Not All Chemicals Are Created Equal™

Our expansion and global reach continues.

In case you missed the news, on March 25 we issued a release about a new and significant agreement with a long-established international chemical company in Turkey that will help us score an even greater share of the estimated $7.5 billion worldwide market for succinic acid in new and existing applications.

An excerpt from the news release’s opening paragraph aptly captures the essence of this new partnership:

Myriant Corporation… and Bayegan Group, an international chemical production and trading company headquartered in Turkey, today announced a broad collaboration agreement to commercialize Myriant’s bio-succinic acid in markets across the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa (Territory). The signed collaboration agreement was exchanged at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Refiners (AFRA) in San Antonio, Texas.

This agreement also has the potential of being an even bigger deal. As noted in the release, we have agreed to negotiate a potential joint venture to build a bio-succinic acid plant in Turkey subject to certain commercial milestones being met.

You can read the complete press release on our website media page.

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Once again, in a fine piece of reporting, Jim Lane of BioBasedDigest recently published an item entitled, “Unleashing the power of the Bio-Economy.” It is based on a set of six important suggestions from experts gathered by the Milken Institute last spring, with their findings just now being reported. The following list of the six recommendations should be encouragement enough to send anyone in our industry running to the full text of Jim’s report. Here they are:

Recommendation 1: Have concrete and consistent government policies
Recommendation 2: Create green banks
Recommendation 3: Expand public and private “market pull” programs
Recommendation 4: Level the regulatory playing field
Recommendation 5: Coordinate agricultural and rural development programs to enhance industry and social infrastructure
Recommendation 6: Take advantage of existing infrastructure

Great recommendations, Jim! We agree and we are encouraged that more and more people “get it” and are talking about it in meaningful and influential ways.

In the real world as opposed to, well, let’s say the political world, it doesn’t take a lot of convincing among business types with skin in the game to do the right thing, defined in this case as anything that keeps them from losing their shirt or share by ignoring consumer demands.

That’s the lesson to be learned from this report in by Sally Edwards, all about major retailers not exactly waiting around for policies to be aligned in Washington, DC, and other parts of the world. The gist of her story is this: Retailers are finding that their institutional and individual customers have become more sophisticated about, and aware of, toxic chemicals in products and are demanding that chemical information be disclosed and that these risks be eliminated. In response, leading retailers are developing a range of approaches to chemicals management that they are implementing throughout their supply chains…

The article then launches into a brief review of the various programs in this regard being launched by such companies as Staples, Kingfisher, Wal-Mart, Boots, and Walgreen.

The point is these retailers may be doing more, faster, to advance green chemistry than any other force. Take Staples as just one example. Ms. Edwards writes: Suppliers are asked to disclose whether they are using any chemicals on a list of chemicals of concern that Staples has compiled and if so, to find a safer alternative that is cost neutral. In cases where a safer alternative is not available, suppliers are asked to provide a timeline for phasing out the use of the chemical of concern.

How many of those suppliers reply to this by saying they don’t have to; it’s not required by law; I’m waiting for policy clarifications? Um… about zero don’t you think? That was easy.

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Earlier this year we paid tribute to former Massachusetts Senator John Kerry for his nomination, and subsequent confirmation, to head the U.S. State Department. Now two more of our own have been nominated by President Barack Obama to head key cabinet agencies. They are Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist Ernest Moniz to head the Energy Department and Gina McCarthy to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We congratulate both, applaud their nominations, are eager for swift confirmations, and proud that three Massachusetts heavyweights are now, or soon will be, helping to steer the ship of state at a time when Washington, DC, needs all it can get of their kind of leadership, knowledge and skill.

I recently had the honor of being invited to present at the March 7th Milken Institute briefing in Washington, DC, on the topic of the bio-economy with a specific focus on Leveraging Public-Private Partnerships. It wasn’t easy. You may recall March 7th was the eve of a three-day snowstorm that dumped up to two feet or more of snow in the Northeast. Getting from Boston to DC and back, well, not easy, but I made it. But enough about me. Of greater importance is the work the Milken Institute is doing in this area, and their recent report related to bio-economy.

Not familiar with the Milken Institute? Here, by way of their own description, is who they are and what they do: A nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank, the Milken Institute believes in the power of capital markets to solve urgent social and economic challenges and improve lives… To build a foundation of rigorous, independent research, we have assembled a respected team of economists, industry experts and scholars to analyze the issues and choices facing policymakers… We convene a network of influential decision-makers from the private and public sectors to help us transform ideas into action. The Milken Institute partners with global leaders in finance, business, government, science and philanthropy – people with the vision and resources to make a significant impact.

Recently, they completed a report entitled, Unleashing the Power of the Bio-Economy. I recommend it as a ‘must-read’ document for anyone and everyone with a vested interest in the future of renewable bio-chemicals and the explosive economic implications of a well-developed, well-supported U.S. initiative in this regard. Here are just three short introductory paragraphs from the report that summarize the Milken Institute’s thinking on this topic:

In much the way that high oil prices and concerns about climate change have spurred the development of renewable fuels, the same challenges have produced a surge of public and private interest in bio-based alternatives to petrochemicals. Bio-based chemicals, derived from plants, algae, and organic waste rather than petrochemicals, offer potentially major economic and environmental benefits. With the tools of biotechnology, agricultural-based feedstocks can in principle replicate the vast array of petrochemicals now used to make plastics, textiles, building materials, and countless other products that permeate modern life.

The potential opportunities are huge. Ninety-six percent of all U.S. manufactured goods use some sort of chemical product, and businesses dependant on the chemical industry account for nearly $3.6 trillion in US GDP.

For the United States, bio-based chemicals can reduce dependence on imported oil, curb emissions of greenhouse gases, and open up new opportunities for farmers and rural communities. Using genetic engineering and the older science of organic chemistry, manufacturers could fine-tune their plant-based products to offer longer endurance, new performance attributes, and greater biodegradability.

Like I said, it’s well worth the read!