977 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to add environmental science to the list of disciplines that the Bioenergy Centers created in the Act may pursue. It further indicates the goal of producing biofuels should be pursued in a manner that ensures the cropping systems will be sustainable and the feedstock production and processing will result in lower greenhouse gas emissions. It further adds a new goal for the research conducted by the Centers to develop cellulosic feedstocks that efficiently utilize resources and promote environmental sustainability This section adds a research and development program in consultation with EPA to develop tools to do life-cycle analysis of biofuel feedstocks and to evaluate the potential environmental impacts associated with increased feedstock production and adds a research and development program in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture for small-scale production and processing of biofuels for on-farm use.

The goal of this research is not to restrict helpful research or to prejudge the ultimate outcome of the research regarding sustainability and greenhouse gas emissions. This section maintains a goal of achieving sustainable production of fuels and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. At the outset of the research, the fuel or system for producing may not have achieved this ultimate goal, but certainly should be focused it that direction. The committee believes that all fuels need research and development support to achieve these important goals, however if it is discovered that a fuel can not reach the goal, the committee feels it should ultimately be abandoned.

Section 14. – Study of Optimization of Biogas Used in Natural Gas Vehicles 
Directs the Secretary of Energy to conduct a study to determine if optimizing natural gas vehicles to operate using biogas would increase the efficiency of the vehicles while using biogas. This is also to include an analysis of hybrid technologies using biogas as primary fuel.

Section 15. – Standards for Biofuels Dispensers
The Secretary, in consultation with the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, shall develop standards for biofuels retail dispensers if an appropriate private sector standard is not adopted prior to the date of enactment. The absence of a private sector standard for biofuels dispensers, specifically E-85, has been an impediment to the broader use of some biofuels. Though private sector standards setting organizations have been examining this issue for some time, the committee is concerned with the lack of progress toward establishment of such standards.

Section 16. – Algal Biomass
Directs the Secretary to conduct a study on the progress of the Department’s research and development related to the use of algae as the feedstock for development of biofuels. The report is to identify any research and development challenges, as well as any regulatory barriers, that hinder the use of algae for biofuels development. The committee is very interested in the long term promise that could by presented by algal biomass.

110th Congress