Kick-Starting the Bio-Based Economy
Massive, varied, and intricately woven into the fabric of modern industrial society, the global chemical industry was valued at over $4 trillion in 2011, according to Pike Research’s Green Chemistry report. The non-pharmaceutical chemicals industry in the United States is valued at around $700 billion per year. The rise of bio-chemicals promises to transform that industry. Bio-based chemicals and plastics — often referred to as bio-based products — are commercial or industrial products (other than food or feed) that are derived from biological products or biomass. They serve as direct replacements for the building blocks used in petrochemical production.
At last week’s 3rd Annual Bio-based Chemicals Summit, in San Diego, upstart biomass innovators and stalwart petrochemical industry stakeholders converged to capitalize on opportunities in the emerging bio-based economy. Excitement is high, but it is largely a derivative of unrealized potential in the biofuels industry. That potential could be accelerated by federal action: this week, President Obama is expected to unveil his Blueprint for a Bioeconomy. (The bio-chemical sector is covered under our Bioenergy Advisory Service, which was launched last week.)
The bio-based segment of chemical production looks poised for dramatic growth. As discussed in our recent report, Biofuels Markets and Technologies, there has been a significant shift away from a primary emphasis on biofuels production towards high-value, low-volume bioproducts in the last couple of years. Currently, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that at least 20,000 bio-based products are currently being manufactured in North America. USDA has certified dozens of products with a bio-preferred label, which denotes a high percentage of bio-based ingredients.
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