Sunday, January 28, 2007


More Wood Pellet Supply Problems in US
and a Lesson for Ireland

There is a growing problem of wood pellet shortages in the USA which is causing very real distress to householders there. The problem is international as well as being a US problem. Some producers in the US are exporting pellets to Europe because of the demand here, this is causing greater problems in the States.

A story by Stefanie Knowlton, published in the Statesman Journal, graphically illustrates the situation. I am reproducing some extracts here, with permission.

“Salem resident Wendy Mullin . . . borrowed a truck Tuesday and bundled up her 2-year-old daughter in hopes of getting pellets after six weeks of waiting. But when she arrived at 9:30 a.m., no pellets were left.”

“Enticed by stable heating costs and cleaner fuel, a record number of people nationwide bought pellet stoves. But instead of basking in the environmentally friendly glow of the new stoves, Mullin and other local residents are calling businesses throughout Oregon, Washington and Idaho to get their hands on the heating pellets.”

“Part of the problem is a shortage of raw material, Elliot (sales and marketing manager at Bear Mountain Forest Products ) said. The pellets are made from compressed sawdust from lumber mills. With fewer houses being built, he said, there is less sawdust in the mills. Also, British Columbia, a large West Coast supplier, now is selling its pellets in Europe.”

“ … the biggest reason for the shortage, … is a surge in pellet-stove sales. Two years ago, few people outside the "Mother Earth News" crowd knew what they were, . . . but as gas and oil prices increased, people started to discover them. Others were enticed by the stove's renewable fuel source and the fact that it burns cleaner than wood.”

“Albany resident Margaret Althaus took the day off from her job at Salem Hospital on Tuesday to wait in line for pellets for her son. In November, he replaced the wood stove -- the home's only source of heat -- with a pellet stove. Althaus got six 40-pound bags Tuesday, which might last about a week. "We're going to keep looking," she said.”

Salutary Lesson for Ireland and Europe

The above story should be a warning to Ireland and the whole of Europe. SEI (Sustainable Energy Ireland) is pumping millions of our money into promoting the sale of wood pellet stoves and boilers by giving very generous grants, but without properly planning the supply of fuel. This is a formula for future problems.

I am seriously worried that there is a lack of “joined up thinking” by SEI and the Irish Government in this matter. If wood pellets are made from the by-product of the building industry and the building industry slows down, there will be a shortage of wood pellets.

We Need Dedicated Forests to Supply Wood Pellets

Wood pellets will have to be manufactured from dedicated forest materials, and not depend on the state of other industries or on the international marketplace.

I wish to thank Stefanie Knowlton for permission to use her material.
The full article can be read at the following link:


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