How Soy Biobased Products Benefit America’s Energy Security

In the early 1900s, George Washington Carver began studying the uses for soybeans at Tuskegee Institute. He also collaborated on research with Henry Ford who believed it would be possible to grow a car.

By 1938, every Ford vehicle used about a bushel of soybeans. Henry Ford even sported a business suit made of soybeans. (source Ned Birkey of Michigan State University Extension Service)

At the same time, America’s dependence on petroleum was drilling ever deeper into the economy.

In 2010, the United States was the world’s largest petroleum consumer, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The United States consumed 19.1 million barrels per day of petroleum products and imported about 49% of its petroleum.

Ford Mustangs show how American companies are bucking this trend today. Soy foam has helped Ford reduce its annual petroleum oil usage by more than 3 million pounds, and is up to 24 percent more renewable than petroleum-based foam.

Ford’s use of the soy foam also has helped Ford reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 11 million pounds as the biomaterial provides a 67 percent reduction in volatile organic compounds emissions. 

“I’m proud of the fact that in 2007 Ford was the first automaker to launch soy-based seat cushions and backs in the Mustang. Now we’ve got soy cushions in eight of our vehicle lines,” says Deb Mielewski, technical leader for Ford Motor Company’s Materials Research & Advanced Engineering Department.

“Soy foam is just the tip of the iceberg in the development of vehicle materials from natural resources,” Mielewski says. “We have to entertain the thought of bio-replacement in baby steps, looking at every aspect of a car that could be green.”


The use of petroleum has become so ingrained in American life that it will take a diverse menu of materials to replace this one important resource.  Developing many substitutions for petroleum products will also allow us to accomplish our goal with much greater speed. Biobased products have great potential to help us reduce petroleum use while using products that are much better for our environment.

~ Silicon Valley Clean Cities and Breathe California President & CEO Margo Sidener


Triangle Clean Cities Coalition sees the increased use of biobased products as an important part of meeting our petroleum displacement goal in the United States. In North Carolina, biobased products continue to play a vital role in boosting rural development, job creation and our agricultural economy.

~ Triangle Clean Cities Coalition (North Carolina) Coordinator Kathy Boyer

Questions on switching to a biobased product? Just ask!

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