The production of bulk chemicals from biomass can make a significant contribution to solving two of the most urgent environmental problems: climate change and depletion of fossil energy. We analyzed current and future technology routes leading to 15 bulk chemicals using industrial biotechnology and calculated their CO2 emissions and fossil energy use. Savings of more than 100% in non-renewable energy use and greenhouse gas emissions are already possible with current state of the art biotechnology. Substantial further savings are possible for the future by improved fermentation and downstream processing. Worldwide CO2 savings in the range of 500-1000 million tons per year are possible using future technology. Industrial biotechnology hence offers excellent opportunities for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and decreasing dependence on fossil energy sources and therefore has the potential to make inroads into the existing chemical industry.