In Machiavelli’s time, the end justified the means, as long as the end was good for the state.

In today’s world, that’s open for discussion. While providing needed subsidies to sawmills and lumber producers, the ramifications of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program is that it is creating a serious shortage of raw materials for producers of composite panels. It’s all because the current BCAP does not consider hardwood and softwood chips “to be used for high-value products.”

Composite panels – which utilize this same chips and fibers — are indeed used to make a number of “higher-value” products, including cabinetry, furniture, flooring and doors. However, companies that would normally supply those raw materials to the particleboard and MDF producers are instead eligible to receive more money by selling to biomass conversion facilities. In fact, the government has earmarked $514 million in subsidies for the effort, and to help meet requirements under the 2007 energy bill.

Americans are already taxed with paying for the BCAP — will we have to also deal with higher product costs and job losses? The Composite Panel Assn. has estimated that 30,000 jobs at U.S. composite panel mills could disappear, along with 350,000 additional jobs in the furniture, cabinet and related industries that use composite panels as substrates, if changes are not made to the program. In a release issued Jan. 13, the CPA has said it has the support of the Biomass Power Assn. in urging changes be made to exclude these higher value woods from the program.

While I laud the attempt of government to find ways to increase our energy resources, I believe there are better ways to go about it than burning a usable commodity.

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