Tuesday, 24 February 2009

What’s so neutral about wood? Time!

We all know, wood is carbon, burning wood emits carbon dioxide (CO2) but then planting a tree helps to capture that CO2 back. So far, so neutral.

What most people keep forgetting, planting a tree and cutting it down is more often than not done by two different generations. It takes at least 30 years to grow a half-way decent tree, trees from managed woodlands for example on the continent will be harvested after 80 to 100 years; especially those that are needed in the construction industry and are not just chipped and compressed to boards or cut to 2x4s.

So if anything, to burn a tree for heating purposes is a neutral CO2 procedure if your tree’s wood burns slowly – about the same tempo as a seed needs to grow into another tree; by the way, you should not have cut the tree with a chainsaw nor transported it on a fossil fuel truck.

In reference to the yearly growth cycles the fire from a tropical tree might be allowed to burn a little faster; the same fire in the North of Scotland will need to go very slow as the growth ratio is also very low. Agreed, this sounds ridiculous, but what is the difference to the trite line of “wood is carbon neutral” which is nothing else than “carbon is carbon neutral”. If that was the case then oil or coal would be carbon neutral as well – just on a different time scale.

Left alone our planet would soon be grown over by lots of woodland; more CO2 would become more C, the cycle where trees would fall and under high pressure, heat and time would be transformed into coal and oil would see CO2 levels being reduced to what they were or maybe even lower. We no longer have such lengths of time on our side. Read the article below – and ask your self, when the time will come when planting trees will generate an income for carbon capture, way beyond that for selling them as fire wood.


Trees absorb a fifth of carbon emissions pumped out by humans
Carpe diem!


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