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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: US Drought, Renewable Fuel Standard, Smart Grid

Areas of extreme drought in Iowa, the top corn and soybean-producing state, have increased to 69.14 percent of the state, from 30.74 percent a week ago. Drought expanded to 94 percent of Missouri and more than 81 percent of Illinois for “at least extreme drought,” Reuters reported. The amount of corn-growing farmland categorized as under extreme and exceptional drought expanded to 53 percent from 14 percent, in just three weeks, Reuters said.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization has called upon political allies in Washington with the message that attacks against the national ethanol mandate will hinder next-generation fuels. BIO said that allowing states to opt out of the renewable fuel standard requirement of blending 13.2 billion gallons of corn ethanol into traditional fuel this year would discourage investors in advanced biofuels, The Hill said.

The Congressional Budget Office calculated that the wholesale removal of oil-and-gas drilling bans in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would raise only limited federal revenues over the next decade. CBO estimates that with current policies, proceeds from ANWR federal leases will total about $150 billion over the next decade. Opening new areas would add $5 billion over the next 10 years, and total an estimated $25 billion to $50 billion (in 2010 dollars) during the 2023–2035 period, The Hill said.

The USDA said that rural electric utilities in 18 states will receive loan guarantees to make improvements to electric lines, transmission facilities and to reduce peak electric loads by deploying smart grid technologies. The announcement includes support for nearly $29 million in smart grid projects. In all, USDA is investing more than $420 million in rural electric infrastructure.

The USDA announced a $105 million loan guarantee to Fulcrum Sierra BioFuels to finance development of a facility in northern Nevada to convert municipal solid waste into advanced biofuels. Once operational, the plant is expected to convert 147,000 tons of processed municipal solid waste into more than 10 million gallons of advanced biofuels annually using a two-part thermo-chemical process.

Statoil North America has requested a commercial wind lease to build a demonstration project of full-scale floating wind turbine technology offshore Maine. The proposed project would have a 12-megawatt production capacity through four wind turbine generators. The Statoil proposal also responds to an RFP issued by the Maine Public Utilities Commission. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is seeking public comment – through a Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement – on environmental issues and reasonable alternatives related to the proposed leasing, site characterization and assessment activities, and construction and operation activities in the offshore area under consideration.

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