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FW: Pollution free chemicals?

> Pat et al.,
> Twenty-five years is a pretty optimistic time frame for moving to
> biological feedstocks from petroleum and natural gas based products.
> However the trend appears realistic.  There have been major breakthroughs
> in engineering plants, bacteria, and other organisms to produce specialty
> products in addition to traditional foods and fibers.  Also, medicines
> have long been derived from living organisms--and this will likely be
> reinforced in a more engineered fashion.  It is interesting that we are
> discovering that nature is the most exquisite engineer.
> However, to say that pollution will be eliminated by moving toward
> biologically derived materials appears to me to be wrong.  Nonpoint source
> pollution from agriculture remains one of our most recalcitrant water
> quality problems despite the hope that new plant varieties, cultural
> practices, precision agriculture, and biological pest controls can
> alleviate the problems of nutrient runoff, pesticides, and soil erosion.
> Livestock operations continue to present water, air, and biological
> habitat challenges.  Forest management practices continue to be
> problematic.  Again, some advances in techniques and technologies might
> mitigate the problems.
> Furthermore, the organisms would still need to be processed into end
> products.  We know from P2TECH postings that processors of food, beverage,
> paper, and other biologically derived products still need a lot of P2
> help.  Some of the large processors of corn and soybeans (e.g., Cargill or
> Archers Daniel Midland) have facilities that resemble refineries--they
> produce a large variety of products--chemicals (oils, alcohols, organic
> acids, starches, etc.), food and feed products--and pollution.  Biological
> or enzyme mediated reactions could offer advantages over petrochemical
> based chemistry but there will still be BOD, some VOCs, maybe toxics, and
> perhaps even a biological hazard concern. 
> Also, it depends what one is making and how it is used.  A biologically
> derived molecule of, say, phenol or methanol, has the same toxicity value
> or VOC reactivity as a molecule made from natural gas or petroleum.
> However, a plastic, surfactant, or solvent designed to be biologically
> reprocessed or degraded might be useful. 
> In short, the trend from petrochemicals toward biochemicals is likely to
> be a good step forward in the quest for sustainable development but there
> will still be many environmental challenges.
> Thanks for indulging two cents from an ex-molecular biologist.  Hope this
> is of interest.
> Regards,
> Rod
> Rodney Sobin						sobin@ctc.com
> Concurrent Technologies Corp.			tel. 814-269-6895
> 1450 Scalp Avenue					fax 814-269-2798
> Johnstown, PA 15904				http://www.ctc.com/
> http://www.ndcee.ctc.com/
> -----Original Message-----
> From:	Pat Gallagher [SMTP:PAT_GALLAGHER@nmenv.state.nm.us]
> Sent:	Monday, March 23, 1998 12:07 PM
> To:	p2tech@great-lakes.net
> Subject:	Pollution free chemicals?
> Dear P2 techers:
> A friend of mine sent me this email message and not being a chemist, I 
> couldn't answer.  How realistic is this future projection?
> The latest issue of the Use Less Stuff Report states that the editors of 
> Chemical and
> Engineering News have predicted that 25 years from now plants (green 
> ones, not
> factories) will become the main source of oil and plastics and green 
> chemistry and
> similar technologies will eliminate pollution from industry. Virtually 
> no pollution
> will come from chemical plants.  Do you think this is a fair prediction? 
>  Just curious, this
> is interesting to me.
> Pat Gallagher
> NM P2