Saturday, May 24, 2008

Put The Trees In The Ground: A Fix For The Global Carbon Dioxide Problem?

Of the current global environmental problems, the excessive release of carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels and the related global warming is one of the most pressing. In an essay in the journal ChemSusChem , Fritz Scholz and Ulrich Hasse from the University of Greifswald introduce a possible approach to a solution: deliberately planted forests bind the CO2 through photosynthesis and are then removed from the global CO2 cycle by burial.

The only possible way to bind sufficiently large quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere is photosynthesis. However, the resulting biomass cannot be burned or composted, because this would release the bound CO2. The trick will be to make the biomass "disappear". Scholz recommends planting forests whose wood will subsequently be buried. Possible burial sites include open brown coal pits or other surface mines. These should be filled with wood and covered with soil. Cut off from the air in this manner, the wood would not change, even over long periods. It could in principle be dug up in the future and used.

According to estimations made by Scholz and Hasse, we would have to plant a little over one billion (109) hectares of forest in order to bind all of the carbon dioxide produced in a year. This corresponds roughly to the surface of the virgin forest cut down in the last century. This project could be financed by an additional tax of 0.11 € per liter of gasoline or 0.003 € per kilowatt-hour of electricity.
Interesting idea.

But, I don't get why you have to put the wood in the ground. Can't we just use the wood for housing and paper? As long as the wood is intact then it would be sequestering the carbon, wouldn't it?

I have always jokingly referred to paper as a "carbon sequestering device", but maybe it's no joke.

via Science Daily


al fin said...

Yeah, FK, you are thinking logically, whereas academics, journalists, and politicians think like academics, journalists, and politicians.

Much better to think of novel ways of using wood so that the wood sequesters the carbon and is useful at the same time.

In fact, biomass gasification is becoming a way of recycling the carbon through the atmosphere over and over and over. It's becoming very popular at wood pulping plants for making paper. A lot of the by-products which would otherwise be considered "waste" are actually very valuable as bioenergy feedstocks.

Now that we know that the transit time through the atmosphere for CO2 is 14 years rather than 400 years, recycling CO2 using photosynthesis doesn't sound so bad.

Fat Knowledge said...


I am with you that we need to do a better job of capturing "waste" and turning it into bioenergy feedstocks.

I am ignorant of what you are referring to with CO2 transit time, and what the implications of 14 vs. 400 yrs are.

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