We have a basic math problem right now in our national forests. Excess biomass that doesn’t have commercial value, caused by decades of fire suppression and limited commercial logging, far exceeds any need for that material. Even if we built a hundred biomass energy plants, there isn’t enough demand here in the Sierra-Cascade Mountains to use all the energy. But what if we replaced unsustainable petroleum-based materials with wood products in energy, construction and consumer goods? California’s tradition of innovation gives us the opportunity to use these products to offset the demand for petroleum that is threatening our climate and keeps us dependent on dwindling resources. Wood is the new plastic!
This challenge unites rural and urban California in a common vision for our future, one that brings our rural mountain areas into the same realm of affluence that our coastal neighbors enjoy. California’s landscape is critical to our plans to reduce the impact of climate change, by providing ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere and replace petroleum that makes our modern life possible. And all this while improving forest health, protecting watersheds and reducing the terrible danger and public health impacts of intense wildfires.
There are three key policy aspects we need to promote: (1) sustainable forest management that’s consistent with principles like the Forest Stewardship Council (2) federal funding and legislation to aggressively remove excess biomass where we have very high fire risks and (3) strong financial incentives (tax credits, innovation grants, and low-interest loans) to promote innovative uses of wood materials in both energy and other products, especially in substituting for petroleum-based materials.
I’m part of the Governor Brown’s Working Group to remove regulatory and financial barriers on manufacture of forest products, and I’m ready to go to work in Congress to make this happen. I’ve spent most of my career in industry, including doing environmental and safety work at sawmills, furniture manufacturing facilities and woodworking shops. I’ve also worked to develop biomass energy facilities that provide district heating to homes while generating renewable electricity. It’s given me an appreciation for the critical need to support responsible industry and wood products in the American economy as we work to fund healthy and sustainable forestry in our national forests and public lands.
We can be the leaders in forest innovation, business, and technology, right here in Northern California, but it’s going to take a lot of strong policymaking to protect our forests and streamline sustainable timber harvests. I’m a graduate of Oberlin College and Yale School of Forestry, and I have 30 years of experience in solving problems like these. I know the hurdles that we’ll face in order to make this dream a reality.