An emerging opportunity

Wouldn’t it be great if your clothes were made from biomass rather than petrochemicals? How about cosmetics coloured by nano-chemicals from trees rather than toxic dyes?

Wouldn’t it be great if your clothes were made from biomass rather than petrochemicals? How about cosmetics coloured by nano-chemicals from trees rather than toxic dyes?

What if we could make lighter airplane components that would dramatically reduce fuel consumption? Or plastic bottles that would quickly degrade into soil components? Or lighter, longer lasting building products, like bio-concrete?

All this is possible. The technology for much of it already exists; and, as the fledgling bio-economy begins to grow roots in some parts of the world, more possibilities will emerge. But our addiction to “cheap and easy” fossil fuels is a hard habit to break and the bio-economy revolution is being stalled or outright blocked by those vested in the old economy.

Now that we have to get fossil fuels from “unconventional” sources (shale gas, tar sands, etc.), the old economy relies more heavily on government subsidies to remain profitable — subsidies lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry claim shouldn’t be made available to the emerging bio-economy.

In a recent report for the Forest Products Association of Canada, FP Innovations stated that the market possibilities for bio-products is “staggering” and that “countries and companies with the right policy frame” will “experience growth rates far above those being generated by the traditional forest products sector.” What is that “right policy frame”? Is it time to direct government incentives and subsidies away from the fossil fuel economy to this emerging bio-economy? What partnerships can we foster between existing forest products industries and new bio-economy players to make sure B.C. is positioned to be a leader in this new economy, so our communities benefit from the investment and job creation which will result?

These are the questions we’re exploring in the newly formed B.C. Bio-Economy Committee that I’m pleased to be part of. We’ve met twice and learned much already. We should have some preliminary advice for the premier and the public this fall — stay tuned.

Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.