State of the Industry, November 2016: A Digest ABLC Next Special Preview
by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest) … The advanced bioeconomy is making a far more broad assault on everyday norms and materials than back in the days when biofuels were, just about alone, the break-out application.
Shift to nutrition
The momentum began to shift away from grain-based biofuels as earl as 2009, when the Summer of Algae and the rise of aviation biofuels were felt. Not long after, we saw a huge rise in the number of renewable chemicals ventures — many of them responding to runaway oil prices and strategic investor interest in finding alternatives. That interest remains strong today even as oil prices have returned to decade-ago norms.
Meanwhile, the pivot towards nutrition and wellness is strong these past months. Companies such as Ripple Foods and Impossible Foods have raised epic investment rounds and attracted legions of fans to the world beyond the cow as a meat and milk source.
The pivot to biomaterials and genetics
But let’s not overlook two other important trends — the pivot towards biomaterials and the development of genetic toolkits that are changing timelines and possibilities for the entire gamut of companies that use and could use industrial biotechnology to make useful ingredients and refined end products.
Going to industrial scale is always a task not for the financially faint of heart — and no more so than in fuels, where the benefits of the technologies in many cases are social ones — rather than accruing directly to the investor.
The Soviet of renewables financing
The current financial structure is really a Soviet, when you think about it, or communistic if you prefer. Individuals (financiers, researchers, engineers, marketers, end-users) are supposed to sublimate their individual interests for the good of the many (the three E’s of emission reduction, energy security or economic development). Ventures with shaky economics in low oil price times, but excellent social attributes, are expected to be produced by the invisible hand of the market based on some vague and unstable expressions of interest from the Kremlin.
The current financial system has had the same rate of success as the old Soviet one.
Here’s a Renewable Fuel Standard, but we won’t enforce it. Here’s your EU Renewable Energy Directive, which we’ll water down to meaninglessness about halfway through and strand all the capacity you’ve built. Here are your loan guarantees, but we’ll suck you dry before you get one so limited in scope that you can’t finance a plant with one. Here are your tax credits, although you’ll get them sometimes years after the production year we intended to incentivize.
… (F)or the billions of pounds of commodity-priced bulk fuels and chemicals — reaching the next level requires a re-thinking of the sharing of the wealth. READ MORE