Friday, March 6, 2009

Forests and Carbon

Check out this story that ran on Minnesota Public Radio on 3/5/09:

Thank you MPR and Stephanie Hemphill for putting this story together.

The more I study the issue of forestry and climate change, the better I feel about Rajala Companies' "Carbon Footprint". Growing forests capture and store Carbon Dioxide. When the forest is harvested the products that are manufactured from the wood fiber store Carbon. The longer the life of the manufactured product, the longer the Carbon will be stored rather than released to the atmoshpere. And the higher the % of solid wood in the product, the more Carbon the product stores for its lifetime.

Rajala Companies grows "big tree" forests to long rotation, selectively harvests timber, and manufacturers high quality, enduring wood products which our customers turn into homes, furniture, windows, doors, mouldings... the list goes on.

A good share of our lumber is used by manufacturers of pallets and containers used to ship products such as refrigerators and shingles. The wood used in these pallets and containers will not have a long lifecycle. But that doesn't mean they are "bad" products from a Carbon standpoint. Many pallets and containers are reused or remanufactured, extending the useable life of the wood beyond the initial use. Ultimately, however, all of the wood is scrapped.. but what then? Much of it is burned for energy, as a substitue for fossil fuels. Compared to the alternatives, wood is the clearly the best environmental choice of materials for industrial use.

Finally, a significant portion of a forest harvest will end up directly or indirectly as fuel for combustion in the production of energy. (or in the near future will be converted into biofuels without combustion). The fiber that ends up in this product stream comes from branches, tops, etc. that are a necessary part of a sustainable forest harvest. More wood fiber for combustion is produced as a byproduct of the sawmilling process (sawdust, chips, trim pieces, etc.) When burned by the energy producer, the Carbon in these products is realeased back to the environment. However, unlike non-renewable alternatives, the forest that is growing back to replace the harvested wood, is consuming Carbon through photosynthesis.

According to the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, WI:

"Wood fuel has several environmental advantages over fossil fuel. The main advantage is that wood is a renewable resource, offering a sustainable, dependable supply. Other advantages include the fact that the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted during the burning process is typically 90% less than when burning fossil fuel. Wood fuel contains minimal amounts of sulfur and heavy metals. It is not a threat to acid rain pollution, and particulate emissions are controllable."

This is truly a great thing and more people need to know the full story.

1 comment:

Eli Sagor said...

Hey John. I heard this story on the radio just after publishing this story about the Feb. 25 Silviculture and Carbon field tour at the Cloquet Forestry Center. You sounded great in the story, and I'm glad to hear this issue getting attention in the popular press. Well done!