Wood - Sustainable Fuel for
Wood and other biomass can be the perfect sustainable fuel for self sufficiency. Wood can be used for domestic heating, provision of hot water, even running electric generators or wood gas cars!
Burning wood as a fuel is a little misunderstood, often perceived as
"dirty" and the enemy of our precious environment. Sure, the burning of
wood does create carbon dioxide but when wood fuel is used
appropriately; grown and harvested sustainably, then burnt cleanly and
efficiently, wood is one of our cleaner fuel options. In fact, wood
heating creates lower greenhouse emissions than any other fuel
A 2003 CSIRO publication entitled "Life Cycle Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Domestic Woodheating" available at http://www.greenhouse.gov.au/gwci/ studied the greenhouse gas emissions from fire wood harvesting, distribution then final use to arrive at some very comforting conclusions about wood as a sustainable, renewable fuel. Here are a couple of gems from the report:
- Fire wood that is harvested and transported, even great distances (400kms!), then used in wood heaters of just 60% efficiency creates in total only one third the greenhouse gas of natural gas heating and just one tenth that created by electric heating.
- Fire wood sourced from new plantations produce no net carbon dioxide emissions (carbon neutral) as the plantations actually take CO2 out of the atmosphere.
The CSIRO study is supported by numerous other studies around the world and accordingly, the interest in and development of biomass as fuel is literally exploding.
Wood For Practical Energy Self-Sufficiency
The news is even better for those of us seeking self-sufficiency on bush
The CSIRO study (and other studies) have assessed the use of firewood as fuel in a "mainstream" context. They've assumed and factored in transport and distribution to urban areas. Clearly, for anyone living on a bush block and able to grow their own firewood for fuel, the process is even more appropriate... more sustainable!
Now factor in something else... Most of the studies have not considered super efficient methods of utilizing firewood. The focus on mainstream use has ignored micro-scale gasification. Gasification is the process of "burning" wood to produce gas which in turn can be fed to heating apparatus or internal combustion engines. See wood gas generators.
The implication for sustainable self-sufficient communities is truly astounding. Using wood, we have a tax-free, excise-free fuel for essential mechanization and transportation. Properly managed we have an alternative fuel at a price that is not subject to speculation, manipulation, supply chain parasitism AND still available in a post-oil world!
Most importantly for the success of self-sufficient communities we
have a fuel that does not require money/"legal tender".
For the sake of clarity it's important to end with the catch and caution: The catch of course is the "appropriate" use of wood. Because wood fuel does create carbon dioxide it should be a heat source or fuel of last resort; used efficiently and used only where necessary i.e. after we've exhausted our cleaner options like solar hot water, passive solar design and wind energy.