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U.S. Department of Energy Buys Bio for Energy Security

Sandra Cannon, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of the Biomass Program

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) poster session on buying biobased products for energy security demonstrates the links between purchasing biobased products (a large majority of which are construction materials), energy security, development of biorefineries, reduced environmental impact, and enhanced occupant safety.

Some of the biobased building construction and operating materials that are readily available are adhesives, laminated beams, boards, cabinets, carpet, coatings, concrete, cushions, fiberboard, furniture, hydraulic fluids, insulating foams, lubricants, panels, roofing, siding, and more.

The posters show the types of biobased materials available, the benefits derived from purchasing biobased materials, feedstock used to manufacture biobased products, and the processes used to convert biomass (wood and wood residues, agricultural residues, and other plant-based materials) into products typically made from petroleum. If the display board lends itself, we will have biobased construction materials affixed to the board as well.


DOE announced its Buy Bio Initiative with a nationwide teleconference in 2004. "Buy Bio" is the purchase of biobased products. Biobased products are any product made substantially from plant or animal matter instead of synthetically produced chemicals or petroleum-based products. Biobased products are available as adhesives, construction materials, fibers, papers, packaging, fuel additives, inks, landscaping materials, lubricants, paints, coatings, plastics, solvents, and cleaners.

DOE's mission is energy security—reducing the nation's reliance on foreign oil imports and stimulating the biorefinery industry. With the Buy Bio Initiative, DOE enhances the nation's energy security by substituting domestically produced biobased products for fossil fuel products derived from imported oil and natural gas. Biorefineries need to follow the lead of the fossil fuel industry, which produces high value products with the same feedstock used to produce fuel. Purchasing biobased products stimulates the demand for the high value products needed to economically produce fuel.

DOE Labs "LEED" by example. DOE's voluntary Buy Bio Program stems from Executive Order 13134 and anticipates the federal regulation soon to be implemented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The legal driver for all federal agencies to purchase biobased products is the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act Section 9002, which specifies:

  • Federal agencies will purchase certain designated products with biobased content.
  • The USDA will designate the products.
  • The program will be similar to that for recycled products.
  • Recycled content takes precedence over biobased content.

Labs21 Connection:

Biobased materials help labs be sustainable and reduce energy use where it counts-at the source. By replacing a finite resource (petroleum) with a readily renewable resource (biomass from plants), biobased materials reduce non-renewable energy use, minimize overall environmental impact, and enhance occupant safety.

The purpose of the poster session will be to introduce the attendees to not only the types of biobased building construction and operating materials available but the importance of transitioning to biobased materials to achieve energy security.


Sandra Cannon manages the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Buy Bio Project-the technical assistance arm of DOE's Buy Bio Program. In this role, Ms. Cannon fosters technology transfer between the potential DOE sites wanting to transition to biobased products and the experts/DOE counterparts who have already transitioned. One of the major product categories ripe for transition is biobased construction materials. Biobased construction materials help minimize overall environmental impact and protect occupant safety.

In addition, Ms. Cannon also manages the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) Project—the technical assistance arm of DOE's EPP Program. Biobased content is one of the numerous attributes evaluated to identify whether a material is environmentally preferable. In this role, Ms. Cannon advises DOE sites, and when requested other government agencies, businesses, and nonprofit organizations, on how to establish EPP programs that build EPP practices into operations, how to train staff and test products, how to influence the manufacture and pricing of environmentally preferable products, how to conduct targeted outreach campaigns to increase environmentally preferable purchasing of products and services, and how to gather data for program evaluation.

Prior to her present role, Ms. Cannon was manager of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's own EPP Program and one of the original founders of the Pollution Prevention Program at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. As early as January 1993, she wrote the charter for Pacific Northwest's Recycling Committee, which expanded the vision of the program from office product recycling to setting an example as a world-class environmentally sustainable laboratory. For her initiatives in the area of environmental preferability, Ms. Cannon has been honored with three White House Closing the Circle awards, two White House Closing the Circle honorable mentions, and five DOE Pollution Prevention awards.


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