Advanced bio-fuels could create millions of jobs while greening the economy

Transforming agricultural residues into advanced bio fuels could create millions of jobs worldwide, economic growth, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and energy security by 2030, according to a report by Novozymes, the world leader in bio innovation and industrial enzymes.

The Bloomberg New Energy Finance report “Moving towards a next-generation ethanol economy'' was commissioned by Novozymes. It estimates the socio-economic prospects of deploying advanced bio fuels in eight of the highest agricultural-producing regions in the world, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, EU-27, India, Mexico and US.

“A huge global resource of agricultural residues can be harvested sustainably every year without altering current land use patterns and without interfering with the food chain,'' according to Steen Riisgaard, CEO of Novozymes. According to the report, an estimated 17.5 per cent of the agricultural residue produced could be available today as feedstock for advanced bio fuels. With this amount, enough advanced bio fuels could be produced to replace over 50 per cent of the forecasted 2030 gasoline demand.

The world has a unique opportunity to develop a next-generation bio product industry based on agricultural residues by 2030, the report states. The socio-economic prospects of deploying advanced bio-fuels go well beyond energy security. The report shows that the eight regions analysed have the potential to diversify farmers' income, generate revenues ranging from $1trillion to $4.4trillion between today and 2050 and create millions of jobs. For example, advanced bio fuels could create up to 2.9 million jobs in China, 1.4 million jobs in the US and around one million in Brazil. The impact on climate change would also be reduced considering advanced bio fuels emit 80 per cent less greenhouse gas than ethanol.

“At a time when we're all striving to create jobs to secure our economic future, as well as finding a sustainable way to produce energy, this study shows the benefits of a transition towards sustainable bio fuels and bio products based on agricultural residues,'' said Riisgaard. ``It also strongly signals that policy incentives will result in great payback to society,'' he added. The report states the technology exists today to produce advanced bio fuels from agricultural residues, and the first commercial-scale facilities will start production this year. Moreover in the coming decades a variety of other advanced bio products such as chemicals and plastics could also be produced based on the same feedstock and pave the way towards a bio-based economy, independent from fossil fuel.

While the potential is high, broad deployment of advanced bio fuels is not a given. The report highlights a series of barriers in terms of feedstock supply, insufficient infrastructure and high capital costs that can prevent the industry from unlocking the value of this agricultural residue resource. It will depend on policy makers to put solid incentives into place that actively encourage the necessary investments, including long-term mandates for advanced bio fuels, incentives for the collection of farming residues and tax breaks for investments.