How Soy Biobased Products Benefit the U.S. Economy
The U.S. soybean industry is an American success story.
Soybeans came to the American colonies from China around 1765. Today, the United States produces approximately 35 percent of the world’s soybeans, and they boost America’s trade balance.
Soy is the top U.S. agricultural export, with roughly 55 percent of the U.S. soybean crop going to customers abroad. China is the No. 1 customer for U.S. soy.
At the same time, soybeans are helping create new opportunities for American manufacturing.
The BlueGreen Alliance, a national partnership between labor unions and environmental organizations, commissioned a study, “The Economic Benefits of a Green Chemical Industry in the United States: Renewing Manufacturing Jobs While Protecting Health and the Environment.” It cites biobased chemicals as a means of reversing the decline in U.S. jobs in the chemical industry.
According to the report, from 1992 to 2010, the chemical industry lost more than 300,000 jobs. However, if just 20% of chemical production switched from making petrochemical-based plastics to plant-based plastics, 104,000 jobs would be created. Moving to plant-based plastics creates jobs and allows companies to source materials from within the United States, instead of relying on imports of foreign oil.
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) reports the important multiplier effect such jobs have for America. Every new job in the chemical industry creates 5.5 additional jobs elsewhere in the economy, according to ACC’s analysis of federal studies.
Recognition of these opportunities has prompted the manufacturing-heavy state of Ohio to support biobased products purchasing and other initiatives at the state level. You can read more about that in USB’s Profile of Biobased Success on Ohio at www.soybiobased.org
Ohio’s economy has a strong foundation in the development and production of industrial materials. Indeed one materials sector, polymers, represents the largest single industry in Ohio. Increasingly biobased feedstocks are being seen as a key strategic need for the chemicals, polymers and other advanced materials industries—largely because of the price and supply volatility of traditional fossil-based petrochemical and natural gas feedstocks.
~ Battelle Memorial Institute Technology Partnership Practice Senior Director Simon J. Tripp
Citing biobased products as one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world, 98 counties in Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee have launched a regional strategy to support the development of biobased products in the Mississippi Delta.
Biobased Manufacturers, like Textile Management Associates (TMA), have their own positive economics to tell. Through its use of polyols manufactured from American-grown soybeans, TMA’s Universal Textiles Technologies (UTT) replaces petrochemicals traditionally used in polyurethane carpet backings for the last 30 years. UTT’s soy-based backings displace millions of pounds of petrochemicals each year, while showing no increase in cost, resulting in a cost-neutral environmentally responsible solution for customers. This has driven demand for their products, such as Signature Crypton Carpet® and AstroTurf®. TMA companies were able to grow their workforce by 10 percent in the last three years in contrast to the overall unemployment rate of 11 to 12 percent in the Northwest Georgia area.