Archive for December, 2012
The global coatings market is expected to reach $107 billion by 2017, according to a 2012 study by Global Industry Analysts. Reporting on the study, the Adhesives & Sealants Industry trade journal says by 2017 the industry is expected to be producing 8.7 billion gallons of product. Key drivers of growth in the market are the global economic rebound, rapid industrialization in emerging economies and increased demand from such sectors as automotive and construction.
As is the case with the other markets for bio-based products I’ve discussed in previous articles, perhaps the most compelling environmental driver behind biopolymer adoption in the coatings business is a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for the lifecycle of the product. Adhesives & Sealants Industry says there has been a “recent demand spike for environmentally friendly coatings,” leading formulators to invest in “technological advancement in the area of non-hazardous chemical feedstocks.” (See my previous pieces on bio-based materials in the packaging and automotive industries and in the market for disposable materials.) Read the rest of this entry »
While no one has been able to accuse Congress of being particularly functional lately, a tiny piece of energy-related legislation slipped through largely unnoticed last month. On Dec. 11, 2012, the House of Representatives passed the American Energy Manufacturing Technical Corrections Act (HR 6582) on a suspension vote of 398 to 2. The Senate approved the bill unanimously two days later, and President Obama signed it into law on Dec. 18.
So what sort of energy legislation passes through Congress nearly unanimously nowadays? The answer is, “minimally important legislation.” Read the rest of this entry »
“Energy efficiency” has become a buzzword term in environmental circles, and the public at large, for more than a decade.
It could mean many things to many people; it could be as simple as turning lights off when you’re leaving the room, or putting the thermostat at a lower setting to conserve energy.
Of course, in a larger sense “energy efficiency” is a term thrown around by major corporations trying to make their products in a more environmentally-friendly way, and by architects and designers concerned about the future who are making buildings from the ground up that are much more economical in how they use energy than buildings were even 20 years ago.
But as often as we talk about “energy efficiency,” there aren’t really that many set guidelines on what makes something energy efficient. A private non-profit organization called the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has decided to try to come up with a roadmap that examines what standards can be set in the future. Read the rest of this entry »
Plant-based materials find one of their most important and obvious markets in disposable products — things like flatware, bags, packaging, medical supplies and bottles. Their contribution to the waste stream is potentially zero, if they can be processed in an industrial composting system that decomposes them completely. Manufacturers are developing polymers that can be broken down by enzymes into shorter molecules that can in turn be digested by bacteria and returned to the soil.
In its study “Bridging the Divide between Demands and Bio-Based Materials,” Lux Research Inc. says bioplastics should be able to find a place in small markets such as disposable liners (under $1 billion) and plastic flatware (nearly $.5 billion). Medical containers represent a market of something under $5 billion. Markets such as containers and packaging present larger opportunities. Pike Research projects that the worldwide packaging market will reach $530 billion by 2014 and that the market for sustainable packaging will grow from $88 billion in 2009 to $170 billion in 2014. Clint Wheelock, managing director at Pike, says that “More eco-friendly plastic packaging will have a huge impact, because it represents more than a third of the total global packaging industry, second only to paper packaging.” Read the rest of this entry »
The drought is affecting the corn harvest, as droughts tend to do. Back on August 31 the U.S. Department of Agriculture noted “a significant rise in the proportion of poor and very poor corn crops this summer, due largely to the extreme drought across much of the center of the nation.”
According to EcoWatch the USDA’s Agricultural Weather and Drought Update for August 16 found “85 percent of the U.S. corn crop is located within a drought area, with nearly half of the crop area experiencing extreme or exceptional drought levels.”
The Financial Times noted the week before Christmas that “60 percent of the U.S. high plains, a critical wheat production area in the center of the country, was suffering from extreme or exceptional drought, up from 58 percent the previous week,” with the hardest-hit areas being Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas and Oklahoma. Read the rest of this entry »
Sustainability has long been a challenge for the printing industry, particularly when it comes to printed packaging. High VOC solvents are still used in many types of ink and most platemaking processes. Under siege by Wal-Mart since late 2000s, package printers have struggled to come up with solutions to the retail giant’s fuzzy definition of “sustainability.”
According to Marcia Kinter, VP of government and business information for SGIA (Specialty Graphic Imaging Association), it was pressure from Wal-Mart that drove the creation of the Sustainable Green Printing (SGP) Partnership. “In 2007 we had the first onslaught from Wal-Mart on sustainable packaging. All our members were getting hit with sustainability questions sustainability checklists, etc.,” she recalls.
SGIA was not alone. Three other associations – Printing Industries Association (PIA), Flexographic Technical Association (FTA) and National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM) – were all besieged with questions from their members about what was considered sustainable, and how to comply with Wal-Mart’s demands. Read the rest of this entry »
One of the most troubling problems vexing those who work on the future of energy, in almost any capacity, is the problem of energy storage.
Whether it’s trying to harness solar power while the sun is shining for use when the sun has gone down, or if it’s finding ways for batteries in electric vehicles to last longer and allow people to travel further without gas, energy storage might be the number one dilemma facing researchers working on energy.
But perhaps the most ambitious project yet to tackle the issue has just been announced. Bringing together leading scientists and researchers from five national Dept. of Energy laboratories, five universities, and four private companies, the brand-new Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR) will be located at the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago, Ill. Read the rest of this entry »
While “put the pedal to the metal” has a nice ring to it, increasingly, when we drive – or fly – there is a rapidly decreasing amount of actual metal involved. If you have flown on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, you have flown on a plane made of 50 percent carbon fiber. If you have driven a Ford GT, you have also rolled some carbon fiber down the highway.
Carbon fiber isn’t a new material – Thomas Edison actually tinkered with it as a filament for a light bulb – but in an era of rising fuel costs and carbon footprint awareness, it’s getting more attention as a building material for anything that could stand to be a bit lighter. The properties of carbon fiber and its composites – high tensile strength, chemical and heat resistance, low thermal expansion and rigidity – make the material ideal for aerospace and automotive uses. Aircraft or automobiles produced with a high percentage of carbon fiber is both durable and fuel efficient.
Unfortunately, it’s not cheap. Read the rest of this entry »
Bioplastics are finding diverse applications in automobile manufacturing as replacements for petroleum-based plastics. They’re already appearing in automobile interiors and undercarriages — and even under the hood.
According to “The Bio-Based Materials Automotive Value Chain,” a report from the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) of Ann Arbor, Mich., “the U.S. automotive industry is estimated to be a $370 billion industry for 2011, and the majority of this value is in the automotive parts sector.” This suggests that “penetrating even a small portion of this industry could provide significant returns to investment in new materials and technologies, such as bio-based automotive parts and components, if these technologies are successfully adopted by the industry.”
Bio-materials in a general sense can include natural fibers used as fillers and reinforcements for automotive applications, but here we’re primarily discussing bioplastics — polymers from plant sources such as soybeans, castor beans, corn or sugarcane that can replace petroleum-based polymers and provide equal or sufficient performance characteristics. Such materials, while not necessarily biodegradable, can offer reduced life-cycle environmental impacts and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. They can help companies fulfill increasingly restrictive environmental regulations and can provide a possible hedge against the volatility of the price of the petroleum feedstocks used for conventional plastic resins. Read the rest of this entry »
According to a recent release from National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), six major Environmental Protection Agency regulations could cost manufacturers “hundreds of billions of dollars and cause the loss of several million jobs.”
The study, “A Critical Review of the Benefits and Costs of EPA Regulations on the U.S. Economy,” reported industry sources claiming that annual compliance costs for the six regulations will set industry back between $63.2 billion to $138.2 billion. EPA estimates, however, are that compliance would cost a more modest $36 billion to $111.2 billion.
The study examines the cumulative impact of the EPA’s final Utility MACT and Boiler MACT rules, its still-pending Coal Combustion Residuals and Cooling Water Intake Structures regulations, its expected Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone on the U.S. economy, according to the release.
Industry sources say the total capital expenditures required by all six regulations would range from $404.5 billion to $884.5 billion. EPA sources put the expenditures from $174.6 billion to $539.3 billion. Read the rest of this entry »