Sustainability is a word that is widely used nowadays in politics, when purchasing cloths, buying food, industry related topics and more. Know fact among the public masses is that the temperature is increasing globally, creating large problems e.g. a rising sea level. One factor that is greatly contributing to this phenomena is human activity when carbon that have been buried in the earth’s crust is used as an energy source it releases the carbon into the atmosphere creating a surplus of carbon dioxide.
Renewable energy resources is a way to reduce (hopefully lower one day) the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. I’m a strong believer that the future lives within the forest in many different ways, manufacturing products, use as a energy resource, carbon capture and storage (CCS). In this short blog post I will be discussing the use of wood as an energy resource, advantages, disadvantages, end-product and social/environmental challenges.
Wood is a second generation energy resource meaning it is not suitable for human consumption. The biomass is available as an energy resource in different states. energy forest and forest biomass. Röser, Asikainen, Stupak and Pasanen (2008) illustrates the usage of wood as a energy source into two primary groups of wood based fuels, energy forest and forest biomass, as illustrated in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Illustration of wood based fuels (Röser, Asikainen, Stupak & Pasanen, 2008)
One advantage with forest biomass, as can be observed with the illustration in Figure 1, is that it is mainly residues from the general forestry industry. If these residues is used instead disposed that would help with creating a circular society as well as lowering the need of fossil fuels. As wood have a low energy density it is of great importance that as much the biomass is used in order to make it as economical as possible (Hakkila & Parikka, n.d.). This is a disadvantage, that biomass from forestry often have low energy density, this brings costs for e.g. transportation making it harder do use it in a profitable sense.
End-products of forestry residues could be packaging material, bio fuels, green chemicals and more as Lantmännen Agroetanol (n.d.) is currently working with. They’re are adding a process stream that will use cellulose from forestry (and agriculture) and turn it into these products. This shows that it is a profitable concept, economically and environmentally, a way to achieve circular economy.
That sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Well, unfortunately everything has its bright sides along with its dark sides. Most of the people seem to think that the green way is the way to go and want to go there quickly but there are challenges with implementing these kind of processes. Overusing the forest can have grave impacts on the environment and habitats for different terrestrial animals as the Rainforest Alliance (2016) sums up in their article. It is not suitable to stop everything, cut down all the trees and use it for bio fuels so we can stop using fossil fuels. If the trees are cut down they can’t capture the carbon dioxide which we release into the atmosphere when using the trees we cut down, really counter proactive. The habitats for a lot of species would disappear and a lot of species could go extinct (as what is happening to the rain forests right now), lowering the biodiversity. It have to happen in a rate that is manageable, where we continue to research new ways to use biomass more efficiently, where we ultimately release less carbon than that is captured.
With that said I think that forestry will play an important role in our strive to become sustainable. To lower the use of fossil fuels, capture the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, finding alternative uses of the residues. But it will have to happen in the right pace, we are not able to stop using fossil fuels right here and now. The technique to use bio masses is not yet implemented to that level where our energy requirements would be met. One day, hopefully not too late, we will be able to lower the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Hakkila, P., & Parikka, M.. (n.d.). Fuel Resources from the Forest (pp. 19–48). http://doi.org/10.1007/0-306-47519-7_2
Lantmännen Agroetanol. (n.d.). Solutions for the transition to a sustainable society. Retrieved 14-09-2020 from https://www.lantmannenagroetanol.se/en/
Rainforest Alliance. (2016). What is Sustainable Forestry?.Retrieved 14-09-2020 from https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/articles/what-is-sustainable-forestry#:~:text=Sustainable%20forestry%20focuses%20on%20keeping,even%20apply%20for%20FSC%20certification.
Röser, D., Asikainen, A., Stupak, I., & Pasanen, K.. (2008). Forest Energy Resources And Potentials. In Managing Forest Ecosystems: The Challenge of Climate Change (pp. 9–28). Managing Forest Ecosystems: The Challenge of Climate Change. http://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-5054-1_2