Carbon: From the Latin: carbo “coal” is a chemical element with the symbol C and atomic number 6. Carbon is the 15th most abundant element in the Earth’s crust. It is present in all forms of carbon-based life, and in the human body carbon is the second most abundant element by mass after oxygen. This abundance, together with the unique diversity of organic compounds and their unusual polymer-forming ability at the temperatures commonly encountered on Earth, make this element the chemical basis of all known life.
Carbon neutral, or having a net zero carbon footprint, refers to achieving net zero carbon emissions by balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset, or buying enough carbon credits to make up the difference. It is used in the context of carbon dioxide releasing processes associated with transportation, energy production, and industrial processes such as production of carbon neutral fuel.
Carbon neutral status is commonly achieved in two ways:
- Balancing carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, with renewable energy that creates a similar amount of useful energy, so that the carbon emissions are compensated, or alternatively using only renewable energies that don’t produce any carbon dioxide (also called post-carbon economy).
- Carbon offsetting by paying others to remove or sequester 100% of the carbon dioxide emitted from the atmosphere – for example, by planting trees – or by founding ‘carbon projects’ that should lead to the prevention of future greenhouse gas emissions, or by buying carbon credits to remove (or retire) them through carbon trading. While carbon offsetting is often used alongside energy conservation measures to minimize energy use, the practice is criticized by some.
Carbon offsetting is the use of carbon credits to enable businesses to compensate for their emissions, meet their carbon reduction goals and support the move to a low carbon economy.
Example of Carbon Offset Project:
This Gold Standard offset project in India uses sugar cane waste as a clean source of energy, replacing diesel generators.
Sugarcane is one of the most promising agricultural sources of biomass energy in the world. Sugarcane produces mainly two types of biomass, Cane Trash and Bagasse. Cane Trash is the field residue remaining after harvesting the Cane stalk while Bagasse is the fibrous residue left over after milling of the Cane.
For every100 tons of Sugarcane crushed, a Sugar factory produces nearly 30 tons of wet Bagasse. Bagasse is often used as a primary fuel source for Sugar mills; when burned in quantity, it produces sufficient heat and electrical energy to supply all the needs of a typical Sugar mill, with energy to spare. The resulting CO2 emissions are equal to the amount of CO2 that the Sugarcane plant absorbed from the atmosphere during its growing phase, which makes the process of cogeneration greenhouse gas-neutral.
This process is very similar to G13, Catalyst Paper’s latest co-generation project G13, which uses hog waste as fuel. With marine access to waste-wood supplies the Powell River mill is one of the most logical and low-impact places in Canada to generate green energy from biomass.