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A Potential Boost to the Pellet Market


   Pending legislation in the House could help open up wider domestic markets for wood fuel pellets.

Reps.Glenn Thompson,R-Pa., and Kurt Schrader D-Ore. recently introduced the Forest Products

Fairness Act of 2012
(H.R. 5873),which is legislation that aims to add a wide range of forestry

products—including fuel pellets—as qualifyingproducts under the USDA’s Bio Preferred program.


   The BioPreferred program has made great progress over the past year. The program essentially aims

to increase the use of biobased products through a federal procurement requirement, and a biobased

labeling program. In its current form, the program excludes most forest products from participating.



   While, personally, I would argue that the ability to label a wood fuel pellet with the USDA certified biobased

label seems a bit redundant—as I hope American consumers already realize that wood is by definition

biobased—I do think the federal procurement portion of the program could help create significantly larger

markets for biobased fuel pellets.


   According to the USDA, the federal procurement component of the product requires federal agencies and

their contractors to give preferential consideration to categories of biobased products designated by the USDA.

In other words, the BioPreferred program basically requires a federal department or office to purchase a

qualified biobased product over a petroleum-based product when available and feasible. One example

might be electing to purchase biobased cleaning solutions or biobased plastic cups rather than comparable

items manufactured using fossil fuel feedstock.



   In the event the pending legislation becomes law, these federal agencies, departments and offices could

be required to give preference to biobased fuel pellets when feasible. For example, a federal facility that

operates a coal-fired boiler under certain circumstances could be required to replace a portion of the coal

used with biobased fuel pellets.


   Of course, it is important to note that specific implementation of any change to the BioPreferred program

would depend upon the final language of any bill that is signed into law, as well as the specific guidelines and

regulations the USDA would draft to comply with the legislation. That said, the federal government is a huge

consumer of goods and I think adding biobased fuel pellets to the BioPreferred program could be a powerful

force in encouraging greater use of fuel pellets in the U.S. 

                                                                                                                      By Erin Voegele | July 02, 2012