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Our forests must be kept intact

There is a tendency in the environmental community to see renewable fuels - solar, wind, tidal energy, small hydro - as a panacea for our climate-change problem. To reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent, it will be necessary to generate a substantial portion of our energy from solar and wind sources. But renewables are not without their problems. ...If forest land in New Hampshire was converted to wind power, there is such a large release of carbon in the land-use change that the benefit from substituting wind power for fossil fuels is lost.

There is a tendency in the environmental community to see renewable fuels - solar, wind, tidal energy, small hydro - as a panacea for our climate-change problem. To reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent, it will be necessary to generate a substantial portion of our energy from solar and wind sources.

But renewables are not without their problems.

One of the problems is that they take much larger amounts of land to generate the same amount of power as fossil and nuclear fuels.

About 57,500 acres of forest were converted to other uses between 1987 and 1997 in the Northeast. Although it is clear that renewable fuels are a necessary part of the transition to a low-carbon, energy-secure economy, if we do not take emissions of carbon from land-use change into account, then we are not being honest about the true benefits of renewable energy.

Approximately 184 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year are currently absorbed or sequestered by terrestrial ecosystems in the Northeast under existing land management practices. The Northeast U.S. released 918 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2005 from energy production, transportation, and industrial processes, a 7-percent increase in emissions from 1990. This... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

There is a tendency in the environmental community to see renewable fuels - solar, wind, tidal energy, small hydro - as a panacea for our climate-change problem. To reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent, it will be necessary to generate a substantial portion of our energy from solar and wind sources.

But renewables are not without their problems.

One of the problems is that they take much larger amounts of land to generate the same amount of power as fossil and nuclear fuels.

About 57,500 acres of forest were converted to other uses between 1987 and 1997 in the Northeast. Although it is clear that renewable fuels are a necessary part of the transition to a low-carbon, energy-secure economy, if we do not take emissions of carbon from land-use change into account, then we are not being honest about the true benefits of renewable energy.

Approximately 184 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year are currently absorbed or sequestered by terrestrial ecosystems in the Northeast under existing land management practices. The Northeast U.S. released 918 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2005 from energy production, transportation, and industrial processes, a 7-percent increase in emissions from 1990. This means that the terrestrial ecosystems in the Northeast sequester approximately 20 percent of the annual carbon dioxide emissions. If this rate of increase in carbon storage could be maintained or increased, it would play an important role in reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions.

If forest land in New Hampshire was converted to wind power, there is such a large release of carbon in the land-use change that the benefit from substituting wind power for fossil fuels is lost.

This concept is called "carbon debt." The number of years that it would take for the carbon savings from energy substitution to offset the carbon released from conversion on forest land would be nearly 100 years.

Can we have it both ways? The key technology that makes it possible is carbon capture and sequestration. If we can decarbonize electric production while still using coal, oil and natural gas, electric vehicles become a strategy to decarbonize transportation without dedicating tens of millions of acres of land to biofuels and wind energy production.

There are two strategies that postpone the transition in power generation. One is offsets - the opportunity to use allowances from the sequestration of carbon in forests and grasslands and projects in developing countries. The other is building and appliance efficiency. If substantial investments are made in conservation technologies that pay for themselves today, we can put off the expensive decision of choosing between nuclear, renewables and carbon c apture until a day when our generation options are better developed.

As the second most forested state in the nation, New Hampshire's renewable energy market is in our forests. As regional emissions continue to increase, it is important to protect carbon stored on the landscape while also understanding what strategies can be used to increase the amount of carbon dioxide sequestered through agricultural and forested lands. If employed effectively, land management practices will serve to maintain and possibly expand the nation's carbon sink capacity over the next 50 to 100 years. In most instances, these practices can also yield other environmental benefits such as protection of soils, water quality and habitat. So before we think about where the next wind project will be built, let's think about what our forests have to offer. Incentivizing land owners in New Hampshire to keep their forests intact, either as permanent stands or working forests for carbon sequest ration, is truly what's in store for New Hampshire's energy future.

Joel Harrington is director of government relations for The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire.

"As the second most forested state in the nation, New Hampshire's renewable energy market is in our forests. ... Before we think about where the next wind project will be built, let's think about what our forests have to offer."


Source: http://www.ledgertranscript...

NOV 17 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/23253-our-forests-must-be-kept-intact
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