A Status Report on Federal and State Initiatives to Promote the Use of Biobased Hydraulic Fluids in the U.S. 1999-01-2867
To date, growth in the use of biobased lubricants in the United States has been relatively slow and inconsequential. This is contrary to industry speculations, that like in Europe, the U.S. consumer would see environmental mandates requiring the use of more biodegradable products. These expectations led to a temporary increase in activity by lubricant manufacturers to develop environmentally cognizant products during the early 1990's. Such activity began to taper off, however, as the likelihood of stricter environmental policies diminished and the higher costs of vegetable based products gave way to already narrow margins and the utilization of over-capacity in the industry.
Either by chance or by deliberate duplication of the European farming community, U.S. growers have begun to play a more active role in applying their crops to new value added markets such as lubricants. Combined with the government's general interest in the use of earth-friendly products, and particularly during the recent rise of industry mergers and reshuffling within the agriculture community during the last two years, a new synergy is being created. Biobased lubricants are now being developed based on particular value features. These include attributes that demonstrate improved performance specifications for special applications, and offer potential for more direct processing by manufacturers and consequential environmental benefits overall.
This report identifies some of the federal and state initiatives underway to promote the use of biobased lubricants, including hydraulic fluids. It presents the efforts of Iowa farmers to establish a state-based program for using vegetable based hydraulic fluids as well as the new federal Executive Order 13101, intended to help biobased products gain a foothold in the market. The conclusion is that these activities will provide indirect market support for the development of capital and infrastructure and activate further refinement of biobased products during the coming decade.