Bio-Economy Network already showing cracks?
December 4, 2012, Ottawa - The paint was barely dry on the newly-announced Bio-Economy Network (BEN) at the 9th Annual Canadian Renewable Fuels Summit when cracks started appearing in the alliance.
Just minutes into the launch presentation by Catherine Cobden, executive vice-president of the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC), tensions over access to such large-scale funding packages as the NextGen Biofuels Fund came to the forefront of the discussion. The fund is directed to processes that primarily produce biofuels, while the forest products sector may choose to follow processes that either do not have biofuels as a primary product, or do not make biofuels at all. If the assembled bio-economy associations had a common song sheet, it was all but lost mid way through question period. Concerns over access to the generous Growing Forward 2 agricultural funds and the various definitions of "co-products" were similarly raised.
Further on in question period the extent of the Chemical Industry Association of Canada's commitment to bio-chemical development was also questioned. In the end the easy availability and recent stable pricing of petro-chemicals mean that the CIAC wants feedstock neutrality in the market between ag and forestry biomass as well as traditional petro-chemicals. With a ready supply of economically-priced petro-chemicals and market equality for all feed stocks, it's not clear how more costly renewable feed stocks will find their place in the short to mid-term.
It's fair to say that this was not the public launch that the BEN organizers were hoping for.