Bond touts benefits of using wood to make biofuels

Saturday, May 31, 2008
Paul Davis ~ Daily American Republic Sen. Kit Bond listened to ideas from forest industry experts during his Missouri Energy Tour stop in Poplar Bluff, Mo., Wednesday. Bond hopes to use low-grade timber as a source of energy in the future.

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. — The possibility of providing a new source of biofuel from Missouri forest byproducts was discussed by U.S. Sen. Kit Bond during a stop in Poplar Bluff Wednesday morning.

"The sky-high gasoline and diesel fuel prices are putting the squeeze on families, businesses, farmers and truckers," Bond told about 50 people who gathered at Ozark Foothills Regional Planning Commission for the fourth of six stops on his "Let's Get Real About Our Energy Future" tour.

"People are upset. They want us to do something," said Bond, who blames the problem on "demand outstripping supplies."

In discussing renewable energy, Bond said, "I think a wood energy solution is an opportunity for us in Southeast Missouri."

He noted that University of Missouri research is poised to provide a wood-to-energy solution to high fuel prices.

"The ability to make biofuels from forest byproducts will make for healthier forests, a cleaner environment and more folks working in small towns across southern Missouri," Bond said.

Because all forests need periodic thinning of saplings and brush to maximize their health, these forest byproducts can be put to use as raw material for biofuel if they can be collected and transported to market cost effectively, according to Bond.

He noted 60 percent of the timber in the Mark Twain National Forest has low value and needs to be cleaned out to make the forest healthy.

Mark Twain Forest

Douglas Oliver, district ranger for the Poplar Bluff Ranger District, said the Mark Twain National Forest has 1.3 million acres, including 160,000 in the Poplar Bluff area. Approximately 300,000 acres are wilderness areas that are off-limits for timber harvesting.

He demonstrated how to use the woody biomass availability tool on the University of Missouri Web site at ims.missouri.edu/biomass.

Oliver said the Poplar Bluff Ranger District will host a demonstration project this summer in the Cane Ridge area where low value wood is being harvested from 100 acres.

Brian Brookshire, executive director of Missouri Forest Products Association in Jefferson City, said the Missouri Forest Foundation is trying to get funding to help develop equipment to harvest the low value wood.

With the high price for diesel fuel, logging companies are facing the challenge of staying in business, but Bond said the high fuel prices make the wood "more valuable."

"Lack of management has allowed forests to be overstocked," said Brookshire, who cited the need for the development of public/private partnerships.

Woody biomass program

Bond secured funding in fiscal year 2004 for the Missouri Forest Foundation to look at uses for woody biomass.

"Thanks to this work, energy from woody biomass is being used to power boilers at some Missouri companies and college campuses," said Bond, who recently requested additional federal funds for the MU Woody Biomass Technology Demonstration Program.

"The program will develop and field test machinery and forest management techniques for the collection of woody biomass that are appropriate to Missouri forests and terrain with the goal of maximizing both forest health and cost effectiveness," Bond said.

He also noted Missouri ranks highest in "rough and rotten timber" and said 80 percent of the forests in Missouri are privately owned.

More ethanol

Bond also cited the importance of ethanol production. He said 6.5 billion gallons were produced last year.

"This year, the production will go to 9 billion gallons," Bond said.

Mike Geske, president of the Missouri Corn Growers Association in Jefferson City, offered his group's assistance in getting forest products converted into ethanol.

"This can be mutually beneficial to us," Geske said.

Rich Blatz, forest district supervisor with the Missouri Department of Conservation at Piedmont, emphasized the importance of maintaining a healthy, sustainable forest, but recognizes the difficulties.

"Getting small trees out is tough. A lot is going to waste," Blatz said. "Gas prices are inhibiting the logging industry."

Donald Young, a procurement forester with the New-Page Corporation mill at Wickliffe, Ky., said his firm is being hampered by the high diesel fuel prices.

"The logging industry is cutting back on personnel and equipment," Young said.

Contact congress

Bond also urged residents to contact members of Congress.

"If they get enough public pressure to produce oil in the United States, it will lower the prices," Bond said.

As a co-sponsor of the American Energy Production Act of 2008, Bond is pressing for more comprehensive action that includes opening up new domestic sources of oil and gas in northern Alaska, under the ocean off U.S. shores and from shale deposits under the Rocky Mountains.

"We can safely boost oil, gas and nuclear power production and increase alternative sources of energy while still protecting our environment," Bond said. "Unfortunately, this plan to provide new domestic supplies of energy for the American people failed on a party-line vote earlier this month."

He also noted President Bill Clinton more than 10 years ago vetoed expanding oil production above the Arctic Circle, which would have produced one million barrels per day.

"We have not had a new refinery since the 1970s, and Congress continues to block states that want to allow exploration and drilling for oil in the deep oceans off their shores," Bond said.

U.S. Sen. Kit Bond listens to ideas from forest industry experts during his Missouri Energy Tour stop in Poplar Bluff Wednesday. Bond hopes to use low-grade timber as a source of energy in the future.

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