Oregon targets untapped biomass potential
By Andy Giegerich
Business Journal staff writer
Kitzhaber would like to see more woody biomass at play in Oregon. This pellet mill at Ochoco Lumber Company in John Day started production this year.
While it's still very early in his term, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber appears to be keeping his campaign pledges to nurture Oregon's biomass energy development sector.
Kitzhaber spoke often during the campaign about the state's opportunities to develop and expand woody biomass markets, particularly in the near term. Biomass refers to the organic matter in trees, agricultural crops and other living plant material that can be converted into energy.
On his own, Kitzhaber has unveiled grants, through the Forest Products Energy Project, that would develop the state's biomass industry.
The project will pay for between six and 12 detailed feasibility and engineering studies on developing biomass co-generation plants at existing forest products businesses. The studies must be completed by Oct. 31.
As part of a massive outreach to manufacturers, Kitzhaber included biomass industry developers in a recent manufacturers roundtable event in Portland. While Kitzhaber mainly used the event to tout a bill that would create a more favorable capital gains rate specifically for reinvestment in Oregon, he also pledged to ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of biomass “reflects the beneficial carbon profile” of woody biomass in the Northwest.
At the same event, he further espoused the idea that schools use biomass-fed boilers during their energy retrofits.
“Schools can replace inefficient fossil fuel-based heating with a renewable resource while helping spur the emerging biomass energy industry in Oregon,” Kitzhaber said during a March 4 speech.
He’s also planning to work with lawmakers who have introduced bills that would provide tax credits to biomass material transporters and formally identify biomass as a carbon-neutral energy form. The latter bill would allow biomass producers to enjoy some of the same incentives as producers of wind and solar energy forms.
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