Charcoal v Coal

Hello Collective
The are many benefits to reducing ones carbon footprint and becoming more eco-friendly. I would like to do everything I can to be as close
to the ideal as possible.
My thoughts are that charcoal might be a better way to go about this, especially if from local, well maintained sources. However I have also seen that charcoal is seen by many blacksmiths to be the poor relative of coal.
Is this a path that anybody else has trodden?
Steve P
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and cons. I would have to say that a gas forge would probably be the best in terms of carbon emissions, but gas is far from perfect when you talk environment. Not to mention that each of the fuels has it's benefits in terms of workability, temperature, etc. which I will leave for more seasoned smiths to hammer out here (no pun intended).
Maybe there's room for a discussion on making a solar forge on here? That's about the only way I could see making a forge with a minimum of emissions.
SF!
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wrote:

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I would guess that charcoal, made locally and used locally, was the most friedly to the environment. A renewable resource with negligable transport or infrastructure costs.
AWEM
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Everything you have discussed so far emits CO2. Use solar energy to make hydrogen, then burn the Hydrogen for forging. You waste a lot of energy just burning the wood to make charcoal and you send a lot of pyroligneous acid into the air anyway. When trees die, they oxidize slowly, so if you oxidize them rapidly (burn the wood)it's about the same thing. Why not just plant a lot more trees than you use and let it go at that? Use charcoal if you want, but it takes a lot more fooling around than coal does and is harder to make a real hot fire with. I suspect that the egological cost of materials for a solar furnace, such as the one we saw in France some years ago, would far outweigh any environmental damage you could do in a lifetime, and, of course, you can't forge on a cloudy day.
Pete Stanaitis --------------------
Steve Pointer wrote:

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spaco wrote:

From a fire stand point the biggest difference between coal and charcoal is that charcoal fires need to be feed more frequently and need less air. From an ecological view both coal and gas put carbon (and other things) back into the cycle that have been locked out of the cycle for a looong time. As for getting a hot fire with charcoal that is a matter of tweeking the forge.
ron
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Hi Pete,
The problem with solar is that it cost a lot of money to set up, and money still runs the planet. Also every component in the manufacture of the solar power generator comes either directly from petrochemical industry or uses carbon emitting products in their manufacture.
I live in a very sunny country, and you'd think solar would be the way to go, but at the moment it's a rich man's toy.
The discussion here is that we go nuclear, and there is a strong environmental case for doing so, especially with the carbon emission debate.
I've always thought it would be great to have a solar furnace, but from what I understand they are huge.
Charcoal from the odd days forging should not impact the environment, coal would also make minimal impact from a single user. Gas is fairly clean, and I've heard mapp gas is the cleanest (but try getting large quantities of the stuff cheaply).
Personally I use propane, because it is readily available to me, good coal is hard to get, and we mine it!!! I used to use charcoal, as did our ancestors, but it takes a lot of sweat to get to welding temperatures with charcoal.
Just an opinion ;-)
Regards Charles
spaco wrote:

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wrote:

Ever stop to think about what coal is?
As I understand it, either way you're burning the product of a plant. Here's a poser for you- is it better for you to cut down living wood that is taking in CO2 and respiring Oxygen, or to burn the remnants of ancient conifers that are no longer doing anything? When you consider the question of releasing locked carbon, does it enter your mind that every living thing on Earth is primarily carbon and water based? For that matter, in the long run, will switching your old carbon filiment light bulbs out (which contain tin and glass) for compact flourescents help us out much when the landfills and routes to those landfills (as the fragile bulbs smash apart in the back end of the garbage truck) end up full of mercury?
While I understand your concern, please try not to jump on the eco-nut bandwagon. There are a lot of ideas being bandied about these days that don't actually make any sense. If you're going to be concerned, try to be concerned about things that actually make a real difference, like making sure no one is dumping hazardous waste where it can get into your drinking water, or dumping hazardous ideas into your head, where they can get into the environment later as hot air.
I know that you are just trying to be a concerned citizen, and I applaud you for that- but most of the things we're hearing lately are not only mis-informed, but seem to be actively anti-human. Science is the study of facts, not a democratic process based on the gut feelings of the majority. Weather changes every day- some years it's hotter, some years it's colder. No matter which direction it swings on any given day, your blacksmithing habits will not make a gnat's fart worth of difference.
My vote, if I haven't turned you off entirely- and I know that ecological questions have become a religious debate at this point- would be for propane or coal. The pros of propane are that it's fairly clean and readily availible, but it's too hot (for me) to use in the summer, and a small tank can freeze up on you pretty quickly. The pros of coal are that it's cooler in the summer when the heat goes up the flue instead of blowing out at you, and you can make the fire whatever size you need- the downside being that you need to find coal, which may be very easy or very difficult, depending on your location. You also need to spend more time tending the fire, though that is not a really difficult chore.
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Prometheus wrote:

Damn hard to get the good stuff :-(

Supporting that statement the Egyptians used to use mummies for fuel.
Regards Charles
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The one argument that made sense to me was atmosphere change.
Science pretty much agrees that ages ago when coal was forming, there was a lot more CO2 and other carbon forms in the atmosphere. The tons and tons of coal in the ground, the petroleum oils, the natural gases all captured immense amounts of carbon. Enough carbon was bound into solid forms to change the atmosphere.
There are a few people maintaining a sustainable forest. I read in the Draft Horse Journal where one family has been nurturing a woods in the Pacific Northwest for a couple of generations now. They harvest mature trees, manage diseased or damaged trees, etc., and make a fair living. And the woods remains a pretty healthy, stable, and viable habitat and natural resource. Working with someone like that, or a tree service, or local lumber mill, you should be able to pick up trimmings or even damaged tree section for little or no effort or cost. There are numbers of ways to turn wood into charcoal, some more efficient than others. Being part of the 'current' cycle, using damaged or mature trees, there would be slight impact on the CO2 cycle. Except, of course, that part of the carbon from those trees might have gone into the soil, and then into longer term bindings.
But don't forget soot! Soot is high quality carbon. The portion of soot that doesn't get incorporated into your steel, or embedded in your lungs and skin, will add to the dirt around your smithy. And return to the natural cycle.
This might sound nice. But keep in mind that there are various products emitted into the atmosphere in the course of making charcoal. The h2o (water) removed from the wood is mostly OK, but there are other things that will dissolve into the water as fast as the water forms. There are some caustic and nasty portions generated when making charcoal. One technique for making charcoal regenerates heat by burning off the volatiles from when you start cooking the wood. This helps to reduce some of the compounds, though probably not all.
Using good quality coal, mostly carbon with few impurities or inclusions (and low sulfur!), most of the conversion products were dispersed millions of years ago. With charcoal the byproducts are generated today, and will take hours to months to degenerate to the point they no longer affect anything. This same argument also applies to other fossil fuels, petroleum and natural gases.
The coal the average blacksmith burns could not begin to compare to the thousands of tons burned by utilities. Just look at a coal train roll by some time - 20 to 80 car loads at a time, often daily runs.
I haven't seen anyone discuss electric forges. Hydroelectric generated electricity, along with wind and solar, would have the lease eco-footprint. Otherwise I am sure there is literature on how much co2 a tree captures, and you could plant a tree or three each year to compensate for the carbon you consume in your forge. Who knows? In 10-15 years your forge might be ringing beneath a spreading Oak tree!
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