USIPA kicks off with a “back-to-the future” style teaser
The US Industrial Pellet Association (USIPA) 6th Annual Exporting Pellets Conference got off to a “back-to-the future” style start in Miami Beach today with opening remarks from a panel discussing “cross-Atlantic perspectives on biomass”. In reality, the panel shared much closer to heart perspectives.
In his welcome address John Keppler, co-founder, Chairman and CEO of the Enviva group of companies, currently the world’s largest wood pellet producer, set the stage by remarking on a remarkable achievement.
– Seven years ago the USIPA conference was just a few of people talking shop over pizza and we’d slices to spare, Keppler remarked, adding that the industry was only now “getting started” citing potential opportunities ahead for wood pellets in other sectors such as feedstock for biochemicals and bioplastics.
It’s an astute reflection, not just for US producers but also for the industry as a whole given the seemingly consistent imbalance between global wood pellet production capacity and global demand. Keppler also pointed out that pellet export from the US Southeast to Asia is at cost parity with pellets from the Pacific Northwest. At face value a worry perhaps for Canadian BC producers.
However, it is more likely to instil confidence in Asian markets that large pellet volumes from North America are available at regular shipping intervals and at a given price almost irrespective of geographical location. Estimates suggested earlier this year at a conference in Japan pegged North Asian demand for internationally traded biomass to be between 4.5 and 9.5 million tonnes by 2020. Time will tell but as Keppler, who also attended the said conference, noted Asia is “without doubt the most interesting market”.
Forest ethos, logos and pathos
Of particular interest, given two days to go for the US Presidential election, were remarks from Congressman Bruce Westman (Rep.), Arkansas and Chair of the US Congressional Biomass and Working Forest Caucuses as well as from Tom Tidwell, Chief of the US Forest Service. The former, it would seem, is an unusual US politician in so far as Westman is bilingual – academically both a forester and an engineer. Apart from having an academic background in forestry and engagement with the public in common, albeit from different professional roles, both emphasised passionately the need for education and communication in a language that people understand. Both have ethos and logos as part of the job description yet both share a similar understanding of how pathos is vital for getting the job done.