DOE-HQ Kicks Off Buy Bio Initiative

November 30, 2004

Photo of globe

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Headquarters kicked off its Buy Bio initiative this fiscal year at a nationwide teleconference in April and a technology transfer session in July.

"Buy Bio" is the purchase of commercial or industrial products that use biological products or renewable domestic agricultural or forestry materials. To more directly align with DOE's mission of energy security, the focus is on biobased products that displace petroleum.

At the nationwide teleconference, Doug Kaempf, Program Manager of the Office of the Biomass Program, explained why purchasing biobased products is of special interest to the Department: "The U.S. Department of Energy's mission is energy security. With our Buy Bio initiative, the Department enhances the nation's energy security by substituting domestically produced biobased products for fossil fuel based products derived from imported oil and natural gas. It also enhances the economics of biorefineries when we have demand for biobased products that can be co-produced with biobased fuel."

According to Dana Arnold, Chief of Staff of the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive, 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 U.S. Department of Agriculture will designate which products.
  • The program will be similar to that for recycled products, allowing justified exceptions of the CAP (cost, availability, performance) with reporting required 1 year after a product has been designated.
  • Should there be a conflict between a recycled content and a biobased content product, the recycled product takes precedence.

DOE is encouraging its sites to be early adopters. Richard Langston, Procurement Policy Analyst from the Office of Procurement and Assistance Management, is urging procurement staff to evaluate potential contracts where they might help their site become early adopters.

Photo of biobased household materials

Several DOE sites have already transitioned to biobased products. Others are piloting them. The National Bioenergy Center (NBC) Laboratories are pursuing transitioning to biobased products. It is the biomass research at the NBC Labs that results in biobased products. Some examples of sites already using biobased products are:

  • Brookhaven National Laboratory has transitioned to biobased hydraulic fluid in their garbage trucks, motor pool hydraulic lift system, and three large lawn mowers. An example of the benefits Brookhaven has experienced is clean up of hydraulic fluid spills, which rarely but occasionally occur from the garbage trucks and used to cost between $2,500 to $3,500 per spill. With the biobased hydraulic fluid, the cost of such spills has been reduced to less than $1,000 per spill.
  • Pacific Northwest National Laboratory transitioned to a biobased general purpose cleaner and found the product helps protect workers and the environment; saves time by reducing chemical inventory and the number of cleaning products from an average of 33 to 7 per custodial station; reduces waste handling, shipping, disposal, and purchasing costs-saving approximately $1,500 per container of product per year times the number of containers purchased each year. In FY 2004, PNNL surveyed all potential products they might transition to a biobased counterpart and are presently exploring transitioning to a biobased detergent for two of their parts washers and biobased floor finish remover.
  • Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory specified biobased hydraulic fluid in their new elevators.
Biobased Product Categories
Adhesives Inks
Cleaners and Solvents Landscaping Materials
Construction Materials/Composites Lubricants and Functional Fluids
Fibers, Papers, Packaging Paints and Coatings
Fuel Additives Plastics

Photo of men standing beside a garbage truck

In general, the U.S. Department of Agriculture expects biobased products to "have a more benign effect on the environment, will be biodegradeable, and will have lower disposal costs and cleanup costs than the fossil energy based products they will replace"

The kickoff teleconference in April was one of the regular quarterly teleconferences hosted by Don Lentzen of Environment, Safety and Health on Environmentally Preferable Purchasing and part of the Department's effort to encourage procurement especially of preferred products: biobased, energy/ water efficient, recycled, and vehicle/fuel alternative.

To be notified of future teleconferences or for help in transitioning to a biobased or other environmentally preferable product, contact Sandra Cannon at or 509-529-1535. Vendors wishing to share biobased product information with DOE should contact Linda Mesaros at or 843-768-3396.

DOE Preferred Procurement Team Members

Richard Langston—202-586-8247

Biobased Products
Mark Decot—202-586-6501

Environmentally Preferable & Recycled Products
Don Lentzen—202-586-7428

Energy/Water Efficient Products
Alison Thomas—202-586-2099

Richard Karney

Alternative Fuels and Vehicles
Shabnam Fardanesh (EE-2G)—202-596-7011

Alternative Fuels