July 18, 2008
Wood Pellets for Heat Should Be Part of Maine’s Energy Mix
Maine does not have oil wells, gas fields or coal mines. Most of the fuel we burn to heat and light our homes has to be imported, leaving us vulnerable to national and international energy market fluctuations.
But we do have trees. Lots of them.
So naturally, when an energy crisis hits, many Mainers do what they have always done and burn wood to heat their homes.
The manufacture of processed wood pellets has taken this a step further. Either in stoves or central heating systems, the pellets burn hotter and more cleanly than cordwood and provide the state's residents another choice.
The pellets can be made locally, which could create jobs for Maine people as the market for them grows.
The use of pellets for home heating has some people concerned about what additional demand would do to the price of wood, especially for its traditional consumers, the paper industry. While the forest resources are vast, there is a finite number of people now working in the woods and manufacturing pellets.
That should not be a concern for state policymakers. In addition to conservation and the development of no-emission renewable energy sources, such as wind and hydropower, Maine should be looking for ways to limit its dependence on imported fossil fuels.
If home heating increases demand on the wood supply, it seems likely that people would come forward to work in the woods.
It is also likely that more facilities would be built to manufacture the pellets. It makes sense to build those plants in Maine, rather than import pellets, just as we now import oil and gas.
Wood pellet heating is not a panacea for the energy crisis, but it can be part of the solution. State officials should help this industry move forward here.
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