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bioplasticsMAGAZINE_1103

Opinion Level Playing

Opinion Level Playing Field for Bio-based Chemistry and Materials Policy paper on Bio-based Economy in the EU Michael Carus, nova-Institute, Hürth, Germany) Dirk Carrez, Clever Consult, Meise/Belgium by Over the last ten years numerous studies have demonstrated the impressive potential of bio-based products 1 : The production of bio-based chemicals and materials can create ten thousands of new green jobs (Bio 2010, Carrez 2010) 2 , increase resource efficiency and make a considerable contribution to climate protection and innovation. Despite these benefits the investment in industrial biotechnology and biorefineries in Europe remains low. The political and economic framework in the EU does not support the industrial material use of biomass – this is in contrast to bioenergy and especially biofuels, which has expanded rapidly in the EU over the last ten years. The European ‘Innovation Union’ needs to establish a level playing field for bio-based chemistry and materials in order for the EU to realize the potential of greening its process industries. The final version of the policy paper was submitted to the EU Commission and to the public consultation on the ‘bio-based economy for Europe: state of play and future potential’. The policy paper is supported by 85 stakeholders from different associations, agencies, public authorities, foundations, companies, universities, institutes and research centers from all over Europe. Further supporters are welcome and should contact Michael Carus. Making the best out of limited biomass! The impacts of using biomass as an energy source or a material source are quite different. The analysis of recent studies on the macroeconomic effects of the non-food uses of biomass show that the potential benefits of the material use in terms of employment and value added are significantly higher than those arising from the use of biomass for energy. Material uses can directly support 5 to 10 times more employment and 4 to 9 times the value added compared with energy uses. These comparisons relate to the same raw material or the same farmed area, respectively. This is due to the significantly more complex and longer supply chains arising from material uses. (Carus 2010) This is even true for traditional applications of wood: Using wood for particle boards or pulp & paper supports greater employment and value added compared to the production of energy pellets (Pöyry Forest 2006). High resource efficiency in the use of renewable resources can only be achieved with bio-based materials (higher input – output efficiency than biofuels) and strengthened through ‘cascading utilization’. This starts with single or multiple uses (recycling economy) followed by energy use at the end of life. Material use first, then energy – you only burn it once! Most LCA studies show that the material use of biomass delivers GHG mitigation at least equal to first-generation biofuels (each based on the same acreage). Most deliver higher benefits and the best are significantly higher than the benefits of second-generation biofuels (Patel 2008, Carus 52 bioplastics MAGAZINE [03/11] Vol. 6

Opinion 2010). The environmental assessment will be even more favourable to material uses if the effects of longer-term carbon storage and the potential of cascading utilization are included. Also economies of scale in production and the technical optimization of processes will further improve the carbon balance. There is still a huge potential for innovation – involving thousands of SMEs and multinational companies. While there are numerous options for the provision of renewable energy such as solar and wind energy, hydropower and geothermal energy, the situation in the supply of raw materials to industry is precarious. The material use of biomass is a key technology to secure the supply of industrial raw materials, and its importance increases continuously. The use of biomass for material use is as essential as their use in food – if the oil price reaches new record levels. Especially the chemical industry depends on carbonbased materials in the production of organic compounds, and biomass is the only renewable source of carbon. EU: Low investment in biorefineries and industrial biotechnology Currently, there is only a low investment in biorefineries and industrial biotechnology in Europe – compared to America and Asia. For investment, companies need: • Secure sustainable renewable raw material supply for reasonable prices. • Binding political framework for supporting the bio-based economy: Which political instruments and what kind of political environment will be established in a long lasting manner? Bio-based materials are in competition for feedstock with energy. In contrast to bioenergy and biofuels, there is currently no similar European policy framework to support bio-based materials. Bioenergy and biofuels not only receive high support in R&D, pilot and demonstration plants, but also receive strong ongoing support during commercial production (quotas, tax incentives, green electricity regulations and more). Without comparable support bio-based materials will suffer from underinvestment from the private sectors. The recent policy leads to a market distortion regarding feedstock availability and costs. Even biorefineries that are producing energy and materials will not be able to truly overcome this problem. If the energy market is more attractive because of related incentives and support, biorefinery development will be disproportionately on energy as the main output – without realizing the huge potential of bio-based materials. Market distortion – Competition for biomass for energy versus industrial material use In several EU member states there is in addition to the European biofuel quota of 5.75% by 2010 a considerable support for bioenergy 3 , but almost no support for the industrial material use. With the existing political framework it is much more attractive to use biomass for energy – a misallocation of biomass in terms of resource efficiency? Already today we see competition between both sectors in Europe. High subsidies for energy crops lead to high biomass and land prices that make industrial material use unattractive. In Germany for example the financial support of bioenergy is between 20% (biodiesel) to 80% (bioethanol, small biogas) of the turnover. Establishing a high-volume bio-based economy, including biobased chemistry, bio-based plastics and composites, lubricants and others, feedstock shortages can be foreseen. • Harald Kaeb, narocon, Berlin Jan Ravenstijn, biopolymer consultant, The Netherlands Joachim Venus, ATB, Potsdam-Bornim, Germany bioplastics MAGAZINE [03/11] Vol. 6 53

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