Wood as Fuel
would have thought that "about 55 percent of all the
wood harvested in the world is used as fuel?"
A Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Approximation
Rosa, a mother of nine, prepares a meal
of corn tortillas. Rosa lives in a Qeqchi Maya village in
the mountains of north-central Guatemala, Central America.
In much of the world, wood fires are commonly used for cooking
and heating, as is the case with Rosa and her family.
Wood as fuel isn't limited to the rural
population of countries like Guatemala, however. In Oregon,
for example, many households still use wood stoves for some,
or all, of their heat. In addition, wood is used as fuel
worldwide in the form of charcoal hamburgers and hot
dogs on the grill is a common sight during Oregon's summer.
Nationally power plants and factories generate heat and
electricity by burning charcoal or wood.
A lot of wood is used for fuel, but
in some cases the wood doesn't come from forests! According
to the Food and Agriculture Organization*, an organization
that works internationally in agriculture and forestry,
developing countries in Asia have approximately 3/4 of the
world's woodfuel users, but only 1/4 of the forest cover.
"We now know that over 60% of fuelwood originates from
non-forest sources and the supply from these non-forest
sources appears to be sufficient to 'fill
the gap'." The author continues, offering that
"...fuelwood harvesting from forest land is not necessarily
non-sustainable, and that fuelwood use is not necessarily
linked to deforestation. Now, fuelwood use is no longer
[generally] considered a major or general cause of deforestation."
In Asia at least, most of the wood used
as fuel is harvested from tree crops grown on non-forest
lands. This includes village lands, agricultural lands,
tree plantations, trees in wind rows and fence rows. Worldwide
the relationship is probably similar. Wood used for fuel
is seldom the main reason forests are cut down.
We sometimes forget how important wood
is as a fuel source. Oregonians typically have easy access
to electricity thanks to hydroelectric power generation.
But wood as fuel worldwide is important, now and in the
future. The rise in woodfuel consumption is projected to
continue for some years to come in many fast growing, economically
Not all wood used for fuel comes from
trees harvested specifically for that purpose. For example,
wood stoves that burn sawdust or wood pellets are burning
industrial "wastes." Mills using "hog fuels"
to generate heat and/or steam use these same wastes, generated
on-site or shipped in by train and truck. Wood wastes and
hog fuels are wood chips or dust burned as fuel.
*FAO Working Paper number