E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., the Wilmington, DE-based chemical giant, has taken a significant step toward helping the nation and itself break the bond with petrochemicals. In an interview with the New York Times, the company confirmed that it has allocated nearly 10% of its $1.3 billion research budget to extracting chemical building blocks through biotechnology -- primarily from natural, replaceable carbohydrates such as corn and soy -- rather than from hydrocarbons.
CEO Charles Holliday Jr., told the newspaper DuPont already makes 10% of its products from nonpetrochemical substances, and expects to increase that to 25% by 2010. By then, he says, such products will not only yield the equivalent of $3 billion in revenue in current dollars, they will help the company avoid the impact from petrochemical price swings. DuPont has already announced plans to open a factory in Loudon, TN, this spring that will make propane diol, trademarked as "Sorona," from glucose. The plant's expected output is currently planned for carpet fiber, but DuPont is also exploring using it to make rigid plastic for automobile interiors or de-icing compounds for airplanes.