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In Ireland, there has recently been some controversy over a proposal to transition a number of the country's dirtiest power stations away from burning peat bogs, which emits even more carbon than coal. Instead, the plan is to burn "biomass" – that is, wood. However, because Ireland has relatively little forestry, there is not enough wood available to meet demand. That's why Bord na Mona, a semi-state body that manages several peat burning power plants, proposed to source the wood from Australia.
This angered conservation groups, who pointed to the very high carbon footprint of hauling timber all the way from the other side of the world, just to burn it for electricity. And over the summer Irish planning authorities refused permission for one peat-burning power plant in County Offaly to be converted to biomass, putting the plans on hold.
Wood - Ireland - Daft - Carbon - Footprint
Burning Australian wood in Ireland does indeed sound daft, at first. But the true carbon footprint isn't always as straightforward as it would seem at first glance (just look at how, for example, cutting plastic packaging can sometimes lead to more food spoiling and thus higher carbon emissions, or how cotton or paper bags can sometimes work out worse than a plastic bag). Therefore, since Bord Na Mona has been slow to release details on the potential carbon emissions, I thought it would be useful to try and estimate them myself.
First I want to clear up one thing: burning trees doesn't necessarily count as emissions. Though trees are made of carbon, if at least one is planted for every one cut down then the overall amount of carbon in the atmosphere should remain roughly neutral.
Sources - Carbon - Emissions - Land - Use
There are many other sources of carbon emissions related to forestry though, including land use changes, forest management or processing of the wood after harvest. But in this...
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