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|Articles - February 2010|
|Thursday, January 21, 2010|
Wood pellets are looking like the next big thing in Oregon’s campaign to create green jobs. Or are they?
First Prineville-based Ochoco Lumber received a $4.9 million stimulus grant through Business Oregon to construct a wood pellet factory in John Day. Then a Redmond start-up named Pacific Pellet announced plans to convert 40,000 tons of scrap wood per year into pellets to heat homes and businesses and eventually fuel everything from schools and hospitals to factories and power plants. Ochoco’s grant will enable it to retain 80 workers and create 11 new jobs, while Pacific Pellet is expected to employ 20 people. Both plants will produce an alternative fuel from a renewable resource that burns with very low emissions.
Of course, that was the claim with ethanol, too. Industry insiders say the last thing the wood pellet industry needs is more production. Three wood pellet plants in Oregon have been shut down recently because of severe oversupply in the market.
Chris Sharron, president of West Oregon Wood Products in Columbia City, has suspended production at both of his mills and laid off 30 workers until the pellets start moving again. “Demand has dried up,” he says.
As with ethanol, skyrocketing fuel prices powered massive speculation in wood pellets, followed by subsidized construction and overcapacity. European Union nations required by law to find new sources of “carbon neutral” energy have been burning more pellets and less coal in their power plants, importing millions of dollars worth of pellets from the U.S. each week. The European market has justified the construction of huge new pellet plants in the Southeast, where production has grown by a factor of 10 over the past five years. But it’s a long road from Central Oregon to Europe.
The market in Oregon has been fickle. Sharron says 2008 was his best year ever, but 2009 was his worst. The state has tried to intervene by offering tax credits for pellet stoves and paying to convert schools to pellet fuel. “We’re trying to take a responsible and efficient approach to growing this demand,” says Matt Krumenauer, a senior policy advisor for the Oregon Department of Energy.
Whether they can grow enough demand to sell 80,000 new tons per year of wood pellets remains to be seen. Mark Stapleton, president of Pacific Pellet, says he is confident the market for pellet stoves will rebound and grow. “We’re not trying to displace anybody,” he says. “We’re just trying to give the consumer more options.”
Wednesday, January 07, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR
The Oregon Business Plan Leadership Summit drew more than 1,000 people to the Oregon Convention Center yesterday.
Monday, January 26, 2015
The day after this issue goes to press, the city of Medford will host its annual business conference. The event features Minoli Ratnatunga, co-author of the Milken Institute’s annual “Best-Performing Cities” report. Preliminary data suggests that Medford is likely to retain its No. 1 ranking among best-performing small cities for having a higher concentration of high-tech firms than the national average.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation.
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR
Portland's cab companies urged city hall for consideration as officials weigh new rules for Uber and other ridesharing companies.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
BY JASON NORRIS | OB CONTRIBUTOR
The implosion of the energy complex: The best thing for low oil prices is low oil prices.
Saturday, December 13, 2014
The president of LaPorte & Associates lets us in on his day-to-day life.
Monday, January 26, 2015
BY KIM MOORE
After more than a decade of wrangling, construction on a convention center hotel in Portland is slated to start this summer. But debate over project financing continues.
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