Forest2Fuel E-Newsletter

July/August 2010

In This Issue
Obstacles for Potential Plants
Carbon Emissions
Anywhere But Here
BCAP Update
Progress Report
Quick Links

The Importance of a Strong Public Relations Campaign
Spewing nonsense appears to be the summer's most popular sport.

Over and over again, reports about the many ways that biopower will destroy the planet have raged through the press like the worst pop-up thunder storms. Projects have been felled by these efforts, leaving many of us to wonder whether opposition will amount to static kill for the industry.

No region in the United States has been immune.
  • A 60-MW Adage project in Shelton, Wash. A 35-MW facility in Klamath Falls, Ore. A 24-MW plant in Lakeview, Ore.
  • A 32-MW facility in Milltown, Ind. The conversion of a First Energy coal plant in Ohio. Traverse City Light and Power's entire biomass strategy. A 50-MW We Energies project in Rothschild, Wisc.
  • A 50-MW plant in Russell, Mass. A 47-MW plant in Greenfield, Mass.
  • A 32-MW plant in Perryville, Mo. Plans by Duke Energy and Progress Energy to add biomass capacity in N.C.  
While all of these projects are essential if states are going to meet their renewable standards, they are all meeting stiff opposition from environmental groups and community activists.
Forest2Mill August 2009
In our view, one of these least credible arguments made by those opposing biomass energy plants is that biomass utilization in the United States will lead to deforestation. In fact, we think the opposite is far more likely to be true:
  • Creation of new wood markets will lead to either stability or increases in forested acres in the U.S.
  • Exclusion of biomass as a renewable source of energy will lead to more rapid conversion of forest land to other uses, including development and energy crops.
According to a 2007 study by the non-profit Society of American Foresters 1, the amount of forestland in the United States has remained relatively stable at about 755 million acres over the last 100 years. The standing inventory of hardwood and softwood trees-a lso known as the amount of growing stock-has increased by roughly 50 percent since 1953. In addition, 20 percent of forestland in the U.S. is managed under some type of conservation program; worldwide, the average is 11 percent.
Power Plant
In Massachussets, as we reported in our last issue, the state government is currently reconsidering whether biomass will be an allowable source of renewable energy. The EPA announced that it planned to treat biomass as a fossil fuel when developing regulatory standards for air quality. Not surprisingly, there has been a significant industry response arguing that these types of decisions are based on bad science.

In response to the EPA announcement, for instance, 114 scientists in forestry-related disciplines sent a letter to both houses of Congress laying out the science behind the carbon neutrality of biomass.
Despite climate change, the need for energy security and the Gulf oil disaster, residents living near proposed biomass facilities have made it abundantly clear that they do not want these power plants anywhere near their homes. Their actions and comments scream, "Not in my backyard!" But if not in someone's backyard, then where? Why is there such a vocal opposition to plants that provide local jobs, reduce dependence on foreign energy sources and allow for an eventual if not immediate reduction in several air pollutants and green house gases?

In some areas, the threat of one of these plants has created local grassroots movements such as the residents of Milltown, Ind. who are concerned about air and water pollution and increased truck traffic from the proposed Liberty Green Renewables plant. Passionate well-organized groups like StopSpewingCarbon of Massachusetts are determined to end state incentives for any biomass energy projects primarily because of air pollution. These opinions, if tuned into legislative action, would essentially deny power producers who need to meet renewable energy standards one of the few renewable energy methods that can operate 24/7.
At the Florida Farm to Fuel Summit on August 12, William F. Hagy, III, Special Assistant--Director for Alternative Energy Policy at the U.S. Department of Agriculture told summit attendees that the final rule for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program will be released in three weeks. Hagy did not specify whether the 60-day Congressional review of the rule was already underway, or whether that 60-day period would commence once the rule is released. We suspect it is the latter. If our supposition is correct, the program will resume under the new rules in November. Hagy provided no details about the contents of the final rule.
Aspen Power, Nacogdoches Power, Range Fuels
Aspen Power is making significant progress in the construction of a 50 MW biomass power plant in Lufkin, Texas. The air permitting process, which ended last fall when the company agreed to put additional controls on its boilers to further lower emissions, delayed the project in 2009. The plant will begin test firing in August 2010 and expects to begin commercial operations by November. The company will hire 200 permanent employees this fall. Feedstock for the plant will be supplied by local loggers, who will deliver 525,000 tons of forest biomass to the plant annually. The Texas Department of Agriculture recently gave the city of Lufkin a $750,000 grant to provide road, parking, engineering and administrative services for the biomass power plant. The company in currently negotiating a long-term power puchase agreement (PPA). Despite the lack of a PPA, Akeida Capital Management recently loaned Aspen Power $14.1 million, on the strength of its institutional backing from private equity firm Energy Spectrum Capital and the new grant.


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