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Los Angeles Times

Burning wood doesn't affect climate change

There was a rather perplexing statement in your article about using waste wood to heat homes and businesses ("Oldest fuel getting a new look," Dec. 25). The article suggested that since burning anything puts carbon into the atmosphere, some environmentalists doubted that burning wood for heat would combat climate change.

Have these environmentalists heard of the carbon cycle? If you grow a tree, the tree absorbs carbon dioxide from the air and combines it with water to make wood. This process is known as photosynthesis.

When you burn a tree the process is reversed, releasing carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. The process then repeats itself. Another tree grows and reabsorbs the carbon dioxide from the tree that was burned. This is known as the carbon cycle.

Burning a tree does not create "new carbon." No matter what you do with wood waste, sooner or later the carbon in the wood is going to reenter the atmosphere via decomposition or burning.

Assuming that processing a natural product such as wood will always yield some waste (if only in the form of sawdust), it make more sense to use that waste productively to create heat rather than use it for mulching, which yields methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Wood heat does not combat climate change nor does it promote climate change; it is carbon neutral because the carbon is recycled. Wood heat may, however, offset the use of other fuels which would likely add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Why would environmentalists have a problem with that?

David Plaut, Reisterstown

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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