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Mon., Feb 13, 2006

Biofuels and Bio-based Materials

Trends and Success Stories inching toward the Mainstream


Session Overview:

  • Mark Marino, Senior Farming Manager, Earthbound Farm;
  • David Blume, Founder and Director, International Institute for Ecological Agriculture (
  • Daniel Robin, C3SN co-founder, moderator, and managing director of In3 (

Panelists will provide an overview of the current state of biofuel production, distribution, and commercial use. We will start with biodiesel, then move to discuss ethanol and other ways of decreasing our reliance on non-renewable and less sustainable fuels.

Time permitting, we may also discuss how other "bio-based" products are also helping reduce our dependence on imported petroleum, lowering pollution, and decreasing heath risks. This includes recent developments in bio-based packaging (compostable trays, plates, foils and wraps), bio-plastic cutlery and office products, and related market trends.

Themes & Discussion Questions

1. What's new here? What's the "big deal" of producing and using products made from renewable source materials?

2. What is the current state of biodiesel market? What is the potential? Who are the early adopters and why?

3. How can we begin to break the cycle of dependence on imported oil to usher in a new era of energy independence and geopolitical security? What will it take to get these agriculture-based materials into the "new mainstream"?

4. If biodegradable and bio-based materials are cost-effective and preferable to petrochemical products, why are they not yet in widespread use?

5. How do the tax credits and incentives work for biodiesel usage in California?

6. Realistically, can ethanol substantially ease our US thirst for petroleum? What are the opportunities for and limitations to using ethanol in automobiles? Can it help us break our petroleum addiction? How can we rapidly move toward mainstream acceptance?

7. What are the best source materials to use for making biofuel products -- biomass "waste", cover crops such as mustard, or even switchgrass (a common weed)? Why are GMO corn and soy not the best source material?

* Doesn't food compete with fuel when made from agricultural crops? Lester Brown's book Plan B 2.0 (available entirely for free online) contains a chapter entitled "Food and Fuel Compete for Land." Read this chapter online at or see below for additional links and resources.

Bio-based Plastics and Biopolymers

If there's time and interest ...Moderator Daniel Robin recently attended and spoke at a conference entitled "Commercializing Bioresins 2005" in Atlanta (, where companies from all over the world shared their stories about the road to commercial acceptance of biodegradable plastics, and how these Cradle-to-Cradle designs bring strong economic, environmental and competitive advantage.

8. What are the main, most addressable applications for biodegradable polymers? Who are the main players in the biodegradable plastics arena, and who has the most compelling success story to date? How can we leverage this success to accelerate the transition?

9. What about genetically modified (GM) materials? What are the main concerns (e.g., unintentional creation of "superweeds," or problems with GM "drift," contaminating Identity Preserved crops)? How can we "get there from here" without reliance on GM source materials?

10. What trends affect this shift toward bio-based, and what can we do (through our businesses, networks, or as individuals) to help?

What are your interests? CSN is structured as a self-organizing system, so your views and interests will help shape this and future sessions. Contact us with your ideas!

Anyone involved with or interested in this "bio-based revolution" is encouraged to attend. Advanced registration is recommended as this session is likely to fill.

Useful Links and Resources:

If you're unfamiliar with the practice of using closed loop, renewable, agricultural, "bio-based" materials instead of petroleum, check out


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Last Updated: Sept. 2006