The future of Pacific Northwest forests may lie in the stuff loggers now leave behind.
That’s the bet the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance has made in networking a roomful of professors, business leaders and government officials to turn wood waste into jet fuel. They’re working through a $40 million federal grant to envision all the mills, pipelines, refineries, outreach programs, permits and spinoffs the industry could create.
There’s just one hitch: Nobody has yet figured out how to economically make isobutanol fuel out of tree tops.
“We know that figuring out how to break cellulose down into sugars is the big gridlock,” said Montana State University extension forester Peter Kolb. “But you can’t afford not to pursue wood. Producing bioenergy from forests is the only agricultural practice in the world that also provides clean water and recreation and doesn’t compete with food production.”
Last week, about 20 NARA members and an equal number of interested stakeholders met in Missoula to hear the effort’s progress. Washington State University engineering professor Michael Wolcott acknowledged the program was a little like planning a city on Mars before anyone has a rocket to get there. But he argued there were plenty of good reasons to prepare for the rocket’s arrival.forest bioenergy, isobutanol fuel, Michael Wolcott, Montana State University, NARA, Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance, Pacific Northwest, Pacific Northwest biomass, Peter Kolb, renewable jet fuel, Washington State University, wood waste