Planting trees to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide

Although carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from utilities dropped in 2001, the amount of CO2 emitted from fossil energy consumption in the United States has generally risen steadily throughout the last decade. Carbon sequestration through reforestation of marginal agricultural lands is increasingly viewed as an innovative, cost-effective way to mitigate atmospheric CO2, experts say. It takes advantage of the fact that as plants grow they incorporate carbon from the atmosphere into their structure through the process of photosynthesis.

The American Electric Power, the Conservation Fund, Environmental Synergy, Inc. and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are establishing such a project at the Catahoula National Refuge in east-central Louisiana. They plan to plant about 3 million trees.

There are numerous advantages to carbon sequestration.

  • It is estimated that over the 70 year life of the Catahoula Reforestation Project, more that 5 million tons of CO2 will be sequestered and converted to biomass.

  • It is relatively cheap, less than $10 per ton, with the principal variable being the cost of the land.

  • It provides public benefits such as wildlife and fish habitat, enhanced water quality, flood protection and outdoor recreation.

    The United States has no federal regulations concerning carbon emissions, but there is a voluntary reporting system under the Clean Air Act. In addition, the Bush administration has encouraged companies to undertake voluntary programmes to reduce emissions.

    Source: Trapped in the Trees, Electric Perspectives, September/October 2002, The Edison Electric Institute, 701 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20004-2696 (202) 508-5000.

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    FMF Policy Bulletin\12 November 2002
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