1. Welcome Hearth.com Guests and Visitors - Please enjoy our forums!
    Hearth.com GOLD Sponsors who help bring the site content to you:
    Hearthstone Soapstone and Cast-Iron stoves( Wood, Gas or Pellet Stoves and Inserts)
    Caluwe - Passion for Fire and Water ( Pellet and Wood Hydronic and Space Heating)

Carbon Neutral? or Carbon Poluter? what's up with stoves?

Post in 'The Green Room' started by DavidV, Oct 28, 2007.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. DavidV

    DavidV New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2005
    Messages:
    792
    Loc:
    Richmond VA
    Curiosity is an ugly thing. I have read that burning wood is a huge poluter. I have read that it is a carbon neutral . Not to mention the arguments for and against carbon having anything at all to do with global warming. ......Lets just address the mathematical issue of wood stoves and carbon production. Then lets throw in the particulate polution. Where do we stand. I have a stage1 cat stove I think stage 1 is the right term.(first round or EPA stoves)

    Helpful Sponsor Ads!





  2. KeithO

    KeithO Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2007
    Messages:
    529
    Loc:
    Jackson, MI
    David:

    Burning any "biomass" is carbon neutral which means literally that the fuel cannot emitt more CO2 than was absorbed during the growth of the plant / organism. Properly managed, such sources of fuel are also "sustainable" meaning we will never run out and best case (like corn) it is regrown in annual cycles.

    Crude or coal based fuels are "fossil Fuels" in that they were produced by geological heat and pressure from the fossilized remains of plants and animals that lived millions of years ago. Obviously, this has been a convenient source of fuel (of which the US is the prime example) but there is only so much of it available. It is not renewable by any conventional line of thinking. Many scientists think that the source of the biomass that went into crude and coal formation was associated with great extinctions, like what would happen if the earth was hit by an asteroid. Mass extinction in a short time, all of which becomes trapped in a geological layer, then buried under ashes, sediments etc etc until one day one has either crude or coal.

    The Anti-woodburning lobby has focussed their efforts on particulates and raw hydrocarbons. Today it is primarily older woodstoves, and outdoor water boilers and improper operation that are the bad guys that give wood burning a bad name. If you observe the chimney stack of any epa rated stove, you will find virtually no visible smoke (other than on first cold startup) and very litle odor (from the hydrocarbons). Particulate emissions from a wood stove are today less than those from the car you drive to work every day. 2007 model and later diesel pickups got a particulate filter by law, but every diesel vehicle made prior to 2007 will continue to belch smoke to the end of their days and that is apparently OK. Semi's can idle their engines 24/7 if they want and that is also OK, although the EPA is putting together some legislation on that too. No clue yet to the implimentation date.

    So in conclusion, burning wood is carbon neutral, generally sustainable, low on particulate emission (especially compared to drawing electricity from a coal fired power station) and low on hydrocarbons, IF - you burn dry seasoned wood, operate your stove in a responsible and considerate manner and maintain your stove to keep it in top working condition. And you will save a bundle of money and you will be prepared for the winter power outages.
  3. rhetoric

    rhetoric Member

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2006
    Messages:
    135
    Loc:
    Western NY
    OK, it has some particulates, but as I understand it, it releases the same amount of CO2 it would if it fell in the woods and rotted. It sucks up some carbon when it's growing and then releases it one way or another (unless maybe you built a house out of it!). So it is carbon neutral. Technically, fossil fuels are carbon neutral too, it's just that the carbon was "stored" in the ground over a few million years and we're burning it in a few hundred.

    (DOH! I try and say something and just before I post someone who REALLY knows what they're talking about posts first. Blast.)
  4. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2007
    Messages:
    3,415
    Loc:
    Addison County, Vermont
    I can't add much to the responses posted above, but there are two cases in which wood burning might not be carbon neutral:

    1) If you burned wood which otherwise would have been trapped and buried for a geological time span - any wood harvested from the path of the Mt. Saint Helen mudslide, for instance.

    2) If you manage your woodlot in such a way that nothing grows to replace the trees that you burned and it becomes a permanent desert.

    Avoid these two, and you are carbon neutral.
  5. jjbaer

    jjbaer New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2006
    Messages:
    781
    Loc:
    OH
    I think #2 is carbon neutral........your trees grow, you burn them and never replace them..........so, the trees that grew soaked up "x" amount of carbon, say, over 20-40 years and then you burned them thus releasing that same "x" amount of carbon. That's carbon neutral and not replanting doesn't change that.........
  6. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2007
    Messages:
    3,415
    Loc:
    Addison County, Vermont
    Another way to look at it is that there are essentially a fixed number of carbon atoms on the planet. Some of them are in coal and oil that's buried under the ground. Many (perhaps most) are locked up in calcium carbonate that makes up a fair percentage of the rock in the earth's crust. Some is in the biomass (wood, plants, bacteria, mostly) on the earth's surface, and some of it is combined with oxygen to form CO2. Some of that is dissolved in water, and some of it is atmospheric carbon dioxide, which probably has some effect on global climate.

    All we can do is alter the percentages of carbon in each category. If you were able to reforest the Sahara, that would remove a bunch of carbon from the percentage that's in the atmosphere, and it would increase the percentage that's tied up in biomass. All of that carbon would eventually recirculate back into the atmosphere, but as new plants grew to replace those that decomposed, the amount of biomass carbon in the former Sahara would remain constant. The balance between atmospheric and biomass carbon would change and stabilize around a new ratio.

    By the same token, a well-managed wood lot will have a constant amount of carbon tied up in it. If you burn it and don't allow new plants to grow, that carbon went from the biomass category to the atmosphere category, and it will stay there.

    If we really want to change the ratio, best bet may be to farm lots of clams / mussels. They take dissolved CO2 out of seawater and make it into calcium carbonate. Make sure the shells fall into the deep ocean and that carbon should be locked up for a long time.
  7. DavidV

    DavidV New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2005
    Messages:
    792
    Loc:
    Richmond VA
    I understand the math on the carbon neutral. The thing that gets me is the vast amount of people who are so enthusiastic about "saving the planet" and are so adamently against wood heat. I don't see how anyone can be against it unless they don't understand it. I have friends buggingn m e to come pick up thhe cut hardwood they have in their yards because they really can't give it away. I might run out of space to store wood this winter if I go get all the wood that is being offered to me. I'm gonn have to drive about 8 miles to get some of this wood and am only doing it because the people offereing it are good friends of ours and 1) I don't want them to have to pay to take it to the dump m2) I don't want them to have to pay to have somebody haul it off and 3) I don't want good oak rouunds to go into the dump.

    I know it takes work to do but I also know that there are enough people like me who would would not only love the heat from the wood, but also would enjoy the savingns from it.

    I had a coworker today say something to me about not understanding how I can save anything with wood ( I stated that I will save at least $1000). He said he pays $120 a month on his gas all year long andd has a credit iat the b3eginning of winter and never feels a pinch.
    I havn't gone over 50 or 60 bucks a month in the winter time in the last 3 years. and during thhe summer it's down in the 20's. But this creaky, leaky old house that I have come to love is a beast to heat and cool. It still gets me inn the summer for 250-300 a month. and in the winter I used to have some hellatious gas biills and electric bills in the winter. I use 1/4 the gas I used to and about 1/3 the electric in the winter now.
  8. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    5,705
    Loc:
    Central NYS
    There are a couple of additional things to consider:

    First, it's better, from a carbon point of view, to make lumber, paper and other solid wood products that lock up the carbon for a long time. So if you're worried about the Earth's carbon load in the atmosphere, you'll buy things made of wood rather than some of the alternatives.

    Secondly, a young, vigorous forest absorbs more carbon per acre per year than older, slower-growing stands of trees. So while big, old trees are a treasure worth preserving, you lock up more carbon by cutting them down and replacing them with seedlings.

    Carbon isn't the only environmental consideration when it comes to forest management decisions, but its relationship to the growing trees is pretty clear.
  9. Corey

    Corey Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2005
    Messages:
    2,126
    Loc:
    Midwest
    I always get a good laugh every time I see "carbon neutral", "carbon polluter", "carbon credit" etc.

    I remember as a young kid, me and grandpa would go to the hardware store and he would laugh, "Well, I'll be danged - they're baggin' up cow $h!* and trying to sell it...what next, are they gonna try and sell me a bottle of water I could get right out of the tap?!?" He lived long enough to see the beginning of the 'bottled water craze" Then he would muse, "Baggin' up cow $h!*, bottling up water...what's next, are they gonna try and sell me some air?!?"

    He was alive to get a good laugh out of the "coming ice age" that never came, but didn't make it long enough go get a good dose of the global warming hysteria. If he were to suddenly come back, I'd have to tell him, "Well gramps, they aren't selling air yet...at least not to inhale...just be careful how much you exhale!"
  10. senorFrog

    senorFrog New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2006
    Messages:
    285
    Remember the acid rain scare of the eighties?

    I gotta hand it to the libs and their scare tactics, they know how to think BIG!
  11. kalevi

    kalevi Member

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2007
    Messages:
    167
    Loc:
    Ottawa Ontario
    Some cities have Oxygen bars where you can buy a sniff of O2 so your gramps was right.

    What really amuses me is they sell little bags of kindling for $6 to $8 at the hardware stores.
  12. darby124

    darby124 New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2007
    Messages:
    3
    Yes, burning wood is carbon neutral. I even had a conversation with the number 2 person in cleanair.org ( a national lobbying group for healthy environmental air to breathe) and he stated that burning wood in today's EPA approved woodstoves is quite carbon neutral. One thing to consider in this forum discussion: When your fireplace woodstove or insert has an electric fan motor as part of its operation, the electricity it uses most likely comes from a coal-fired power plant. This part of a wood burning system is not carbon neutral. Just my 2 cents worth. I don't care as my house is all electric and burning wood in my Buck Stove insert with fan has a much lower net CO2 impact than running the electric heat would.
  13. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Part of forest management is to selectively cut less desirable trees. Alowing space water absorption and sin light to grow a stronger better more wind and disease resistant tree

    In one way one can remain carbon neutral without planting a tree ,but allowing existing ones to grow healthier and faster Fortunately trees have a way of planting themselves with acorns, cones, or seeds. Most of the wood I burn, has already been cut down and would be either chipped up or buried. Many are from removal for additions of houses. I get paid to remove them.

    these past wild fires are caused partly from lack of brush management. If the brush were cleared, as it should be, there would be less fuel for fires to get out of control.
    Even nature has a way of balancing standing carbon and burning trees. we wood burners just burn in controlled enviorments
  14. KeithO

    KeithO Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2007
    Messages:
    529
    Loc:
    Jackson, MI
    If you take a look at Eastern Europe, you will see that the acid rain is for real. Plenty of dead and dying forests as far as the eye can see. If one gets the sulphur dioxide out of the atmosphere it does help and that is targeting industry in particular. I'm not sure what legislative changes were made here in the US regarding polution from power generation and chemical / petrochemical industries. How long has it been since the industrial revolution ? 200 years maybe ? Thats like 3 lifetimes to really screw up a lot of things.


  15. kalevi

    kalevi Member

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2007
    Messages:
    167
    Loc:
    Ottawa Ontario
    Does anyone live near Sudbury? Sudbury is home to several large nickel and other mines. The stacks used to spew out SO2 with no scrubbing. The landscape was literally like the surface of the moon with almost no trees or even shrubs from the acid rain. Once the environmental regulations came into place and the stacks put in scrubbers to remove the sulfur dioxide, the trees came back.
  16. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2006
    Messages:
    517
    Loc:
    Millbrook, NY
    We could nitpick and say that a lot of CO2 is generated making a stove :) Seriously, I wonder how much it adds up to by the time that manufacturing and installation is complete. Don't forget the second class-A chimney or liner too - especially when most of us use it as a second device on top of a backup or primary heat source. Until you "pay off" all that CO2, you could argue that you're not really carbon neutral.

    -Colin
  17. KeithO

    KeithO Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2007
    Messages:
    529
    Loc:
    Jackson, MI
    Its all about how it compares to the alternatives. If you put in a fuel oil heater, the chimney is a lot like a wood burner chimney, except there is nothing in the least carbon neutral about that setup. Everything we does has an impact. The cars we buy, the fuel we put in them, the junk we buy from China without a thought for the people in those sweat shops or the environmental carnage they are wreaking. The overriding question should be "what do we need ?" Who is this empowering ? Where does the money go ? What are they actually getting up to "over there" ?

  18. darby124

    darby124 New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2007
    Messages:
    3
    OK. I accept what you are saying Colin, and I wish I had some positive retort to show my ultimate carbon advantage. The lights are dim or off more likely in my house. I have my Buck Stove cranking with nature-given heat right now, and the fact is that I accept that either I live like a (hu)MAN or die like an ant. I do care about my Carbon Footprint more than this alludes. Maybe we are all toast no matter what the hell we do? Fact is that we Americans have set the stage for everyone else. In the meantime, I like being alive, it FEELS NICE when you let it. Organisms will find a way.....guess I am an optimist?
  19. rhetoric

    rhetoric Member

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2006
    Messages:
    135
    Loc:
    Western NY
    Charlie Brown is complaining about overpopulation and Lucy says, "Why don't you leave?"

    There are actually hardcore environmentalists who advocate just that -- humans should simply stop reproducing so we don't destroy the earth.

    I'm thinking that's a loverly idea until the Everest Sized Mega Asteroid wacks us or the sun goes Nova (and the wild times ova! [Bruce Cockburn song]) and then all the flora and fauna get cooked anyway.

    And if we last long enough for interstellar travel so we can escape the earth's end, at somepoint the universe is either going to burn out, or collapse on itself and either way... We're toast.

    So unless you have a theology that helps you out of this jam, it's just all pretty depressing!
  20. KeithO

    KeithO Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2007
    Messages:
    529
    Loc:
    Jackson, MI
    You know what they say about technology: Its just a MUCH faster way of making mistakes ! We have to think about the implications of what we are doing and what we are a part of. There were a lot of Germans who did not confront the fact that they were gassing jews during WW2. The same is true to a lesser extent today. Whether it is taking advantage of people who are not well off or educated (sub prime mortgage fiasco) to plain fraud or theft (Enron), there are examples everywhere where people at the companies know damn well that what they are doing is wrong but who cares if they are making a buck ?
  21. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Vermont casting two furnaces are electric induction furnaces almost directly connected to Nigarga falls .so a lot less of a carbon foot print. Burning a .75 gph further impact using and melting recycled break parts, even more of a smaller foot print. I can honestly tell you they recycle everything possible in the manufacturing process ,including water and the ceramic coating process.

    this is not company Bs I saw the process with my own eyes. Even the molding sand gets reused. The most amazing part of the tour, was not the manufacturing process ,but the sign that
    keeps track of plant safety. 390 days with out an industrial accident .This was Dec 2005 when I did the tour That includes both locations . An amazing feat in a steel casting foundry

    tell you what Maybe I can arrange another tour in mid DEC and members that are local enough can join me and see for themselves here are a few observations I took from the last tour
    did you know how your glass fronts are tested? a 3 lb steel ball on a rope is lifted waist high and dropped smacking the glass. You should here the impact no way the glass stands up to that abuse. Did you know the red enamel contains cadmium and that workers in hazmat type protection suits can only be exposed to 1.5 hours of the coating process and an entirely new crew is swapped for the process to continue. That is why red enamel cost $300 more. you aught to see what they do to the everburn refractory concrete shoe practically indestructible no way a 8lb sledge hammer blow from waist high will not crack it . the foundry part of the tour you are required a hard hat safety goggles and ear plugs Can get too close to the molten cast iron you can feel the heat 50' away even in the computer controlled pouring station it is hot. the castings then go threw a tunnel that is called a shake out tunnel I was there in DEC where the casting sand is shaken from the cast ing and channeled back and recycled finally each casting when it leaVES THE SHAKE OUT TUNNEL IS PICKED UP AND HIT WITH A 2.5 LB SHEDGEHAMMER AND PLACED INTO A BEADING BLASTING MACHINS TO EVEN ITS FINISH
  22. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2005
    Messages:
    12,331
    Loc:
    Western Mass.
    I think Elk was impressed.......

    Most founderies use electric these days.....some use gas to preheat the metal first. Given USA EPA, etc. I think it would be hard to start up a foundry these days that used coke or coal....although some still do use it (maybe they are grandfathered).

    I would agree that population is part of the equation - that is not radical at all. It is another example of "bizzaro" world - we fight against family planning and birth control, and then see what the results of the LACK of it is. I know a bunch of people who have either no children at all, or who curtail their reproduction to 2 or 3. This seems like a good move, all in all. Yes, we ARE the problem.

    Yet we might feel it is the "right" of another family to have 15 children? Basically, it boils down to this - if they do this, they are taking up someone elses space. Do the math, if we each have even 7 kids how quickly will our population get to a billion (in the USA)?

    What's the countdown? Don't we only have a few billion years left until the Sun goes out? FAT CHANCE we will live that long, but the percentages say that everyone who exists now will not see the end of times.
  23. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2006
    Messages:
    517
    Loc:
    Millbrook, NY
    Wow, I didn't mean to be such a downer :)

    It would be an interesting question to understand total energy input that goes into making a stove... but no matter what the answer, I'll continue to burn. Just curious, because I've never seen the answer.

    My wife and I are on the zero kids plan so far - I agree that overpopulation is the real reason we have a lot of problems. In fact, some epidemics are probably well overdue in some parts of the world that simply can't sustain their populations and need relief. Sounds cold, but that's the reality. When you can't feed people off the land, maybe there are too many people. I'm THRILLED to see my tax dollars go to free family planning services - I view it as great ROI compared to the social welfare alternatives.

    That being said, the nagging concern is that if I want to see my 401k grow so I can retire someday, an economy has to expand, and it's hard to expand an economy without more people :-(

    Something tells me this one's heading for the ash can...

    -Colin
  24. kalevi

    kalevi Member

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2007
    Messages:
    167
    Loc:
    Ottawa Ontario
    The popular economic theories all say that you need growth to keep things going. Why is it nature tends to work in a sort of steady state? Our unlimited growth is reaching the limits that the earth can sustain. Why do we need digital TV, forced by the government, when analog works fine? Why do you need a new cell phone with the latest bells and whistles every 8 months? What happens to the old ones? In the dump! Go back to the days of our grandparents or great grandparents. When granpa died, dad got his good suit. Consumer goods lasted for 2 or 3 generations in a family or were sold to someone else who could use them. Now, stuff is obsolete in a year or so and cities are wondering where to put the next garbage dump, villages in China are slowly dying from the toxic waste from pulling apart our old electronics for the little amounts of gold on the circuit boards, ... Africa has famine it seems every year because they have too many people and any little glitch in food production causes a famine.

    Why worry, be happy. :)
  25. MichaelBS

    MichaelBS New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2007
    Messages:
    2
    Loc:
    VT
    I am new here but I have been thinking a lot about the claims that wood burning is carbon neutral. When looking at the mass balance, it does not really work for a number of reasons:

    It is really Carbon-Rate neutral we are looking at not just carbon neutral. If wood burning is not to contribute to an increase in global warming, wood burning can not cause an immediate increase in the amount of CO2 generated per any specific time period:

    1) The amount of carbon released by rotting us not the same as the amount carbon released by burning because a significant amount of carbon in rotting wood becomes part of soil.

    2) The rate of release of CO2 from burning is orders of magnitude greater than that from naturally decaying wood per specific time period (compare the amount of CO2 released in one hour from burning a large piece of wood versus the amount relased from that same piece of wood in one day as it really may take 10 years or greater for it to rot if left alone)..

    In order to be truly carbon neutral, you would have to insure that roughly the same mass of wood you burn per year from your wood lot is replaced that year by new growth. Otherwise, as it may take 100 years to replace this mass if you plant one tree for each tree burnt. Burning a tree causes an immediate net increase in the CO2 levels. This increases over time as considering our population, we can't plant enough to replace the wood we are burning at the same rate we burn it.

    This is really a simplified discussion. I look at the natural system as being in a type of dynamic equilibrium where (in an undisturbed system) the amount of CO2 released by rotting vegetation across the world is usually less than the overall vegitation mass gained across the world per year (varies year per year) with the surplus CO2 sequestered by growth "used up" by other natural CO2 natural sources such as fires, volcanoes, etc. There is also enough room for a certain amount of wood burning by people with the system still staying in equilibrium. The trouble is with an overpopulated world, we have exceeded the earth'c capacity to sequester the CO2. In regards to wood, we can not create enough new growth to yearly replace the mass we are burning across the world, therefore are getting a net increase in CO2 (which will continue as we will continue to produce more CO2 than sequestered faster than it can be sequestered so ther eis a net increase over time)..

    (This will probably get me in trouble but Natural gas produces– 117.6 lbs CO2/MMBTU and wood: Wood – using the wood fired boiler (industrial sized) factor - 195 lbsC02/MMBTU and Using the factor for a wood pellet (home unit) stove - 185 lbs CO2/MMBTU.

    I am truly trying to look for a better way and not trying to be a troll with this post.

    Michael
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page