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The carbon-go-round

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I have a hard time believing that industrial logging practices will combat global warming, as Tom Bonnicksen is so fond of advocating (HCN, 11/10/08).

In order to seriously and honestly consider such a proposal, one needs to have a full and accurate accounting of the tremendous amount of carbon that is released by the entire process from start to finish. So, Bonnicksen's proposal looks something like this:

  1. Send logging crews up into the forests in big diesel trucks, fire up two-stroke chain saws to cut down trees, and then drive back into town in their big diesel trucks.
  2. Send big diesel logging trucks up into the forest, use big diesel equipment to load the logs, then drive the logs to mills located, in some cases, hundreds of miles away.
  3. Run those big fossil fuel burning mills, get all the mill employees to drive their vehicles to the mill, make the trees into some wood products.
  4. Ship those wood products via truck or train to markets around the country -- more fossil fuel consumption. And at this point, should we even discuss if these products are part of an over-consumptive, unsustainable development paradigm?
  5. Building contractors drive their big diesel trucks to Lowe's, Home Depot, etc., to pick up the wood products and drive those wood products out to the job site.

This fossil-fuel-burning cycle could go on and on and should really include the energy needed to make the big diesel trucks, chain saws, milling equipment, hampers, nails, roofing shingles, copper wire, windows, etc. Given this reality, cutting down forests for building products in order to sequester carbon does not pencil out by any rational, full-cost accounting measure.

Matthew Koehler

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