The director of bio-renewable programs at Iowa State University says Iowa is positioned to benefit from the transformation of the nation’s energy economy far beyond the potential of “bio-fuels.”
Robert Brown says Iowa not only benefits from renewable fuels that are made from Iowa-grown grains, but there are loads of other products that have traditionally been made with petroleum that are now being made with ethanol and other “bio-based” materials.
“I do believe that bio-based products will take a bigger percentage of the total consumer product market than they currently do, however it’s always going to be the case that we’re using a lot more renewable fuels than the bio-based plastics,” Brown says. “That’s simply because we have a lot of automobiles to feed.”
Steve Devlin, an industrial specialist with the Center for Industrial Research at Iowa State University, says at least 80 bio-based products are being made in Iowa, things like soap and fabric. “The petroleum industry makes money because they squeeze every little thing out of that barrel of oil that they can,” Devlin says. “They’ve developed, you know, not just fuels but also chemicals and plastics and all kinds of different products and I think that’s the model that we’re moving towards with the bio-industry as well.”
Devlin says in some ways, it’s a return to traditions of long ago as wood was the bio-based product of the past. It was used to build shelter, burned to provide heat, carved into bowls for food, even fashioned into musical instruments.