Canada is missing out on a C$200-billion-per-year opportunity to build an industrial bioeconomy using feedstocks from forestry, agriculture, and municipal solid waste, Passmore Group CEO Jeff Passmore writes in a post this week for Biofuels Digest.
He’s calling on Canada to craft a national bioeconomy strategy, led by the departments of agriculture, natural resources, and innovation—or let provincial governments take the lead “if Ottawa is not up to developing a practical, action-focused roadmap”.
Passmore traces bioeconomy development in the United States and the European Union, adding that strategies are already in place in about 50 countries around the world. He cites a May, 2020 report in which the McKinsey Global Institute concludes the “direct economic impact of the Bio Revolution could be up to US$4 trillion a year over the next 10 to 20 years.” More than half of that activity, McKinsey added, would fall “in domains such as agriculture and food, consumer products and services, and materials and energy production.”
With 9% of the world’s forests and 60 million hectares of agricultural land, Passmore says the question for Canada is whether it wants to be a part of that picture. “But for latecomers (and Canada, at the national bioeconomy policy level at least, seems to have a near blind spot) the prize will be nothing,” he warns. “To be fair, there are already some Canadian enterprises working in this space including, for example, biobased plastics, biobased cleaning products, renewable fuels, tall wood buildings, and more recently, biodegradable face masks. But many have had to go offshore to pursue financing and commercialization—usually in the United States.”
Passmore traces government bioeconomy efforts to date and lists some of the challenges his vision would have to navigate, particularly the training required to scale up a new industry. As a starting point, he calls on Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland to “end the tax subsidies and direct cash infusions” to the fossil industry, introduce “stronger low-carbon regulations across the economy”, set up a federal bioproduct procurement program, expand renewable energy tax credits to bio-products, and send the right market signals as a catalyst for private investment.