Province studies bio-economy potential

A new committee of MLAs will look at expanding the province’s bio-economy sector – and the potential job creation and economic growth that goes with it.

B.C. is giving the bio-economy some extra attention.

A new committee of MLAs will look at expanding the province’s bio-economy sector – and the potential job creation and economic growth that goes with it.

Bio-economy refers to the conversion of bio-mass, such as trees and agriculture products, into bio-energy, bio-chemicals and bio-materials.

A February 2011 Forest Products Association of Canada study indicates the bio-economy is an exploding global market worth trillions of dollars that reflects a growing environmental sensibility and a shift toward products that come from natural renewable sources.

The MLA committee, chaired by John Yap (Richmond-Steveston), includes Parksville-Qualicum MLA Ron Cantelon, Bob Simpson (Cariboo North), Eric Foster (Vernon-Monashee) and John Rustad (Nechako Lakes).

Cantelon said the committee is a good opportunity to look at alternative uses for B.C.’s wood fibre.

“With Douglas fir and hemlock trees, we have the best fibre in the world here on Vancouver Island,” he said. “But we’re not being as innovative and diverse as we should be with our secondary products.”

He said B.C. has a research edge on the rest of the world in terms of bio-technology and must take advantage of it.

“When you see logs go out, I don’t just think of lumber being shipped out, I think of bio-fibre being shipped out and we can’t afford to lose the advantage we’ve got in developing the products,” he said. “Once you start to develop and create plans for some of these new and exciting uses, there will be a wide range of new products that will spring forward from your initial development products. The high-end jobs are going to come from bio-alternatives. That’s the future.”

The committee will work with industry to establish guidelines to support growth in the sector.

“We don’t have a specific date, but certainly by the fall we want to report and point out the directions we see the opportunities,” said Cantelon. “A lot of the work has already been done so it’s a matter of reviewing the research and reporting to the legislature that we have to get going on these opportunities.”