Thoughts at Bioenergy 2016: What Are We Doing Here?
by Joanne Ivancic (Advanced Biofuels USA) The substance of the on-going US Department of Energy renewable energy-related conferences this week comes down to “How do we get customers to buy what we are making?” It’s the question at the root of getting investors into early stage and first-commercial projects. It’s the question for the promoters of electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles. It’s the question for those taking detours into chemicals and bio-based products from a path toward renewable fuels.
From a “small is beautiful” approach (get something sold even if it is not the best or your original product idea) to sophisticated social studies analyses of what motivates people to change their purchasing patterns to on-the-ground testing of new ideas/products by the employees of the company, so many approaches yielded no definitive answer.
As so often happens in the world of the bioeconomy, the message ends up as “There is no silver bullet.”
So, the conference continues with attendees and presenters exploring multiple approaches to getting funding from applying for vastly inadequate federal funds, and trying to access private funding by identifying markets and building demand.
Even still, so many technology developers just assume that if they have a good idea, someone will get it produced and people will buy and use it. They rarely appreciate the indescribable tangle of regulations that are strewn along the path and fail to appreciate the work required to market and sell.
Maybe this would matter little if the US and the world enjoyed robust, widely shared values and consistent policy objectives and if leaders in existing markets were also leaders in killing and burying their businesses-as-usual in favor of innovating and diversifying into a truly renewable sustainable future for energy, products and other essentials of life. And if consumers looked forward excitedly to transforming their lives and their worlds.
Lacking this, and having to work with the stagnant reality full of preference for the status quo, small groups of innovators such as those gathered at these conferences, we will continue to seek investment into research, development and deployment and hope and work for understanding and use of the products of a thriving bioeconomy as a way to try to stave off harm to the Earth’s environment while prolonging and expanding comfortable lives for humans and other living things.