with apologies to Lewis Carroll
I was hoping to have time to approach this topic in an organized way, but that will not happen in the foreseeable future. It’s probably time to plunge in, starting with thinking about the carbon neutral concept. Matthew Koehler had some relevant papers in his posts #1 and #2 here which we can go back to when we talk about this.
We also had a previous post here on the Manomet study.
To me, though, the starting point has got to be understanding the different approaches to carbon accounting and why they are different.
here is a a fairly straightforward approach by Steve Wilent in the Forestry Source. What do you think?
f you think “sustainable,” current king of buzzwords surrounding forestry, is over-used and difficult to define, its successor is even more problematic: “carbon neutral.” Energy produced from forest biomass is said to be carbon neutral, because any carbon dioxide released is later sequestered as new biomass grows. This is true. You might also argue that the combustion of woody biomass releases carbon that the trees already had sequestered, thus paying off any CO2 debt by withdrawing on a CO2 deposit account.
Some states, environmental groups, and, in a recent ruling, the US Environmental Protection Agency, assume that all carbon dioxide is equal, that CO2 from the combustion of forest biomass is the same as CO2 from the combustion of fossil fuels. That’s true, too. CO2, regardless of its heritage, affects the earth’s climate in the same way. So, there are valid arguments on both side of the carbon-neutral issue.
However, the argument is, for the time being, irrelevant. Although the ultimate goal is to reduce the amount of CO2 in the biosphere, there is little chance of a meaningful reduction in the short term. There are as yet no non-carbon-emitting alternatives to fossil fuels that are both less expensive and as widely available. Until the development of such alternatives—solar power being the ideal, since an unlimited supply is available—it is better to use non-fossil fuels such as biomass.
Look at it this way: CO2 exists both in the biosphere (air, water, soil, plants, animals, and so on) and below the biosphere (fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas). The concentration of CO2 in the biosphere—in particular, in the atmosphere and oceans—has increased because we humans have transferred large amounts of fossil carbon to the biosphere, largely through the combustion of fossil fuels.
As we work toward greater energy efficiency and develop new carbon capture and storage technologies, one of our primary goals ought to be to slow that transfer of CO2.
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