Biofuel plant at sunset i-Stockr/ThinkstockPhoto

Biobased economy study finds ethanol plants account for 270,000 jobs

Study finds biobased economy is playing an increasingly important role in the American economy.

The biobased economy is playing an increasingly important role in the American economy, according to the “Indicators of the U.S. Biobased Economy” report released last month by USDA.

The report’s authors, Jay S. Golden, Robert Handfield, Janire Pascual-Gonzalez, Ben Agsten, Taylor Brennan, Lina Khan and Emily True, examine how biobased products are providing job creation and economic growth. The report compared 2011 and 2016 data.

What did the study find?

  • Ethanol production in the United States surpassed 14.7 billion gallons in 2015. This compares to just 175 million in 1980.
  • The number of ethanol plants in the United States continues to see modest growth, increasing to 199 plants in 2016 with three new facilities under construction. This accounts for more than 270,000 American jobs.
  • Biodiesel production reached 1.26 billion gallons in 2015 as compared to 343 million gallons in 2010.
  • During the period of 2005 to 2012, soybean used for biodiesel increased from 0.67 billion pounds to 4.1 billion pounds.
  • Wood pellets manufactured primarily in the southeastern United States have become an important component of the bioenergy sector. Driven by commitments by countries outside of the United States to meet greenhouse gas reduction goals in the electricity-generating sector, the United States has established itself as the largest exporter of wood pellets. The United States exported over 4.6 billion kilograms of wood pellets, which is the global leader by almost 3 billion kilograms over the second-largest exporter.

What are biobased products?

The BioPreferred program catalogs a product as a biobased product if it derives from plants and other renewable agriculture, marine, and forestry materials, and does not include fuels, food, or animal feed.

  • The number of renewable chemicals and biobased products that are USDA “certified” as BioPreferred has rapidly increased from 1,800 in 2014 to 2,900 in 2016.
  • It is estimated that the overall number of biobased products in the United States marketplace was greater than 40,000 in 2014, up from 17,000 in 2008.
  • The number of jobs contributed to the United States economy by the United States biobased products industry in 2014 was 4.22 million.
  • The value-added contribution to the United States economy from the United States biobased products industry in 2014 was $393 billion. 

Source: USDA 

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