In recent years we
have heavily relied on fossil fuels for our energy and this has contributed to
elevated levels of carbon in the atmosphere.
The Carbon Cycle
The Carbon Cycle plays
an important role in regulating the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. All living things contain a certain amount of
carbon. Through decay this is released
into the ground and is compressed over millions of years to produce fossil
fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas.
Through burning, the carbon is released into the atmosphere as carbon
dioxide (CO2). High levels of carbon dioxide
in the atmosphere can have a detrimental effect on the earth's processes; from
extreme weather conditions to global warming. Plants however, use carbon dioxide in their
processes, storing carbon and producing oxygen, thus removing carbon dioxide
from the atmosphere for a period of time.
Once they decay or are burnt the carbon dioxide is re-released.
Aged carbon Vs contemporary carbon
Fossil fuels are formed
through millions of years of intense pressure and therefore provide a high
density fuel. When burnt they release aged
carbon back into the atmosphere that was originally absorbed millions of years
ago, thus contributing to increased carbon levels.
exists in growing plants and during combustion is released back into the
atmosphere. If this process is
sustainably managed by coppicing and re-planting, we can create a continuous
source of renewable fuel, whilst ensuring that atmospheric levels of CO2 do not
increase. Of course this will only work
if we cease to burn fossil fuels and keep aged carbon locked away.
Government carbon targets
In 2008 the government
budgets as part of the Climate Change Act in a bid to reduce
greenhouse gasses in the UK by at least 80% by 2050. The government have set out a number of
actions in order to meet these targets.
Guidance on how to use energy more
How to reduce the demand for energy
Introduction of smart meters to enable
people to be more aware of their energy consumption
The green deal facilitates improvements
to the energy efficiency of properties
Increase the attractiveness of renewable
Publicly reporting carbon emissions from
businesses and the public sector
They have also
invested in low carbon technologies such as biomass.
Wood biomass energy
comes from growing plants. If we burn
wood from well managed woodlands then the carbon released during combustion is
re-absorbed simultaneously by existing trees and seedlings, removing the carbon
from the atmosphere. This is where the
term "Carbon Neutral" is derived. In
fact, wood biomass is a "Low Carbon" renewable technology.
For more information
on biomass sustainability see the Biomass Energy Centre.