While matter is neither created nor destroyed, the molecular conversion of natural resources through industrialized processes has the ability transform these resources from benefits into burdens. The conversion of energy dense hydrocarbons to heat-trapping greenhouse gasses is the most known example but the concept extends to water resources, mineral resources, biodiversity resources, water resources, soil resources, etc. In the absence of the ability to fully renew and restore, there can be no license for our chemical enterprise to access and transform the parts of the geosphere and biosphere that cannot be replaced.
Perhaps the most materially efficient technological process in history is the refinery. The modern petrochemical refinery has lessons for the bio-based chemical economy that has not reached the same level of efficiency. Being able to retrieve value from all extractable fractions from high volume low value to low volume high value in an integrated biorefinery will be an important piece of realizing the goal of a bio-based economy.