Wisconsin Bioenergy Summit

wbi_logo_smallYesterday was the 2010 Wisconsin Bioenergy Summit hosted by the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative. I was asked to present as part of panel on biomass research supply related to our new study to survey the logging sector.

Our session and others were video-recorded, so I hope to provide links as soon as they are available. In the meantime, below are the unedited talking points for my presentation. I chose not to use PowerPoint, which drew some positive reactions. [Note: not all bullets covered in presentation]


My research focus is on the supply of fiber from forests and woodlands in the region.

FOUR MAIN POINTS

  1. Stress critical role of loggers in wood fiber supply and management, current and future
  2. Describe the somewhat tenuous situation faced by loggers and their sector as a whole
  3. Identify key applied research questions that relate to the sector both for traditional and woody biomass opportunities
  4. Describe an on-going WBI-supported research project and its potential impacts

ROLE OF LOGGERS

  • Wood products is second most important industry in the state; centered in the North
  • Biomass from existing forests viewed as one component of future bioenergy portfolio
  • Forest markets are peculiar in comparison to ag (and other) production systems
    • LANDOWNERS & MILLS but neither responsible for harvesting and transport
  • In fiber supply, therefore, loggers play THREE critical roles
    1. Link landowners with fiber markets
    2. Help landowners and forest managers meet objectives
    3. Implement (or not) forest practices that address long-term ecological sustainability

WHO ARE LOGGERS?

  • Since 1980s-1990s, radical shifts in technology; substitute capital for labor
  • Few studies in region document role, impact, or status beyond efficiency studies
  • 2004 logger survey: first comprehensive study of WI and UP
    • Roughly 2,500 active firms in region
    • Logging firms are very small “micro” firms (0-1 employees)
    • Subcontracting is the norm (an insurance issue, but affects other things)
    • Capital intensive: median investment, $300K, iron and stumpage
    • Pulpwood is primary output – potential conflict
    • Firm specialization notably along landownership
    • ~ 25% of firms expected to be out of business in 5 yrs; 600,000 cords = 1 small paper mill

DEVELOPMENTS & KEY QUESTIONS

  • Impact of recession – 20-30% gone
  • Various operational restrictions have increased
  • Woody biomass has arrived; Also importing pulp
  • Key research questions…
    1. What is the logging sector’s current capacity to meet existing fiber supply needs?
    2. Can it readily expand to supply new bioenergy markets?
    3. Is adoption of new technologies feasible? Can policy help?

ON-GOING STUDY

  • Melinda (UW-SP); funds: WBI support: GLTPA, DNR
  • Re-survey the logging sector in the region to meet three objectives
    1. Describe status and capacity with emphasis on change since 2004
    2. Determine factors that either impeded or enhance potential to innovate
    3. Communicate findings to decision- and policy-makers (note recent experience)
  • Currently gathering lists and revising questionnaire for SPRING 2011 mail survey
  • Will survey firms that responded last time and a random sample; provide longitudinal analysis and estimate of current situation
  • Scholarly portions rely on small business literature and past studies of factors in their survival
  • MS Student will complete analysis as part of thesis
  • Expect products in mid 2012

CONCLUSION

  • Loggers are key actors in forestry system
  • Bioenergy needs to be integrating within existing fiber supply and harvest systems
  • This study will give us additional insights into this system that, we hope, will influence policy
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