What we've accomplished
When logging takes place, there is a certain amount of debris and wood waste that gets left behind. This debris, which we call biomass, is often left to decay or burned with no purpose, releasing harmful emissions into the atmosphere. I am committed to finding productive ways to use this waste product as a source of renewable energy, which is why I have worked so hard these last four years to make biomass a part of our state's renewable energy portfolio.
While I am confident that we can safely use biomass to produce energy, I know that we must be thoughtful about our usage of this renewable, but limited resource. We have much to learn about the impacts of removing biomass from the forest floor. I am committed to ensuring that any removal of forest biomass from state lands is done in a sustainable manner, which is why I initiated the supply study recently released by the University of Washington.
The information we garnered from the study is essential to our understanding of exactly how much biomass exists on all lands in Washington State. Now that we know how much is available, we are better able to ensure that Washington's forest biomass sector is scaled appropriately and that facilities are sited in areas that have a sufficient supply.
The ultimate goal of using this renewable resource is to produce energy, protect against climate change and reduce our CO2 emissions. Utilizing biomass to produce energy also provides crucial jobs for communities that have been hit hardest by these tough economic times. We recently oversaw the completion of two bio-energy pilot projects that are utilizing waste to produce energy and putting people in rural communities back to work.
I traveled to Eastern Washington for the dedication of one of these projects, located at the Springdale Lumber Mill. This opening represents the culmination of countless hours of hard work, dating all the way back to 2009, when the legislature authorized DNR to implement biomass energy pilot projects in eastern and western Washington.
Before Borgford Bioenergy purchased the mill, the facility had been closed for nearly five years. Now the mill is back up and running, converting the waste produced by the sawmill's operations into energy that will support the mill and the surrounding community. Now that it has been reopened, the mill will help support 34 full time jobs.
Priorities for next term
We've been very successful so far, but our biomass efforts are just getting started. Other renewable energy sources are well suited for the production of electricity, and with increased innovation toward the use of electrical cars, I do not believe that biomass will be an essential component of our electric energy future. However, the development of biofuel technology to transform forest biomass into fuel for cars and airplanes can emerge as a great way to reduce CO2 emissions and our dependence on foreign oil.
This possibility is why I successfully sought forest biomass-to-jet fuel legislation. Heavy machinery and jets will likely never run on electricity and it is imperative that we find renewable replacements for diesel and jet fuel. Forest biomass can be a critical component of renewable jet fuel.
Washington State educational institutions were recently awarded $80 million out of $135 million nationally to be used for the development of bio-aviation fuel technology. DNR will work collaboratively with the University of Washington and Washington State University to ensure that this money does what it was intended to do: fly airplanes on fuel produced from residual forest biomass.