Combustion energy makes up the dominant portion of all energy used in the United States, and typically, the combustible energy is provided by fossil fuels and gases. Modern society thrives on fossil fuels and gases. We use them to power our cars, our stoves, our in-home heating systems. We burn gas and oil to power our space heaters at restaurants and even on our own patios.
But with rising oil costs, and with increased global mindfulness of the environmental problems we all are facing, some people have been looking for alternatives. And interestingly, many people have found their ideal alternative by looking backward, rather than forward. Solar power and hydroelectric energy are wonderful budding technologies that reduce our reliance on finite resources and help reduce our negative impact on our environment, but in times of restricted budgets and limited resources, the best way to “go green” and reduce your carbon footprint may be to start using more wood power – firewood power, that is.
Wood combustion has been the driving energy source behind most all of humankind’s energy needs up until the 19th century. But just because wood energy fell out of vogue in the wake of oil combustion and gas-powered electric generators, doesn’t mean that wood, as an energy resource, was forgotten. Modern technologies with wood farming and combustion make wood a strong-burning, climate-change-combatting resource.
So, how does wood combustion help fight climate change?
First of all, the very nature of wood is carbon neutral. In other words, the amount of CO2 pulled from the atmosphere during the growth cycle of a tree is equivalent to the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere when we burn that wood. This is known as a “closed loop” energy source, because the net CO2 loss and gain in our environment is static.
Additionally, with advanced wood burning techniques and environmental controls, researchers at Duke University have concluded that the cost of wood fuel is several times cheaper than fossil fuel, in terms of costs per unit of energy produced. Some European researchers and industries have already implemented wood-based energy production with success rates approaching 90% thermal efficiency, and no net carbon footprint. The United States is especially well-positioned for a wood-based energy economy, on account of our many sustainably-maintained forests.
Additionally, we largely ignore our “waste wood” (such as used pallets, packaging, and decrepit or abandoned structures), which is a largely untapped resource. Why waste wood when we can burn it efficiently and use it for energy?
And of course, another aspect of burning wood fuel for warmth that is often forgotten in these kinds of discussions is this: burning wood, aside from being a closed-loop environmental resource, has a certain ambiance and character to it that is lost to other forms of heating. Many restaurants and modern homes with outdoor patios, designed for entertaining purposes, feature propane heaters and other modern channels for dispersing heat and light. While these heaters do tend to warm a larger area than a firepit or outdoor chimney, they also burn lots of fossil fuels and distribute comparatively larger amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere – and because propane and gasoline are derived from fossil fuel resources, they are not a closed-loop.
Burning wood in your firepit can bring people together around a crackling and popping fire with personality to spare, and at the same time, you can rest easy knowing you are providing warmth and comfort to your outdoor home without negatively affecting our environment. When you’re looking for ways to add warmth to your patio, please consider wood fuel rather than fossil fuel – our Earth is worth it.
This article was written by Mike Bowman on behalf of Patio Productions – your source for quality patio furniture.