USDA report shows impact of US biobased economy

Source: By Erin Voegele, Ethanol Producer Magazine • Posted: Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The USDA has released a new report that measures economic growth, job creation and household income from biofuel and bioenergy production, along with future growth in renewable chemicals and biobased products.

The report, titled “Indicators of the U.S. Biobased Economy,” shows that the biobased economy is playing an increasingly important role in the U.S. economy. “Through innovations in renewable energies and the emergence of a new generation of biobased products, the sectors that drive the biobased economy are providing job creation and economic growth,” the report states.

According to the USDA, the report aims to understand and analyze trends in the biobased economy by comparing 2011 and 2016 data.

The data shows significant increases in the production of liquid biofuels, with U.S. ethanol production increasing from 175 million gallons in 1980 to more than 14.7 billion gallons in 2015. The number of ethanol plants reached 199 in 2016, with three facilities under construction and the industry accounting for more than 270,000 U.S. jobs.

Biodiesel production also grew exponentially, increasing from 343 million gallons in 2010 to 1.26 billion gallons in 2015. From 2005 to 2012, soybean use for biodiesel increased from 670 million pounds to 4.1 billion pounds.

The production of solid biofuels has also increased significantly. The report states that “wood pellets manufactured primarily in the Southeastern United States have become an important component of the bioenergy sector.” The U.S has established itself as the world’s largest exporter of wood pellets, with more than 4.6 million metric tons exported in 2016.

Growth has also occurred in the production of renewable chemicals and biobased products. The report states that the number of renewable chemicals and biobased products certified under the USDA’s BioPreferred program has increased from 1,800 in 2014 to 2,900 in 2016. The number of overall biobased products in the U.S. marketplace has increased from approximately 17,000 in 2008 to 40,000 in 2014. An estimated 4.22 million jobs were attributed to the biobased products industry in 2014. In addition, the report estimates the value-added contribution to the U.S. economy from the U.S. biobased products industry was $393 billion in 2014.

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization has spoken out to welcome the report. “The biobased economy is approaching a tipping point in its growth and maturation,” said Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section. “The economic impact is evident.

“BIO calculates that the global economic value of the biobased economy—including industrial biotechnology, renewable chemicals and polymers, biofuels, enzymes and biobased materials—is $355.28 billion,” he continued. “Looking at the new USDA Indicators report and other sources, we estimate that the United States generates 58 percent of the global value of biobased manufacturing, or more than $205 billion. And that economic activity supports employment for 1.66 million U.S. workers.

“The growth of the biobased economy has been supported by good federal policy that strengthens the agricultural sector and rural America,” Erickson said. “For instance, Farm Bill energy title programs have compiled a record of success that deserves to be continued. We look forward to working with USDA and Congress to build on that success and reauthorize the programs.”

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the USDA website.