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To be pedantic, not true. Even a "static picture" consumes some CPU time. Whenever you move or resize a window, or minimize or shade, it's that CPU which has to go through the effort of redrawing the wallpaper. This can actually take some serious time on a slower computer with a modest amount of RAM (i.e. the image has been offloaded to swap).
Also, it takes quite a bit of CPU and disk spinning to do a high resolution wallpaper background switch. This causes a definite hit on responsiveness--enough to temporarily disrupt DVD or video clip playback on my workstation.
A constant 4% CPU drain is preferable to an intermittent 50% CPU drain, when it comes to the user's experience. In particular, the timing of this drop in software responsiveness is important. When windows are being moved/resized/closed is when the user is actually "doing something", and this is the worst time for the CPU to be taxed with a slow background refresh.
Surely, you've experience what I'm talking about--you're ready to close one app and go on to another. But when you close your current app the disk starts making busy-busy sounds and the wallpaper background slowly gets redrawn to fill the void...
If you're running gnome or kde, then it's controlling the desktop. You need to kill whatever app is drawing the wallpaper -- nautilus in gnome, not sure what it would be in KDE. There may be another way to do it, but I'm not aware off the top of my head.