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Wood harvest energy and potential demands

Wood harvest energy and potential demands

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This comment raises concerns regarding the way in which a new European directive, aimed at reaching higher renewable energy targets, treats wood harvested directly for bioenergy use as a carbon-free fuel. The result could consume quantities of wood equal to all Europe's wood harvests, greatly increase carbon in the air for decades, and set a danger...

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... effect can already be seen in the United States, where Congress in both 2017 and 2018 added provisions to annual spending bills declaring nearly all forest biomass carbon free-although environmentalists have so far fought to limit the legal effects to a single year 22,23 . If the world met just an additional 2% of global primary energy with wood, it would need to double its industrial wood harvests (Table 1). ...

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... However, both the concept of payback time (e.g. [20,37,38]) and the concept of the displacement factor (synonym substitution factor; [39,40]) conflate the individual GHG balances of a wood product and a non-wood product into one indicator. As a result, there is a loss of transparency. ...
... However, when the CSBF is considered, the GHG reduction does no longer meet the mandatory savings target. In their literature review, Agostini et al. [20] also highlight that temperate and boreal stemwood energy dedicated harvests achieve GHG savings only after 50 years compared to coal, and even later compared to natural gas (see also [38]). For harvest residues and thinning wood, however, GHG savings can be expected after 10 years [20,43]. ...
Preprint
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The global carbon neutrality challenge places a spotlight on forests as carbon sinks. However, greenhouse gas (GHG) balances of wood for material and energy use often reveal GHG emission savings in comparison with a non-wood reference. Is it thus better to increase wood production and use, or to conserve and expand the carbon stock in forests? GHG balances of wood products mostly ignore the dynamics of carbon storage in forests, which can be expressed as the carbon storage balance in forests (CSBF). For Germany, a CSBF of 0.25 to 1.15 t CO2/m³ wood can be assumed. When the CSBF is integrated into the GHG balance, GHG mitigation substantially deteriorates and wood products may even turn into a GHG source, e.g. in the case of energy wood. Here, building up the forest carbon sink would be the better option. We conclude that it is vital to include the CSBF in GHG balances of wood products if the wood is extracted from forests. Only then can GHG balances provide political decision-makers and stakeholders in the wood sector with a complete picture of GHG emissions.