Innovative Policies Drive the Biobased Economy

Innovative Policies Drive the Biobased Economy

This year not only marks the 25th anniversary of BIO, but this year we also celebrate the 15th anniversary of the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology. Every year programming at the BIO World Congress expands to cover the innovations taking place in the industry, from new feedstock applications for biofuels to new renewable chemicals to biobased consumer products. BIO’s Industrial and Environmental Section brings together the entire value chain in industrial biotechnology and the BIO World Congress is the world’s largest conference for experts, researchers and executives to partner in support of the biobased economy.

The growth of BIO’s World Congress is indicative of the growth of the biobased economy, and those companies that attend BIO’s annual conference are united by the shared vision of strengthening this economy.

So, as we reflect on 25 years of BIO and 15 years of BIO’s World Congress, we must also reflect on the innovative policies that led to the establishment and growth of the biobased economy.

But first, what is the biobased economy?

In a piece in Industry Biotechnology Journal, BIO’s Brent Erickson defines the biobased economy as:

“… an economy that enables improved living standards around the world and at the same time replaces non-renewable, petroleum-based materials with cleaner, greener biobased materials.”

Globally, BIO estimates the total value of this economy, including industrial biotechnology, biofuels, renewable chemicals and polymers, enzymes and biobased materials, to be $355.28 billion. The U.S. generates 58 percent of the total global value (more than $205 billion) and many of the policies that have led to a strong biobased economy are thanks to BIO.

Renewable Fuel Standard

Not long after the establishment of BIO, the Industrial and Environmental Section gained one of its most significant policy victories: the establishment of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The 2005 adoption of the renewable fuel policy was groundbreaking, propelling the use of biofuels and accelerating the growth of the biobased economy. The expansion of the RFS in 2007 led to the investment and development of advanced and cellulosic biofuels which are now reaching commercial scale production.

The RFS is a federal program that requires transportation fuel sold in the United States to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels to replace petroleum gasoline. The goal of the RFS is two-fold: 1. Reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and 2. Reduce the carbon intensity of U.S. transportation. The policy creates jobs and promotes economic growth, especially in rural America, by attracting investment and fostering innovation in a broad range of technologies, such as cellulosic ethanol and advanced biofuels. These investments occur across the spectrum of the biobased economy, from the farms where corn and other feedstocks are grown, to the biorefineries where raw material is converted to biofuels.

The RFS has also led to the promotion of renewable fuel policy at the state level.  BIO was on the founding advisory committee for the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard, and continues to advocate for technology-neutral low carbon fuel laws and regulations that support the growth of this sector.

Finally, the RFS has spurred research and development in renewable chemical platforms, leading to rapid commercialization. Through the creation, expansion, and implementation of the RFS, BIO has championed a critical pillar in the foundation of the biobased economy.

Farm Bill Programs

biofuels and accelerating the growth of the biobased economy. The expansion of the RFS in 2007 led to the investment and development of advanced and cellulosic biofuels which are now reaching commercial scale production.

The RFS is a federal program that requires transportation fuel sold in the United States to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels to replace petroleum gasoline. The goal of the RFS is two-fold: 1. Reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and 2. Reduce the carbon intensity of U.S. transportation. The policy creates jobs and promotes economic growth, especially in rural America, by attracting investment and fostering innovation in a broad range of technologies, such as cellulosic ethanol and advanced biofuels. These investments occur across the spectrum of the biobased economy, from the farms where corn and other feedstocks are grown, to the biorefineries where raw material is converted to biofuels.

Additionally, the RFS has spurred research and development in renewable chemical platforms, leading to rapid commercialization. Through the creation, expansion, and implementation of the RFS, BIO has championed a critical pillar in the foundation of the biobased economy.

Farm Bill Programs

A significant portion of BIO’s policy efforts to strengthen the biobased economy take place in the Farm Bill, a comprehensive omnibus bill that is renewed every five years and deals with affairs under the purview of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In addition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which regulates and enforces the RFS, the USDA is another agency that holds significant control over policies affecting the biobased economy.

Within the Farm Bill, BIO is specifically focused on the energy title, which supports the development of biorefineries by improving access to financing for new technologies from institutional leaders; farmers who grow new energy crops; and advancing new markets for biobased products and renewable chemicals. BIO’s Industrial and Environmental Section was instrumental in the development of the first Energy Title in the 2002 Farm Bill, which was expanded in 2008, and reauthorized in2014. The Farm Bill is up for reauthorization in 2018 and BIO is working to ensure the Energy Title programs continue to incentivize new and innovative biobased technologies.

The Energy Title within the Farm Bill drives growth of the biobased economy by providing financial assistance, consumer education, market develop programs and research to those working to innovate renewable energies, renewable chemicals and energy efficient technologies.

Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Assistance to Fund Innovation

One specific program within the Farm Bill Energy Title that plays a crucial role in the evolution of the biobased economy is the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Assistance program. Originally written to provide grants and loan guarantees for the construction of biorefineries that produce advanced biofuels, the program was transformed in 2014, due to BIO’s leadership, to enable renewable chemicals and biobased products to qualify for loan guarantee program that works with leading institutions to make equity available in rural communities. This policy is a crucial tool for driving investment in new biotechnologies, thus expanding the biobased economy.

BioPreferred Program Strengthens the Market

Another key Energy Title program is the Biobased Markets Program, otherwise known as the BioPreferred Program. The program directs federal agencies and their contractors to purchase biobased products when available and at similar cost to petroleum products. This program fuels growth of the biobased economy by establishing a market for biobased products and renewable chemicals within the federal government. In 2002, BIO’s policy efforts led to the establishment of the BioPreferred Program, and in 2008 the program expanded with USDA launching a voluntary testing and labeling program for biobased products, certifying and advertising their renewable content.

Looking back at the past 25 years, BIO’s policy efforts have allowed the biobased economy to flourish. Many of these policies are derived from conversations and partnerships that take place at BIO’s World Congress. As BIO’s World Congress has grown, so has the biobased economy.

As companies continue to innovate and the biobased economy expands to include more and more biobased consumer products – in addition to biofuels and renewable chemicals – BIO will continue to champion policy that allows the biobased economy to thrive.

In his opening remarks at this year’s BIO World Congress in Philadelphia, BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood reflected on the organization’s role in strengthening the biobased economy over the past quarter century.

“For 25 years, no organization has played a more powerful role than BIO in making sure our leaders embrace thoughtful policy, so the science of biotechnology can progress,” said Greenwood.

And as we look to the next quarter century, BIO will ensure innovative policies allow the science of biotechnology to continue strengthening the biobased economy.

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