Environmentalists often argue over the wisdom of heating homes with wood. Strong arguments can be marshaled on both sides of this debate, so I’ll do my best to represent both positions before summing up.
Burning wood makes environmental sense
According to wood-fuel advocates, burning wood is carbon-neutral. While burning wood releases carbon into the atmosphere, the carbon would have been released anyway if the tree had died of old age and rotted on the forest floor.
Here’s how a forest’s carbon cycle works: as trees grow, they sequester atmospheric carbon by converting CO2 in the air to leaves, twigs, and wood. The CO2 isn’t permanently sequestered, however, since virtually all wood (with a few exceptions, like Tutankhamen’s throne) eventually burns or rots. The amount of carbon released by burning is the same as the amount released by rotting.
As long as firewood is sustainably harvested — that is, as long as a logger limits annual cutting to the annual growth of the forest — burning firewood is carbon-neutral.
Wood-stove advocates also point out: