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National Bioenergy & Wood Products Conference

Opening Remarks: Rebecca W. Watson

Partner, Hogan & Hartson Law Firm
Denver, CO
rwwatson@hhlaw.com

  • Welcome to the second annual Bioenergy and Wood Products Conference – Innovations in Restoring Forests and Strengthening Economies
  • It is amazing to consider how much has happened in bioenergy and wood products since we last met. On January 21, 2006, the President of the United States said, “keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. And here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.” The President’s solution was his Advanced Energy Initiative – renewable energy and energy technology to help break America’s dependence on foreign sources of energy.
  • The President’s Advanced Energy Initiative highlights advanced technologies to make fuel ethanol from cellulosic (plant and wood fiber) biomass. The President’s 2007 budget, presented to Congress in February, contains $150 million to help develop bio-based fuels from wood chips, corn stalks and switch grass. In March, the President visited the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado to see first-hand cellulosic ethanol research. The White House website touts the potential of cellulosic ethanol to replace 30% of our transportation fuel. You will hear more about the Advanced Energy Initiative and what it means for bioenergy at this conference.
  • Last week, I went to Washington, DC to attend the 25 x ‘25 Conference, a bioenergy initiative led by agriculture, to provide “25% of the nation’s energy from renewable resources” by the year 2025. To give you a sense of both the high level and bi-partisan interest this group has drawn, this is a partial list of the speakers: former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, followed by former Senate Majority Leader, Tom Daschle, followed by the Secretary of Agriculture, Johanns, Republican Governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels and Democratic Governor of Pennsylvania Rendell. This group believes that America can continue to produce the food and fiber this country needs and also grow 30% of our transportation fuel. Members of the working group are at this conference where you will hear more about this ambitious effort and what it means for wood bioenergy.
  • The Departments of Energy and Agriculture have a bioenergy initiative that sets goals for the use of bio-based products in the power, transportation and chemical sectors by the year 2030. These two Departments plus Interior also make up the Biomass R&D Board and the new federal Woody Biomass Working Group. Each of which provide federal support and research to assist the private sector in growing this new sector. You will hear from them during the conference.
  • These are just a few of the exciting developments that have been happening at the national stage. But you will also be hearing from each other about what has been happening in your region. You will hear from local technology and marketing experts that will share their practical experience and who will give you a vision of where new technologies and markets are helping to advance wood bioenergy and wood products.
  • As we move to this exciting future of technology and cellulosic ethanol, I want to remind all of us of where we came from. I think the Conference title says it all: “Restoring Forests and Strengthening Economies.” This wood biomass effort grew out of the President’s Healthy Forest Initiative to restore the health of forests and range lands, to reduce catastrophic wildfires, to find a cost-effective way to fund that work and provide economic health and sustainability to rural economies. This entire effort is based on collaboration. Collaboration among partners – states, tribes, counties, the federal government, conservationists, the public, environmental groups, recreationists, industry groups. We will not be successful if we forget to focus on community and collaboration, as well as environment and economy. I am convinced each are significant to the success of a viable wood bioenergy and wood products effort.
  • Indeed, a conference like this doesn’t happen without the help of partners. Three federal agencies – the Department of Energy, Interior and Agriculture worked together with these wonderful partners – Western Governors’ Association, the State Foresters, the Council of Energy Resource Tribes, Inter-Tribal Timber Council, National Association of Conservation Districts, National Association of Resource Conservation and Development Councils and the National Association of Counties. Thank you to all of these government partners and a special thank you to John Deere Corporation who was a private sector financial contributor to the conference.
  • In a few moments, you will be hearing from one of our conference partners, Pam Inmann, the Executive Director of the Western Governors’ Association, who will introduce Colorado Governor Bill Owens. Then my good friend and Healthy Forest Initiative “tag team” partner, USDA Under Secretary Mark Rey will provide a welcome from the Bush Administration. Tomorrow our keynote will be delivered by my former boss and long-time friend, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Gale Norton. A terrific Conference line-up. I hope this Conference will give you new ideas, enthusiasm and energy – bioenergy for the work we have to do to make wood biomass and wood products an engine for growth in our economy and rural communities.
  • With that – let’s begin the day. I give you Pam Inmann, Executive Director of our Partner, the Western Governors’ Association