Woody biomass is considered by some to be carbon neutral because the carbon that is released from burning can be recaptured as new trees are grown. This is true as long as the new trees are grown long enough to recapture the carbon lost when they were harvested and burnt. This varies for each situation and species. The rotation ages or growing time needs to be calculated for a variety of species and conditions to achieve carbon balance.
Carbon is emitted from machinerywhen woody biomass is harvested, yarded, transported, processed, and distributed. This carbon loss is referred to as the carbon footprint. The carbon footprint of the woody biomass may be more or less than the carbon footprint of the fuel that the wood is replacing; such as fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are non-renewable energy sources, so the carbon cannot be recaptured. The carbon footprint for different fuels can be calculated, and the processes required for utilization can be appraised to determine the better carbon fuel option for a given area. In Southeast Alaska, replacing fossil fuels such as fuel oil and propane with woody biomass fuels for thermal space heating will result in a smaller carbon footprint (Carbon Accounting on POW). This is due in part to the local availability of wood for fuel versus the extensive transportation required for barging fuel oil from Washington State.
Investment in a biomass infrastructure will be necessary to attain the many benefits of woody biomass heating. This infrastructure willinclude the means to accrue, transport, process, distribute, and use wood fuel. The investment could have a relatively short payback period, due in part to the escalating price of fossil fuels in the region.