Wood-based alternative energy sector will grow slowly, with forest-landowners in best position with no-lose proposition unless resources are mismanaged, says business development expert; 4.6 million tons of wood pellets used globally to produce energy

HAMMOND, Louisiana , November 22, 2013 () – The Louisiana State University Ag Center issued the following news release:

The U.S. forestry industry has migrated from the Pacific Northwest to the South over the past two decades, providing additional opportunities for Southern forest landowners, an LSU AgCenter business development expert told an audience at a workshop on forest-based bioenergy.

Emerging biomass-to-energy markets have been driven by increasing interest in renewable energy sources, said Rich Vlosky, director of the Louisiana Forest Products Development Center in the LSU AgCenter.

"Government mandates and economic trends determine what new markets will look like," Vlosky said. "Alternative uses of wood products require a shift in thinking."

Short-rotation woody crops and "energy thinnings" can provide good sources of energy, but markets are needed to give growers incentive to invest in producing trees for biofuels, he said.

Worldwide, 17 percent of energy comes from renewable sources, and U.S. renewable energy has been inching up for decades to about 8 percent, half of which comes from wood, Vlosky said. Globally, 4.6 million tons of wood pellets are used to produce energy, mostly in Europe. Of that, 36 percent comes from the United States, with Sweden responsible for 20 percent of worldwide use.

"The wood sector for alternatives is going to grow - but slowly," Vlosky said. "Forest landowners are in the best position possible. It's a no-lose proposition unless the crop is mismanaged. Cheap natural gas, however, has been a game changer."

The workshop was one in a series that mark the culmination of two three-year studies funded by federal grants. The projects focused on developing marketing strategies for expanding bioenergy opportunities for the forest sector, Vlosky said.

The AgCenter joined with the Louisiana Business and Technology Center at LSU to deliver workshops across the state. In addition to Vlosky's presentation on wood-based bioenergy markets and potential opportunities for Louisiana, Matthew Wiggins with the LBTC showed attendees how to develop a viable business plan using wood for energy, Vlosky said.

"We're using the LBTC mobile classroom for these pilot workshops," he said.

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