Maine's forest products industry has been declining for years, forcing closure of six pulp and paper mills in the last three years and reductions in workforce in others. Expiring contracts, lower oil prices, and the elimination of incentives in neighboring states have pushed Maine's biomass sector to the brink of collapse. What does the future of the forest economy look like?
Federal and State leaders may have been slow to react, but are now engaged in multiple activities to rescue a struggling industry. The Maine Public Utilities Commission approved a $13 million taxpayer subsidy to reopen or keep open several biomass electricity generation plants in the state. A legislative commission evaluated the economic, environmental, and energy benefits of Maine's biomass resources, as well as public policy and economic proposals to create and maintain a sustainable future for the Maine biomass industry. And, the U.S. Economic Development Administration is investing $1 million to implement a strategic plan to identify and support new markets for wood products.
E2Tech and GrowSmart Maine are bringing together key players in Maine's biomass/biofuels, bioproducts, and community development worlds to discuss both the policy and the economic development challenges and opportunities in Maine's new forest economy. What are our forests producing now and how does that connect with regulation and demand in the state, regional, and larger energy and economic systems? What is needed to move this sector forward in an economic and environmentally sustainable way?