Friday, 17 March 2017

Woodburning bad for climate

It turns out that burning lots of stuff is not good for the environment.

According to BBC News from 23rd February, 2017, converting coal power stations to burn wood that has been processed and shipped half way around the world has not reduced carbon emissions. In theory the carbon from trees is released when the wood is burned, and will be taken up by new growth. In practice a lot of forest is being clear cut to export from the US to the UK. This is not counted in the UK as a carbon emission because burning wood is considered carbon neutral, and the carbon is counted when the trees are harvested. In the US, on the other hand, carbon is not counted when the trees are harvested, so this carbon has vanished from the accounting system.

People who are against action on climate change will say, "I told you so", and hold this up as an example of the stupidity of environmentalists.

Environmentalists who have been saying that biofuels are not really the answer will also say, "I told you so", and hold this up as an example of commercial interests missing the point. 

Burning wood in power stations is not progress. This should be no surprise. If burning wood was so great, we would never have started burning coal.

Also there have been recent claims that poor air quality in London is due in part to the increase in wood burning stoves, so the evils of wood burning have become something of a meme.

The key is probably in moderation. Burning lots of stuff is not good for the environment, but wood can be part of a healthy calorie-controlled energy diet.