State Rep. Jim Thompson, R-Dallas, and two other members of the House have proposed a bill that would provide tax credits for the transportation and production of biomass. Legislators should give it serious consideration this month during Oregon's special session.

Supporters say House Bill 3608 would put Oregonians back to work in the woods, providing jobs particularly in the high-unemployment areas of Eastern Oregon.

To do that, the bill would establish tax credits for transporting woody biomass from forests to biofuel producers, for generating electricity with biomass based on kilowatt hours produced, and for buying equipment to collect or process waste materials or to manufacture products from waste materials.

This would be a win-win for Oregon and for the fledgling local biomass business.

The law, if the Legislature approves, would become effective three months after adjournment. It also would direct the State Department of Energy to study Oregon's biomass facility sites.

This would complement the efforts of U.S. Rep. Greg Walden to open up national forests for more thinning and restoration work.

About 4.25 million acres of Oregon forestland have the potential to profitably harvest woody biomass through thinning excess trees. Such thinning not only would create jobs in the woods, but also would enhance forest health and help reduce the potential for wildfires.

In 2005 the Legislature established a policy to support and encourage biomass energy. The House bill would help fulfill that goal, but it's certainly not a done deal.

A similar bill Thompson introduced during the 2009 session drew bipartisan support, but died in the House Revenue Committee. With Oregon still in deep economic recession, it's time for the Legislature to reconsider the legislation.

Supporters say HB 3608 would provide the financial incentives to re-establish the industry in northeast Oregon and help produce a viable biomass sector in the region. It would help move Oregon loggers from the unemployment lines, while answering the call for green energy for the nation's power system.

Biomass offers a new twist on our resource-based economy, and one that may be a lifeline while the traditional forest industry remains beset by challenges and issues. In a time of transition from old ways to new, a financial incentive wouldn't hurt - and for folks out here, it likely would help.

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