Stepping Up and Doubling Down

BTEC will advance the BTU Act, increase the appropriations for the Community Wood Energy and Wood Innovations Program to the full $25 million authorization, and continue to build relationships with Congress and federal agencies in 2020.
By Peter Thompson | February 27, 2020

With cheap fossil fuels widely available and woefully misinformed fringe environmental groups shouting inaccuracies, the previous decade was challenging our industry. Underlining the trouble was that we were on the menu, rather than at the table (as the adage goes in Washington, D.C.) in 2005 and 2007 when Congress passed investment tax credits for a slew of renewable energy technologies that largely excluded wood heating technologies.

Disengagement was precisely why a group of industry leaders formed BTEC in 2009. They saw the value of engaging Washington, and they dedicated themselves to the task. Their spirit of perseverance remains in the BTEC board of directors, members and staff to this day. With that spirit, after a decade of close calls, tough times and setbacks, BTEC, along with a broad coalition, has delivered multiple policy victories to our sector. In 2019, we achieved:

• Appropriations for the new and improved Community Wood Energy and Wood Innovations Program, which can help fund commercial-scale wood heating projects. This program was authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill as a result of BTEC’s leadership and advocacy.

• Continued recognition of biomass carbon neutrality across all federal agencies.

• Extension of the Wood and Pellet Stove Tax Credit.

All this we accomplished on a shoestring budget, through the perseverance of dedicated industry advocates and a knowledgeable government affairs representative.

BTEC did not step away from its investment in Capitol Hill when experiencing tough policy losses, nor did we let the common fatigue of working on federal policy discourage us. Instead, we reevaluated our efforts and doubled down on our policy strategy, most notably the Biomass Thermal Utilization Act, which remains the best shot for our industry to grow and address many issues facing the country.
I understand the frustration Washington policymakers bring to a wide swath of the country. We deal with them daily. However, frustration is not an excuse to pack up our marbles and go home. Stakeholders that disengage from Washington do so at their own peril.

I have been working on the industry’s behalf for longer than two and half years, learning about the intricacies of our sector, engaging policymakers on the issues, and hearing your frustrations on why commonsense policies can’t get over the finish line. I commiserate, but there are two truths we cannot forget: Persistence gets you where you need to go, and your voice matters in Washington.

My background in forestry runs deep and is personal. Forestry provided my father with a career, and for my upbringing and education, including my first full-time job experience—interning at the Forest Resources Association on supply chain issues. My interest in it is even a reason I received detention in high school (I corrected my environmental science teacher that trees are, indeed, a renewable resource).

I am humbled by the BTEC board of directors’ continued investment in me and understand my responsibility as deputy director to advance our industry’s common interests and goals. I owe it to the industry to bring success.

Consider this BTEC’s call to action to double down on our policy priorities. Our moment to bring long sought-after, significant policy success to our industry is always in the present. We ensure our forests’ health and management so these resources remain for future generations and are not consumed by wildfires. By providing income to forest owners facing pressure to convert the land, we create jobs in communities that need opportunity. We reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, addressing the critical challenge of our time—climate change.

BTEC will advance the BTU Act, increase the appropriations for the Community Wood Energy and Wood Innovations Program to the full $25 million authorization, and continue to build relationships with Congress and federal agencies in 2020.

With victories in sight, we cannot afford to disengage Washington. Frustration and disengagement there has one result: a swift kick in the rear end. Imagine what we will accomplish by bucking up to meet Washington gridlock with persistence (and the bipartisan support we have already achieved). So, let us turn the page from the past decade to reinvest, re-engage and rewrite the policy failures of Washington for a better 2020-‘29.

There is no magic formula to accomplishing our goals. But the facts are on our side, and we will persist in investing our collective resources to meet the problems of our day collaboratively.

Author: Peter Thompson
Deputy Director, Biomass Thermal Energy Council