Sunday, December 04, 2016

Is Burning Wood CO2 Neutral?

Vermont woods (Photo Credit: InspireFate Photography via Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
The EU and US have declared, “Burning wood is CO2-neutral”.  East Europe and the US Southeast still have significant areas with forests.  Starting about 2005, major parts of these forests have been harvested by means of clear-cutting.  In 2016, about 6.5 million metric ton of wood pellets will be shipped from the US Southeast to Europe for co-firing in coal-fired power plants.  The EU authorities in Brussels have declared these coal plants in compliance with EU CO2/kWh standards, because biomass is renewable and the CO2 of wood burning is not counted.

Manufacturing pellets requires input energy of about 115 units, and shipping pellets to European coal plants requires about 10 units, for a total of 125 units to obtain 100 units of pellet energy; the CO2 emissions of pellet burning is declared CO2-neutral, and the other 25% of CO2 emissions is not mentioned.
NOTE: Traditional biomass includes wood, agricultural by-products and dung. They usually are inefficiently burned for cooking and heating purposes.  In developing countries, such as India, traditional biomass is harvested in an unsustainable manner and burned in a highly polluting way.  It is mostly traded informally and non-commercially.  It was about 8.9% of the world’s total energy consumption in 2014.
Most US states have significant areas covered with forests.  As part of renewable energy programs, these forests are seen as useful for producing thermal and electrical energy.  By using the mantra “Burning wood is CO2-neutral”, the CO2 from wood burning, and associated activities, is ignored, and thus not included in a state’s overall CO2 emissions.  One of such states is Vermont, the subject of this article.

Burning Wood Declared CO2-Neutral in Vermont:  Proponents of more wood burning, to achieve the Comprehensive Energy Plan, CEP, goal of “90% RE of All Energy by 2050”, are engaging in a fantasy by simply declaring, “Burning wood is CO2-neutral”.  The difference of opinion regarding CO2 emissions from wood burning is not among scientists, but between scientists and wood burning proponents.

“Burning wood is CO2-neutral” is used by wood burning proponents to bamboozle Vermonters.  It conjures up the APPEARANCE of meeting CO2 targets.  Proponents purposely forget to add: “Over a period of up to 60 years in New England, up to 40 years in the US southeast, if: 1) There is spare Vermont forest area for sequestering (there is not); 2) Logged forests have the same acreage (they do not); 3) Forests are not further fragmented or developed (they are); 4) Forest CO2 sequestering capability, Mt/acre, remains the same (it does not).

Read more at Is Burning Wood CO2 Neutral?

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