By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) is hosting its tenth annual Bioeconomy 2017: Domestic Resources for a Vibrant Future conference on July 11-12, 2017, in Arlington, Virginia. As in years past, the conference will bring together government agency officials, members of Congress, industry leaders, national laboratory scientists, and academic researchers focused on moving the American bioeconomy forward. Discussion will focus on:
- Innovative technologies for the emerging bioeconomy;
- The economic opportunities of reliable American feedstock;
- New and growing markets for the bioeconomy;
- Bioenergy as part of the modern transportation future; and
- Leveraging the bioeconomy to create new jobs and address global challenges.
Registration is available online.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On May 2, 2017, the Maine Senate approved a bill to support Maine’s emerging biobased products industry. An Act to Improve the Ability of Maine Companies to Manufacture and Market Bioplastics (LD 656) would provide the Maine Technology Institute with a $1.5 million grant to provide competitive grants for the development, production, and marketing of bioplastics. The bill was introduced by Senator Jim Dill (D-Old Town) and endorsed by Senator Dana Dow (R-Waldoboro), Senator Tom Saviello (R-Wilton), and 17 Democratic Senators. Following approval by the Senate, the bill will be introduced to the Maine House of Representatives for an initial vote.
On September 7, 2016, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) released the report "Advancing the Biobased Economy: Renewable Chemical Biorefinery Commercialization, Progress, and Market Opportunities, 2016 and Beyond." This report documents substantial growth in the renewable chemical industry, and covers domestic policies impacting renewable chemical commercialization. Policy drivers that are explored include the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the 2014 Farm Bill, draft legislation, state and federal tax incentives, and the Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act (MLP). The report also reviews currently operating biorefineries to identify biotechnology solutions beyond biofuels currently undergoing commercial development.
On July 29, 2016, the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Develop Administration (EDA) announced $4.4 million in grants to diversify and grow Maine's economy. This funding is intended to provide immediate assistance to rural communities that have been impacted by recent mill closures, focusing specifically on the forest sector of the economy. Bio-Based Maine, in partnership with the University of Maine, will receive $519,930 of the funding for a $856,549 project to develop a road map to advance biobased manufacturing in Maine. This project, including the cost analysis, technology assessment, and market research, is anticipated to result in one or more mills producing cellulosic sugars, creating at least 195 jobs. EDA announced several other grants from other federal partners to support Maine's economy as well, including a $3.3 million U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) biobased jet fuel grant, and technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
On July 25, 2016, the the Honorable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development and the Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario announced a $12 million investment in Bioindustrial Innovation Canada. The Centre for the Commercialization of Sustainable Chemistry Innovations will be supported through the funding, and will help businesses quickly bring biobased products from final testing stages to the commercial market. This funding will specifically benefit the Sarnia-Lambton region, and create 478 full-time equivalent jobs as well as 250 new industrial collaborations in an effort to transition the region from a petrobased economy to a biobased economy.
Don't miss the upcoming European Commission (EC) Knowledge Exchange Platform (KEP) workshop "From bio-waste to bio-based products: the potential for regional innovation development." This Brussels-based session of the KEP Bioeconomy Showcasing Event will present the EC's biotechnology initiative and policy framework, as well as case studies on regional growth of biobased products. This workshop is scheduled for October 11, 2016, as part of the European Week of Regions and Cities conference. Registration is free and open through September 26, 2016.
Last week, DOE released the 2016 Billion-Ton Report: Advancing Domestic Resources for a Thriving Bioeconomy, Volume 1: Economic Availability of Feedstocks (BT16). Jonathan Male, Director of the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), introduced the report, stating:
While bioenergy currently is the greatest single source of renewable energy in the United States, there are still economic and technological barriers that limit efforts to mobilize biomass resources for more biofuels, biopower, and bioproducts. Energy crops in particular are wholly dependent on future market demand.
BT16 is not a final answer, but rather a step to help the nation develop strategies for realizing a broader bioeconomy potential. At bioenergykdf.net, the reader can find online companion data sets and interactive visualization for all biomass resources in this report. While we are confident in the rigor and depth of our analysis, the potential implications of our results have only begun to be assessed. We invite the user community to take a step forward and use this report and associated data to perform further analyses, ask more questions, and inform strategies to mobilize national biomass resources toward realization of a bioeconomy.
In addition to identifying potential biomass resources, BT16 addresses key aspects of the bioeconomy, including: economic availability of biomass resources; supply impact of algae, waste, and other energy crops; and economic impacts of transportation costs of feedstocks for biorefineries.