The spike is the price of electricity indirectly caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which sent natural gas prices soaring, as well as the rise in the price for the same reason of heating oil, which heats somewhere around half of northern New England homes (including mine, I’m embarrassed to admit), is giving that Northeast staple of wood heat a new boost.
The result, predictably, is shortages and price hikes for firewood and wood-burning stoves, as the Valley News reports (here). That’s how capitalism works, for better or worse.
Firewood banks, which provide free wood for heating to people in need, are also seeing increased demand, as the Monitor reported recently (here). And wood pellets for automatic-feeding pellet stoves are likely to be in short supply, as we noted last month (here)
I’m a fan of biomass energy but there’s a drawback: individual wood stoves can be pollution machines. That’s why the city of Keene has the worst winter air quality in New Hampshire; it’s located in a bowl that traps smoke from the many wood stoves in the area. New Hampshire and Vermont have had various programs giving out money if you trade old smoky stoves for new ones with pollution controls but the take-up hasn’t been great.
Emissions from modern wood stoves that are correctly operated are no more toxic than oil furnaces. See following references:
Characterisation of particles from wood combustion with respect to health relevance and electrostatic precipitation
Prof. Dr. Thomas Nussbaumer1,2
1University of Applied Sciences Lucerne, CH – 6048 Horw, (Switzerland), http://www.hslu.ch
2Verenum, Langmauerstrasse 109, CH – 8006 Zurich (Switzerland), http://www.verenum.ch
Excerpt from conclusions:
Diesel soot, soot and COC from incomplete combustion of wood, and mainly inorganic particles from a nearly complete combustion of wood have been compared. The samples were used for biological tests on cell toxicity and on chromosome defects with lung cells from the chinese hamster. In addition, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) were analyzed.
The results show that Diesel soot exhibits a medium level of toxicity and chromosome defects, while particles from the automatic wood combustion exhibits more than 5 times lower toxicity. However, particles from the badly operated wood stove exhibit more than 10 times higher toxicity and accordingly also levels of PAH than Diesel soot with the onset of chromosome defects also found at more than 10 times lower particle concentration in the cell medium. Particles from well operated wood stoves showed similar or slightly less toxicity than Diesel soot.
Ischemic Heart Disease Mortality and Long-Term Exposure to Source-Related Components of U.S. Fine Particle Air Pollution
George D. Thurston,1,2 Richard T. Burnett,3,4 Michelle C. Turner,4 Yuanli Shi,4 Daniel Krewski,4 Ramona Lall,1 Kazuhiko Ito,1 Michael Jerrett,5 Susan M. Gapstur,6 W. Ryan Diver,6 and C. Arden Pope III7 1Department of Environmental Medicine, and 2Department of Population Health, New York University School of Medicine, Tuxedo, New York, USA; 3Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch, Health Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; 4McLaughlin Centre for Population Health Risk Assessment, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; 5Department of Environmental Health Sciences, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California, USA; 6Epidemiology Research Program, American Cancer Society, Atlanta, Georgia, USA; 7Economics Department, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA
Excerpt from conclusions:
However, PM2.5 from both wind-blown soil and biomass combustion was not associated with IHD mortality.