Growing Support for Renewable Packaging and Green Chemistry | Commentary

Posted November 18, 2013 at 1:48pm

During a time when partisan politics rule the day, it is sometimes hard for pragmatic bipartisan efforts to cut through the clutter and get the attention they deserve. American workers in the emerging field of renewable chemicals are seeking a level playing field in federal policy, and they’re getting backing from a Democrat from New Jersey and a Republican from Texas.

The Qualifying Renewable Chemical Production Tax Credit Act of 2013 was introduced this summer in the House by Reps. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., and Steve Stockman, R-Texas, and in the Senate by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. The legislation would offer renewable chemical producers a tax credit similar to that available to petroleum producers and other renewable technologies, such as renewable fuels.

The farm bill conference negotiations present another opportunity for pragmatic, bipartisan legislating. The Senate version of the legislation contains important recognition of America’s growing renewable chemicals industry.

If approved, the farm bill would make renewable chemicals eligible for participation in the Department of Agriculture’s Biorefinery Assistance Program, enabling renewable chemical producers to access the programs that underwrite debt equity investments for other renewable energy technologies.

While renewable chemicals receive less attention than biofuels, they are a fast-growing segment of bio-based products. As consumers have become more environmentally aware, they have boosted demand for products containing renewable ingredients. Consumer studies have shown that when people have a choice between similarly priced products, they much prefer the “green product.” Renewable chemicals and plastics can replace petroleum-based chemicals in the production of everyday materials — including some that may surprise consumers, such as drink bottles, spandex clothing and car tires.

Key provisions within the farm bill are just the first step to creating an even playing field for U.S. renewable chemical producers. It will help innovative companies speed the development of these new, American-made products.

U.S. companies trying to commercialize homegrown renewable chemical technology have been challenged by tight capital markets. But renewable chemical companies face an additional hurdle — they must compete for capital investment with companies from other industries that can add an existing tax credit to their balance sheets.

According to a recent estimate by Markets and Markets, the global renewable chemical market is valued at $57 billion, and the common-sense and bipartisan backing provided by the farm bill and the Qualifying Renewable Chemical Production Tax Credit Act will help our nation remain competitive in the global marketplace. Other countries are already formulating policies to assist companies in raising the capital and developing the biomass supply chains necessary to deploy renewable chemical technology.

The debate is just beginning, but we would like to thank industry champions Stabenow and Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Reps. Pascrell, Stockman, Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., and Allyson Y. Schwartz, D-Pa., for their support. As bipartisan support continues to grow, we look forward to working with members of both parties to provide the renewable chemical industry with the environment it needs to grow, thrive and innovate.

Former Rep. Jim Greenwood, R-Pa., is president and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization.