AUGUSTA – With winter approaching, the Professional Logging Contractors (PLC) of Maine is reminding Mainers that buying locally sourced firewood is not only a cheaper alternative to heating fuels like oil, propane, and natural gas, but supports hundreds of local jobs and our working forests.
Recent low prices for fossil fuels have placed strains on Maine’s traditional firewood market this year. Although firewood is still cheaper than other fuels, dealers are reporting many consumers are choosing to buy less wood or no wood this year because unlike oil, propane, or natural gas, wood must be handled after you purchase it.
According to the most recent figures available from the Maine Governor’s Energy Office, using an average statewide heating oil price of $1.88 per gallon in mid-September, and converting to a common heating unit value (million British thermal units, or Btu), the price of fuel oil was $13.56 compared with an equivalent heating unit value for cord wood of $11.36 (at $250/cord). It is worth noting many firewood suppliers around the state offer firewood cheaper than $250/cord.
One PLC member logger in northern Maine said he has sold wood at $200 a cord since 2007, and did not increase prices even when the price of heating oil reached historic highs. Now that heating oil prices have fallen, the logger has seen many customers reduce the amount of firewood they are buying, and his trucks that normally delivered six cords per customer be reduced to delivering two to three cords per customer this year.
Firewood is an important market for Maine’s professional loggers as well as for many smaller wood producers, and its production supports hundreds of local jobs both in the woods and in related industries. Maine firewood provides many economic benefits to the state, helps keep Maine wooded by preserving working forests, and is a renewable alternative to fossil fuels.
“These are difficult times for Maine loggers, and for many the firewood market has been a reliable source of revenue that can help them remain in business and keep the logging workforce upon which Maine’s $8.5 billion forest products industry depends strong,” PLC Executive Director Dana Doran, said. “Mainers can help this traditional industry and save money at the same time by choosing firewood over other heat sources this winter.”
Maine produced wood pellets are also a smart choice for homeowners as a heating option, providing reliable and convenient wood heat and supporting Maine timber harvesters and pellet producing plants.
Maine is the most forested state in the United States and also the most dependent on #2 heating oil. More than 70% of Mainers rely on heating oil, the highest percentage of any state in the nation. 78% of the dollars spent on heating oil, or more than $700 million annually, leave Maine entirely.
Timber harvesting is an integral part of Maine’s forest products industry. Wood, wood pulp, and paper and paperboard were Maine’s 4th, 5th and 6th most valuable exports, respectively, for 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In an increasingly global world, the competitiveness of these exports relies on the economic feasibility and health of the harvesting industry that makes it all possible.
Maine’s loggers are a vital part of the state’s forest products sector. The logging industry contributed an estimated $882 million to the state economy in 2014.