A View from Boston

The Boston branch of the family have come up with a great quote this morning from A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson:

“If you were designing an organism to look after life in our lonely cosmos, to monitor where it is going and keep a record of where it has been, you wouldn’t choose human beings for the job. But here’s an extremely salient point: we have been chosen, by fate or Providence or whatever you wish to call it. As far as we can tell, we are the best there is. We may be all there is. It’s an unnerving thought that we may be the living universe’s supreme achievement and its worst nightmare simultaneously.”

Kristi also questioned the idea that wood is as carbon neutral as claimed. I must say I am also still a bit sceptical. Here’s what they say at Logpile.co.uk:

“Wood as a Source of Renewable Energy. Provided that the following basic rules are followed wood can truly be described as ’solar energy in a package’ and thus a source of renewable energy. The basic rules are that:
– The wood should come from a sustainable source
– The wood should be burned in a clean and efficient appliance and
– The wood should be used close to source i.e. not transported over long distance.

“When wood is burned in the presence of oxygen it produces carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is one of the main greenhouse gases responsible for climate change. However, the amount of carbon dioxide released is no greater than the amount absorbed by the tree when it is growing, providing that the above rules are followed. Even allowing for emissions of CO2 in planting, harvesting, processing and transporting the fuel, replacing fossil fuel energy with wood will typically reduce net CO2 emissions by over 90%.”

The DTI makes the same point on their renewable energy site:

“Biomass, also known as biofuels or bioenergy, is obtained from organic matter, either directly from plants or indirectly from industrial, commercial, domestic or agricultural products. The use of biomass is generally classed as a ‘carbon-neutral’ process because the carbon dioxide released during the generation of energy is balanced by that absorbed by plants during their growth. However, it is important to account for any other energy inputs that may affect this carbon-neutral balance on a case-by-case basis, for example any use of fertiliser, or energy consumed in vehicles when harvesting or transporting the biomass to its point of use.”

So I guess I have to believe it. But it does mean we should start with dead wood (of which there is a lot) and make sure we replant if we do cut down any trees. We certainly score high on being close to the source of fuel.

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