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Opinion

September 23, 2013

Wood burning has come a long way

A recent letter criticized the use of wood-burning stoves. While the author stopped short of calling for a ban, she seemed to be making a case for it. Her argument made no distinction between modern cleaner-burning stoves certified by the EPA and older models. This is like condemning all cars as gas-guzzlers because of the hogs from the 1970s. 

The EPA report that she cited was published in 1993. According to the EPA website, all new woodstoves sold in the U.S. since 1988, must be certified to meet strict new emissions standards. When data for this 1993 report was collected more than 20 years ago, in all likelihood most woodstoves were non-certified older models. Catalytic combustors and new designs based on combustion dynamics have revolutionized woodstoves. The EPA lists them as 70 percent cleaner and up to 50 percent more efficient. Certified indoor stoves emit no visible smoke when maintained and operated properly with seasoned hardwood. 

Some people may not like the sight of a woodpile, but firewood is a sustainable resource that is close to being carbon neutral and a properly managed woodlot can last indefinitely. It can also be a byproduct of timber harvesting, which, when done correctly, won’t harm the environment, degrade neighboring property, or create quality-of-life issues. The EPA website has a lot of good information on heating with wood; see www.epa.gov/burnwise. 

I can’t understand why some people scoff at the very idea of using biofuel, of which firewood is only one small aspect. Every technology has a beginning and should not be dismissed out of hand. It’s a great idea to use plants to capture energy, then use that energy to produce heat and electricity, unless maybe you own stock in Exxon ...

Gregory Crowell

Cooperstown

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