Biden administration leans on Tesla for guidance in renewable fuel policy reform

Biden administration leans on Tesla for guidance in renewable fuel policy reform
The Biden administration contacted Tesla on its first day in office (Shutterstock)
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Updated 23 June 2022

Biden administration leans on Tesla for guidance in renewable fuel policy reform

Biden administration leans on Tesla for guidance in renewable fuel policy reform

US President Joe Biden rarely mentions electric car maker Tesla Inc. in public. But privately his administration has leaned on the company to help craft a new policy to allow electric vehicles to benefit from the nation’s lucrative renewable fuel subsidies, according to emails reviewed by Reuters.

The Biden administration contacted Tesla on its first day in office, marking the start of a series of meetings on the topic between federal officials and companies linked to the EV industry over the months that followed, according to the emails.

The administration’s early and extensive outreach reflects that expanding the scope of the US Renewable Fuel Standard to make it a tool for electrifying the nation’s automobile fleet is one of Biden’s priorities in the fight against climate change.

The RFS, which dates back to 2005, is a federal program that requires transportation fuel sold in the United States to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels. Until now, it has been primarily a subsidy for corn-based ethanol.

The White House’s outreach to Tesla also shows that, despite a public grudge match between Biden and Tesla founder Elon Musk, the Biden team tried early on to involve the carmaker in one of its key policy pushes. Biden has set a target to make half of all new vehicles sold in 2030 zero-emissions vehicles.

The US Environmental Protection Agency, which administers the RFS, is expected to unveil proposed changes to the policy sometime this year, defining new winners and losers in a multibillion-dollar market for credits, known as RINs, that has supported corn growers and biofuels producers for more than a decade.

Early signs are that the administration is leaning toward a rule that benefits carmakers like Tesla, giving them the greatest access to so-called e-RINS, or electric RINs. But the reform could also spread the subsidy to related industries too, like car charging companies and landfills that supply renewable biogas to power plants, according to industry players.

“We have heard through the grapevine that car companies are really, really going to like this rule,” said Maureen Walsh, director of federal policy with the American Biogas Council, speaking at a conference in May. But she added: “We have all been scrapping at that pile.”

The idea of including electric vehicles in the RFS has been under consideration for years, but gained steam as Biden’s transition team zeroed in on EVs as a job-friendly solution to the climate crisis.

Transport accounts for more than a quarter of US greenhouse gas emissions.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

The EPA said it was consulting “all interested stakeholders” in its RFS policy review.

The current RFS requires oil refiners to blend ethanol and other biofuels into the fuel pool or buy RINs from those who do. That policy has spurred an economic boom in Farm Belt states. But it has also angered environmental groups who say the extra corn production damages land and water while prolonging the era of the internal-combustion engine.

Friends of the Earth, an environmental group, has voiced disapproval over an e-RIN program. The group sees the RFS as a policy that has failed to increase production of new generation lower-carbon fuels, while also harming the environment. It also sees expanding the program as a slippery slope toward increasing the use of feedstocks for wood and wood waste, which can generate electricity.

“The RFS should be reformed to tackle giveaways for dirty corn ethanol. It shouldn’t be expanded to include new giveaways for factory farming and woody biomass,” said Friends of the Earth spokesman Lukas Ross.

Turn To Tesla 




(Shutterstock)


On the morning of Biden’s presidential inauguration in January 2021, EPA staffer Dallas Burkholder emailed a top Tesla lobbyist, Rohan Patel, to set up a meeting on how to incorporate electric cars into the RFS, according to the documents reviewed by Reuters. They scheduled a meeting for a week later, records show.

Since then, the Biden EPA has had additional meetings on the topic with Tesla, groups representing biogas producers like Waste Management Inc. and Republic Services Inc. and charging station companies like ChargePoint Holdings Inc., according to the documents.

The EPA has also set up at least one meeting with White House staff members, including climate adviser Ali Zaidi, to discuss the reforms, according to the emails.

The Biden White House has been an unapologetic supporter of the EV industry, pinning much of its climate hopes on getting more electric cars on the road. The bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed last year included $7.5 billion for new EV charging stations and Biden has sought to reinstate expired tax credits to help consumers pay for new vehicles.

Even so, Tesla’s CEO, Musk, has often been at odds with the White House, sending out harsh tweets directed at Biden. In February, Biden publicly acknowledged the role of Tesla in EV manufacturing, after Musk repeatedly complained about being ignored.

What Everyone Wants 

Tesla is seeking changes to the RFS that will allow it to earn renewable fuel credits based on kilowatt hours driven or similar metrics, according to two sources familiar with the plan. The company has also explored partnerships with biogas-producers to give them leverage in whatever market emerges from the new rule, the sources say.

Tesla did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Members of the car-charging industry, meanwhile, are also pushing for a share.

Matthew Nelson, a lobbyist with Electrify America, a charging company trade group, wrote to the EPA in October and told them that e-RINs would do more to enable Biden’s 2030 goals of 500,000 charging stations and 50 percent EV sales than any other policy, according to the emails. He added that charging companies need the credit to compete with gasoline.

The United States currently has about 48,000 charging stations, concentrated around coastal regions, according to Department of Energy data.

Biogas producers, like landfills, also want credits, arguing they provide renewable fuel to the grid that generates the power for electric vehicles.

Biogas-derived electricity is already eligible for generating RINs. But the EPA has never approved an application from the industry because it has yet to determine the best way to trace the power entering EVs back to its origin.

In 2020, landfill gas generated about 10 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, or 0.3 percent of US utility-scale power.

“We feel that implementing the electricity program in the RFS aligns well with the Biden administration’s climate goals,” Carrie Annand, executive director of the Biomass Power Association, wrote to the EPA, according to the documents. 


Egypt B2B marketplace Mazaya raises $5m in pre-seed round

Egypt B2B marketplace Mazaya raises $5m in pre-seed round
Updated 28 September 2022

Egypt B2B marketplace Mazaya raises $5m in pre-seed round

Egypt B2B marketplace Mazaya raises $5m in pre-seed round

RIYADH: Mazaya, an Egypt-based B2B e-commerce marketplace, raised $5 million in a pre-seed round, said a statement issued on Tuesday.

The funding round was led by financial investment firm Raya Trade and Distribution, it added.

The company will use the funds to boost its operation in Egypt as well as expand into new markets and other verticals.

“The funds raised will allow us to quickly scale our operations and expand to other markets beyond Egypt, we have plans to launch our services in Nigeria before this year-end,” Amir Aboul Fotouh, Mazaya co-founder, said.

The Mazaya App provides retailers and merchants of electronic goods and home appliances the ability to procure inventory for their stores from all major brands.

“The platform conveniently supports merchants, particularly small merchants who do not receive adequate services, with the ability to scale their business through a superior level of service and a wide range of electronic devices from all international and local brands at the click of a button,” Bassem Megahed, CEO of Raya Trade and Distribution, said in a statement.

The company also plans to offer financial services and support to their retailers by offering credit facilities and flexible payment options.


Russia to spend $55bn from rainy-day fund to cover 2022 budget gap

Russia to spend $55bn from rainy-day fund to cover 2022 budget gap
Updated 28 September 2022

Russia to spend $55bn from rainy-day fund to cover 2022 budget gap

Russia to spend $55bn from rainy-day fund to cover 2022 budget gap

MOSCOW: Russia plans to spend 3.19 trillion roubles ($54.62 billion) from its National Wealth Fund this year to cover its budget deficit, a draft budget published on the finance ministry’s website showed on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

In 2023, Russia intends to spend 1.95 trillion roubles on budget deficit financing from the NWF, a rainy-day fund made up of oil and gas revenues, and another 643.7 billion roubles in 2024.

The ministry intends to issue 2.5 trillion roubles worth of OFZ treasury bonds as it seeks to ramp up domestic borrowing in 2023, the document showed.

In 2024, the ministry plans to borrow 3.4 trillion roubles and another 3.4 trillion roubles in 2025.


MENA Project Tracker — Petrofac contract extended; ASHGHAL requests pre-qualification document 

MENA Project Tracker — Petrofac contract extended; ASHGHAL requests pre-qualification document 
Updated 28 September 2022

MENA Project Tracker — Petrofac contract extended; ASHGHAL requests pre-qualification document 

MENA Project Tracker — Petrofac contract extended; ASHGHAL requests pre-qualification document 

RIYADH: Iraq has approved a project to build a $50 million industrial city in tandem with its post-war reconstruction initiative, reported Zawya.  

Located in the center of the Najaf Governorate, the new city will stretch over 9.5 sq. km, and encompass many different industries such as petrochemicals, lubricants, glass and detergents.

“This project will provide 5,000 jobs to Iraqis and its cost could exceed $50 million…we have received cabinet approval and have already selected a contractor,” said Dirgham Kiko, chairman of the Najaf Investment Commission.

It is expected to be completed within two years.

Petrofac’s contract extended in the Haliba oil field

UK-based Petrofac will continue supporting operations at the Haliba oil field in Abu Dhabi for the next two years, according to an agreement with Al-Dhafra Petroleum — a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. Group.

Al-Dhafra Petroleum originally selected Petrofac for this contract in September 2019, reported MEED.  

ASHGHAL requests pre-qualification documents

Qatar’s Public Works Authority has requested prequalification documents for four construction contracts that make up the South of Wakrah and New District of Doha pumping station and outfall scheme, reported MEED.

The contract has been tendered since mid-August, and bids will be closed by Oct. 23.


Egypt property-tech startup Partment raises $1.5 million in a pre-seed funding round

Egypt property-tech startup Partment raises $1.5 million in a pre-seed funding round
Updated 28 September 2022

Egypt property-tech startup Partment raises $1.5 million in a pre-seed funding round

Egypt property-tech startup Partment raises $1.5 million in a pre-seed funding round

RIYADH: Egypt-based property technology startup Partment raised $1.5 million in a pre-seed funding round led by venture capital firm Nclude.

The company will use its acquired funding to deploy its platform by offering a solution for home co-ownership in Egypt.

Founded in 2022, the platform allows users to explore different listings of homes and co-own properties with 40+ nights per year to use the property.

“Partment is a new concept in Egypt, and we believe it will change how people buy and use real estate in the local and international market,” Nadim Nagui, CEO at Partment, said in a statement.


MAWANI achieves 14% increase in container volume this year

MAWANI achieves 14% increase in container volume this year
Updated 28 September 2022

MAWANI achieves 14% increase in container volume this year

MAWANI achieves 14% increase in container volume this year

RIYADH: The Saudi Ports Authority, MAWANI, has achieved an increase in the volume of handling containers during the current year by 14 percent to reach 212 million tons.

The head of the Public Transport Authority, Rumaih Al-Rumaih, said at the Saudi Maritime Conference the King Abdulaziz Port now stands 14th in the world for container volume — up from 88th.

The Kingdom’s strategic location and its view of the most important waterways for world trade contributed to the transit of 70 percent of the Kingdom’s imports and 90 percent of its exports, Al-Rumaih added. 

Meanwhile, MAWANI signed agreements to establish five logistic zones in Jeddah Islamic Port with an investment value of nearly SR2 billion ($531 million), the head of Saudi Ports Authority, Omar Al-Hariri said. 

The Kingdom has all the ingredients for success, and through the national transport strategy, we will reach a bright future, Al-Rumaih added.