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Forum, June 7: Dartmouth wood chip plan will have major benefits


Thursday, June 06, 2019
Dartmouth wood chip plan will have major benefits

Dartmouth College is planning to burn wood chips to make heat and power, not exclusively to make power. The distinction is important, as the heating component enables about 300% more efficient use of fuel compared with power-only applications, such as what is found at the Bridgewater, Springfield and other power plants that are on the financial rocks.

Forests in New England are growing faster than they are being harvested. Today, as recently reported by the Harvard Forest Center, one of the greatest threats to New England forests is their conversion to agriculture and development. “If you don’t use them, you will lose them” should be the mantra we consider when we think of forests.

Using forests is the only way to create tangible value. Creating tangible value prevents conversion to other land uses, which may have higher tangible value in the short run. We have only to recall the demise of Northeast forests 150-200 years ago, as sheep farming became such an important industry. It is only since the 1930s that much of our forestland has returned.

Today, the forestry products industry is one of the great forest protectors.

Nobody harvests trees from New England forests for the sole purpose of making fuel chips. That would be financial foolishness. On the contrary, harvests are funded by markets for saw and veneer logs: 25% of the wood harvested produces 75% of the value; 75% of the wood is low-grade wood, which today doesn’t even provide 25% of the value. Providing markets for unhealthy, crooked and crowded trees enables landowners to afford forest stewardship.

Keeping forests as forests and replacing heating oil with wood chips both have major carbon benefits. Set aside studies that compare carbon emissions of wood to coal. Those studies apply primarily to European power plants and not to New England heating plants.

SCOTT NICHOLS

Lyme

The writer is the owner Tarm USA.

Wood heat good for both the environment and the economy

I am writing on behalf of the Northern Forest Center to express our strong support for Dartmouth College’s decision to heat its campus with wood chips, and to explain why switching from fossil fuels to automated wood heat is good for our environment and the region’s economy.

Given the extensive use of fossil fuels to heat buildings in the Northeast, we need to embrace local, renewable heating solutions that reduce greenhouse gases. A peer-reviewed 2015 study showed that using regionally made wood pellets cuts greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50% from day one. The carbon benefits were greatest when switching from natural gas, taking methane leakage into account. A 50%-60% greenhouse gas reduction is an excellent improvement, especially when we can make this vast improvement using renewable wood.

New Hampshire is the second-most forested state in the U.S. and our forests are growing more than they are being harvested. Dartmouth will be using the “low-grade” wood that is a byproduct of harvesting for higher-value timber. Because of this residual wood’s low economic value, forests in the Northeast are never harvested to supply energy markets alone. With the closure of many pulp and paper mills, forest landowners need new markets for their low-grade wood to sustain economical, long-term forest management practices.

Finally, today’s state-of-the-art automated wood heat systems are highly efficient at turning low-grade wood into heat and meet extremely high emissions standards.

With sufficient market demand for wood pellets and chips, the forest can live on to store carbon, clean the air and water, house birds and wildlife, and provide recreational opportunities and undeveloped places. Kudos to Dartmouth for making this major investment in heating with renewable, greenhouse-gas reducing automated wood heat.

MAURA ADAMS

Concord

The writer is the wood heat program director at the Northern Forest Center.

CEO-worker pay gap a concern

In “CEO raises outpace workers,” (May 26) Associated Press business writer Stan Choe reports that the pay of CEOs of the largest U.S. corporations grew faster than that of their employees in 2018, and so it did — yet again.

However it’s the enormous gap in pay between CEOs and their employees that’s of real concern, and many Americans seem unaware of how much that’s changed in a generation.

In 1960, the ratio of the compensation of CEOs of U.S. Fortune 500 corporations to that of their average worker was about 20-to-1. By the 1980s, it had grown to about 30-to-1. Today it’s about 300-to-1. Rather than trickling down, wealth in the U.S. has trickled up since the dawn of the Reagan era and its tax-cut, hands-off, what’s-good-for-business-is-good-for-America playbook.

Democrats have been pointing this out, as they continue to do. Republicans have been changing the subject, as they continue to do. Meanwhile, about 90% of Americans have seen their incomes stagnate or decline in the past 30 years, according to economist and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz.

And while there are many contributing factors, our stated goal as a nation is to “form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.” How do these goals, as enshrined in the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, square with 9 out of 10 Americans being left behind economically for an entire generation?

CHRIS WEINMANN

Norwich