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What Kind of Energy is Used in Burning Wood?

Energy from sunlight is stored as chemical energy in wood and other organic material, using a process called photosynthesis. This energy is released as heat when wood is burned.

What Kind of Energy is Used in Burning Wood?

Energy from sunlight is stored as chemical energy in wood and other organic material, using a process called photosynthesis.  This energy is released as heat when wood is burned.


History

People have been using the energy generated by burning wood for thousands of years to stay warm and cook their foods. 


Size

According to the US.  Department of Energy, burning wood and wood waste only generate about 2 percent of the United States' total energy.


Benefits

Because more trees can always be grown, wood is a renewable resource.  It's usually grown in the country where it is used, reducing dependence on foreign sources of energy such as oil.


Warning

According to the US.  Environmental Protection Agency, when wood is burned it releases carbon monoxide, cancer-causing chemicals and particulate matter (PM) that can aggravate asthma and heart disease.


Considerations

Although burning wood releases carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, the photosynthesis process (how plants convert sunlight into chemical energy) captures an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide. 

About the Author

Chris Rowe is a freelance writer with a degree in government from Georgetown University and a degree in engineering from Johns Hopkins.

Photo Credits

  • ericcharl, www.sxc.hu
  • ericcharl, www.sxc.hu