Carbon dioxide, or CO2, (often called simply carbon), is one of several chemical compounds known today as greenhouse gases, or GHG. These gases occur both naturally and as byproducts of fossil fuel use in various transportation and industrial processes. CO2 comes from many different sources. It can be natural, as when it comes from a volcano, but it can also come from fossil fuels being used to create energy for our cars or to power our electricity-generating plants.
International efforts have been under way for several years to reduce or offset the amount of carbon that is emitted into the atmosphere. Industries are retooling operations to release less carbon dioxide, and some are purchasing carbon credits to offset some of the carbon dioxide production that they have not been able to effectively and economically eliminate. Trees take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it. Most carbon is stored, or sequestered, in the wood and accounts for one-half of the dry weight. Carbon remains in the wood throughout the life of the forest product.
Newly planted trees and some existing stands have qualified under the Voluntary Carbon Market as sequestered carbon. This allows forest landowners to sell these carbon credits to others who need to offset some of the carbon they are producing through industrial processes. Selling carbon credits is a growing, non-traditional way that forest landowners may gain additional revenue. The carbon industry is expected to be worth $60 billion in the United States in 2012. That puts the carbon market on par with wheat and corn.
The amount of carbon you can claim compares to the amount of money you get for carbon offsets. How you do your (carbon) accounting has a very big impact on how much profit you can have. Forestry offsets can be a very big contributor to reaching the cost of compliance with greenhouse gas reductions. For example, carbon sequestered in trees that are made into paper products does not have much permanence because paper’s lifespan is short. However, carbon sequestered into trees that are made into furniture has a much longer anticipated permanence. The value of carbon varies in these instances.
The United States currently has a voluntary system of carbon trading, with most of it operating through the Chicago Carbon Exchange. A number of countries use a cap and trade system, which limits, or caps, the amount of carbon an industry can emit and sets restrictions on how carbon credits can be traded. Many experts in this field expect it will be instituted in this country.
The United States Carbon Market—National Climate Change Legislation and the Possible Affect on Forestry Offsets workshop was held on July 15, 2009 at Mississippi State University. A DVD and supporting notebook are available. Presentations represented viewpoints from National Policy, SAF, and the Chicago Climate Exchange. Information on verification, estimating carbon sequestered by forest stands, and economic examples were also provided. The DVD and supporting Notebook (includes speakers PowerPoint presentations) are being offered for $35. Contact Jan McReynolds at 662.325.3905, firstname.lastname@example.org or Randy Rousseau at 662.325.2777, email@example.com
Mississippians are exploring the relatively new and growing carbon offset market, although many issues related to this market remain under discussion. Larry Oldham, soil specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said daily, normal activities such as driving vehicles, manufacturing, industrial production and agricultural practices release carbon into the atmosphere.