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AWC Chief to Seek a Place for Wood in Biden's Climate Platform

Jackson Morrill, American Wood Council

Four weeks into the Biden Administration, the American Wood Council's (AWC) president and CEO sees opportunities to promote wood as a potential solution to the new government's climate initiatives.

Executive orders to become a net-zero economy, rejoin the Paris Agreement, and take other steps to address climate change "make plain that the Biden Administration plans to use the massive purchasing power of the federal government to drive carbon reductions," Jackson Morrell said in a Feb. 15 statement to Webb Analytics. "Wood products are uniquely positioned to meet the challenging goals of reducing carbon emissions while changing the way government buildings are designed and constructed."

Morrill also sees good things in President Biden's choice of Tom Vilsack to be Secretary of Agriculture--the same post that the former governor of Iowa held during the Obama administration. Back then, Vilsack launched initiatives to promote mass timber construction of commercial and multifamily structures. Morrill noted that, during Vilsack's recent confirmation hearings, he re-committed to encouraging the use of wood.

"As the federal government seeks to reduce carbon emissions, AWC stands ready to engage with Secretary Vilsack and the Administration to ensure wood products are part of an active economic and climate solution," Morrill added.

These new opportunities come just six months after Morrill succeeded Robert Glowinski as AWC's new president and CEO. He had been president of the Composite Panel Association before arriving at AWC's Leesburg, VA, offices last Sept. 1. Earlier in his career, he worked at the American Chemistry Council and practiced environmental law.

During a Dec. 2 interview with Webb Analytics, Morrill said he looks to build AWC's expertise on wood's role in the carbon economy even as it continues its focus on codes and standards affecting wood. "This is going to be huge as the 2021 codes come in--that’s where the tall mass provisions are," he said. "We want to make sure we provide technical support regarding the new codes [while] turning right to the 2024 code cycle."

What is mass timber's potential? "We’d love to see it bust down the doors," Morrill replied. "The technical work that underpins those provisions are sound. The question is how loud the competing interests are. [Winning over people] really is sort of a case by case basis. We will be very actively engaged when asked in any of these jurisdictions and get people comfortable with them."

Wood also had fans in the Trump administration, Morrill noted, so the AWC can build on that momentum.

"It’s been a wholistic movement where wood is now good," he said. "The perception of wood has changed dramatically, and it’s because of this climate story. There are a lot of things that have changed about the industry that have helped. We’re better at communicating the benefits of wood. The forest sector is better about how to sustain wood.

"There are a lot of good building blocks. So in Washington, the door is now open for us to step in and start talking seriously, because there’s an an awareness that wood is part of the solution."

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