Is biomass from boreal forests better or worse than fossil fuels from a climate perspective
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Is biomass from boreal forests better or worse than fossil fuels from a climate perspective?. A work in progress By Bjart Holtsmark Statistics Norway. The traditional starting point. Sjølie, H. K., E. Trømborg, B. Solberg and T. F. Bolkesjø in Forest Policy and Economics 12, 57-66, (2010)

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Is biomass from boreal forests better or worse than fossil fuels from a climate perspective

Is biomass from boreal forests better or worse than fossil fuels from a climate perspective?

A work in progress

By Bjart Holtsmark

Statistics Norway


The traditional starting point
The traditional starting point fuels from a climate perspective?

  • Sjølie, H. K., E. Trømborg, B. Solberg and T. F. Bolkesjø in Forest Policy and Economics 12, 57-66, (2010)

  • “The objective of this study is [..] to analyse [..] the impacts on GHG emissions by replacing one energy unit of fossil fuel with wood fuel in various types of heating facilities.”

  • At the same time they write:

  • “CO2 is excluded in calculation of emissions from combustion [of wood], as wood is considered carbon neutral”.

  • Their conclusion: Increased use of biomass from the Norwegian forest will provide climate benefits.

  • Similar arguments and conclusion found in several recent studies, for example Bright RM, Strømman AH (2009) Life cycle assessment of second generation bioethanol produced from Scandinavian boreal forest resources. J IndEcol 13:514–530

  • Bright, Strømman, Peters (2011)

  • New paper, taking both CC and albedo into account – work in progress!


The forest s standard parcel

An overlapping generations model of trees fuels from a climate perspective?

The model consists of a set of parcels, each of 1 km2, all with the same properties, but with different time since last clear cutting (age)

Productivity follows the Braastad (1975) production tables – probably too small areas - adjusted

As dead wood decomposes slowly, this gives accumulation of dead wood in older forests – important part of the forests carbon stock

After clearcutting in a parcel the growth path restarts

The forest’s standard parcel


The forest s standard parcel1
The forest’s standard parcel fuels from a climate perspective?


The forest s standard parcel2
The forest’s standard parcel fuels from a climate perspective?


The forest s standard parcel3
The forest’s standard parcel fuels from a climate perspective?


The forest s standard parcel4
The forest’s standard parcel fuels from a climate perspective?



  • Two examples: fuels from a climate perspective?

  • First case, the wood is used as the raw material for manufacturing pellets. The pellets then replace coal in power plants

  • In the second case, wood is used for producing second generation liquid biofuels, and replaces petrol or diesel.


11 fuels from a climate perspective?


  • Next step: fuels from a climate perspective?

  • Total effect on radiative forcing, taking albedo into account

12


First conclusion: Harvesting of wood fuels is not a climate neutral activity – even if albedo is accounted for


Next question is wood fuels better or worse than fossil fuels

Next question: neutral activity – even if albedo is accounted forIs wood fuels better or worse than fossil fuels?


  • Second conclusion: neutral activity – even if albedo is accounted for

  • Harvesting of wood fuels does not appear to be good climate policy – even if albedo is accounted for and the wood fuels replaces petrol or diesel


  • Third conclusion: neutral activity – even if albedo is accounted for

  • When wood fuels replaces coal, the climate impacts are less clear


Background

Based on the assumption of climate neutrality, wood fuels from the Scandinavian forest have conventionally, from a climate perspective, been considered as a better energy source than fossil fuels.

Policies in order to increase the supply of biofuels through increased harvest from the forest.

In this paper I find:

Wood fuels are not climate neutral and that continued use of fossil fuels is in most cases a better alternative than increased use of biomass from the forest.

Relevance beyond the Scandinavian debate:

The Scandinavian forest is part of the vast boreal forests

A map of the boreal forests

Background


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