Do soot emissions mean that wood heating causes global warming?

John Gulland,
Soot is made up of tiny carbon particles that result when fuels are burned incompletely. The puff of black exhaust smoke from a diesel truck or bus, and the black stains on exhaust pipes and chimney caps are obvious evidence of soot emissions. The role of soot in global warming only came to public attention in the past ten years and the research into its exact effects is still in its infancy.

But the issue is being confused by various anti-wood burning activists who use the breaking news about soot and global warming to argue that using wood energy actually causes global warming, contrary to the widely accepted idea that wood energy is carbon neutral. A little explanation is needed to show how very wrong these activists are when they make that claim. In the process we gain insights into how scientific data can be used selectively to support a particular agenda.

“Soot particles containing black carbon, from fossil-fuel and biofuel [wood, brush, dung, ethanol and bio-diesel] burning sources, have a strong probability of being the second-leading cause of global warming after carbon dioxide and ahead of methane”, says Mark Jacobson, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University and one of the foremost researchers in the field.

By far the largest regional source of soot is brush fires and biomass burning in China, India and other parts of Asia, accounting for between 25 and 35 percent of global soot emissions, according to soot emission specialists. The soot emitted in developing nations results from the burning of field stubble and the estimated 2.5 billion people who cook their food on open fires…
(19 Jan 2010)

Bavarian prince hits resistance over plans for giant solar park

Kyle James, Deutsche Welle
While Prince Albert von Thurn und Taxis is more widely known for his enthusiasm for exhaust-spewing race cars, the 26-year-old is showing a decidedly green streak these days, although not everyone is happy with the new color.

Albert, the world’s youngest billionaire according to Forbes magazine, wants to take some 195 hectares (482 acres) of farmland owned by his family in Bavaria and build a huge solar park that could, at peak times, generate up to 65 megawatts of electricity.

Former monopoly-holders of Europe’s postal services, the Thurn und Taxis family are today considering investing 115 million euros ($165 million) in a 21st Century service: green electricity that could power some 16,000 households…
(18 Jan 2010)

Companies team up with Abu Dhabi over green jet fuel

Sarah Arnott, The Independent
Boeing, Etihad Airways and Honeywell’s UOP have signed up with an Abu Dhabi government investment vehicle to develop green jet fuel from “pickle weed”.

The plan is for an initial 20-hectare site on the coast of the Emirate where sea water will be used to farm shellfish, which in turn will provide fertiliser to grow Salicornia – or pickle weed – which can be harvested.

The oil from the Salicornia seeds can then be refined to produce biofuel, while the left over seed meal can be used for animal feed, and the straw burned to make electricity. From the pickle weed meadows, the saltwater will flow on to feed mangrove forests to sequester further carbon. The process will also produce fresh water.

The seawater farming concept has been tested in Eritrea and Mexico, but the five-year project led by Masdar Institute, Abu Dhabi’s clean technology post-graduate research body will scale it up and look for commercial applications…
(18 Jan 2010)

Hybrid Cars Won’t Save Much Oil

Jad Mouwad, The New York Times
Hybrid cars may be as popular as ever, but they may not have much effect on the nation’s – or the world’s – oil consumption over the next two decades, according to J. Marshall Adkins and Pavel Molchanov, analysts for the financial services firm Raymond James.

Roughly 290,000 hybrids were sold last year in the United States, about the same as in 2008 and down from a high of 347,000 in 2007. Last year, hybrid cars — which have both conventional and a battery operated-engines — had a market share of roughly 3 percent…
(11 Jan 2010)