On Wednesday October 9th at the Federal Reserve Bank in Boston, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had planned to convene a one-day forum to discuss Business Value Creation Though Green Chemistry. For those who think everything the government has a hand in is all about what the government can do, this meeting was all about and all for leaders from business and industry, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, non-profit groups, U.S. EPA and others involved in the application of green chemistry principles to bring high value products to the market that are safer, healthier and more sustainable. In other words, it was to be an “Ask not what your country can do for you…” kind of day.
In the name of full-disclosure, Myriant was to be an important contributor to the Case Studies portion of the day’s events. But it’s not happening. The government shutdown literally shut down this discussion. For the record, we’re not frustrated by the loss of yet one more speaking opportunity. Myriant wins its fair share of the limelight and we appreciate it. But in this instance, we’re frustrated because this cancellation points directly to the unintended consequences of the blunt instrument of a political process that renders good things dead in the water. A government agency in this case is trying to help Myriant and others find ways to rely less on government agencies. That’s a good thing. A wholesale, ham-handed shutdown is, in contrast, a bad thing.
But there are political points to be scored; re-election prospects to shore up; tea party and liberal base affiliations to secure. Where’s right and wrong? Where’s what is good or not so good for the future of the nation and its people? This is probably where Washington has made its greatest miscalculation. Does not the nation now know that when the Congress contemplates the future, it is the future of their political prospects that loom largest in their calculus?
A triviality, you think? The one-day event can be re-scheduled, right? Probably. But here’s some additional information that I know to be true or have on good authority about the shutdown as it affects our industry: the government shutdown directly impacts all regulatory and legislative efforts affecting the biofuels and renewable chemicals industries, including work on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). It will almost certainly delay upcoming expected rulemakings, including the EPA’s proposed rule setting the 2014 renewable volume obligations (RVO) under the RFS. It is reported that nearly 95 percent of EPA’s staff has been furloughed during the shutdown, leaving only 17 employees working in EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation and three working in the Office of Water. Three? Seriously?
Not only did the U.S. government shut down, but so did the nine month extension of the 2008 Farm Bill. With no new five-year Farm Bill, the future is uncertain for rural energy programs supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), including the Biorefinery Assistance Program that promotes the development of biorefineries in the U.S.