Taking the Wheel

Pellet manufacturing plays an important role in the broader forest products supply chain, shoring up value for the residual fiber streams that are generated every day by sawmills, cabinet shops and flooring manufacturers.
By Tim Portz | January 29, 2018

Early this year, I began my tenure as executive director of the Pellet Fuels Institute, representing not only the men and women who own and operate wood pellet facilities, but also the broader vendor community that supports these producers. I’m thrilled to take on this challenge, and look forward to the work ahead.

I’m excited about representing the PFI for three main reasons. First, the producer members of the PFI operate manufacturing facilities in the U.S. I’m a big fan of American manufacturing, and I am intimately aware of how vital manufacturing jobs are to the rural parts of this country. I grew up in rural Iowa, and in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, my hometown of 2,500 people had four different manufacturing facilities in its industrial park. Hundreds of people enjoyed skilled labor jobs that paid good, middle-class wages. With the exception of one, all of those factories have since closed, and my hometown is still reeling from the economic shock of those lost jobs. Pellet manufacturing puts people to work, typically in rural places, and I can think of no better endeavor than to do what I can to perpetuate this economic engine.

Second, I’m a firm believer that the single best way to maintain a strong inventory of forests in this country is to ensure they continue to have real economic value. Pellet manufacturing plays an important role in the broader forest products supply chain, shoring up value for the residual fiber streams that are generated every day by sawmills, cabinet shops and flooring manufacturers. Pellet manufacturing drives the forest products industry closer toward the reality of using the “whole tree,” which ultimately wins us all fans in the general public.

Finally, I believe the use of fossil fuels for energy is increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, changing our climate. A decade ago, this is what brought me to the biomass industry. Generating more of our energy from biogenic sources is vital if we’re ever going to turn this ship of climate change that we are on.

My first priority in 2018 is making it clear to our membership that the PFI is engaged in a daily effort to raise the visibility and profile of pellet as a heating option to consumers. This cannot be overstated or emphasized enough. There is very little the PFI can do about the weather or the prices of heating fuels that wood pellets compete with, but the PFI can get busy waving the flag of pellet heat. Our market grows each time a new homeowner, business owner or farm owner makes a decision to install a pellet heating appliance. This is fundamental to our market growth, and it is an effort the PFI and its board is committed to undertaking in the coming year. Our producer members deserve to feel the tailwinds of their association championing the products they manufacture, and working to win new customers. It is that simple.

While I have known and written about the professionals in the wood pellet industry for nearly a decade, during the past several weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with them in a new context. Their passion for their businesses and industry is contagious, and I look forward to representing them in the coming year.

Here’s hoping this cold winter goes on and on and on…



Author: Tim Portz
Executive Director, Pellet Fuels Institute
tim@pelletheat.org
651-398-9154