If you step outside and look around, chances are you will see trees, lots of trees, as far as the eye can see. Cut one down, which lets in more sunlight, and new trees will sprout or the remaining trees will grow even faster.

Trees are solar batteries. They absorb energy from the sun and store it there until it gets used (or not). Trees can be utilized as energy in numerous ways. In forestry, trees are chipped and sent to a facility to be burned to generate electricity for the power grid. In lumber manufacturing, sawdust is burned to create heat, to heat the kiln that dries the lumber. Trees can also be processed into firewood, chips or pellets to heat your home, your school or your business.

Wood fuel is renewable. When wood is burned, it gives off Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Living trees must absorb CO2 to grow. This sets up a “Carbon Cycle” where CO2 is continually being released, and then re-absorbed, then released, and so on… Wood energy is considered Low-Carbon or Carbon-Neutral because of this carbon cycle.

When fossil fuel (oil, propane…) is burned, however, it also gives off CO2, but without any means of re-absorbing it later. That fact, plus the fact that our fossil fuel stores are finite and limited, make fossil fuel non-renewable. Recent years, the price of fossil fuel has been all over the map. Today, the price happens to be low, but as we have all seen, it can spike in the opposite direction at any time.

All this is actually very good news for the state of Maine and the Maine economy. Maine has the potential to be the new “Saudi Arabia of Renewable Energy”. We have vast forest resources and dwindling markets for it, as paper mills are closed down, one after another. Money spent on local wood energy is money that stays within the local economy, trickling down to every layer along the way.

Given all these facts, one might wonder why all Maine households are not utilizing local renewable wood heat. That’s a good question. I believe we are missing a really huge opportunity. Modern wood pellet heat, for instance is clean, renewable and can be automated to be almost as care-free as fossil-fuel. According to the Efficiency Maine website, they are offering up to a $6,000 rebate for converting to modern biomass (wood) heat. Now may be a good time for us to re-consider our priorities, and not only think long-term and renewable, but also think local, clean and affordable.

The author is a licensed Arborist. He can be reached at RobertFogg@Q-Team.com or 693-3831.

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