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RFS has helped spur advances in development of second-generation biofuels

The RFS has provided investors confidence in the country’s commitment to biofuels. As a result, within just a matter of a decade (and despite the economic recession), second-generation biofuel companies have essentially tested technology, set up pilot plants and are now reaching large-scale commercialization.

Calls to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) are short-sighted and will keep the U.S. reliant on a single fuel supply, said Jan Koninckx, global director for biorefineries, DuPont Industrial Biosciences, in a media call today organized by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and Fuels America. Koninckx and other biofuels producers on the call agree that America needs more than one fuel as it heads into the future for national security as well as for environmental and economic purposes.

Brett Erickson, executive vice president, BIO, noted that opponents like the American Petroleum Institute, however, are “using every legal and regulatory tool at their disposal” to fight the RFS and, consequently, the biofuels industry, which presents a growing threat.

The RFS has provided investors confidence in the country’s commitment to biofuels, including second-generation biofuels like cellulosic ethanol. As a result, within just a matter of a decade (and despite the economic recession), second-generation biofuel companies have essentially tested technology, set up pilot plants and are now reaching large-scale commercialization, said the call’s panel of producers. The panel included Koninckx, as well as Christopher Standlee, executive vice president, Abengoa Bioenergy; and Wade Robey, board member, POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels.

“The RFS was designed to drive technology and it is; and was designed to drive a marketplace, and it is,” said Brett Erickson, executive vice president, BIO.

Koninckx said that 2013 will be a pivotal year for cellulosic ethanol as some companies are “commissioning biorefineries as we speak.” These biorefineries will help fuel opportunities for economic growth, investment and jobs, he said. Meanwhile, the industry awaits a decision from EPA about what volumes will be required for biofuel production and use in 2013.

By the end of this year, Abengoa is expected to begin producing cellulosic ethanol at its 25-million-gallon-per-year facility in Hugoton, Kan. The plant is expected to create 65 jobs as well as generate $17 million in sales for producers who supply cellulosic feedstocks, such as wheat and corn residues.

Abengoa, which is headquartered in Spain, believes that the U.S. is a key market for development of second-generation biofuels, due to long-term policies like the RFS, Standlee said.

The Project Liberty cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmettsburg, Iowa, is expected to begin production by the end of 2013 or early 2014. The cellulosic ethanol technology that it has been testing over the last few years is expected to be implemented at some of POET’s other facilities as well as be licensed to other ethanol producers.

The DuPont Industrial Biosciences facility in Nevada, Iowa, is expected to begin production in 2014. The 30-million-gallon-per-year plant will source feedstock from 400 to 500 farmers within a 40-mile radius of the plant in Nevada.

DuPont Industrial Biosciences also has a joint venture with BP called Butamax Advanced Biofuels to develop butanol, a drop in fuel that is made from cellulosic feedstocks and is compatible with the existing fuel infrastructure.

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