I enjoy reading the old accounts of the forests I call home. What a kaleidoscopic picture emerges from four centuries of conquistadors, traders, military men, botanists, speculators, prospectors, loggers, fugitives and poets.
And now, here’s one more view of the forests, through the eyes of a California software engineer. This gentleman has spent tens of millions of dollars purchasing property in Jackson County. (But how could such a rational man put so much faith in partners who are convinced that merely invoking the name of a sports star can add value to the land?)
Despite that, I would not underestimate our friend from California. He relied on more than puffery and slick marketing to amass his fortune. He knows the energy industry. He knows the forest products industry. He knows how to analyze data and make sense of the trends.
As a result, he has an informed perspective on the forests I call home. In his words:
…you also have in NC some potential for energy generation, there are no good wind or solar resources in your area but you have great biomass (e.g. > > > cellulosic ethanol) that can be farmed in a sustainable fashion - however this is a highly technical field that is largely blocked by current regulations in the US and will require community action not reaction…
With that sentence, he has broadened my view. Looking upon the tree-covered hills, I now see vast amounts of biomass waiting to be converted into cellulosic ethanol.
What a revelation!
Experts say the U.S. could produce cellulosic biomass equivalent to four billion barrels of crude oil a year, or 65% of American oil consumption. In Georgia, Range Fuels is already developing a cellulosic ethanol plant to use wood waste.
If America can justify turning Central Appalachia into a moonscape, then it can justify giving Southern Appalachia a close shave, if that’s what it takes to fill our gas tanks on the cheap.
Debates have raged in Congress about the fate of downed trees, trimmings and brush on federal land. Opponents of a ban on the use of National Forest biomass as feedstock for ethanol production argue that slash piles represent a squandered resource. “Why let it rot when we could run our cars on it?” they ask.
I can thank that absentee land owner from California for opening my eyes to the possibilities. If there’s one thing we have plenty of around here (besides unsold lots in golf course developments) it is…
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