Back to the Past: Burning Wood to Save the Globe?

wood_pelletsCarbon flux from burning biomass is assumed (legislated) to be neutral because biomass growth sequesters CO2. Trees take decades to recover the CO2 released by burning, so assumed emissions neutrality (or near neutrality) implies that climate change is not considered a threat. When there is greater urgency to address climate change, less emphasis should be attached to future CO2 removals from (additions to) the atmosphere. Doing so reduces the benefits of substituting biomass for fossil fuels. In that case, co-firing wood biomass with coal to generate electricity reduces the emissions attributed to the use of wood to as little as 7% (32%) compared to coal for a 60-year (20-year) harvest cycle. Other factors related to forestry activities reduce the attractiveness of biomass energy even further.