Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Sid Salter: Wood Pellets Plant Creates New Markets for State's Timber

How big an impact does forestry make on Mississippi’s economy? For the last six years, the Mississippi State University Extension Service says that forestry contributed more than a billion dollars annually with an estimated value of $1.2 billion in 2018 alone.

Behind poultry, forestry remains the state’s No. 2 agricultural commodity. When final figures were tallied in early 2019, the numbers were closer to the $1.3 billion the industry generated in 2017.

What does Enviva have to do with Mississippi’s strong timber industry? Plenty, it seems.

Enviva has produced dueling op-ed columns on the subject of the whether construction of a $140 million wood pellet energy facility in George County with a $60 million ship-loading terminal in Jackson County that would initially produce about 100 new jobs and create new diverse markets for Mississippi timber producers is in fact sound public and environmental policy.

On one side is Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson, who argued in a May 9 column in state newspapers: “Gaining investment in the talented people and growing economic engine of Mississippi should be a top priority for our local and national leaders ... in George County, for example, the unemployment rate is nearly twice as high (and) simply put, we need the jobs supplied by the forest products industry. In fact, working forests (already) support over 47,000 jobs in Mississippi and a payroll of more than $1.7 billion.”

Arguing against the plant is the Ashville, North Carolina-based environmental group Dogwood Alliance. On their website, Dogwood asserts: “Enviva, the world’s largest wood pellet manufacturer, is planning an enormous plant in Lucedale, Mississippi in the Gulf Coast region. If built, this plant will be the largest wood pellet plant in the world. Every year, up to 130,000 acres of forests would be cut down, turned into 1.4 million tons of wood pellets, and shipped overseas to be burned for electricity in Europe and Asia.”

Gipson counters: “According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the total volume of trees grown in the U.S. Southeast has increased by 50 percent over the last 50 years, and today, private forest owners are growing 40 percent more wood than they remove every year. The reality is that a strong market for forest products ensures that landowners keep planting trees.

“While these out-of-state activists may live in a place that doesn’t need or want forest industry jobs, we know better here in Mississippi. Let’s continue finding ways to sustainably harness our abundant natural resources and grow our rural economy, providing more opportunities for all Mississippians,” Gipson said.

In an opposing May 9 column in Mississippi newspapers, Piney Woods School alum Mary Annaise Heglar – who now lives in New York and identifies as a “climate justice essayist”- argues that Enviva is bringing an environmental danger to the state through increased health risks from emissions and airborne particles.

That claim belies the fact that Enviva since 2010 has already successfully operated a wood pellet facility in Amory, Mississippi, that can produce up to 110K metric tons of pellets in a plant that runs around the clock, seven days per week.

Hyperbole aside, Maryland-based biomass company Enviva is the world’s largest producer of wood pellets. The company owns and operates seven wood pellet plants in the Southeastern U.S. (in Virginia, North Carolina, Mississippi, and Florida) that produce over 3 million metric tons of wood pellets annually. The pellets are exported to end-use customers primarily in Europe and Asia.

The Dogwood Alliance and other environmental groups are opposed to cutting trees period. In parts of Mississippi like George County and Monroe County, money for rural Mississippians still grows on trees. As one of the state’s leading forestry experts confirmed to me this week: “Having an expanding market for wood energy is good for Mississippi on multiple fronts.”

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at


Anonymous said...

Having been in NYC a couple of weeks ago I suggest Mary work on environmental issues in her home town rather than rural Mississippi.

Anonymous said...

Wood pellets shipped to Europe are a result of the "environment-friendly" Kyoto Protocol and subsequent Paris Agreement, which require those countries to shift more of their energy consumption to renewable energy. Trees happen to fall into this category. Not only is this Dogwood group chasing their tail, they appear to have caught it and continue to run around in circles.

Anonymous said...

Pardon my ignorance, but, these three million metric tons that are exported to Europe and Asia....are used for what, exactly?

Anonymous said...

to 8:56..... europe? protocol? paris agreement ? wow, pretty beefy terms. do you really expect anyone around here to know what you are talking about? kyoto protocol? what is that ? some kind of diet? help us poor cotton choppers out.

Anonymous said...

I'd suggest anyone interested in this issue and this pellet plant look into the long history of it. Will it finally get built? Maybe. Will it live up to the hype and warrant the expenditure of taxpayer dollars? Not the slightest chance - refer to recent JJ topics like Kemper and the Shuckers stadium on the coast to every other boondoggle that has been used to loot tax dollars/other people's money.

One of the real problems in using "outside funding" (taxpayer, OPM, "investors," etc.) for things like this is that there is a huge industry, much of it real, working feverishly to make oil, wood, coal, etc., unnecessary and obsolete fuel source(s). Just as "desktop computers in every home" were, in 1979, thought of fantasy by many and within 20 years, cell phones (also a rare thing 20 years prior) had more computing power than many corporate systems 20 years prior, there is at least a reasonable chance that this pellet mill will become obsolete much sooner than projected by its proponents. Making projections using long timeframes on things that are being rapidly and actively outdated is simply bad business/economics; it is akin to the proverbial buggy whip manufacturer making long term factory plans at the dawn of the automotive age.

Anonymous said...

Timber is a renewable crop which is managed by the growers. These tree huggers are out of touch with reality.

Doesn't Mississippi also have a charcoal production plant in the northern part of the state? Like briquettes for your Green Egg?

Anonymous said...

If it is so lucrative to the parent company and its' investors, let them provide the capital financing. This has already been floated in southwest Mississippi and could not make it without government funding.

Anon-E-Mouse said...

Power plants stopped burning coal in Great Britain. They now use US produced wood pellets and there aren’t enough to make demand.

Anonymous said...

New technology. That is hilarious. If it creates jobs and doesn't require tax money, I'm all for it. But it ain't gonna save Mississippi nor is it going to destroy the planet.

Anonymous said...

In the same way the beef plant created new markets for the state's cows, right, Sid? When I worked with you at The Clarion-Ledger, you had more sense than this. What happened?

Anonymous said...

10:54 - Who the hell do you think believes Europe and Asia are out of trees, firewood and timber?

Anonymous said...

Are these the same people who say they will buy flying carp in the Delta and ship them to China?

Third grade reading gate said...

9:15 - reading is a wonderful thing. And a great tool. I realize that today's kids would rather ask questions than read or research and maybe that applies to folks that click on to JJ occasionally.

IN the article posted, the one written by Salter that you are commenting on, it says that these pellets are shipped to these other countries "to be burned to create electricity".

hopefully, my answer to your inquiry wasn't too long that you chose not to read it for yourself - and I'm pleased to be able to provide you with an answer to your probing inquiry.

Anonymous said...

Why can't we ship them natural gas instead?

Anonymous said...

Why do you want to give the money to Louisiana? Trump's already saying he's going to give them a new bridge and Mississippi is going to pay for it!

Anonymous said...

To compare this deal to the 'beef plant' - which wasted $50+ million of state taxpayer dollars - or Kemper that wasted a few billion of stockholder's dollars, shows one's ignorance.

This is not "new technology" - which Kemper was. The beef plant was not new, but it was proven through experience to be financially unfeasible.

This technology is operating in several places across the south - including in Mississippi. This company has seven operating plants in existence. There is a market for the product (which all the feasibility studies proved that there wasn't a market for the beef plant product.)

The state's investment into the project is an appropriate expenditure for any company - water, sewer, roads - all basic infrastructure.

No company that builds a new plant has to install its own water supply, or build its own roads. Spending money for those things in order to allow an industry to operate is certainly reasonable. (see the "treetops lane" road in Flowood; Or the East Metro Parkway for local examples of what providing infrastructure is and how it allows businesses to locate.)

A prime example in the opposite direction is Puckett Machinery. City of Jackson would not provide some basic road adjustments and other services. So they took their business and moved across the river and took their tax dollars with them.

Anonymous said...

An entity with which I am associated was given an opportunity to get involved with a pellet mill down in George County about 8-10 years ago. The name at the time wasn't Enviva - it was something like Gulf Coast Green Energy or Renewable Energy. Something in the back of my mind says there was another company name involved between those two. It was supposed to be a $25 million deal. Then Jackson County did some financial acrobatics and suddenly a new port specifically for these pellets was on the board. Before we could complete DD it began mushrooming rapidly with many of the typical hallmarks of a too-good-to-be-true (or possible) public funds siphoning scheme and we backed away slowly with hands firmly on the wallet. Within about a year, the whole thing went dark for a time.
As another reply pointed out, if this were all private investment capital seeking a healthy return on the investment, I'd say welcome and a sincere wish for many years of success for the company, the workers and the counties involved. With public money involved, I'd say no way, no how and it will end with screwed taxpayers and enriched hogs with their snouts in the trough.

While "scam" may not be proper term as the plant and port would actually exist and there is a real market and industry for the pellets, there is absolutely many metric tons of good ol' Grade A Mississippi-style bullshit along with all the metric tons of pellets.

Anonymous said...

A few months ago, I saw where the same thing was floating around Pine Bluff Arkansas. I wouldn't be surprised that the opposition group wasn't paid by the Pellet Company to make the claim they really are in business.

Sounds like a beef plant.

Anonymous said...

Someone needs to look into the wood pellet plant in Quitman. Government assistance received through Federal and state New Market Tax Credits, plus local government assistance. Lasted longer than the beef plant, but never was able to secure significant sales contracts and went backrupt. What's different this time.

Anonymous said...

There is a election coming, politicians at all levels transform from cocoons to butterflies. They start talking about how wonderful things will be if we just follow their lead. Government gets bigger, bad ideas get legs, then move forward with no accountability. Get ready folks, the one eyed wiggler is about to laid to the taxpayer on this deal.

Anonymous said...

@ 7:43am

Anonymous said...

3:42 p.m. - You wasted an awful lot of time with that silly-assed post in a juvenile attempt to make one look stupid. All you did was make yourself look stupid. Now you can go back to trolling and shootin' pocket pool in your shorts.

Rod Knox said...

A lot of people are ready to jump on board with whatever is trendy. Even Fox Noooz is going more and more GREEN. Before long Hannety will be supporting wind mills and gun free zones.

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