Emerging sustainable economic development strategy based on agriculture (as opposed to petrochemicals). The underlying theory is that anything that now requires hydrocarbons from petroleum (fuel, plastics, lubricants) could be made from carbohydrates, like hemp or agricultural waste (rice straw, wheat straw, whey). Advances in materials science and technology, along with recent political changes in the way that fossil fuels are regulated (costs of pollution control), make plant-based materials nearly competitive. Advocates point to potential advantages:
  • rural economic development (creating jobs, increasing $ for crops);
  • national security benefits (reducing reliance on foreign oil);
  • environmental benefits (reducing VOC emissions and pollution from fossil fuel products)

Phrase coined by David Morris of the Institute for Local Self Reliance in 1983.

Dave Campbell, "Rural development, biorefineries and the carbohydrate economy," Sustainable Agriculture, Winter 1995, vol. 7, no. 1, http://www.sarep.ucdavis.edu/NEWSLTR/v7n1/sa-10.htm;
The Carbohydrate Economy Clearinghouse, http://www.carbohydrateeconomy.org

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