Gabriel Popkin writes for The New York Times
“In barely a decade, the Southeast’s wood pellet industry has grown from almost nothing to 23 mills with capacity to produce more than 10 million metric tons annually for export. It employs more than 1,000 people directly and has boosted local logging and trucking businesses.
It is courting new markets in Asia — Japan, which retreated from nuclear power after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, has become a major buyer of pellets — and is lobbying for greater prominence in the United States. And it has backers at the Agriculture Department, which recently asked for suggestions on increasing wood bioenergy use.
Pellets are undoubtedly having a moment. The open question is whether a world increasingly desperate to avert climate disaster will continue to embrace, or turn away from, humanity’s original fuel: wood. Most divisive is the industry’s claim to battle climate change by replacing dirty fossil fuels with clean bioenergy.”’
In marketing, we talk often about finding your niche and pivoting your business when new opportunities surface. This is a classic example of just that kind of thinking. There are few materials older than wood but over time, companies have found new and interesting ways to leverage this natural resource. For much of human history, it was the primary material used in constructing shelter and providing heat and so it’s interesting to see that companies are again looking to wood as a source of fuel, this time in pellet form.
While it might be a stretch to call this “clean bioenergy,” there’s certainly an argument to be made that it’s cleaner than fossil fuels and renewable. And once again, there’s an opportunity for marketing to take the lead by crafting a compelling story, providing value-added content that explains the product’s benefits, and answering questions skeptical consumers might have about this newly developed fuel source.