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EU updates its Bioeconomy Strategy as stakeholders urge action

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 10/11/2018 - 5:19pm

In Belgium, the EU has updated its Bioeconomy Strategy. The updated plan signals the EU’s continued commitment towards establishing itself as a world leader in renewable resource efficiency, catalysed by transformative industrial biotechnology. Europe’s leadership in this field has already significantly boosted activity, investment, technological breakthrough and interest in developing dynamic bioeconomies throughout the Member States and regions.

Since the publication of the first EU strategy in 2012, the increase in EU R&I funds has also resulted in real progress towards the development of a bio-based economy, with the €3.7 billion Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) attracting investments, spurring innovation and creating new value chains.

”Although progress has been made, further action and a stimulating policy framework is needed to leverage private investments. A continuation of a public-private partnership for the bioeconomy under Horizon Europe will be an additional driver, allowing implementation of the updated Bioeconomy Strategy in a sustainable way by mobilising public and private stakeholders, de-risking investments from innovative bioeconomy projects and facilitating deployment of new sustainable biorefineries”, says Dirk Carrez, BIC Executive Director.

Commenting on the strategy launch, Agnes Borg, Director for Industrial Biotechnology at EuropaBio said: “We now call on the EU to shore up the updated strategy with a comprehensive high-level commitment towards building upon the success of the BBI JU. This will create jobs and growth and will help establish the EU as hub for renewable, resource efficient clean-tech on the road to 2030”.

Since the publication of the first EU strategy in 2012, the increase in EU R&I funds has also resulted in real progress towards the development of a bio-based economy, with the €3.7 billion Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) attracting investments, spurring innovation and creating new value chains.

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The 40 Hottest Technologies of 2018 – as voting gets underway, the nominees in depth

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 10/11/2018 - 3:53pm

All through this month, Digest subscribers have been voting on the 40 Hottest Transformative Technologies in the Advanced Bioeconomy. 

While the Hot 50 concentrates on organizations — this set of rankings could include a complete process, a component, subprocess, a metabolic pathway, a computational system, a sensor, a control, a high-performing organism, a protective technology, or an application. In short, any technology that contributes to the advanced bioeconomy.

Let’s look in-depth at some of the nominees this year.

Advances in Metabolic Engineering of Zymomonas mobilis for 2,3-Butanediol Production for Bio-Based Fuels and Chemicals

What does it do, how does it work, who is it aimed at?

NREL researchers have successfully modified a world-class cellulosic ethanol fermentation organism, Zymomonas mobilis, to produce 2,3-butanediol (BDO) at high titer and yield in the absence of ethanol.  BDO is a useful intermediate from sugar fermentation and can then be catalytically upgraded to a variety of hydrocarbon fuel precursors and valuable chemical co-products from six- and five-carbon cellulosic sugars. BDO is not only a potential bulk chemical building block molecule, but also can be deoxydehydrated to butenes, which can be oligomerized in high yields to gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. The novel elimination of ethanol production by Zymomonas mobilis changes the landscape of this technology, permitting a simplified downstream product separation process which greatly impacts the overall process cost reduction goals.

Competitively, what gives this technology an edge?

This technology breakthrough represents a simplified process configuration with wide-ranging flexibility and cost-effectiveness. Techno-economic modeling performed by NREL indicates a strong potential to economically produce diesel- and jet fuel-range molecules, while diverting a portion of the BDO intermediate to a wide range of large-market co-product applications including solvents, polymers, and chemical feedstocks. Producing bioproducts, including biobased chemicals, alongside biofuels will bring down the price per gallon, allowing biofuels to be price-competitive.

What stage of development is this technology at right now?

Contact for licensing information.

More on the story

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Finnish government still supports forestry-based bioeconomy plans post IPCC-inspired backlash

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 7:35pm

In Finland, following the recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that warns against deforestation and the benefits of forests as carbon sinks, national news agency YLE reports that the minister of economic affairs is under fire for continuing to support policy that relies on the country’s forest resources as feedstock for biofuels. The prime minister’s government was brought in partly due to his push for a strong bioeconomy, which has forests at its heart.

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South Africa’s FairPlay applauds move to revive biofuels strategy

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 7:30pm

In South Africa, the FairPlay movement has welcomed the South African government’s decision to revive its biofuels strategy, as announced in a speech by Energy Minister Jeff Radebe at an energy conference in Cape Town last week. “This confirms FairPlay’s position that implementing a mandatory bioethanol fuel blend will benefit the country through job creation, increased fixed investment, technology development and energy security, as well as expanded sugar production and desperately needed jobs in poor rural areas,” said Francois Baird, founder of the movement that fights for a level playing field in trade, and for the protection of local jobs.

“It’s been a long time coming, and South Africa has to hope that this time it’s for real,” Baird said. “More than a decade ago, the government committed to a biofuels strategy, aiming at a mandatory blend of at least 2% ethanol in petrol. In 2015, it provided for a mix of between 2% and 10%. Nothing happened, and the strategy was never implemented.”

He noted that while countries around the world are developing and implementing fuel ethanol policies, spurred by sharply rising oil prices, South Africa has been left behind.

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Asian UCO fueling European waste-based biofuels shift

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 7:28pm

In Malaysia, Reuters reports that used cooking oil from across Southeast Asia and China is becoming a prime feedstock for European biodiesel thanks to double-counting measures that provide a premium for waste-based feedstocks. Malaysia’s FatHopes that collects, cleans and exports UCO says its trade to Europe has grown 40% in the just the past three years and could triple by 2030 when the EU will phase out the use of virgin feedstocks for biodiesel production.

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Nordic Investment Bank provides funding to Vantaan Energia to heat Helsinki with wood and peat

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 7:27pm

In Finland, the Nordic Investment Bank has signed a loan agreement with Vantaan Energia Oy to finance the retrofitting of its K1 boiler to use biofuel at the Martinlaakso CHP plant in Vantaa, Finland. The loan to Vantaan Energia Oy is EUR 27 million and has a maturity of eight years.

The K1 boiler will start using domestic biofuel, of which 90% is wood biomass and 10% peat. This will significantly reduce the reliance on fossil fuels and help lower CO2 emissions in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. Vantaan Energia is also installing a flue gas condenser for heat recovery with a capacity of 25 MW. The total capacity of the renewed CHP plant will be 120 MW. Construction is ongoing. The renewed plant will be or commission in February 2019.

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Brazil contracts 964.8 million liters of biodiesel for $729.3 million at auction

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 7:26pm

In Brazil, ANP sold 964.8 million liters of biodiesel at its most recent auction at an average price of 75 cents per liter totaling $729.3 million. More than 1 billion liters of biodiesel was offered at the two day auction by 38 producers, 99.1% of which bored the Social Fuel Seal indicating feedstock was sourced from small farmers. The first day of the auction saw 942.4 million liters sold with the remainder sold on the second day. The fuel will be used to supply the country’s B10 blending mandate between November 1 and December 31.

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Indonesia flipping back and forth on raising fuel prices

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 7:25pm

In Indonesia, on the back of rising petroleum prices, the Jakarta Post reports that Pertamina raised fuel prices for non-public service obligation (PSO) biodiesel blends and regular gasoline. PSO fuel prices remained unchanged. The company said that it wasn’t going to raise fuel prices in regions recently hit by back-to-back natural disasters. Just a few hours later after the energy minister announced the price increase, the government annulled the price hike after political backlash saying prices needed to be discussed.

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University of Illinois researchers complete sugarcane genome sequence

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 7:24pm

In Illinois, for centuries, sugarcane has supplied human societies with alcohol, biofuel, building and weaving materials, and the world’s most relied-upon source of sugar. Now, researchers have extracted a sweet scientific prize from sugarcane: its massive and complex genome sequence, which may lead to the development of hardier and more productive cultivars.

Producing the comprehensive sequence required a concerted effort by over 100 scientists from 16 institutions; the work took five years and culminated in a publication in Nature Genetics. But the motivation to tackle the project arose long before.

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American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers may sue Trump Administration of E15

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 7:23pm

In Washington, the Washington Examiner reports that a source close to the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers said the organization was likely to sue the Trump Administration for approving year-round E15 sales. In a statement following the report that Trump had told Senators he was going ahead with policy shift, the AFPM’s CEO said in a statement, “The President’s proposal to waive the rules for E15 is unlawful and could actually make the problems of the Renewable Fuel Standard worse. The President has promised to broker a deal to reform the RFS that works for all stakeholders. This isn’t it. We are disappointed to see that despite good-faith efforts by refiners to find potential solutions, the Administration has unilaterally embraced a one-sided approach that only serves the ethanol community, which has shown little interest in finding common ground.”

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Help Wanted: Job Interview for High Octane & Low Carbon 

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 12:19pm

Doug Durante

Doug Sombke

By Doug Durante, Clean Fuels Development Coalition and Doug Sombke, South Dakota Farmers Union

Special to The Digest

Without question while the modern ethanol industry was built on legislation that provided incentives, market assurance, and other tools, the shift to the regulatory side of the equation has been a painful, foot dragging exercise that has resulted in many a lost opportunity. EPA’s actions have resulted in a death march to the finish line in terms of meeting our full potential as they have delayed major rulings, refused to acknowledge the best science, and failed to meet the intent of Congress.

However, we may have a unique and perhaps unprecedented opportunity for a do-over with the proposed fuel economy rule. While we take no position on exactly what the mileage standards should be, whatever they are we can get there faster and more efficiently by focusing more on fuel than simply assuming vehicle technology will magically save the day.

What role can high octane play?

What makes the current situation so intriguing is the fact that EPA seems to have stopped being tone deaf and recognized this reality and how octane may be the key to success. For years many of us have commented on various rulemakings and raised relevant issues that should be considered, only to have the agency dismiss them as being outside the scope of the rule.  The current Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on fuel economy and ghg standards is throwing out a wider net and actually asking the key question of how do we get there, and what role can high octane play?   

This is a refreshing and exciting opportunity for ethanol to present its job qualifications, and specific questions posed in the NPRM will make it impossible for the agency to dismiss it. This is like knowing the questions a prospective employer is going to ask you at the interview before you go in, and boy are we ready with the answers.

Think about it– How can high octane fuels help meet the goals of efficiency and low carbon? How can high octane fuels help automakers design more efficient vehicles? Can high octane fuels be offered at a lower cost to consumers? What regulatory barriers need to be addressed to facilitate high octane fuels in the marketplace?  The answer is that ethanol can provide the highest octane at the lowest cost allowing automakers to produce high compression engines and achieve efficiency gains with reduced emissions.  It opens the door for finally addressing the regulatory barriers that are all within EPA’s jurisdiction to address.  In doing so they meet the Trump doctrine of deregulation while providing a boost to rural America and domestic energy.

A clear pathway for ethanol from all sources

And this isn’t just about corn ethanol. If advanced and cellulosic ethanol is ever going to develop it needs a market and right now there is no room at the inn for new gallons. However, with a removal of restrictions we would have a clear pathway for ethanol from all sources to access the 140-billion-gallon gasoline market. Keep in mind this is “clean” octane. The toxic compounds currently used by refiners are increasingly linked to everything from autism to asthma. Ethanol can replace the most lethal components in the oil barrel like benzene, a known carcinogen that the American Petroleum Institute acknowledged as far back as 1948 was unsafe at any level. Our fuel regulations have become so politicized in recent years we seem to forget that this is about protecting public health. The irony in that statement is that EPA acknowledged in 2007 that ethanol was a superior replacement for the toxic aromatics used for octane, but they took no action despite being directed to do so under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. Their justification was that cheap oil and lack of ethanol supplies did not provide a cost benefit.

Well, guess what– that is first on our list of what EPA needs to which is to correct the cost benefit of increasing octane levels. Rather than oil being $19 per barrel and using pre RFS II ethanol volumes in their calculations, they now need to look at the reality of $80 oil and more than enough low-cost ethanol volume to meet all of our octane needs. That alone should get the job but if the rest of our regulatory wish list is addressed removing barriers then it should be no contest.

That list includes correcting EPA’s faulty lifecycle analysis that would present a dramatically improved carbon footprint, conducting a new study that was the basis for faulty emission models, addressing the inexplicable vapor pressure restriction on higher ethanol blends that actually lower vapor pressure, establishing a mid- level ethanol certification fuel, and removing ethanol volume limits that could restrict higher blends.

The goal of C AFE was to reduce petroleum consumption

And lest we forget the goal of the CAFE program to begin with was to reduce petroleum consumption. Ethanol, and the more the better, does that at every turn, be it in 10% blends or any other level. If automakers design vehicles to maximize ethanol’s high-octane content and thus achieve petroleum reductions, they need to be rewarded.  EPA and the Department of Transportation (DOT) need to re-establish meaningful vehicle credits so when these vehicles are operating on higher blends they are rewarded.

Another reality EPA and the DOT need to accept is that the pace and contribution of electric vehicles is not what was initially projected when the high mileage standards were proposed. EVs may continue to develop and can certainly play an important role, particularly if the electricity used is derived from biomass and other renewable resources. But the 15-20 million cars we produce every year will largely be internal combustion engines and will require liquid fuels.  Ethanol and gasoline working together can provide consumers with an efficient, healthier, and lower cost alternative.

What we need to recognize, and quite frankly we are not seeing it across the entire biofuels industry, is that this rule could be far more important to the future of the industry than anything we have dealt with in years.  It is nothing short of astounding that almost 300,000 comments were filed with EPA concerning the Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) rule. While not all of them were in favor, certainly the majority were.  We need to get that same kind of fervor to EPA with regard to this rule, for the reasons we have outlined. The RVO, and for that matter even the RFS itself, offers no true path for growth. We simply must remove the roadblocks between here and there and the octane component of the fuel economy rule is the way to do that.

The High Octane Alliance

We recently formed a High Octane Alliance between the Urban Air Initiative, the National Farmers Union, the Farmers Union Enterprise, and the Clean Fuels Development Coalition to promote ethanol as the octane solution but all of us need to apply for the job. Like the 300.000 commenters on the RVO, we need to overwhelm EPA with the simple truth that high octane, from a domestic, low carbon, renewable, job creating, healthier fuel is the candidate right in front of them. (Visit www.CleanFuelsdc.orgfor information and assistance on submitting comments)





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Dunkin’s coffee-waste powered house, infections nixed by bioactive surfaces, Novomont’s microbeads, plant/nanocellulose hybrid, hi-rez field imagery, rescued food: The Digest’s Top 10 Innovations for the week of October 10th

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 12:13pm

The pace of bioeconomy invention and change continues at a frenetic pace. Here are the top innovations for the week of October 10th.

#1 House runs on Dunkin’ – tiny home powered by Dunkin’ coffee grounds

In New York, Ohio-based Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee at Home introduced a biofuel-powered home in New York City’s Madison Square Park that is literally running on Dunkin’ by using biofuel developed by Blue Marble that uses spent coffee grounds as the feedstock. Blue Marble created a custom B80 blend using 80% coffee oil that’s extracted from Dunkin’ Donuts spent coffee grounds which is then mixed with 20% alcohol to make the fuel burn efficiently. The Home That Runs on Dunkin’ features a modern, chic aesthetic with custom-designed elements, including a fully-functional kitchen, luxury bedroom, jacuzzi tub and more.

The Home That Runs on Dunkin’ will be open to the public in Madison Square Park in New York City, on Broadway between 23rd and 24th Streets from Thursday, October 4 through Saturday, October 6. Coffee lovers not in New York City can still experience The Home That Runs on Dunkin’ through a 360-video tour available at

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BPCL breaks ground on India’s first commercial 2G ethanol plant

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 7:47pm

In India, the Business Standard reports that Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd’s $134.8 million 30 million liter per year second-generation ethanol plant in Odisha could be commissioned by the end of 2020 following groundbreaking on Wednesday. The facility will use 200,000 metric tons of rice straw as feedstock annually and uses a zero-liquid discharge technology that recycles all water back into the production processes. Of the 12 similar 2G ethanol plants proposed around the country, the Odisha facility is the first to break ground.

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Hope for stronger palm oil prices in Q4 relies on possibility of El Niño

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 7:45pm

In Malaysia, palm oil prices are seeking ticking upwards come the end of the year thanks to increased demand for biodiesel on the back of higher petroleum prices but also due to expected negative impacts on production from extended dry periods during key growing periods that will likely result from an upcoming El Niño. Australia’s meteorology department are expecting a 50% chance of a heatwave but if it reaches a 70% chance, then markets will correct higher. Higher revenues will help producers breathe a sigh of relief following crude palm oil prices reaching three-year lows earlier this month.

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Indonesian researchers creating consortium to promote 2G biofuels

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 7:43pm

In Indonesia, Tempo reports that the Indonesian Institute of Sciences is seeking partners for a consortium that will work to develop and implement second generation ethanol production in the country as a way to reduce fossil fuel imports as well as use up the abundant amount of crop waste available nationwide. Empty fruit bunches from the country’s significant oil palm industry could be a key feedstock, where just 20% of the annual EFB waste could provide 104 million GJ equivalent to oil fuel requirement of 3 million cars a year. The institute estimates about 150 liters of ethanol can be produced from 1 metric ton of EFB.

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IEA says modern bioenergy will see biggest growth among renewables 2018-2023

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 7:41pm

In France, modern bioenergy will have the biggest growth in renewable resources between 2018 and 2023, underscoring its critical role in building a robust renewable portfolio and ensuring a more secure and sustainable energy system, according to the International Energy Agency’s latest market forecast.

Renewables will continue their expansion in the next five years, covering 40% of global energy consumption growth, according to the IEA’s Renewables 2018 market analysis and forecast report. Their use continues to increase most rapidly in the electricity sector, and will account for almost a third of total world electricity generation in 2023. Because of weaker policy support and additional barriers to deployment, renewables use expands far more slowly in the transport and heat sectors.

The focus on bioenergy is part of the IEA’s analysis of “blind spots” of the energy system – issues that are critical to the evolution of the energy sector but that receive less attention than they deserve – such as the impact of air conditioners on electricity demand, or the growing impact of petrochemicals on global oil demand. Assuming strong sustainability measures are in force, the report identifies additional untapped potential for bioenergy to “green” and diversify energy usage in the industry and transport sectors.

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Indonesia teaming with ENI to convert old oil refineries to biodiesel production

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 7:40pm

In Indonesia, Reuters reports that the country is collaborating with ENI to see if it’s feasible convert Pertamina’s Plaju and Dumai refineries into biodiesel production facilities. Both refineries were built in the 1930s with refining capacity of 133,700 bpd and 170,000 bpd respectively. Conversion of refining production capacity into biodiesel production is becoming more common in Europe with both ENI and Total having done it or are currently in the process of doing it, such as Total’s La Mede refinery in France.

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Explosion at Badger State Ethanol under investigation

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 7:39pm

In Wisconsin, the Associated Press reports that a silo holding DDGS exploded early Tuesday morning at Badger State Ethanol in Monroe but beyond structural damages, no employees were hurt. The silo was only holding about 1,000 tons of DDGS at the time of the accident. Officials were still investigating the cause of the explosion that could only be completed once the fire had completely gone out. It was contained but still burning within the silo at the time of the news report.

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UC Berkeley researchers find bacteria’s hunger for gold leads to solar fuels

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 7:38pm

In California, bacterium named Moorella thermoacetica won’t work for free. But UC Berkeley researchers have figured out it has an appetite for gold. And in exchange for this special treat, the bacterium has revealed a more efficient path to producing solar fuels through artificial photosynthesis. By attaching light-absorbing nanoparticles made of cadmium sulfide (CdS) to the bacterial membrane exterior, the researchers turned M. thermoacetica into a tiny photosynthesis machine, converting sunlight and carbon dioxide into useful chemicals.

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Ethanol industry applauds Trump move to allow year-round E15 at last

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 7:36pm

In Washington, Reuters reports that President Trump announced plans to move ahead with year-round E15 sales during a closed door meeting with Senators ahead of his trip to Iowa later in the day.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue hailed President Trump’s directive to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to begin a rulemaking process to expand the sale of corn ethanol, to include E15 year-round.

“President Trump has again made it abundantly clear that he is unleashing the full potential of American energy production as we retake our rightful place as the world’s leader.  I thank President Trump for his steadfast support of E15 expansion, while also acknowledging the close working relationship we’ve developed with Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.  I look forward to working with the EPA to see rulemaking and year-round E15 completed by the driving season of 2019.”

The ethanol industry overall applauded the long-expected move.

“Securing fair market access for E15 and other higher blends has been our top regulatory priority for several years, and we are pleased that the first official step in this process is being taken. When markets are open and competitive, American consumers win,” said RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper. “We thank President Trump for formally initiating the process to eliminate this antiquated, red-tape laden regulation, and look forward to the full resolution of this issue before next summer’s driving season. This is the right signal to the marketplace at just the right time, as both farmers and renewable fuel producers desperately need new market opportunities and sources of demand.”

“We are sincerely grateful the President is making good on his promise to require EPA to issue a rule allowing E15 access to the market year-round. We also enormously appreciate the leadership of Iowa Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley for their unwavering support of the farmers, retailers, and biofuel producers who have pushed for this common-sense change for many years. Once a final rule is in place and retailers can sell E15 year-round, it will help create additional demand for farmers who are suffering from oversupplies and low crop prices,” said American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) CEO Brian Jennings.

“The President’s decision will not prevent Big Oil from stonewalling year-round E15, so we encourage Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to expeditiously publish a legally-defensible approach for extending RVP relief to E15 in the Federal Register for public comment and to finalize the rule before the 2019 low-RVP season kicks-in.

“We also look forward to working with EPA as they continue to explore ways to make the Renewable Identification Number (RIN) market more transparent and effective.”

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