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Is wood really a low carbon fuel? EU think it is

Europe's renewable energy directive will aim to double Europe's renewable energy consumption by 2030. The downside to this directive is the fact that European officials will promote the use of wood as a renewable, low carbon fuel.

Under this directive wood should be treated as a low-carbon fuel, which could eventually lead to great harm to the world's forests because the magnitude of using wood as biofuel will likely be far greater than it is now.

Many researchers fear that this qualification will lead to massive new cutting of the world's forests. It has been calculated that the additional wood equal to all of Europe's existing wood harvests will be needed just to supply 5 percent of Europe's energy.

Some researchers estimate that using wood for energy will likely result in 10 to 15 percent in greenhouse gas emissions from Europe's energy use by 2050.

Not only will Europe's increased demand for wood lead to massive cutting in world's forests, it will also lead to changes in energy policies of many countries, encouraging them to adapt the same approach. Some countries, most notably Brazil and Indonesia have already announced that they will look to decrease the effect of climate change by increasing their use of wood for biofuel.

Cutting down and burning wood for energy increases greenhouse gas emissions because it takes carbon that would otherwise remain stored in a forest and releases it in the atmosphere. Some researchers even argue that the amount of greenhouse gases released by burning wood is comparable to those of burning fossil fuels. It is true that new trees can eventually reabsorb the carbon, but this process takes time and, for years, may not absorb more carbon than the original forests would have continued to absorb.

This directive will no doubt undermine the global efforts aimed at protecting world's forests and will encourage many countries to cut the trees down and ship them to Europe to be burned.


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