The U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office held its ninth annual “Bioenergy 2016: Mobilizing the Bioeconomy through Innovation” conference from July 12-14, 2016 in Washington, D.C.
This year’s conference focused on opportunities to grow future feedstock supplies and
break through technology barriers in order to achieve a stronger bioeconomy. Several topics that were addressed during programming included looking at innovative and emerging pathways; forecasting feedstocks; marketplace exploration; and strategic public engagement.
On Wednesday July 13, 2016, Brent Erickson, BIO’s
Executive Vice President of Industrial and Environmental, delivered a keynote address during “The New U.S. Billion Ton Bioeconomy Initiative” Plenary Session. This session included strong leaders in the industry that are helping policymakers, consumers, and key decision-makers to realize the benefits of a Billion Ton Bioeconomy.
Catherine Woteki, Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, moderated the session. Panelists included:
- Jeffrey Jacobs, President and CEO, Ensyn Corporation
- Brent Erickson, Executive Vice President, Biotechnology Industry Organization
- Julie Felgar, Managing Director of Environmental Strategy, Boeing
Brent Erickson opened his remarks by arguing that the “biggest challenge facing the industry right now is continuing to garner investment in the biobased economy”:
“Over the past decade, federal policies such as the RFS, the USDA Biobased Markets Program, the Navy’s Great Green Fleet initiative, the Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit, and others have created momentum for industrial biotech innovations and investment in biofuels, renewable chemicals and synthetic biology.
“While the RFS has and should continue to drive investment in new technologies, the program has gone off the rails. EPA is now actively discouraging investment in advanced biofuels.”
Erickson continued his keynote by stating that in order to rebuild and maintain our industry’s momentum going forward,”we need policies that are predictable and stable.” Specifically, he called for more stability and clarity around how the RFS will work in the future; the need for timely regulatory approvals of biofuel pathways under the RFS; a level playing field in the tax arena for all biotech innovation; continuation of critical Farm Bill energy title programs in the next Farm Bill reauthorization; and proper implementation and continued funding of USDA’s biorefinery program.
He then spoke to how successful policies to support the biobased economy have had a measurable and positive impact:
“The biobased products industry contributed $369 billion to the U.S. economy in 2013. The $126 billion in direct sales by the biobased products industry generated another $126 billion in indirect sales and $117 billion in induced sales.
“Last year, USDA commissioned a report on the economic impact of the biobased products industry, showing that the industry employed four million U.S. workers as of 2013. Each direct job in the biobased products industry was responsible for generating 1.64 jobs in other sectors of the economy.
“The 1.5 million direct jobs in the biobased industry resulted in the formation of 1.1 million indirect jobs in related industries and another 1.4 million induced jobs produced from the purchase of goods and services generated by the direct and indirect jobs.
That impact is considerable.”
In conclusion, Brent Erickson highlighted several key economic indicators that need to be regularized in order to have a robust bioeconomy:
- Biomass Availability and Production By State
- Biorefinery Construction and Capacity By State
- Value Creation (Products, Sales, Jobs)
- Environmental Indicators
- Research and Development Investment
“Compiling accurate and effective measurement of the biobased economy, using metrics and methods equivalent to those applied to other industries,” will enable policy makers to understand the impact of these policies and to continue to support them and keep them stable, stated Erickson.
“Stable policy will enable our industry to rebuild and maintain investment momentum going forward.”