Northern Florida Burning More Wood To Meet Renewable Energy Targets
Major Florida Watersheds. Image credit:University of Florida, IFAS Extension
Florida's push for increased reliance on renewable sources of energy has encouraged the addition of 250+ Megawatts of wood-fired electrical power generation, to be fueled mainly by logging residues left in the State's northern forests. There will be more demand for wood-fueled power in Florida and elsewhere, as Cap & Trade regimes open the door for the selling of emission credits to coal-only power plant operators.The The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville reports that "North Florida's vast forests are drawing the interest of electric companies like JEA and others who are seeking green fuels as coal-powered generators face new costs and regulations."
Firms which provide two product streams from the same raw material, as the logging companies are positioned to do now, at large scale, can hang on to profitability when prices in one market fall, by relying on the 'co-product' for a profitable revenue stream. At some point in such situations, it is common for the 'co-product' to become simply a 'product.'
Which market (fuel or timber) loggers choose to focus upon serving, will vary depending on regional demand and pricing. I believe increased profitability from wood chip sales will come rapidly to Northern Florida loggers, as the true environmental costs of coal-fired electricity generation are internalized for coal-fired utilities by a Gap & Trade regime.
What difference why trees are cut as long as the outcome is the same? In a scenario of rapid climate catastrophe, which is looking increasingly plausible these days, demand for wood as fuel is likely to rapidly outpace the demand for construction (which is already in the hole across Florida).
Many of Florida's northern watersheds (as pictured above) get their freshwater solely from direct precipitation. There are few large rivers entering Florida from the North; and those which do bring in water from out-of-State are already over-committed for water supplies. Anything which increases runoff during wet periods increases the risk of water shortages during dry periods. That's what logging at large scale does.
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