Fuels and greenhouse gases

Different products produce differing amounts of greenhouse gases. Common greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane. If we compare burning wood and burning coal, we don’t just compare how much greenhouse gases are emitted – a life cycle analysis should also account for the carbon dioxide that trees capture while they are growing. This means that, when we burn wood, it has a much smaller carbon footprint than compared to burning coal, a fossil fuel.

Transcript

PETER HALL
As things are produced and energy burnt, there are emissions – and these are things like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane – and these have an impact on the atmosphere and global warming. And some products create an awful lot more greenhouse gases than others. Coal is an example of one where, you know, you burn it to make energy and all of the greenhouse gases from that are exited to the atmosphere, and there is a lot of carbon and a little bit of sulphur dioxide. But if you are burning wood, there is… in the first place, there is less greenhouse gas emitted in burning it, but to get the wood in the first place, it had to be grown, and it was absorbing carbon out of the atmosphere in order to grow the tree, so its greenhouse gas footprint is much, much smaller than creating a similar amount of heat from coal, because if you burn coal, it’s 100 percent emission. If you burn wood it absorbs the carbon in the first place and then you readmit it, so it’s close to carbon neutral.

Acknowledgements:
Malene Thyssen
The New Zealand Biotechnology Hub
Jackie Staines
Flagstaffotos
TVNZ Television Archive

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