[NEWS] Time Running Out for Maine to Cash in On Bio-Based Products?

– by J. Craig Anderson, June 4, 2016, Portland Press Herald

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Photo: Sean Patrick Ouelette / Portland Press Herald

As Maine’s forest products industry continues to falter, global demand is skyrocketing for new products created from breaking down wood and other plant matter into their constituent sugars and fibers.

Maine should be fighting hard to secure its place in the plant-based, or “biobased,” products industry, but fear, complacency and a lack of political will are holding back any meaningful progress, advocates say. Time is of the essence, because Maine’s existing forest-products infrastructure helps bolster the business case for bringing new biobased products companies and investment to the state. That infrastructure, including pulp and paper mills, is shrinking fast.

That’s the urgent message delivered by a group of about 50 proponents of the biobased products industry who met Friday at Maine Standard Biofuels in Portland. The 2016 Plants to Products Forum was organized by trade organization Biobased Maine.

First, they made the case for attracting further investment in such products, which include biofuels, building materials, plastics, foam insulation, specialty chemicals and many others.

Charlotte Mace, the executive director of Biobased Maine, said the biobased products industry creates good manufacturing jobs, responds to a sharply rising global demand, relies on sustainable harvests, and reduces the world’s dependence on petroleum and its climate-altering effects.

“I defy you to find another market strategy that does those four things,” she said.

Mace said a 2015 U.S. Department of Agriculture study estimated that biobased products are a $1 trillion-a-year industry.

Sen. Angus King of Maine said that biobased products represent an opportunity for the state to successfully emerge from the “economic hurricane” that has ravaged pulp-and-paper mill communities over the past few years.

“It needs to happen fast. We don’t have 20 to 25 years to sort of figure this out,” King, an independent, said in a recorded statement.

READ MORE at Portland Press Herald

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