The development of a biobased economy has enormous potential for innovating how we produce and consume resources efficiently and sustainability. However, not all products are being made sustainably. Many oil based commercial products are threatening our environment and economy. As they add more carbon to our atmosphere, products end up as waste in landfills or the ocean and many communities need good jobs in local economies. Leaning towards a biobased economy can address these challenges as it can mitigate climate change, support job creation in the field especially in rural economies and promote renewable energies & products that are neither polluting nor energy intensive.
“Bioeconomy” refers to the economic activity of producing and leveraging these renewable bio-based products. It focuses on turning waste or sugars into valuable products, reducing fossil energy use and creating economic opportunities to grow new industries. Therefore, as the growing US bioeconomy continues, it will need help from skilled workers and start up companies to meet the demands of production.
Berkeley Lab is leading the way to support the growth of the bioeconomy. Pioneering new genetic engineering technologies, instigating methods to improve biomanufacturing and breaking down biomass into usable sugars that can support biomanufacturing. One of Berkeley Lab’s research projects aims to convert woody biomass into fermentable sugars to produce biofuels for transportation. The ABPDU, for example, utilizes the abundant low value forests and farm wastes and puts them into productive uses such as transportation & aviation biofuels.
The process of creating these biofuels involves designing a yeast strain to create renewable automotive and aviation fuels that will be cost effective, advanced and non-destructive to the environment. Furthermore, the use of biotechnology improves the efficiency of production and quality of products as it converts the biomass into useful resources and addresses waste management challenges. Bio-manufacturing allows us to decarbonize manufacturing, reduce dependence on petroleum and ultimately, reduce toxic chemicals and energy use in productions.
California is the birthplace of biotechnology and holds the largest agricultural production. This opportunity to further advance our environment and economy is achievable as we turn more sugars into valuable products, encourage companies to manufacture in the state and stimulate workforce expansion to support the Bioeconomy. The ABPDU works towards developing a trained workforce by collaborating with universities in California through programs such as the UC Berkeley’s Master of Bioprocess of Engineering (MBPE) Degree Program where it prepares individuals with the relevant skills and experience necessary to the workspace of assisting scaling technologies and fundamental research relevant to industrial processes that can help California lead bioeconomy worldwide.