Biofuel Wood Pellets Not a Climate Solution

April 26, 2022

9 Responses to “Biofuel Wood Pellets Not a Climate Solution”

  1. Gingerbaker Says:

    The video presents a false premise – that biofuels are green because the CO2 produced when they burn is absorbed by other trees. Or that it is green because you can grow more trees.

    Sorry guys, but biofuels are green because the CO2 they produce when burned is CO2 that was just previously stripped out of the atmosphere by the tree or plant that is being burned. So, no net new CO2 is being introduced into the carbon cycle.

    Exactly *unlike* the CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels, which introduces new previously-sequestered carbon back into the carbon cycle.

    • John Oneill Says:

      It doesn’t really matter whether CO2 being put in the air comes from fossil fuels that have been there for a hundred million years, or from a tree that’s been there sixty years – the warming effect is the same. In most cases, the tree will have had other trees in the same forest, doing the same job, before it grew there. Growing a new tree on cleared land, or on formerly bare land, will take just as long to get the CO2 back out of the air for either. Regularly felling trees for fuel, though, will have very damaging effects on a forest, impoverishing much of the biota that relies on old-growth or decaying trees, and the fungi and other soil organisms that rely on natural regeneration. One of the effects of the industrial revolution, along with a huge increase in human well-being, was the regrowth of forests, in Europe and North America, that had been ravaged for fuel, especially for iron smelting, before the mid 1800s.
      According to the IPCC, biomass used in power generation has a carbon footprint of 230 grams CO2 per kilowatt hour – about half that of natural gas – but others calculate an output worse than coal.
      ‘Each year around 8 million tonnes of wood are burned in the UK to generate up to 12% of total UK electricity supply. Burning wood at this scale generates 15.6Mt of CO2 emissions each year, of which 13.3Mt alone comes from one power station – Drax, the world’s largest wood-burner. Emissions from burning wood in the UK now far exceed those from burning coal (including coal used in steel production) which amounted to 10Mt in 2020. This means that wood burning is now the second largest contributor to the power sector’s CO2 emissions after fossil gas.’
      https://ember-climate.org/insights/research/uk-biomass-emits-more-co2-than-coal/

      • Gingerbaker Says:

        “It doesn’t really matter whether CO2 being put in the air comes from fossil fuels that have been there for a hundred million years, or from a tree that’s been there sixty years – the warming effect is the same.”

        No, it is NOT the same, as I explained. If you don’t get it, I am sorry. I do not know how to explain it any better.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      It is a matter of time scale over the long term, but right now deliberately combusting recently-sequestered carbon has the same effect on atmospheric chemistry as combusting long-sequestered carbon.

      Contrast that with, say, managed timber crops which produce materials that still sequester large portions of its carbon in the form of A-frame housing or furniture, with residue shunted off to make paper (and, yes, some percentage ending up as compacted Dura-flame logs).

      On top of that, there’s more to being “green” than balancing the long-term carbon cycle: Their choice of which areas to clear-cut probably has more to do with what’s available at what price than with what affects runoff or retaining habitat buffers.

      • Gingerbaker Says:

        “It is a matter of time scale over the long term, but right now deliberately combusting recently-sequestered carbon has the same effect on atmospheric chemistry as combusting long-sequestered carbon.”

        Is there something in the water people have been drinking? Some sort of hallucinogen in the air? Because evidently IQ’s have been falling around here.

        If you can not distinguish between carbon that is part of the natural carbon cycle and how it is naturally recycled, and additional carbon NEW to the carbon cycle than you have lost your grasp on the entire issue of global warming.

        Wood in a forest is made up of carbon dioxide that was already stripped from the atmosphere. Burning it adds no new net CO2. This is not a difficult concept.

        Burning, say, coal adds new CO2 to the atmosphere. That is the difference and it is an important difference. And if you can’t understand the significance of the difference, then have missed the whole point. Which is:

        => Global warming is caused by the addition to the carbon cycle of carbon ( or other GHG’s) previously-sequestered from it. Period. <=

        The carbon cycle has been handling the recycling of carbon from all flora and fauna for millennia without global warming resulting. Burning or rotting wood is part and parcel of this natural flux.

        Taking coal etc from underground and burning it is NOT part and parcel of the natural carbon cycle – it is what has overloaded it and over the past 170 years this process and this process alone has caused AGW.

        It matters not if wood is burned, whether wood if used in housing for a few thousand years. How long it takes before going back into the atmosphere is not important at all. It all represents carbon recently stripped from the atmosphere. That is what is important. That is the point.

        The idea of a biofuel is valid, not invalid. To say that burning wood has the same effect as burning coal is simply not correct. The question re biofuels is how much emissions are generated in the processing of the material, but that is another kettle of fish.

  2. Anthony O'Brien Says:

    Can’t view the video so it may have been covered, but there are so many “it depends”. Generally though I do not see wood chip bio fuels as being green, more green washing.

  3. gmrmt Says:

    As I understand it the problem is that burning trees now and regrowing them later adds to the carbon load now when we need to reduce it. Growing trees now and burning them later would mean reducing the load now and only adding back to it when it’s lower.

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      No, that is not true. The carbon cycle has components that last hundreds of thousands of years. The sixty-year lifespan of a tree is essentially an instant.

      And so is the time needed for that tree to rot after it has died, returning all the CO2 it stripped out of the atmosphere back into the atmosphere. When we burn that wood and release that CO2, it means we are NOT burning a fossil fuel instead.

      And that is important, because burning a fossil fuel means adding NEW (previously-sequestered) carbon to the carbon cycle. Burning a tree is not adding NEW carbon to the carbon cycle, it is merely recycling carbon that is already IN the carbon cycle.


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