Thanks Charlie

Charlie Niebling, one of the more steadfast proponents of woody biomass, joined a New Hampshire Public Radio program to make an argument that woody biomass is an alternative energy source worth supporting.
By Tim Portz | January 11, 2017

My morning routine typically begins with a perusal of my Twitter feed. This morning I learned that an industry colleague and mentor, Charlie Niebling, would be a guest on the New Hampshire Public Radio program “The Exchange” hosted by Laura Knoy discussing biomass energy, woody biomass energy in particular.

Via the wonders of the internet, I tuned in. Moments later I was dialing the call in number and steam was coming out of my ears. You can probably guess why. As radio programs often do, they paired Charlie with an industry detractor. I’m not going to name that detractor here as I’m not interested in beginning a back and forth email or Twitter feud with him, but our paths have crossed before.

I listened as the now common arguments against biomass were trotted out and the host reacted the way mainstream journalists often do, with complete shock. The program did invite Richard Roy, a forester and biomass fuel buyer at the Schiller Station in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to speak and I’m hopeful that the program’s listeners really hear what Richard had to say.

Roy shared with the program’s host that he simply cannot pay anywhere close to what other wood buyers can pay for high quality saw logs. I’m growing increasingly fascinated by the stark contrast in how this simple fact is heard by those within the industry and those on the outside looking in. For foresters, forest landowners, wood manufacturing professionals and biomass energy professionals like Roy, this reality is self-evident. To the listeners of program, however, this truth is not widely known which is what makes the argument that biomass will result in widespread deforestation so troubling. Hearing this argument forwarded again on a public radio reminded me of the importance of continued general public education and by extension the importance of industry trade groups.

I called Charlie after the program wrapped to thank him for speaking for our industry.  I shared with him my ongoing frustration with the public misunderstanding of our industry. I also shared with him that I’m growing increasingly frustrated with the climate media’s embrace of renewables like wind and solar while they denigrate biomass. I’m a believer in alternatives, but after seeing the slings and arrows this industry continues to take, I’ll admit to some fatigue around these so called “perfect” renewables.

Charlie is fighting the good fight and I thank him for it. I’d urge each of you to consider being more vocal than you already are. I know I find myself in casual conversations about renewables and sometimes it seems easier to steer the conversation to something else. I don’t think we’ve got the luxury anymore.

To listen to the entire program, including a call towards the end of the program from some guy named Tim, simply click here.