Members of a federal advisory committee on the adoption of biofuels have seen millions in taxpayer dollars steered to their companies while sitting on the committee, Scribe reports in today’s Washington Examiner.
The Biomass Research and Development Board, created in 2000, makes recommendations to the Secretaries of Energy and Agriculture on federal incentives for and adoption of biofuels. It contains an advisory committee with some very noteworthy members.
The presence of at least six taxpayer-backed companies on the advisory committee raises serious conflict of interest questions, as I explain in the Examiner.
The San Francisco-based company Solazyme made headlines in December when the Navy and the Ag Department jointly announcedthat the former would purchase biofuels from the company for up to $15 a gallon. Less reported was the presence of Solazyme Co-founder and President Harrison Dillon on the panel advising Agriculture on the adoption of biofuels…
The Navy biofuels deal also steered federal dollars to a company called Dynamic Fuels, which manufactures biofuels from used cooking oil. Dynamic is a joint venture of Syntroleum Corp. and Tyson Foods. Sitting on the biofuel advisory committee is Robert Ames. Ames was Tyson’s vice president in charge of commercializing the company’s renewable energy projects, including Dynamic Fuels, when the contract went through. In January 2012, Solazyme hired him as its vice president of fuels commercialization.
Advisory committee member William Provine, now the director of Science and Technology External Affairs at DuPont, was until April 2012 a board member at Butamax Advanced Biofuels, a joint venture of DuPont and BP. In 2010, Butamax announced an $8.8 million cost-sharing agreement with DOE for the production of a sugar-based biofuel called isobutanol.
DOE has steered massive sums to Archer Daniels Midland for biofuel-related projects since the committee’s creation. ADM landed a $99.2 million contract in 2010, for carbon sequestration technology for biofuel producers. The year before, it got a $24.8 million grant to develop and commercialize advanced biofuels. Meanwhile, Todd Werpy, ADM’s vice president for Biofuels and Biochemical Research, sat on the advisory committee.
In October 2011, DOE announced up to $4 million in grants for LanzaTech, whose CEO sits on the advisory committee, to develop a biofuel called butadiene. The same month, ArborGen, whose then-vice president of product development had a seat on the committee, got $6.3 million from DOE to develop wood-based biofuels.