Looking back on the last 12 months is more than a little unnerving. At least for those of us who believe that words matter, and that collaboration and collective endeavor are our best way forward in a hazardous world. We saw jaw-dropping language and careless tactics in 2017, and perhaps the greatest risk we face is that this style of communication and behavior becomes normalized.
Research documents people’s increasing isolation as “fake communication” replaces real conversation, relationship-building and problem-solving. Diatribes, impulsive tweets and Facebook rants are increasingly undermining community and international solidarity. Social media has spawned a world where more and more people believe they are immunized from the consequences of their words and behavior. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Twelve months ago, it was incomprehensible that heads of state would be (in 280 characters or less) comparing the size of their nuclear “button” on the world stage. A year ago, we would have never countenanced blaming both sides for the violence unleashed at a white supremacist rally. In January of 2017, who could have imagined our UN Ambassador threatening to “take names” if that august body did not rubberstamp a US president’s decision. On what planet would it be deemed appropriate to refer to immigrants from sh**hole countries? Yet here we are.
Our words matter. Our behavior matters. In just one year’s time, significant damage has been done through impulsive, careless responses to an ever-more frightening world. We have damaged communities, institutions, political bodies and international alliances.
What is the best antidote? Find your voice. Do not sit on the sidelines. At this juncture, we cannot afford to simply wait and see if others will do it for us. Each of us must find a way to make ourselves heard, in ways that promote honest dialogue, respectful disagreement and most importantly, a will to move forward in a constructive way. For if we do not, the rapidly escalating ugliness in our daily discourse will eventually drown out everything else.
Effective communication takes work. It isn’t one-way blurting to the world at large. It requires investing time, thoughtfully articulating ideas and patiently listening to the other side. That is how relationships are forged, communities are built, and nations sort out differences. It is hard work, but in today’s world, critically important.
We need every constructive voice to turn back the surging cacophony. Think about what matters to you, your family and your community. This is not a time to assume someone else will do the talking. If you want politics that are less divisive, an environment that is cleaner, streets that are safer and to continue to enjoy those liberties earned by the blood of previous generations – your voice matters. If anything, 2017 taught us how very fragile our way of life is, and how important it is to speak up about what we hold dear.
Do not let this noise become the new normal. Find your voice and use it. It’s never been needed more.
Global Business Briefing, April 2017 / Green chemistry, New TSCA/LCSA
The goal of the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (GC3) is to make green chemistry mainstream practice. To achieve this we need to spur federal leadership into providing funding and incentives that lead to increased innovation and adoption of new green chemistry products and processes.
The 2016 elections represent in some ways a transformation in the US political landscape. The US has moved from an openly pro-environmental, science-driven administration to one that appears to question climate change and the value of regulation and public science funding.
While the current administration’s agenda is still evolving, early indications suggest the focus will be on jobs and business. Supporting US-based companies will be highly valued, with an approach that is deregulatory in nature and based on voluntary incentives. What then does this mean for green chemistry at the federal and state levels?
Experts from industry and state and federal government will explore these questions in a panel discussion that will kick off the GC3’s annual Innovators Roundtable from April 25-27, at Steelcase Inc, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Roundtable is the GC3’s primary event for learning, networking and developing new collaborative projects.
Green chemistry has not been a priority of the Executive Branch or Congress during the past ten years. Congress has yet to pass a federal green chemistry research and development act. However, a sustainable chemistry research programme was established at the National Science Foundation as part of the America COMPETES Jobs bill in 2010.
The Obama Administration undertook significant initiatives around climate change and water quality. But little was done to advance green chemistry, with the exception of efforts to reform the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA) and strengthen the EPA’s Safer Choice programme, which recognises products made with safer chemistry.
And while there was significant investment during the prior Administration in renewable energy and bio-based materials, federal investment or leadership in green chemistry remained elusive. Meanwhile, US states, such as Michigan, California, Washington and Minnesota have initiated economic development programmes specifically designed to support green chemistry in industry.
Green chemistry drivers
The drivers in the US have not primarily come from the federal government, but rather the marketplace and from state and international policies (such as in Europe). Scientific, consumer, and marketplace concerns about the health and ecological impacts of chemicals are not going away and as such these drivers will continue. We have reached an important tipping point where investment in safer chemistry is the norm for forward looking, consumer facing companies.
As such, the changing political context provides some interesting opportunities for building momentum in green chemistry. For example, the Trump Administration’s ‘business-friendly’ approach should provide an opportunity to reframe green chemistry in different terms – as an economic development, innovation and jobs creating activity that will strengthen US manufacturing.
The new Congress and White House bring new opportunities for constructive policy, be it in tax policy or “greener” infrastructure. The passage of TSCA reform in a Republican Congress and the establishment of new House and Senate chemistry caucuses show attention to issues of chemistry. The growing market demand for better chemistry, both domestically and internationally, and the policy focus on US manufacturing and jobs, provide a sound basis for the country to take the lead in innovation and production of new chemistries to meet this growing global demand. Collaborative initiatives undertaken by the GC3, such as the Collaborative Preservatives Innovation Challenge, designed to identify and bring to market innovative safe and effective preservatives for consumer products and the GC3 Green & Biobased Startup Network, focus on building partnerships between innovative green chemistry startups, larger firms and investors and provide examples that might gain traction in the political environment.
The Innovators Roundtable panel and subsequent group discussions will explore these trends, as well as how to effectively communicate the benefits and needs for green chemistry. Based on the outcomes, the GC3 will explore opportunities to partner with other organisations to educate and engage the Administration and Congress to further its goal of making green chemistry mainstream.
The Green Chemistry and Commerce Council is a business to business network of some 100 companies and other organisations dedicated to accelerating the research, development, adoption, and scale of green chemistry solutions across the value chain. Members range from major chemical manufacturers, to retailers, brands, formulators, and innovative green and biobased chemistry startups.
Michele Jalbert of Effective Advocates, Michael Parr of Parr Policy Group and Amy Perlmutter of Perlmutter Associates contributed to this article.
Published in Bio-based World News, December 5, 2016
In 2016, the US presidential elections followed the UK’s Brexit lead, delivering stunning results as anti-establishment voters upended traditional candidates and platforms throughout the campaign process. In the weeks since president-elect Trump earned a narrow victory, the US has seen thousands take to the streets in protest and great consternation among media and pundits attempting to predict the outlines of a Trump presidency. For large, entrenched Washington interest groups, especially those serving broad stakeholder groups, this is an uncertain time as power is shifting in a big way and traditional alliances are by no means guaranteed.
That said, those of who have worked on Capitol Hill, with the White House and across the enormous expanse of the US federal government know that drastic change will come far more slowly than anti-establishment enthusiasts might hope. In every transition after a US presidential election, there is some degree of turbulence – this one is certainly garnering more headlines than most. However, barring a rebellion in the follow-on US Electoral College process, or any real traction in the effort to recount votes in key states, things should begin to settle in coming weeks as key policy officials are appointed and agendas begin to emerge. With the election of a Republican president, backed by Republican majorities in the Congress, it will come as no surprise to observers of US politics that business and economic growth will likely drive legislative, regulatory and administrative actions.
As all this is sorted out, those which are most nimble will be most effective in getting things done. At the Renewable Chemical & Materials Alliance (re:chem), we are particularly well-positioned to leverage opportunities in the midst of change. We have a discrete policy agenda, laser-focused on the renewable chemical sector, unencumbered by other priorities which could complicate the policy asks. Since our launch in 2013, in every policy discussion, re:chem has focused relentlessly on the economic argument that underpins the renewable chemicals sector. From our vantage point, it is – and has always been – about innovation, performance and the chance to grow advanced manufacturing in the US. We see clear opportunities for the renewable chemical policy agenda can align with the likely priorities of the new Congress that has given early signals they will tackle tax reform, infrastructure and jobs.
Among other things, we believe the time is ripe to move a top sector priority – enacting a renewable chemical production tax credit (PTC). Tax reform has been called out as an early priority in the new Administration and Congress. We also see openings to pivot around US jobs and pro-growth incentives in potential infrastructure and energy bills.
At the same time, the Republican control across the policy-making functions in Washington is likely to have a strong de-regulatory bent, targeting a number of agencies which have helped facilitate the growth of the bio-based economy in the US, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. Trump’s campaign rhetoric rejecting the notion of combating climate change has alarmed many seeking to develop alternatives to incumbent petroleum-based products.
As the transition gets underway in earnest, the Republican House Majority has indicated they will table any further action on spending bills, opting instead for a continuing resolution that will fund the government through March 31, 2017. This allows for the seating of a new Congress and the Trump Administration to exercise influence over spending as early as 2017 budgets. Now is the time to shore up support. We can’t disengage or wait to see what happens. Despite the turmoil surrounding this – or any – transition, the US government remains open for business.
Those who have business interests in the US would be well-advised to engage – and engage early – as the outlines of a new Trump Administration begin to take shape. While there are opportunities, there are also risks. Consider this a call to action – it’s a new world in Washington DC and across the pond. It is no time to sit on the sidelines.
Published November 28, 2016
It will be some time before the new world order in Washington DC is fully defined. In the wake of his stunning victory, every media outlet and political pundit is parsing clues from President-elect Trump’s meetings, announcements, videos and tweets. For large, entrenched DC interests, this is a very challenging time, working to sort through pitfalls and opportunities. At the Renewable Chemical & Materials Alliance (re:chem), our job is considerably easier. We have a discrete policy agenda, laser-focused on the renewable chemical sector, unencumbered by other priorities which could complicate the policy asks.
As we have penned previously in The Digest, since our launch in 2013, in every policy discussion, re:chem has focused relentlessly on the economic argument that underpins the renewable chemical sector. From our vantage point, it is – and has always been – about innovation, performance and the chance to grow advanced manufacturing in the US, so that we can compete effectively on a global playing field. Amidst all the Sturm und Drang of sorting out a new way forward, re:chem’s messaging will continue to resonate with policymakers in the months ahead. Our policy agenda aligns with the likely priorities of the new Republican-controlled Congress that has given early signals they will tackle tax reform, infrastructure and jobs.
Now, despite all the post-election turbulence, we see a tactical opening to move a top sector priority – enacting a renewable chemical production tax credit (PTC). Tax reform has been called out as an early priority in the new Administration and Congress. With other groups, we have laid the foundation for the PTC over the last several years, working with both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill. We also see an opening to pivot around US jobs and pro-growth incentives in potential infrastructure and energy bills. For those of us who know how to cross the partisan divide and get things done — out of all the dislocation — can come opportunity. But only if we organize and seize the moment. For if we do not, there is also risk. This go-round, the sector cannot be left flat-footed, sidelined by other agendas.
As the transition gets underway in earnest, the Republican House Majority has indicated they will table any further action on spending bills, opting instead for a continuing resolution that will fund the government through March 31, 2017. This allows for the seating of a new Congress and the Trump Administration to exercise influence over spending as early as 2017 budgets. Now is the time to shore up support. We can’t disengage or wait to see what happens. Despite the turmoil surrounding this – or any – transition, the government remains open for business.
Re:chem operates as a “swift boat” in the very choppy political waters, with a singular focus on renewable chemical interests. Nimbly working across the partisan aisle and moving strategically to advance the renewable chemical and advanced materials agenda, re:chem worked successfully in the last few years to pry open DOE and USDA funding programs and help protect renewable chemical interests in TSCA reform.
With “special ops” tenacity, we must focus on the mission — to realize the full potential of what the renewable chemical sector has to offer. Under any banner to “make America great” this sector should flourish, bringing high-paying jobs, advanced manufacturing and off-the charts innovation.
In this new political world, tapping our collective influence is critical. We hope you will join us in the effort.
View from the USA: Getting the Bio-based Industry Ready for BRDI Grants
Published August 31, 2016
As Summer draws to a close, Michele Jalbert, Chief Operating Officer, and Corinne Young, Chief Advocate, of the Renewable Chemical and Materials Alliance (re:chem) examine in our latest Stateside update, a cross-agency federal program geared toward developing sustainable sources of biomass in the US.
What do the projects “Biomass Gasification for Chemicals Production Using Chemical Looping Techniques” and “Conversion of Poplar to Ethanol and Polyurethane via Pretreatment and Lignin Polymer Synthesis” have in common? Both were funded through the 2015 US Biomass Research & Development Initiative (BRDI) grants, with awards to Ohio State University and University of California-Riverside, respectively. These are just two of last year’s BRDI awards – and between 2009 and 2012, BRDI grants totaling $118M supported 25 biomass projects.
BRDI is a robust US program that has operated for more than 15 years to focus strategic planning and leverage federal funding assistance to promote the use of bio-based industrial products, originally fuels. BRDI grants are the funding mechanism of a broader US government cross-agency initiative to help develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass. We expect the next round of funding within six months, and renewable chemical companies should be thinking ahead about whether this program may be a good fit for their US operations.
For the last several years, at the Renewable Chemicals & Advanced Materials Alliance (re:chem),we have worked closely with BRDI leaders to broaden the funding portfolio to include more renewable chemicals and bio-based products. As many in the biofuels sector have discovered, revenue streams of these higher value products are vital to cross-subsidize the development of the bio-economy – to help stand up projects and build value chains. As re:chem’s policy work continues to open access to BRDI and other funding program for diverse bio-products and renewable chemicals, our consulting practices continue to help companies capture and monetize these incentives to facilitate deal flow. Given the competitive landscape, we strongly encourage companies to engage early – before the BRDI funding opportunity announcement is issued – to determine the best way to position projects for funding within the prescribed technical areas.
Along the path from concept to commercialization, BRDI funding is clearly focused on the research and development, as well as demonstration phases. The program targets three technical areas:
1.Feedstock Development – this includes research, development and demonstration activities related to feedstocks and feedstock logistics (including the harvest, handling, transport, preprocessing, and storage) relevant to the production of raw materials for conversion to biofuels and bio-based products.
2.Bio-fuels and Bio-based Products Development – this includes research, development and demonstration activities to support:
•the development of diverse cost-effective technologies for the use of cellulosic biomass in the production of biofuels and/or bio-based products
•product diversification through technologies relevant to the production of a range of bio-based products (including chemicals, animal feeds, and cogeneration power) that can potentially increase the feasibility of fuel production in a bio-refinery.
3.Bio-fuels Development Analysis – including a number of areas such as: •The development of analysis that provides strategic guidance for the application of renewable biomass technologies to improve sustainability and environmental quality, cost effectiveness, security and rural economic development.
•The development of systematic evaluations of the impact of expanded biofuel production on the environment (including forest land) and on the food supply for humans
and animals, including the improvement and development of tools for life cycle analysis of current and potential biofuels.
•Assessments of the potential of Federal land resources to increase the production of feedstocks for biofuels and bio-based products, consistent with the integrity of
soil and water resources and with other environmental considerations.
The cross-agency BRDI program is structured with some projects funded through the US Department of Energy (DOE) and some through the US Department of Agriculture, the lead federal agencies which co-chair the initiative. Last year, BRDI awarded seven grants through DOE and USDA — out of more than 400 applicants — ranging from $900,000 to $1.9M. Given the competitive landscape, interested companies should get started now, prepositioning their projects for success.
By Michele Jalbert & Corinne Young on Jul 22, 2016 In mid-July, the US Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), in partnership with Oak Ridge National Labs and other federal agencies issued the third in a series of landmark technical assessments calculating the potential supply of biomass in the contiguous United States. Today, in the first in a series of guest Views from the USA, Michele Jalbert, chief operating officer, and Corinne Young, chief advocate, of the Renewable Chemicals & Advanced Materials Alliance (re:chem), weigh in on the implications for the renewable chemical sector.
At re:chem, we applaud the 2016 Billion-Ton Report: Advancing Domestic Resources for a Thriving Bioeconomy (Ed. – BBWN, 13.07 – Report; US has potential to produce 1bn+ tons of non-food biomass annually by 2040. ) as an exciting new chapter in the US commitment to fostering a robust biomass-based sector. In line with earlier report estimates, the 2016 assessment concludes the US has the potential to sustainably produce at least 1 billion dry tons of non-food biomass resources annually by 2040. It envisions this biomass could be used to produce enough biofuels, bio-power, and bio-products to displace approximately 30% of US petroleum consumption, without compromising production of food or other agricultural products.
Of course, at re:chem, we particularly laud the bio-products dimension of this economic analysis, and the import placed on the need and opportunity for high-value biochemical and bio-products. For years, we have worked with the US Departments of Energy, Agriculture and other federal agencies to elevate the importance of renewable chemicals and bio-products in policy discussions which frequently center around energy security and independence. The reality is, and the 2016 Billion Ton Report amplifies, that “a thriving bio-economy would utilize domestic biomass resources available and convert them to a wide array of renewable chemicals and other products, transportation fuels, and fuel for power production.”
The 2016 Billion Ton Report now charts a path toward robust US sector development with product diversity to cross-subsidize those elements of the bio-economy that are not immediately profitable. It specifically emphasizes the production and use of biofuels, bio-power and bio-products. It is this trio’s breadth and depth within the sector that promises its future expansion. As BETO Director Jonathan Male noted in a recent post, “The continued integration of bio-based chemicals and materials along the biofuel-production pathway will lead to new feedstock demands, technology development, and economic opportunities. Innovation in the field of biotechnology will continue to offer solutions to processing challenges and drive the development of new biomass-based products. These products can, in turn, enable the cost-effective production of advanced biofuels, improve energy security, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and contribute to U.S. job growth.”
With the inclusion of high-value bio-chemicals and bio-products, the 2016 Billion Ton Report ensures the US stays on the global bio-economy map.
A comprehensive guide, the 2016 Billion Ton Report assesses the biophysical, economic, and sustainable availability of biomass resources under given assumptions and modeling capabilities. It updates baseline information from earlier 2005 and 2011 Billion Ton reports, and considers new feedstocks such as algae, energy crops and municipal solid waste. It offers extensive biomass resource analysis in an easy-to-use format, to help users thoroughly understand the full logistics cost of delivering feedstocks right to the bio-refinery door.
For those companies considering building or expanding US bio-manufacturing facilities, the 2016 Report is an indispensable analytical tool. Among other areas, it offers insight into:
- Potential economic availability of biomass feedstocks under specified market scenarios, including currently used resources. Cost of production, harvesting, and transportation; potential yield range, and economic supply for 30 candidate feedstocks
- Advanced feedstock supply system simulation, expansion of feedstock production over time in response to simulated markets
For delivering such a thorough and useful analytical tool, we commend those who worked tirelessly on the 2016 Billion-Ton Report: Advancing Domestic Resources for a Thriving Bio-economy. It can be accessed here, with an online collaboration toolkit and data resource here. It is already promoting new dialogue around renewable chemicals, grounded in sound, detailed resource assessments that will drive diverse sector development. We look forward to continuing to work with US leaders on phase two, and ensuring the US is open and positioned for robust bio-economy business!
For all of 2015’s turbulence in the renewable chemical sector, in one area – US government policy – the industry saw marked progress.
For the last two years, the Renewable Chemical & Advanced Materials Alliance (re:chem), in concert with other stakeholders, has relentlessly advocated for several policy priorities. Our agenda included: prying open USDA and DOE loan guarantee and grant programs to support renewable chemical projects; driving for enactment of a renewable chemical Production Tax Credit (PTC) and promoting reform of the hopelessly outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to ensure a level playing field for renewable chemical interests. In many respects, 2015 was a watershed year for these policy priorities, and important opportunities lie ahead in 2016 to strengthen our hand in Washington.
Not surprising to those who work in DC, US policy was initially slow to respond to the promise of the nascent, yet fast-moving renewable chemical sector, failing in the early days to distinguish biobased chemicals from the established biofuels industry and all its complex challenges. Yet, with the continuous work of re:chem and others, government champions emerged in both the Congress and the Executive Branch during the last few years – people like Senators Thad Cochran and Debbie Stabenow, DOE’s Jonathan Male, EPA’s Jim Jones and USDA’s Secretary Vilsack. These individuals grasped the fact that this exciting sector offers an advanced manufacturing renaissance, while supporting new markets for US farmers. These leaders saw the potential for job creation – family sustaining, career based, high value jobs for a new economy– and worked with us to enact significant policy changes.
The reauthorization of the Farm Bill at the end of 2014 set the stage for 2015’s implementation of the expanded Loan Guarantee Program to include biobased products. And, as in any program changes, the devil is always in the details. Throughout 2015, re:chem worked closely with the USDA to help ensure the intent of congressional champions in updating the Farm Bill was mirrored in the rules issued to govern how renewable chemical projects could access USDA Loan Guarantee and other programs. Despite inadvertent ambiguous language in the final Farm Bill, champions at every level of USDA helped sort out an approach that significantly improves access to capital for renewable chemicals and biobased products. As USDA prepares to announce Round One projects, multiple renewable chemical proponents are gearing up to submit Letters of Intent for Round Two next month.
Similarly, in DOE, great progress has been made in helping policymakers understand the economic value of biobased chemicals and materials, and their potential to cross-subsidize biofuel projects, supporting the over-arching goal of a vibrant BioEconomy. Policymakers increasingly see the potential of biobased chemicals and materials to drive cross sector growth through advanced manufacturing platforms, such as game changing 3-D printing with NatureWorks’ Ingeo .
With 2015 bipartisan support dealing funding and regulatory wins, we have garnered a strong seat at the table for a Renewable Chemical PTC. Companion bills were introduced in 2015: HR 3390 sponsored by US Representatives Pascrell, Neal, Fitzpatrick and Ashford, and S 2271 sponsored by US Senators Stabenow, Franken, Coons and Baldwin. Far less costly than the recently passed five-year extension of the wind PTC, this modest provision would level the playing field for sector investment and deployment here in the US. And, as the Senate tackles its first comprehensive energy legislation in nearly ten years, opportunities exist to seek parity for renewable chemicals in expanded DOE spending.
As Congress reconvenes for the last round with the Obama Administration, it is time for our sector to up the ante, not fold.