BIOMASS. That word has kept appearing throughout 2010, and of course in my column; notably in Issue 4, 2010, which was referred to (meant kindly I think) as my “rantby an exhibitor at the IWF show in Atlanta in August. He asked me to continue to “rantin the interests of the panel industry, but it seems there may be less need for me to do so now.
On October 29 the European industry, led and inspired by the European Panel Federation (EPF), held a ‘Day of Action’ in which mills were asked to make the public and politicians sit up and take notice of the threat of biomass-for-energy to the survival of their industry.
It seems they responded with enthusiasm and unanimity as panel manufacturers across Europe staged production shutdowns on that day.
“This was the most massive event we have ever run,said EPF director general Kris Wijnendaele. “A substantial number of our members stopped production for longer or shorter periods during the day, in at least 15 European countries.
Some country associations chose to stop production in all their mills, while others stopped some mills, and most held a central, national, press conference. Press coverage was a vital part of getting the message out to as wide an audience as possible and in Belgium for example, all main newspapers carried reports, while television news programmes also took up the issue. The Belgian association also aligned itself with the pulp and paper industry for added impact.
In France, the panel association, UIPP, worked together with the national ‘umbrella’ organisation for the woodworking industry (UIB) and UNIFA, the furniture makers’ association.
Mr Wijnendaele said that the UK, Spain, Greece, Italy, France, Portugal and Germany particularly pursued political ‘targets’ with their publicity and major press conferences. “Never has there been so much focus on our industry,he said. “There were over 100 reports in the non-trade media and on TV throughout Europe and these were more important than the stoppages.”
It appears that all this effort paid off. “We have already seen that the message from the European Commission is changing,said Mr Wijnendaele. “Before, they were avoiding discussing this issue with us, but now they are coming back for more information and explanations of our statistics and how we produced them. Also, a number of MEPs [members of the European Parliament] are asking for our proposals to solve this problem and our members are pleased that we now have a European scale and not just national debates, making it easier to present their case.”
In the US too, things are moving, as the Composite Panel association (CPA) and the AF&PA have recognised in applauding moves by the US Department of Agriculture.
So it appears united actions have indeed ‘spoken more loudly than words’ and that can only benefit everybody in the industry. Now we have to keep up the momentum achieved so far.