Article source: www.woodheat.org
What makes wood heating different from all the other options?
Judged by coverage in policy discussions about our energy future, wood heating is virtually nonexistent. Most politicians don’t debate its merits or plan for its strategic use. The one area in which wood burning does attract attention is the problem of air pollution. As a result, wood burning has become most often identified as a problem to be solved rather than as an opportunity to be harvested. The one thing that almost no governments do is encourage householders to heat with wood. Fuelwood is the only renewable energy resource that most governments don’t seem comfortable with.
The low profile of wood heating in energy policy discussions and in the media reflects the fact that policy – even rural policy – is developed in big cites, and that the large media outlets are all urban in location and outlook. That and the fact that no large corporations are involved in wood heating and therefore no high-priced lobbyists or special interest groups prowl the halls of legislatures pleading the case of wood burning. So, despite the fact that millions of families burn wood at home, its role as an energy source rarely appears on government and media radar.
The refining of wood fuel is often done manually with hand tools.In a world of touch-screen convenience, pocket-sized computers, and automatic climate-controlled environments, wood heating is in every way rough, basic and steadfastly hands-on. People who heat with wood seem out of step with the modern world swirling around them. Have wood burners and those who labour to supply them with fuel slipped through a crack in the cozy consensus of modernity? Or are they onto something meaningful that has been missed by the mainstream?
The producers and consumers of fuelwood are engaged in an activity that reduces net greenhouse gas emissions while others merely fret about global warming. The fuelwood fraternity use a renewable energy resource, taking pressure off dwindling supplies of ever-pricier and scarce fossil fuels. Buyers of fuelwood create jobs close to home and strengthen their local communities. They know more about the cause-and-effect relationships of energy production and consumption than those who simply pay utility bills. The story of wood heating early in the twenty-first century is about average families making decisions based on how they see their future unfolding.
Heating with wood is about a lot more than home heating. It is a tangible expression of self-reliance, of the courage to buck the trends and to resist the appeal of sedentary, push-button convenience. Heating with wood reinforces links to the land and is a willing submission to the cycle of the seasons. It provides stability and security in a turbulent world.
To its owner, the woodlot is a living community in constant evolution, while to the urban observer it may be seen as a museum in which the removal of a tree exhibit renders it diminished. The woodlot owner watches its quality improve over the years, even as it yields products and creates employment. The owner’s household earns part of its income by being a fuel supplier to the neighbours. It is a gentle way to produce energy compared to mountain top removal coal mining and nuclear reactors.
Fuelwood is the ultimate populist energy resource, the most easily accessed and affordable of all renewable energies. The major environmental impact of wood heating is visible for all to see in the form of smoke emissions, making everyone who uses it instantly accountable for their actions. The families that heat with wood and those that supply them with fuel do so privately, without fanfare or acknowledgement. It seems they wouldn’t want it any other way. Heating with wood is its own reward. This is a private activity in which virtually everyone involved is content to remain anonymous, quietly keeping their families warm through their own labour and ingenuity.
But with so few individuals and groups speaking up to defend the responsible use of wood fuel, the families that depend upon it may soon be faced with unreasonable restrictions. Those who want to see wood heating banned are gaining influence and more governments are treating wood heating as a pollution problem and not as a renewable energy resource that needs to be improved.
Up next week: AN ESSENTIAL RESOURCE & SMOKE EMISSIONS