Wood contains a small percentage of mineral components that are the residue called ash - typically about 1 to 2% but about 70% of this is in elements such as calcium, potassium and magnesium. With the removal of woody biomass from forests, the process would additionally remove all these mineral components from the land (which would reduce the availability of these essential components for the next generation's growth of trees). Instead of being recycled naturally within the ecological niche, this wood ash would become a very hazardous industrial waste (exceedingly alkaline).
The real fuel value of wood must consider numerous reductions including the energy required for transporting workers and equipment to the site, the energy required for harvesting the wood, the energy requirments for getting the wood to the combustion plant; and for removing/evaporating the water in the wood (its moisture content). When all these processing energy requirements are factored into and compared to the amount of real energy gained, the amount of real gain is small -- a gain that could be better realized with more efficient utilization of energy without any emissions whatsoever.
It is also essential to realize that by establishing a precident of converting wood to fuel, it raises the very important question of who it will be determining which wood species is valuable and which are not (those species that are "substandard weeds"). A wood species that is not valuable now could be extremely important as a resource for other products in the future, or is a wood species that is of critical importance for wildlife species as a food source (seeds and fruits) or as part of the larger interrelational health of the forests. There is a significant difference between industrial forestry ( tree plantations ) and natural, complex, multiple species forests.
Wood as product or wood as humus in soil sequesters carbon, potentially for extended periods of time, while burning wood releases all the carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. Forget the notion of biogenic carbon dioxide; just because you change its name does not reduce the problems associated with it vis a vis global climate change. It is the argument of a sophist.
Additionally beyond CO2 emissions, when wood burns it releases water, acids (as with acetic acid) and soot. Are we to return to the days of acid rains? Further, soot is a huge absorber of solar energy in terms of atmospheric warming. Wood may seem to be clean and natural but that is not entirely correct as it too emits problematic substances.
posted 2 years, 3 months ago
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