Local stores out of pellet stove fuels, for now
January 5, 2007
Wood pellets for pellet-fueled stoves are in short supply, but experts say the shortage shouldn’t last too long.
As of Thursday afternoon, Albertsons in Truckee, Mountain Hardware and Sports, and North Shore Ace Hardware were sold-out of pellets.
Wood pellets, an alternative home-heating source made from compacted sawdust, have seen a recent gain in popularity as fossil fuel prices have risen. The rise in popularity has led to shortages, particularly in the western United States.
Bruce Lisle, the president of the Pellet Fuels Institute, said the cause of the shortage boils down to a market anomaly.
“After [Hurricane] Katrina, pellet popularity grew very rapidly with the increase in fossil prices, leaving the East Coast desperate for fuel last year.” Lisle said. “During the off-season, manufacturers moved the fuel from the west to the east, leaving the west temporarily short.”
A major expansion in the pellet fuel industry on the West Coast will mean that supply will be back up by next winter, but supplies should last through this winter, Lisle said.
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Sawdust, the material used for pellets, is traditionally in short supply around this time, when lumber mills shut down for the holidays, Lisle said.
Truckee-Tahoe area retailers of pellet fuel have speculated on rumors of a fire at one of the major manufacturers, but Lisle said he wasn’t aware of any burned warehouses, storage facilities or production plants.
Lignetics, a major wood pellet manufacturer that supplies many of the local retailers, did not return phone calls to the Sierra Sun before press time.
Lisa Gehring, purchaser for Mountain Hardware and Sports in Truckee, said she expects a larger supply in February, but may see some additional stock as early as next week.
Paul Moresi, an owner of North Shore Ace Hardware in Kings Beach, said he can’t get the pellets fast enough to keep up with demand, but he expects more by Tuesday.
Stephanie Bright, a Glenshire resident who uses a pellet stove, said she was fortunate because she also has natural gas heating, but prefers using her pellet stove for direct heating because it burns clean, compared to wood.
Because of the shortage, however, she is reconsidering a woodstove as a direct heating source because of more consistent supplies, she said.
Scott Milliken, a salesperson at Mountain Home Center in Truckee, said while he has seen an increase in pellet-fueled stoves in the area, they still trail behind other fuel sources in popularity.
He said about 80 percent of stoves sold at Mountain Home Center are gas, 15 percent are wood, and only about 5 percent are wood pellet.
Lisle said some pellet-fueled stoves, depending on make and model, could use other fuel sources when wood pellets are in short supply.
“Most wood-pellet stoves are pellet-only, but some will burn different grades of fuel and even corn,” Lisle said.