Industrial Biotech Can Reduce Emissions by 2.5B Tons Annually

by | Sep 21, 2009

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IndGHGreductionsThe industrial biotechnology sector can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 2.5 billion tons per year, according to a new report. WWF, the world’s largest environmental NGO, has calculated that industrial biotechnology could generate between 1 billion and 2.5 billion tons of greenhouse gas reductions per year by 2030, contributing to a new green economy.

The report acknowledges that the industrial biotech sector is still in its infancy, but also notes that like the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and renewable energy sectors, its capacity to reduce emissions outweigh the emissions they create by between 20 and 30 times. Today, industrial biotech avoids the creation of 33 million tons of CO2 each year globally through various applications, without taking ethanol use into consideration, while emitting 2 million tons of CO2, according to WWF.

Industrial biotechnology is currently used to produce hundreds of everyday products, according to WWF, including detergents, textiles, bread, wine, beer, and bioethanol.

As an example, the use of modern enzymatic detergents has reduced washing temperatures from 60 to 30 degrees Celsius, saving millions of tons of CO2. However, the potential of industrial biotechnology is much greater and includes a transformation of the economy, according to WWF.

The WWF report, Industrial biotechnology — more than green fuel in a dirty economy?, envisions a future with a bio-based economy where bio-refineries out compete petrochemicals by transforming waste products and other biomass into fermentable sugars to make energy as well as products that are currently made from oil.

WWF also released a more detailed technical report, GHG Emission Reductions With Industrial Biotechnology: Assessing the Opportunities, which provides the analysis and background for the study’s conclusions.

The report underscores the need for strong public policies to help realize the potential of industrial biotech and recommends initiatives such as pollution costs charged to petrol-based materials, investment in advanced waste management technologies, and labeling systems for bio-based products.

The report also outlines four primary areas in which industrial biotechnology can provide significant emission cuts. As an example, replacing fossil fuels with biofuels in the transportation sector can save an estimated 1,024 million tons of CO2 emissions. Another 668 tons can be saved by building a new infrastructure that replaces fossil materials with biomass in the development of products from plastics to diapers.

The report also finds that by reusing waste material as feedstock for the production of energy and materials saves another 633 million tons of CO2, and by boosting industrial biotech to provide reductions in the use of energy and raw materials across industries can save another 204 million tons of CO2 emissions.

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