New Report Highlights Federal Vision for Bioeconomy Going Forward

Source: By Jessie Stolark, EESI • Posted: Sunday, March 6, 2016

On February 18, the Biomass Research & Development Board released a new report, “Federal Activities Report on the Bioeconomy.”  The Biomass R&D board is an interagency collaboration among seven agencies and the White House, all of whom are involved in the development of the bioeconomy. In the report, they outline the “Billion Ton Bioeconomy Vision” with a primary goal of expanding biomass-based fuels, power and products to displace up to 25 percent of fossil-based transportation fuels, supply 50 billion pounds of bio-based products and generate 85 billion kWh of electricity. Driving this goal is the anticipation of a sustainable supply of one billion tons of biomass in the United States by 2030.

According to the report, the benefits of a sustainable, robust bioeconomy include economic development, environmental benefit and increased national security.  Currently, the bioeconomy adds $50 billion and 250,000 jobs to the U.S. economy.  By reaching a sustainable supply of one billion tons of biomass, direct revenue from the sector could reach $250 billion annually and could create one million new jobs, particularly in the biotechnology field.

Environmental benefits outlined in the report include reduction of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 400 million tons annually, or 8 percent. Other benefits of a sustainable, robust bioeconomy include improved soil health and water quality, reduced waste streams, as well as ensuring stable food, fuel and fiber production from U.S. lands.

From a national security perspective, increasing the portion of biofuels in the transportation sector will lessen price volatility in global fuel prices and help lessen U.S. dependence on oil for the transportation sector.

Challenges of the scale-up of the bioeconomy remain abundant, and include the cost competitiveness of feedstocks versus their fossil counterparts, environmental concerns over potential negative impacts, investor confidence and investor risk, land availability and transportation logistics.  The major challenge areas that the Biomass R&D Board will focus on are:

  1. Feedstock supply and cost
  2. Conversion technologies and their cost
  3. Distribution infrastructure
  4. Consumer education

Reauthorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, the Biomass R&D Board is co-chaired by the EPA and USDA.  Participating agencies are the Department of Energy, the Department of Interior, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the Department of Transportation, and the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. One of the primary activities of the Biomass R&D Board is to set funding priorities for the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI Sect 9008 of the Energy Title), which is jointly funded by the USDA and DOE.  BRDI funds research on feedstock development, biofuel and biobased products development as well as supply chain logistics, environmental impacts and other considerations.

A subgroup of the Biomass R&D Board — the Analysis Interagency Working Group — expects to report on measured metrics sometime in 2016.

For more information see:

Federal Activities Report on Bioeconomy Released, Domestic

Federal Activities Report on the Bioeconomy, Biomass R&D Board