Not All Chemicals Are Created Equal™

In this two minute YouTube video, California State University master’s student Lindsay Darjany recites her ‘Ode to Salt Marsh Microbes’ while exploring the coast. It’s poetry in motion; biochemistry in emotion. Enjoy!




The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program to promote the increased purchase and use of biobased products has been suspended. The cause: …absence of funding in the Farm Bill extension legislation (i.e., the “American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012″). That’s from the USDA’s announcement of this outcome on its website. You can see the complete statement and read more about the now suspended BioPreferred program here.

This is a relatively minor matter perhaps, but one that illustrates the major problem. People get why some things fail to gain Congressional attention and support. They get why over time some support recedes or ends… times change, for example. But people don’t get, and can’t plan around, a legislative agenda characterized by the capricious use of on/off switches. Think about it. Just how much time and money has been expensed by manufacturers of biobased products seeking to gain USDA BioPreferred certification?

Setting aside the question of what’s right policy versus wrong policy, taxpayers know, too, that it costs less when any newly proposed initiative is denied. They know it costs less when any outdated or unnecessary support is terminated. But I think taxpayers are also starting to understand the costs associated with on again, off again, temporary, and ever-changing federal adventures into and out of matters that have real consequences for industry. At some point, no policy is better than policy du jour.

In a recent conversation with writer Al Bredenberg, Myriant’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Alif Saleh, was asked to rate the value, in any deal, of having a green advantage over traditional petrochemical solutions. I think you will find his answer quite compelling for its insight into Myriant’s practical and down-to-earth sense of market reality. By way of background, Alif brings more than a decade of industrial marketing, sales and engineering expertise to his role at Myriant.

His answer: “Green is a tie-breaker at best. Price and performance together are number one, let us say 1a and 1b. Then quality is number two. Then, three, if you can offer a green product, that’s a tie-breaker. We hear a lot about sustainability and the green wave on the consumer side. We have a lot of involvement with consumer brands, and, yes, there’s definitely a drive for it. When it comes down to shaking hands on the deal, you have to be competitive with petroleum. It’s a very good tie-breaker, but if you can’t compete on price and performance and quality, you’re not going to be able to sell a green product.”

The essence of this answer, and a number of Alif’s additional and related views on the state of the industry were captured in Mr. Bredenberg resulting article entitled, Bio-Based Materials Greener But Still Have to Compete on Price and Performance.

Image of succinic acid molecular structure courtesy of Wikipedia

In case you missed the more formal news release, we recently announced that Montgomery (Monty) Alger, Ph.D., has joined Myriant in the newly-created position of Senior Vice President of Research and Development (R&D). The news announcement is here. Suffice to say, the Myriant opportunity continues to attract highly experienced, high caliber individuals who share our optimism and enthusiasm for the burgeoning bio-chemicals industry and who are exceptionally qualified to advance our innovative mission.




I’m travelling today to DC for the start of the 113th Congress and also to try to get some perspective on the future of the Farm Bill, particularly the fate of Energy Titles. As you likely know, Congress passed a temporary stopgap measure as part of the fiscal cliff deal at year end. But it has left many wary of what’s to come, or not come, in the months ahead. See this USA Today story titled Despite farm bill extension, unease grips rural America.

Naturally, our chief interest at Myriant has to do with bio-refinery supports and Biomass Crop Assistance (BCAP) programs, but initial reading of the legislation isn’t wholly encouraging. Here, for example, is the assessment by The bill’s final language extends farm bill energy title programs through September 30, 2013, but provides no mandatory funding, leaving most or all energy title programs no 2013 funding source.

The bill also restricts new multi-year BCAP contracts to currently available funds, further limiting USDA’s ability to issue BCAP awards. The bill also does not include the renewable chemicals language or any of the other energy title policy improvements in the Senate-passed 5-year farm bill re-authorization.

Please stay tuned…