[NEWS] Is Burning Wood CO2 Neutral?

– by Willem Post, November 30, 2016, Energy Collective


Photo: Energy Collective

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.

READ MORE at Energy Collective


  • The full article on the Energy Collective web site says, “In the 1600s – 1700s, Vermont’s lakes and rivers were teeming with fish, according to settlers’ accounts. Eroded soils damaged/buried most of fish hatching grounds, due to the clear-cutting in the 1800s. A mere semblance of former fish populations is maintained by state fish hatcheries.” Uh…. let’s not forget the massive damming of rivers for industry, the direct pollution into those rivers from those industries and other pollution from cities and towns that contributed to the decline of the fisheries- along with excessive fishing! Blaming the decline of fisheries entirely on clear cutting forests is absurd. Also, that early clear cutting wasn’t any kind of forestry- it was to permanently rid the landscape of forests to build an agricultural society.


  • It seems that all of those factors depleted fish populations. And no, the clearing of the Great North Woods wasn’t about long term forestry at all.


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