Will Subsidizing Woody Biomass Be 'Jobs Killer?'
August 15, 2011 | 12:07 pm CDT
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Is the Obama Administration’s renewable energy policy secretly aimed at destroying the U.S. particleboard and MDF industry, with the added collateral damage to manufacturers of cabinets, furniture and other panel users?

I won’t be the first to suggest that the Biomass Crop Assistance Program is a diabolical plot against composite panel producers and their customers. But I will join representatives of the Composite Panel Assn. in suggesting that the “unintended consequence” of BCAP, as is currently written, puts the industry’s future and a lot of jobs up and down the panel supply chain in jeopardy.

President Obama recently called for the need to accelerate the nation’s renewable energy program to reduce its dependence on coal and oil. Converting biomass to fuel is viewed as a green alternative to traditional sources. BCAP is designed to do just that. The federal government has pledged up to $2 billion in annual subsidies to incentivize farmers to send agricultural waste to bio-fuel conversion plants and has also expanded its subsidy program to include woody biomass, including wood chips prized by particleboard and MDF mills to make products.

According to CPA President Tom Julia, the $45 a ton subsidy for wood chips is nearly twice what is paid by particleboard and MDF plants.

This being the case, it’s easy to understand why a sawmill that traditionally sent its residuals to an MDF plant would instead send it to a bio-fuel conversion plant instead.

Woodworking Network joins the CPA in recognizing the seriousness of this situation. We hope that Congress will amend BCAP to make sure that wood chips and other materials that already have a value in the market are exempted from the list of materials eligible for federal subsidies.

In addition, I personally urge all panel processors, plus machinery companies and related suppliers, to pay heed to what BCAP represents. Contact your congressmen to act on amending BCAP now. It would be insult to injury that just as business begins to take off, the required raw materials are not available.


Read related story: Panel makers fret over U.S. bioenergy policy 

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