Govt. report at: http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file51144.pdf
Mandelson: Biotech to plant seeds for low-carbon chemicals industry
Use of genetically engineered plant materials vital to reducing emissions, says Lord Mandelson
Tom Young, BusinessGreen, 14 May 2009
Industrial biotechnology - the use of plants in producing materials and chemicals – has the potential to cut greenhouse gas emissions across the EU chemicals industry by five per cent by 2020, according to a government report released today.
The study, which also estimated that the sector could reduce its energy bill by more than two per cent through wider use of biotechnology, found that engineered biochemicals made from organic matter such as funghi and algae could replace many of the fossil fuels widely used by the chemicals sector.
The report – entitled Maximising UK Opportunities from Industrial Biotechnology in a Low Carbon Economy – recommends that the government step up support for the sector by encouraging greater knowledge transfer between research bodies and business, implementing public sector procurement policies to provide a market for products produced using biotechnology, and promoting the sector on the international stage.
Investment in the industry is vital to keep the
"Industrial biotechnology will be one of the strongest driving forces behind the world's low-carbon revolution," he said. "Offering businesses the capability to develop and use less carbon-intensive products and processes, while also reducing costs and opening up new, emerging and established markets."
Industrial biotechnology uses knowledge about genomes and complex cell functions to develop new processes for making products such as industrial enzymes that can replace fossil fuels in the manufacture of chemicals. It can also be used to reduce the toxicity of waste produced by the manufacture of chemicals.
In addition, the report highlighted the growing role for biotechnology in the energy sector, through technologies such as anaerobic digestors, which use micro-organisms to break down biodegradable materials in the absence of oxygen to release gases that can then be burned off to provide energy.
Mark Carr, Chief Executive, British Sugar Group, welcomed the report and reiterated Mandelson's view that the sector had a key role to play in cutting carbon emissions. "A transition towards renewable bio-based feedstocks is vital for the production of chemicals, materials, fuels and energy to lessen dependence on fossil energy and achieve climate change goals," he said.