HARRIS, Mich. (WLUC) - The "Heating the Midwest" Conference and Expo came to the U.P. this week. Environmental professionals from across the U.S. came together to look at the alternative fuel source known as biomass.
Biomass is a fuel source that is made up of plants or plant derived by-products. While the experts say there are many benefits to biomass replacing fossil fuels the facts that it is a renewable resource that burns cleanly may be a the top of the list.
But there are many obstacles to getting people to switch to a new fuel source, not the least of which is simply the way we live. Habit is a huge guiding force in the choices we make along these lines
"All the pieces are in place. But that public acceptance, that willingness to try something different. To change. Not put in that standard fossil fuel boiler. Perhaps put in a woodchip boiler or a pellet boiler." say Bill Cook, a Forester with Michigan State University.
Many of the speakers at the conference focused on social subject such as the roles of traditional heating methods in our culture.
But the effects of a switch to biomass could be far reaching according to Tony Morice, the current President of the non-profit organization "Heating the Midwest". "What if we took and just converted 10% of what we are heating with fossil fuels and went to a biomass of some sort? It would contribute 2 trillion dollars to our Midwest economy and create over 130, 000 jobs because of the supply chain. So it's about more than just the dollars and the cents" say Morice.
Biomass is already playing an important role in upper Michigan's economy with several company either switching over to use it as a heat and energy source or actually using it as building block of their business like Jeremy Mortl of Messersmith Manufacturing in Bark River.
"Things that we do here are basically bringing awareness to the industry and the fact that it's a clean resource."
Messersmith Manufacturing makes state of the art Biomass Boilers at it's Bark River, MI facility.