It’s the multi-trillion biobased economy, stupid.

October 8, 2014 |

why-biobased-coverIn Washington, the Biotechnology Industry Organization is hailing the release by the USDA of the new report  “Why Biobased?” which it describes as  the first comprehensive federal quantification of the job opportunities and other economic benefits of the growing biobased products and renewable chemical industry.

In the report, authors Jay Golden and Robert Handfield note that a  2012 report from BIO placed the national value of the US Bioeconomy at $1.25 trillion. The European Commission in 2014estimated that its Bioeconomy is worth over $2.7 trillion, providing 20 million jobs and accounting for 9% of total employment in 2009. 

“Every major global and economic challenge we face today has at the center of its solution, agriculture,” said US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, in an appearance at the Bioproducts World Conference and Showcase, hosted by Ohio State Ohio University and OBIC at the Columbus Convention Center in Ohio. Vilsack added the USDA’s ongoing commitment ” to help you help us in the continuing work on rebuilding the rural economy”.

Sec. Vilsack pointed to creative initiatives to help drive financing for bio-based products, such as the USDA’s 9003 program, increased creative roles by the USDA to help bridge the financing gap and meet the needs of the bio-based economy, drive increased government purchases of bio-based products, and increase educational efforts of the public on the benefits of bio-based products.

The report explores the opportunities associated with the biobased economy (excluding fuel, food and feed). Much of the work relies upon prior literature. The 8 key key findings are:

  1. Government policies and industry Business to Business sustainability programs are driving the biobased economy.
  2. Across the globe, nations are investing in Public/Private Partnerships to expand their biobased economy for domestic and international consumers.
  3. In the U.S., the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) BioPreferred program and Federally-supported research continue to drive investment in research and development (R&D) and make available broader sets of biobased consumer products.
  4. While there is wealth of data and information regarding the economic impact of the bioeconomy in Europe and various nations, there is a lack of understanding and quantification of the economic benefits of the bioeconomy and specifically the non-fuel bioeconomy in the U.S.
  5. There are challenges facing the continued expansion of the bioeconomy. These include reliable availability of raw materials with increased climate and severe weather impacts, water availability, and stability of the markets.
  6. The biobased economy is, in fact, growing, and it offers great potential for increased job creation in numerous sectors across the U.S.
  7. Continued investments are needed to establish a biobased infrastructure while ensuring that the economics of biobased feedstocks are competitive with existing, petroleum-based feedstocks.
  8. An economic impact model is required to study the potential impacts of the bioeconomy and policies that can encourage investment. Such a model should include many of the factors identified in this report and it should predict changes to a wide range of outcomes, for example, impacts on jobs, job creation, GDP, the environment, and national security.

Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section, noted, “The bioeconomy is rapidly growing, creating new economic opportunities and providing well-paying jobs for tens of thousands of Americans. By 2025, employment in the renewable chemical sector could represent approximately 20 percent of all U.S. chemical jobs.

“USDA’s new report on opportunities in the emerging bioeconomy is an important first step in quantifying those economic impacts, and we thank the authors of the report. We encourage USDA to continue to develop an economic impact model that will identify additional opportunities and track the growth of the bioeconomy.”

The full report can be downloaded here.

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