Infrastructure package neglects biofuels, includes CCS support

By Erin Voegele | August 10, 2021

The U.S. Senate on Aug. 10 passed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill by a vote of 69 to 30. Ethanol groups are criticizing the bill for failing to address low-carbon fuels. The bill does, however, include provisions related to carbon capture and storage (CCS).

The American Coalition for Ethanol said the infrastructure package falls short for low carbon fuels. “The Senate’s infrastructure bill is a missed opportunity to capitalize on ethanol’s ability to deliver significant short- to mid-term gains toward decarbonizing the transportation sector by supporting vehicles and retail infrastructure for higher ethanol blends,” said Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE.

“If Congress wants to achieve immediate climate benefits from clean energy infrastructure, it should provide incentives for retailers to sell E15 and E85 and for automakers to resume the production of flexible fuel vehicles,” Jennings continued. “We thank Senators Klobuchar, Fischer, and Ernst for attempting to amend the bipartisan infrastructure legislation with provisions to encourage the use of higher blends of ethanol and ensure E15 can be available year-round. We urge the House of Representatives to take up these cost-effective provisions when it considers the infrastructure bill.”

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association criticized the bill for including $7.5 billion to support a charging network for electric vehicles but failing to address infrastructure needs associated with increasing consumer access to higher biofuel blends.

“The singular focus on EVs instead of carbon reduction is hurting the environment, the Midwest economy and farmers specifically,” said Monte Shaw, executive director of the IRFA. “Biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel made here in Iowa are reducing carbon emissions by roughly 50 percent or more today. And unlike EVs, biofuels are on the path to being carbon negative in less than a decade. Coastal elites should embrace multiple solutions to our environmental challenges instead of DC-based ‘one size fits all’ approach. This was a huge missed opportunity to expand consumer access to a low-cost, low-carbon fuel for the vehicles actually on the roads today.

“While disappointed with the outcome, we want to thank biofuel champions like Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst for bringing forward amendments to address the concerns of farmers and biofuels producers,” Shaw continued. “While these amendments were not allowed a vote in the Senate, we’ll continue to work with Iowa’s delegation to push for pro-biofuel changes when the bill goes to the House.”

The Carbon Capture Coalition, however, applauded the bill for its provisions related to CCC. One section of the bill includes approximately $8 billion in funding to support a variety of CCS-related initiatives, including a carbon utilization program, a carbon capture technology program, a loan program to support carbon dioxide transportation infrastructure innovation, an expansion of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Carbon Storage Validation and Testing program, secure geologic storage permitting, and support for the development of four regional direct air capture hubs.

“The Carbon Capture Coalition applauds members of the U.S. Senate for their work to advance the bipartisan infrastructure package by a vote of 69-30 on Tuesday,” said Brad Crabtree, director of the CCC. “The package, which includes groundbreaking provisions to scale deployment of carbon capture, removal, utilization and associated CO2 transport and storage infrastructure, showcases Congress’s renewed commitment to investing in carbon management technologies in an effort to position our nation’s industrial, energy and manufacturing sectors for global leadership in achieving net-zero emissions by midcentury, while ensuring the long-term competitiveness of key domestic industries and sustaining the high-wage jobs base and communities that depend on them. 

“The broadly supported carbon management policies included in this package are echoed not only in bipartisan legislation, but they are also consistent with recommendations in the Biden Administration’s American Jobs Plan,” he continued. “Most notably, the package features top Coalition demonstration and deployment priorities, including the widely supported SCALE Act in its entirety to help finance the buildout of CO2 transport and storage infrastructure, as well as funding for critical 2020 Energy Act authorizations to support commercial-scale demonstrations and engineering studies for carbon capture, direct air capture and carbon utilization technologies and for establishing regional hydrogen and direct air capture hubs. 

“Senate passage of the package comes days after more than 170 companies, unions, conservation and environmental groups, and other organizations from across the nation called on congressional leadership, in an open letter, to prioritize a targeted suite of bipartisan carbon management policies as part of any forthcoming legislative package,” Crabtree added. “Enactment of the bipartisan infrastructure provisions and key complementary tax measures outlined in the letter could deliver economywide deployment resulting in an estimated 13-fold increase in carbon management capacity and annual emissions reductions of 210-250 million metric tons by 2035, spurring continued innovation and improved performance, while driving down costs and preserving and creating high-wage jobs that families and communities across the nation depend upon.

“The Coalition looks forward to the House taking action on this pivotal legislation and continuing to work with members of Congress across the political spectrum to implement policies to scale deployment of carbon management technologies at the level necessary to put our nation’s economy on a path to net-zero emissions and fulfill our climate obligations.”

A 116-page summary of the infrastructure package can be downloaded from the website of Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.