Logo POINTS OF VIEW

I was very pleased to see a change in emphasis from sequestration towards substitution in the third issue of Forest Energy Forum which I received recently. However, I wonder if this positive change of direction will find its way into the Special Report on Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry?

I am particularly interested in the term "sustainable" as used by Pierre Boileau in FEF3. Domestic policy in New Zealand has already settled on carbon sequestration because of our extensive plantation forestry (for wood products, not energy). Our fossil fuel use is expected to rise dramatically, compensated for by "carbon sequestration". It seems we are ahead of the rest of the world in turning the Kyoto Protocol into a politically viable least-cost solution that I believe will have no substantial positive impact on CO2 emissions over time, only a commitment to expanding permanent forest reservoirs that is "seen" to be positive. We are very wasteful of wood because it is abundant, and often "clean up" harvest residues with large open fires. I see no reason for this to change under the Kyoto Protocol.

It seems to me that "deforestation" is "sustainable" if there is no change of land use. Regeneration will take place if the forest is not replanted. Of far more importance is capturing the energy component as fully as possible. We should be looking at prioritizing this capture ahead of all other strategies, because deforestation and forest harvesting will continue to take place, but is now understood to be a potential (but biodegradable) renewable energy resource.

Assuming that we have "no regrets" about previous deforestation and fossil fuel use, and therefore also the present atmospheric concentrations of CO2, additional sources are surely to be avoided unless they are temporary. Deforestation can be "sustainable", while fossil reservoir exploitation can not.

We can also plant trees where previous deforestation has involved wastefully burning (or allowing to rot) the biomass resource. We can make sure wood products are burnt for energy at the end of their useful life. We can ensure biotic carbon reservoirs are restored by not changing land use after deforestation. Bioenergy and other renewable energy production can be accounted for within "fossil reduction inventories". Does this mean the Kyoto Protocol must be superseded by a well-informed concept/agreement based on an evolution of understanding?

Deforestation/fossil substitution emissions are sequestered again on the same land that the emissions were sourced from, whereas fossil emissions require more land committed on an ongoing basis to permanent forests for sequestration.

Forestry for sinks versus energy. Planting trees for the specific purpose of energy and wood products (energy later) is likely to be far more efficient in terms of volume produced over time, as opposed to forestry for carbon sequestration, which has the objective of maximizing the reservoir carbon capacity, so would require different management approaches. Yield per hectare per annum and growth rates are no longer relevant, but only mass. Nor is length of time to maturity; slow-growing species will have the same or greater reservoir potential as fast-growing species. (Dean Satchell, New Zealand)

 

FOREST ENERGY or WOOD ENERGY???


What do you think of the term FOREST energy?
Do you prefer the traditional term of WOOD energy?

What do you understand by the two terms? Is there a difference?

Please write and let us have your views: forest-energy-forum@fao.org

 

 

Tobacco and fuelwood in the Philippines - could energy plantations be a viable option?

Below is a short e-mail exchange on a recent stoves listing. We would welcome comments on this subject from our readers.

My present job entails finding ways to minimize if not eliminate the use of fuelwood in curing tobacco - through barn modification, fuel substitution, etc. At present about 10 to 15 percent of the farmers in the region are using coal briquettes for curing - the rest still use fuelwood. (Alvin Glova)

If one of your problems is "deforestation" related to the demand of fuelwood for tobacco curing, I have seen tobacco companies in Honduras working with the surrounding farmers to establish an energy plantation to sustain their fuelwood demand. In Brazil, also, there are good examples of associations for fuelwood replacement among consuming industries and surrounding farmers. (Rogerio Carneiro de Miranda)

(Source: Stoves network e-mail list,stoves@crest.org )

Another interesting point of view on the slogan "Need energy? Plug a tree" (please see FEF2, 3 and 4) has just been received from one of our readers in Brazil.

The idea of matching energy and a tree (forest) is quite interesting, but in my opinion the slogan should be: "Need energy? Look to a tree". In the sense that the forest must be understood as an energy source, with all its differences:

The point is that we have to start to see the forest as an energy solution, more than a source, as it:

We need to think over the energy ideas, start making long-lasting solutions - really long (the next 10 billion years) - or is humankind not planning to last so long? (Marcos Alexandre Teixeira, Brazil)

We have received the following contribution from Dr Grant Ballard-Tremeer from HEDON. Please see Miguel Trossero's very different point of view at the end of this article.

Raising the profile of household energy

Roughly half of the world's population uses wood or other biomass fuels in open fires or simple stoves for cooking and heating, and in Africa fuelwood accounts for more than 70 percent of the total energy used. Pollution levels in homes using open fires or wood-burning stoves are extremely high by current standards: both daily averages and instantaneous peaks of particulate matter and carbon monoxide reach many thousands of times the permitted limits in Western countries. In fact, studies in many parts of the world have shown that open fires and simple stoves, used in poorly ventilated homes, lead to some of the highest levels of air pollution in the world. One can therefore expect to find severe health problems - and this indeed appears to be the case, based on the small number of studies carried out in developing countries. Acute respiratory infection (ARI), for example, for which there is growing evidence that high exposure levels are an important risk factor, is the most important cause of death for children under five years of age.

In spite of the large numbers of people using traditional biofuel fires or stoves, the attention that has been given to such issues as health is extremely limited. For example, there have been more than 10 000 studies establishing the link between tobacco smoking and health, but less than 40 examining biofuel emissions and health in developing countries.

Although, in recent years, energy has become the subject of international focus as a result of concerns about climate change, the shift to a more market-based approach and the reduction of donor aid means that fewer and fewer resources are available to tackle household energy issues. However, serious and urgent attention by the international community and local governments is required to address the issue. The Household Energy Development Organisations' Network aims to bring the problems associated with household energy back to the attention of decision-makers. This must be done through stressing the nature and scale of the problems, as well as finding viable alternatives.

Solutions are by no means easy to find and need to include more than just improved stoves. In fact, a number of studies have shown that some improved stoves, although perhaps using less fuel, have higher emissions than traditional stoves. Many renewable energy sources although appearing attractive, are costly and, as is the case for solar PV, meet only limited needs such as lighting. Solutions will also address more than just health, tackling poverty and income generation, local environment and well-being and will be found with people not for people. Feasible options will include combinations of alternative fuels, improved stoves or cooking devices, improved ventilation, reduced need for the fire and alternative cooking methods. (Contributed by: Dr Grant Ballard-Tremeer, Household Energy Development Organisations' Network (HEDON), the Netherlands.)

For more information, please contact: Dr Grant Ballard-Tremeer, BTG biomass technology group, c/o University of Twente, PO Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, the Netherlands.
e-mail: hedon@energy.demon.nl;
www.energy.demon.nl/hedon

We are pleased to publish this article prepared by one of my HEDON colleagues. I share with him many common feelings and perceptions about the role played by fuelwood and charcoal to meet the energy needs of the poorest of the poor.

I fully agree with him when he says that the use of these traditional sources of energy has received very limited attention by the national and international community, despite its importance.

I also agree with him that the use of these fuels in poorly ventilated homes in poor urban areas and in cold winter weather can lead to high levels of pollution and cause some (never severe) health problems. However, I do not agree that the use of woodfuels causes severe health problems. To use a personal example, I was born on a typical farm in Argentina. My mother used to cook our food using fuelwood, as did her mother. (My mother is now 80 years old and has some health problems, but none of them has been caused by the use of fuelwood; her mother died when she was 92 years old.) For this reason, I cannot agree with my HEDON colleague when he says that more attention needs to be given to these health aspects and that solutions need to address not only fuelwood shortages and prices, but also the health and education of the people involved.

I am convinced that our activities to generate new jobs and incomes (poverty alleviation), such as promoting more sustainable woodfuel systems, can help these people make their lives better, easier and healthier.

We welcome more (and different) points of view on this subject. A thank you to my colleague for his contribution. (Miguel Trossero)

[See also the article "Wood energy, climate and health" in the section Forests branch off ....]


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