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Is wood a good source of fuel?
Can you rely on wood for heating and cooking forever?
It’s natural to feel worried about the sustainability of wood especially when you are using it daily at home or for commercial purposes.
Imagine if all homes use wood for cooking and heating, would there be any left to burn after a few years?
A quick answer to this question: Wood is NOT a fossil fuel. Wood is a renewable resource.
Fossil fuels are very different from actual wood but may also contain wood. These are from decomposed organic matter that has been chemically and physically altered over a period of time using pressure and temperature.
Organic matter is naturally transformed into a combustible source of energy. Fossil fuels contain what was once wood as well as plants, dead bodies of animals and other organic material. These are now coal, natural gas or crude oil.
Fossil fuel is a common term for combustible geologic deposits of organic materials buried deep under the ground. These were formed from decayed plants and animals converted to crude oil, coal, natural gas, or heavy oils.
Exposure to extreme heat and pressure in the earth’s crust over hundreds of millions of years have transformed organic matter into a combustible and usable resource that can power homes and industries.
Fossil fuels are formed from the remains of dead plants and animals. These are hydrocarbons and the most common fossil fuels are coal, fuel oil or natural gas. These fuels are not readily available from the ground.
These are mostly obtained by mining deep into the earth, sometimes mining from the sea to the fossil fuel-rich ground found at the bottom or from rich coal mines that are found miles from the surface of the earth.
There are also hydrocarbon-containing natural resources that are not from animal or plant sources and are known as mineral fuels. The use of fossil fuels has enabled the success of large-scale industrial development and have made obsolete water-driven mills and has outdated the use of wood or peat for heat.
Burning of fossil fuels by humans is the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions. This is one of the greenhouse gases that allows radiative forcing and contributes to global warming.
There is a small portion of hydrocarbon-based fuels derived from atmospheric carbon dioxide, therefore, this does not contribute to the increase of the net amount of carbon dioxide found in the atmosphere.
Nonrenewable energy sources
Some energy sources are classified as nonrenewable because these are not replenished in a short period of time. The four major nonrenewable energy sources are crude oil, natural gas, coal and uranium (used in nuclear energy).
Nonrenewable energy sources come out of the ground as liquids, gases, and solids. Crude oil is used to manufacture liquid petroleum products like gasoline, diesel fuel, and heating oil. Propane, butane, and ethane are manufactured from natural gas and crude oil.
All fossil fuels are nonrenewable however, not all non-renewable energy sources are considered fossil fuels.
Coal, crude oil, and natural gas are fossil fuels because these were from buried remains of plants and animals that were alive millions of years ago. On the other hand, uranium ore is mined and is manufactured into a fuel source used to power nuclear plants. Uranium is not a fossil fuel and is nonrenewable fuel.
Wood as a renewable energy source
Wood is versatile. It can be made into homes, sheds, factories, mills and other structures. It can be manufactured as furniture or home items. Wood as firewood lights up our homes and can be used to power wood burning stoves for cooking and baking. Wood can be used for grilling and smoking as well.
With all these uses, there is no doubt that it is too risky to consume wood. A medium-sized family that relies on a wood burning fireplace or stove needs a steady supply of wood to use all year round. Imagine how much wood a community would need in a year!
Luckily, there are some countries and areas around the world that continue to regulate the use of wood. Regulations include the number of trees that can be felled in a year and the planting of trees as well.
And of course, there is punishment for those that go above the law. Wood is a renewable resource but it could take time to replace a tree or a forest when it’s gone.
Wood is a renewable resource. You can cut down trees to make furniture and to use as building materials and then plant another tree in its place. It is not a fossil fuel although these fuel sources came from dead trees, plants, animals and other organic materials.