It seems like pellets and chip markets might be useful for places like California which have 1) extra small trees to think for fuel treatments (conceivably without “industrial logging”, however that is defined, and 2) access to ports. BC seems to be taking advantage of these opportunities.
Again logically there are two options if the use is bioenergy (conceivably this material also could be used for higher-value products). The first is to burn this material for bioenergy in California (not developed well due to pollution standards) or sell to others (which as Matthew points out, involves use of (more) fossil fuels currently for transport.) This might raise all kinds of questions about Asia, for example, and their bioburners’ pollution and climate change calculations.
Anonymous hypothesized here that maybe the answer is availability of supply. If this sounds like a blast from the past, some of us remember the mountain pine beetle infestation in the 80’s in Central Oregon and trying to do something with the dead trees (forty years ago). One idea was to get a waferboard plant in Chiloquin, Oregon. This idea foundered on the shoals of .. supply dependability. It seems like a bit of a theme. I think it’s important not to just conflate this with “litigation about projects”, although that may be a piece of the puzzle. Again logically, a deal could be reached to say (if material x is removed, in y kinds of places, with practices such that z does not happen, to a total amount of a per acreage b, then we will not litigate). Even so, if I were considering investing, I would be very dubious, given our track record. It is interesting to think how Canada can provide adequate assurances for investment but we cannot.
I haven’t yet found an expert on this topic, and am still searching, but a forest economist friend pointed me to this piece that compares the Pacific Northwest to the US south and other sources. First, the authors note that a preponderance of forest land is public compared to the Southern U.S..
One notable difference between the US South and the Northwest is the seasonal (but frequent) occurrence of severe, large-scale wildfires. This is related to a combination of climatic conditions in the PNW, ownership/management intensity and harvest restrictions, all of which have allowed for the build-up of excessive fuel loads in many forest stands. One method proven to be effective in reducing wildfire loss is through the use of fuel-reduction thinning operations, especially on public lands.
Due to this lack of forest management, one analysis estimated that up to 12 million green tons of biomass could be harvested via fuel-reduction thinning over the course of a decade. If this management practice is promoted and implemented, the increase in small log and residual material availability could spur a growth in both wood chip and pellet production.
Ownership/Supply Chain Characteristics
With forestland ownership being primarily public (federal, state and municipal), the fiber supply chain in the US Northwest is somewhat different than in other regions. Public land management is governed by different sets of rules and procedures, and harvesting is conducted at a reduced level compared to private land.
A large portion of private forestland is owned by timber investment management organizations (TIMOs), real estate investment trusts (REITs), and other large landownerships that supply a majority of the timber in the region. Because of the TIMO/REIT influence in the region, tract sizes are generally much larger and small tracts (under 20 acres) are less prevalent than in other regions. There are small-scale landowners as well, but they comprise a much smaller piece of the available volume.
As a result of this fragmented ownership situation, there is not a robust timber dealer/broker network. Large landowners generally negotiate delivered contracts directly with the mills, and they then pay loggers for harvesting services and transportation from the woods to the mill. While there are some stumpage sale contracts in the region, it is not a common practice as it is in the US South.
So there are structural problems compared to the US South (not a robust dealer/broker network) which makes it more difficult to get this material from private land, but this article doesn’t mention the “relatively assured supply” problem from public lands. Seems like if it were a good idea to sell material removed from fuel treatments that California economic development would be on it. Maybe they are.