Biomass Industry Must Stress Job Growth

By Bob Cleaves | September 20, 2011

Recent months have seen an increased focus on jobs in the context of a continually struggling economy. As our leaders consider ways to close the gap and get job growth back in the black, we need to keep reminding them about the need to maintain support for renewable energy—not just for clean energy but for job growth.

Luckily, there are still some strong supporters of biomass and clean energy on both sides of the aisle who are championing our cause. In an encouraging move in early September, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., sent a letter to President Obama to express support for the president’s clean energy plan as a jobs creator, reminding the president that we cannot let this issue slip to the side.

Around the same time, New York State Sen. Patty Ritchie, R-Oswegatchie, came out in strong support of biomass, estimating that supporting our industry could create as many as 140,000 jobs in upstate New York. In a statement, Sen. Ritchie said, “[New York’s Commission on Rural Resources] was told we could create 140,000 new jobs by harnessing this emerging local energy resource. But state laws that favor renewable energy sources like wind and solar are written to specifically exclude wood, grasses and other biomass sources. If New York wants to create more private-sector jobs and investment, we need to capitalize on the rural resources we already have available on our farms and commercial forests."

We still have our work cut out for us. President Obama’s jobs address, while forward-looking and powerful, included not one word on energy, renewable or otherwise. In August, the Green Scissors group, an unusual alliance between conservative and environmental groups, published a report recommending drastic cuts for the industry, specifically calling out biomass.

With the simultaneous need to address the nation’s debt and deficit issues in the background, we must redouble our efforts to ensure that our elected officials are aware of the jobs that we provide to thousands of Americans.

The biomass industry has its challenges—but U.S. Sen. Heller and State Sen. Ritchie have the right idea. We are creating jobs in rural areas where they are most needed. One-hundred-megawatt facilities under construction in Gainesville, Fla., and Nagadoches, Texas, are both employing hundreds during the construction phase. A new 75-megawatt facility is planned for New Hampshire, which will also employ hundreds. When completed, these facilities will provide steady employment in their areas through direct and indirect jobs.

There’s no end to the potential job growth in the biomass sector—and clean energy to boot.

Author: Bob Cleaves
President and CEO, Biomass Power Association