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WOOD PROVES ENVIRONMENTALLY SUPERIOR TO STEEL; LARGER GLOBAL PICTURE AND SUSTAINABLE FUTURE EXAMINED IN COMPARISON

 SACRAMENTO, Calif., Aug. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Increasing harvesting restrictions on forested land in California have dramatically reduced the supply of wood produced from California's forests. This stranglehold has caused, and will continue to cause, multiple hardships statewide and nationally. One evident result is soaring lumber prices impacting forest and related industries -- causing some industries reliant on forest products to explore new ways of conducting business to remain competitive.
 The building and construction industry has been especially hard hit. In addition to concern regarding volatile lumber prices, an issue of growing importance to their business is efficiency and environmental impact of wood in comparison to other building materials. With state officials estimating California needs at least 250,000 new houses and apartments a year to keep pace with population growth, it's no wonder alternative building sources are looking more attractive. One alternative increasingly being celebrated in the media as the "newly discovered" solution to dwindling wood supplies is steel. Yet experts see a red flag where finite resources are concerned.
 "We hope people look further than a quick-fix solution because that's what steel offers in comparison to wood," said Don Beaty, a registered professional forester and chairperson of the California Forest Products Commission.
 According to Beaty, forest products prove far superior to steel with respect to the larger global picture and sustainable future -- ironically, the driving goal behind the current restrictions on forested land. When you weigh the cumulative environmental effects of using these two materials, he explained, wood is superior in three key areas: energy efficiency, carbon sinking and renewability. He stressed that the most obvious point being that while wood is renewable, steel is a finite resource; "When it's gone, it's gone!"
 Energy efficiency is crucial when evaluating a resource's effect on the energy cycle, experts said. Energy use not only taxes non-renewable resources such as coal and oil, it also is the most significant contributor to global warming. According to studies conducted by the Wood Science Laboratory Inc., wood has a positive effect on this energy cycle in two respects. First, it takes nine times the energy to produce a steel stud as it does to produce a comparable wood stud. Second, a wood stud's resistance to heat transfer is about 3.5, while that of a steel stud is only 0.5. This equates to wood being seven times more energy-efficient in use than steel. As well, steel-frame walls require at least 10 percent more insulation to achieve equal or better energy efficiency as wood-frame walls.
 Scientists readily confer that an added benefit occurring naturally is that as wood grows, it works to freshen the air by taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. In this process, the carbon is "fixed" into the wood fiber, where it remains even after the tree is harvested for wood products. The release of oxygen is a contributing factor to offsetting global warming, also known as the "greenhouse effect."
 Energy efficiency is also realized through a process known as cogeneration. The simultaneous production of two or more forms of usable energy from a single fuel source, cogeneration has greater efficiencies than using the fuel to solely generate electricity. Many California lumber mills help replenish the energy they use by burning residual materials in boilers, creating steam to operate kilns for drying lumber and to run turbines that generate electricity. The entire process results in wood's net energy effect being far more favorable than that of steel.
 Wood is an easily renewed resource through replanting and careful forest management, registered professional foresters say. California forests are managed to ensure that the natural renewal process continues to provide a constant supply of forest products such as paper and building materials to meet society's needs. Studies show that California has approximately the same amount of forested acres today as it had 100 years ago, the result of stringent reforestation requirements by the state. In fact, approximately 35 million trees were planted in 1990 alone, according to industry records. Conversely, steel is a finite resource. Even steel containing 60 percent recycled material consists of 40-percent virgin material that was mined from the earth and cannot replaced. Only wood is renewable.
 Recycling has become practically a national pastime and is probably wood's most easily recognizable characteristic -- in terms of being environmentally friendly. According to the American Forest and Paper Association, nationally 34 million tons of paper are recycled each year. The same recyclability holds true for other wood products.
 Recycling has a positive effect on reducing raw material use and solid waste disposal, but is only part of the overall environmental picture, according to a nonpartisan audit group that certifies environmental claims. The environmental costs of energy consumed in transporting and processing the material to be recycled also need to be considered. Air emissions and disposal of the chemicals used in the recycling process should be factored into the total impact on the environment.
 While steel is recyclable, the process is considered extremely energy-intensive and results in air and water emissions that contribute substantially to acid rain and the greenhouse effect.
 With California being the second-largest producer of forest products in the nation, searching for alternatives to a readily available and renewable resource seems irrational, concludes Beaty. Nearly 70 percent of forest products produced in California remain in the state and are used primarily for housing and general construction.
 "At first blush, steel many seem the cure-all to the current lumber supply problem," said Beaty. "But when we are talking about being stewards of the environment, one choice is clear and that choice is wood. It's biodegradable, recyclable, reusable, renewable, energy- efficient, and actually helps reduce global warming."
 Looking at the facts, industry leaders agree that substituting non- renewable, energy-intensive building materials for wood is not a long- term solution to the current timber crisis -- striking a balance between environmental and economic concerns is.
 -0- 8/10/93
 /CONTACT: Kate Horan of the California Forest Products Commission, 916-568-1141/


CO: California Forest Products Commission ST: California IN: PAP SU:

LV -- NYEFNS9 -- 0988 08/10/93 06:55 EDT
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Date:Aug 10, 1993
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