Biomass is the most abundant biological material on the planet. It is renewable; it grows almost everywhere; and it provides fuel, power, chemicals, and many other products. But most people don’t know that biomass is a major part of the U.S. economy. This bioeconomy—the economic, environmental, and social activities associated with the production and use of biomass-derived products—is growing.

The bioconomy has about a $100 billion direct and indirect impact on the U.S. economy today. (Image courtesy of Myriant.)

Biomass resources have incredible potential for our country. Investing in a national bioeconomy allows us the opportunity to create new U.S. jobs. The current bioeconomy employs close to half a million people in the United States, and the potential exists to triple this figure in the next 15 years. Furthermore, expanding biofuels technologies will create a stable, domestic supply of energy—reducing the vast amount of money spent importing oil from overseas and increasing our country’s national security.

Biomass is sustainably grown on our nation’s farms and woodlots, or captured from waste streams. This green resource helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, under appropriate management strategies and practices, improves the conservation and stewardship of our natural resources. Biomass offers a unique opportunity to expand American investment in the national economy, from developments in our rural communities to innovations in U.S. technology and manufacturing sectors. The impact that the bioeconomy has on our nation should not be underestimated.

Currently, the bioeconomy has about a $100 billion direct and indirect impact on the U.S. economy. Just over 11% of America’s energy production is renewable, and 5.5% is from biomass. Our current biomass consumption is about 200 million dry tons. The United States has the potential to sustainably produce more than one billion tons of biomass annually, providing our country with opportunities to grow biomass and the bioeconomy. Our nation has the land, resources, and technology to enable a green tomorrow. Advancing the bioeconomy will allow us to bring a broad spectrum of new jobs and economic opportunity back home to America. And there is no need to wait because the future is now—our current bioeconomy is strong, and it is constantly growing.

The expanding bioeconomy is a major theme that the Biomass Research & Development Board (BR&D) has been exploring. It is also this year’s theme for the Bioenergy Technologies Office’s annual conference—Biomass 2014: Growing the Future Bioeconomy—from July 29-30. Hear from BR&D co-chairs: Dr. David Danielson, U.S. Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; and Dr. Catherine Woteki, Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Research, Education, and Economics mission area, about the numerous ways that renewable biomass factors into the U.S. economy. At Biomass 2014, speakers from all levels of the government, industry, and the research community will join in recognizing the importance that biomass can have in building the U.S. economy.

Additionally, the conference will feature a wide range of sessions focused on mainstays of any substantial bioeconomy. From the economic advantage of bioproducts, to the potential of waste feedstocks, to understanding the importance of the global market, Biomass 2014 is an event you will not want to miss. Also, catch the July 31 workshop on opportunities to expand the bioeconomy, hosted at the Washington, D.C., Convention Center.