WOOD - A RENEWABLE SOLAR ENERGY SOURCE
Wood: humanity’s original and oldest fuel. Man has always relied on it: for cooking, heating, hot water and for the comfort and replenishment of his inner soul, durable, reliable, a friend. Today however, with environmental issues at the forefront, questions arise; is burning biomass (wood or plant matter) polluting our environment? What are the alternatives? How does wood compare with gas, electricity, oil and coal?
Before we address these questions at any length however, it is important to know that there are a number of structural and critical differences between wood and fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are gas, oil, coal and by "extension" electricity. They require exploration, mining, drilling, pipelines, power plants, refineries and so on. In themselves inflationary and polluting activities, that are disruptive and destructive to the environment and biodiversity.
Fossil fuels are by necessity secondary and tertiary products; they require large investment, infrastructure and energy in order to make them useful and useable, thus the high charges and taxes. In addition they produce toxic acid rain, which causes ancient monuments that have stood for thousands of years to rapidly erode and crumble. One can only imagine the harmful effect on our lungs and health.
On the other hand biomass (wood) offers a number of advantages environmental, economic, ecological, agricultural, social, climatic to mention but a few. Biomass is natural, a product of photosynthesis, which is acting as a filter/cleaner and producer of bioenergy. Wood is a native and renewable resource with benign ecological effects; is versatile and can be used as a fuel and as a commodity.
True, wood releases CO2 when used, but trees also need to breathe in CO2 (carbon dioxide) in order to emit oxygen. Thus a balancing or an equalising effect takes place, hence scientists class it pollution free. Wood emissions are food for the plants and are easily reabsorbed, but this is not the case with fossil fuels. Think of it - biomass is the only commodity that is located above ground; fossil fuels are below ground, as a result they create billions of tones of pollution when excavated, refined and used. Wood is a primary produce, part of the living, natural and biological cycle; fossil fuels are not of this cycle and have to be physically and forcibly dug and dragged out of the ground. By using wood, we simply recycle what nature has provided but above all we care for our health and environment. Wood is a primary product, direct from the producer to the consumer (man).
Strictly speaking our environment will not function correctly without wood fires (controlled), as they are part of the atmospheric biodiversity and help keep the gaseous equilibrium. In fact, wood fires when meaningful are crucial to the well being of the environment and often occur spontaneously by lightening. In essence, no clouds - no rain, no wood smoke - less oxygen, as wood emissions are a precursor and a vital prerequisite to oxygen - by photosynthesis. Frankly we cannot afford not to use wood - the alternative is catastrophic! Clearly trees are a source of clean air for man and plants whether used or standing
HOW DETRIMENTAL IS GAS FOR OUR HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT?
Today, gas is promoted with "environmental correctness," as a cure-all energy policy. It seems another crisis is looming on the horizon, which time has revealed and will further reveal. The issue here is not whether gas is better than oil or coal, but whether gas is:
- pollution neutral
- safe for our health
- safe for our environment
- as clean as wood.
Gas meets none of the above criteria
By switching from electric to gas we are simply exchanging one pollution for another and make matters worse as we bring an outside gas pollution inside our kitchens - with adverse consequences to our health. For example, oil is cleaner than coal but this does not mean that oil is clean. Similarly gas is better than electricity but this does not make gas a clean fuel. By promoting gas we simply promote more pollution and ill health.
Much research and studies around the globe have found gas harmful to our health and environment - please consider the evidence. Regarding the Pilbara gas processing plant Christine Sharp (MLC) said: "The new project alone could blow Australia’s targets out of the window… WA’s gas industry would be the main cause of increased CO2 emissions… Former Premier Richard Court has… also warned that the potential could be hampered unless Australia could offset the release of emissions from the new gas projects..." (Italics Bold ours) "The West Australian Newspapers 19/02/2000"
Exactly how polluting is Western Australia’s North West Shelf gas project? “The Environmental Protection Authority’s report on the project found it would emit 5.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year - increasing WA’s total emissions by 13 per cent and Australia’s total by 1.4 per cent. The EPA also found the potential environmental impact of the project was considerable.” "The West Australian Newspapers 21/09/2002" This may well be on the conservative side.
Right now in Western Australia, there are five gas projects in various stages of planing. Multiply the above levels of pollution by 5 times (depending on size) and the pollution would be about 65% greater. If the same happens in other states, let alone in other countries, the pollution would be catastrophically ruinous. No wonder the last 10 hottest years occurred since 1987. Furthermore, there is a big increase in asthma (over 200,000 in Western Australia alone) and respiratory illness. How can gas be clean when it often comes from the same deep hole as petrol? With the industry using such euphemistic names as “natural” and “clean” gas and along with their seductive floating billions, have we been deceived? Have we got it all wrong?
By contrast, there is not a gram of pollution when the sun creates the wood. Nor is there long term or lasting pollution when the wood is burnt, as plants reabsorb the smoke. They are both called plants, one a gas processing “plant” (misnomer), the other a firewood plant (Tree), one depressing the other refreshing, one “death dealing the other life giving” - no comparison - poles apart. Our approach should always consider the total environmental and health effects. That is “birth to death analysis”, from exploration and production, right to when it is used in our kitchen. That is where the wood stove excels!
The "New Scientist" 05/12/1985 reporting on home pollution stated: "Pollution generated by gas appliances operating normally may also be harmful, especially to children. Epidemiological studies... in the US in 1980, hint that gas cookers in the home can increase susceptibility to serious respiratory illness. Gas cookers produce several potentially harmful waste gases... The amount of both nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide is much higher in homes with gas cookers"
"Cooking with gas sparks warning" was the title of "The West Australian Newspapers" 03/11/1999. It reported a study in the USA by Dr. Mark Eisner of the University of California that found: "that gas ovens and cooktops may be a risk factor for asthma, joining cigarette smoke… A study of adults with asthma showed that those who cooked with gas were twice as likely to go to a hospital emergency room with an asthmatic crisis… Dr. Eisner… noted that gas released irritating compounds." (Bold and Italics ours)
"Air in homes toxic: expert" was another headline. Dr. Peter Dingle, in completing a two-year study, an expert in biological and environmental toxicology at Murdoch University, warns: "Research shows that levels of toxic gas in our homes from heaters and cooking is often up to five times higher than recommended levels outside… Polluting the home… were vapours from paints… nitrogen dioxide from gas heaters and cooking" (Bold & Italics ours) "The West Australian Newspapers" 14/06/1999
Author Randall Earl Dunford (although skeptical about wood) in his book "Your Health and the Indoor Environment" is scathing in his attack on gas: "There is no doubt that this "natural" gas looms as one of the greatest contributors to indoor pollution and therefore human illness. Dr Randolph goes on to state that "natural gas is highly unnatural as far as the human body is concerned – a substance with which the body has no physiological method of coping."
The danger brought about by major leaks is, of course, obvious. "Over a thousand people are thought to lose their lives annually because of gas poisoning in the home… To get the grip on just how serious the overall situation is, several studies have been conducted and the results were appalling… Unquestionably… some in a constant state of illness… The most likely resulting symptoms are… headaches, fatigue, nausea, and dizziness; and such mental concerns as depression, irritability, and confusion… The content of nitrogen dioxide in natural gas, over time, is capable of damaging lung tissue. Several British studies have revealed a higher incidence of both respiratory symptoms and disease in children 5 to 11 years of age residing in homes with gas ranges…Other studies… also revealed a higher frequency of coughs and colds." (Italics & Bold ours) With a wood stove you have none of the above, as the flue removes the wood gases outside and steadily supplies the kitchen with fresh, clean air.
The book "State of the World 1990" warns: "Although natural gas is plentiful globally, it may have limited greenhouse benefits. A Study by Dean Abrahamson of the University of Minnesota found… the methane leaking from natural gas distribution systems has such a powerful greenhouse effect that it offsets any CO2 reduction benefits of switching to gas heating." (Bold, Italics ours) Needless to say we can never eliminate oil and gas leaks (4% gas only) let alone the accidental gas explosions. Moreover methane a chief component of "natural gas" (a misnomer) is approximately 21 times (2.100%) more potent than the wood released CO2.
The British medical journal “The Lancet” under the headline: “Association of respiratory symptoms and lung functions in young adults with use of domestic gas appliances” by Deborah Jarvis and her team found: “a link between the use of gas stoves and adverse effects on respiratory health... the fact that such large numbers of people are exposed makes this an issue of considerable public health importance... The stakes are high... Women who... used gas for cooking had an increased risk of several asthma-like symptoms... including wheeze... shortness of breath... and asthma attacks... in East Anglia the use of gas cooking is significantly associated with subjective and objective markers of respiratory morbidity in women...”, Is an exhaust fan the answer? “The Lancet” answers: “no protective effect was observed... we have not observed any reduction in risk of symptoms with the regular use of extractor fans.” (Bold and Italics ours) 17/02/1996
“Alert over unflued gas fumes - The State Government has issued a public alert over the use of unflued gas... after research showed they can spark the onset of asthma, lung infections and other respiratory problems... Nitrogen dioxide also suppresses white blood cells, leaving people vulnerable to infection... Health Minister Jim McGinty warned people with... gas cookers to be aware of the health risks. Findings of a new National Health and Medical Council study show unflued heaters increased the level of indoor pollutants such as Nitrogen Dioxide... Carbon Monoxide... Symptoms include asthma attacks, breathing difficulties, tight chest and other respiratory-related problems.” The West Australian Newspapers 21/06/2004.
“Mr McGinty said: “My aim is... to make sure people are aware of all the health problems associated with the product. It is a bit like the tobacco companies and asbestos companies in the early days, the tobacco companies were trying to deny the existing of health effects” ” The West Australian Newspapers 25/06/2004.
"Gas stoves suspect in child respiratory illnesses" was front-page news in "The Australian Newspaper" 29/11/94 in reporting a South Australian study covering 14,124 homes. "Incidence of respiratory illness… can be as high in homes with natural gas stoves as those with cigarette smoke... (Globally, millions of people die annually from cigarette smoke related diseases.) The increased likelihood of such illness as asthma, frequent colds and hay fever... the study present the natural gas industry... with its biggest challenge yet... it also has implications for public health policy makers." the study goes on "Homes with wood-burning heaters even appear beneficial." (Bold, Italics & Bracketed comments ours) Please note - homes with wood stoves appear beneficial.
For more on gas and your health see the “Gas-How Bad?” page
WOOD A STORED SOLAR ENERGY
A CLEANER AND GREENER FUEL
Numerous research and scientific publications have classed wood as solar fuel. "Biomass is… derived from photosynthesis" and "is thus unique in that it represents stored solar energy" The World Energy Council Book-1994.
The US Department of Energy in their brochure “About bioenergy” said: ‘we have used bioenergy - the energy from biomass... for thousands of years, ever since people started burning wood to cook... The use of bioenergy has the potential to greatly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions... every time a new plant grows, carbon dioxide is actually removed from the atmosphere. The net emission of carbon dioxide will be zero...”
The Australian Academy of Science on their web site “Biomass - the growing energy resource” stated: “One of the most appealing things about biomass energy is that it doesn’t contribute to the enhanced greenhouse effect, provided that the biomass is harvested sustainably. Coal, gas, oil and other fossil fuels - the main greenhouse culprits... The original source of the energy present in biomass is the sun... The original solar energy is now stored in the chemical bonds of these compounds... biomass - can be seen as storehouses of solar energy.".
The Commonwealth Government in connection with the Consumers Association in "The Energy Guide Brochure" said: "Open fires or wood burning stoves can be a good option although these… contribute to low level air-pollution... However, these emissions can be canceled out - reduced to zero - if timber is replaced after it’s cut down by other fast growing trees." (Bold / Italics & underline ours)
"Webster’s World Encyclopedia – 1998" under "Biomass – A Green Source of Energy" says: "Biomass, such as wood… takes energy from the sun and store it in chemical compounds through a process known as photosynthesis. Unlike commercial sources of energy that are the main concern for most environmentalists, the use of biomass on a small scale does very little harm to the Earth… When used wisely and sustainably, both at home and at the community level, biomass… offers a solution to environmental degradation…The use of biomass as an energy offers many advantages for the environment."
"The Scientific American" September 1990 states: "biomass energy properly managed, would not contribute to greenhouse warming." It further commented: "solar energy stored as a chemical energy can be recovered by burning plants. If biomass is produced at a sustainable rate, the carbon dioxide released... exactly balances the carbon dioxide consumed during photosynthesis. Bioenergy would make no net contribution to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and so it would not contribute to global warming." (Italics, Bold ours)
The Australian Greenhouse Office, in their brochure "Global Warming Cool It!" page 20 came with the following Greenhouse gases (pollution) per unit of heat
- “Natural gas produces 0.31 kg.
- LPG gas produces 0.34 kg.
- Heating Oil produces 0.39 kg...
- Electricity Aust. Average 1.00 kg...
- Wood produces 0.00 kg.”
The article continues: "Carbon dioxide from burning wood is not counted, as wood is a renewable resource: a natural cycle exists in which carbon is captured by growing trees, then released by burning or decaying and again captured by growing trees." Our energy utilities would have us believe that are at the forefront of environmental protection. The truth is fossil fuels are ruining the environment and our health, yet colourful propaganda and misleading newsletters are printed as a soft approach to appease, confuse, distort and finally corrupt.
The "Choice" magazine of April 1999 in comparing different fuels including coal, electricity and gas, concluded as follows: "if firewood is used sustainably… and burned in a slow-combustion heater, it produces the least amount of CO2 of all the fuels in our comparison."
CHALLENGES OF WOOD IN MODERN CITIES
Granted, in a confined area similar to our modern cities, wood can create few challenges due to close proximity of housing, using green wood, incorrect operating procedures and so on. For this we can only blame ourselves, for living in a tight and unnatural environment. Of course this does not make wood polluting any more than the foliage of trees and animal manure is in a modern day city. Nature is warning us that we suffer from urban demographic obesity and should disperse and yet we take no note. What may exacerbate the problem is the chemical combination of all other unnatural pollutants floating in the atmosphere from cars, industry, gas leakages and usage etc. Do we view the foliage of trees and animal manure as pollution or as fertiliser for enriching the soil? For instance, millions of people suffer from allergies: bee stings, pollens, animals etc. Are we going to outlaw bees, insects, trees and animal pets as we did roosters? Likewise wood emissions are naturally and organically occurring, temporary, strictly local, without any global or long-term effect on our atmosphere, environment and clean air. This however, has to be balanced out against the serious problems caused to our health, air and environment by using fossil fuels.
As the "Energy Matters" Journal in its July 1999 edition put it: "The difference between biomass and fossil fuels is that while biomass can recycle the carbon dioxide within decades, it may take millions of years for the fossil fuel carbon to be reabsorbed from the atmosphere." A grim thought indeed. In other words, fossil fuels are non-biodegradable and non-recyclable and therefore accumulative, thus the ever-increasing pollution, asthma, respiratory diseases etc. In contrast wood emissions are food for the plants whereas fossil fuels are unnatural, noxious and ruinous. The two are not to be confused; neither does one need a diploma to differentiate the two, one biodegradable the other is not.
The simple truth about firewood is buried in an avalanche of corporate and governmental confusion and self-interest. It is one thing to say wood can be seasonally troublesome in our modern cities, because of our unnatural lifestyle and another thing to say wood is polluting. It is a case of taking advantage of temporary challenging local conditions and applying it countrywide - without differentiation and clarification. It is one thing to say that gas is convenient and another thing altogether to say gas is clean. It is reasonable to admit we need gas to keep the economy going and because of our uncontrolled industrial production and consumption and another thing to promote it as the environmentally friendly fuel.
IF WE DO NOT USE WOOD WHAT IS THERE LEFT TO USE?
This is the crucial question facing us all! If we do not use wood what else can we use? Please ponder and reason. At once we fall into the trap of endless pollution in using substitutes of considerable inferiority, like electricity, gas, coal, oil, steel, concrete, bricks and the like. A lot more polluting, in fact several times worse off, as they require extracting, processing, smelting, manufacturing etc. Exactly the activities we want to shun and avoid because of their detrimental effect on our health and the environment. Thus leaving behind us an inflationary and polluting trail all the way to our homes and shops.
The issue is not whether we log or harvest the trees, but whether we grow and use them sustainably, responsibly and wisely. It is paramount that we use wood and timber products in preference to fossil fuels and man made synthetic, secondary and tertiary items. We do that for environmental protection, good health and avoiding pollution.
We are approaching levels of self-deception and delusion by even suggesting that electric or gas stoves and man made artificial products come near the quality of wood. With timber one can build entire cities without creating a gram of pollution if sustainably grown, it is an extremely clean commodity and energy resource. We can not possibly say the same for fossil fuels and other building materials. In effect reason and logic compel us to conclude that we have no choice, but to use trees as a commodity and energy source in order to attain a degree of clean air.
Timber possesses many coveted qualities and can only be described as a commodity without peer. The best furniture is constructed out of timber. The best wine is produced in wooden vats and the best vinegar is aged in wood. It is also gifted with strength and durability. The Titanic liner (steel) rusted in 80 years; the Mary Rose (timber) was salvaged after 437 years. Wood also resists high heat better than steel, as most woods ignite from about 260-480º Celsius. By abandoning wood and timber products in our every day life we have immeasurably contributed to environmental pollution and human illnesses.
HOW DO POLLUTION LEVELS COMPARE?
The "Forest and Wood Products Research and Development Corporation" in its study "Environmental properties of timber" concluded with the following pollution for producing 1m³ of the following materials:
- Rough sawn timber produces 15 Kg.
- Steel produces 5,320 Kg.
- Concrete produces 120 Kg.
- Aluminium produces 22,000 Kg."
Even if one views the above figures "skeptically" one has to concede that all other materials are humbled by the cleanliness of timber. Our approach and selection criteria should always reflect the overall environmental damage of a commodity during its life span. That is "birth to death analysis," from raw material, to a finished product - right to when it is discarded. And that is where firewood and construction timber excel. In our eagerness to save the trees, we are rapidly ruining the planet. Clearly, trees did not appear on the scene unintended, but rather are a deliberate, conscious, intelligent and creative act, truly an engineering brilliance.
Our efforts must be directed on sustainability and curtail nonessential industries. Surprisingly though few if any call for the need to end unnecessary and polluting industries as all are heavily related. "Selectivity and durability" are key components for clean air. If we can get a light globe or a hot water unit that can last a lifetime and beyond there would not be a need to produce and buy them every few years, thus less pollution, stress and frustration.
No amount of tree plantations would solve our environmental crisis if we do not address the central and pivotal cause of air pollution. Which is: the uncontrolled misuse of fossil fuels, deforestation, mining, manufacturing and our endless technological quest. Technology of course works best on luxury items, items that no one really needs rather than human necessities e.g. mobile phones, hi-fi’s, air conditioners, videos, DVD’s, laser this, digital that, collecting rocks from the moon, weapons of mass destruction and so on. On environmental grounds alone we deserve to be evicted.
The question is not what we can invent and develop next, but why can’t we live in tune with nature. The earth is designed for a simple and a modest way of life, and not for unrestrained industrial production and consumption. Electricity, gas and technology brought convenience, but also brought unprecedented degradation and destruction. Technology without morality is seldom for the best of humanity. Sadly we hardly use it wisely. Unfortunately humans have the tendency of jumping into what they perceive as progress and worry about the consequences later.
Thus, nature is stressed out as never before and we have now come to realise that our past and present excesses have caught up with us. Unwittingly we have fallen into a trap and we seem to be unable and unwilling to get out. It is no coincidence that diseases such as asthma, cancer, bronchitis, Alzheimer’s, amnesia, mental disorders etc. have proliferated in recent times.
Such is the environmental degradation today that some scientists for the first time talk about the possible sudden mass extinction of mankind. For instance, if we were to take a rivet from an airplane each day, the day would suddenly come that would prove fatal. Once the last rivet is taken off, its fate is sealed. It is similar with our environment, once the last sustainable kW of electricity, litre of gas, dishwasher, or car is produced - it may well close down. "Scientific American" in its August 2000 issue said the following: "Climate does not necessarily change gradually. The multiple factors that are now destabilizing the global climate system could cause it to jump abruptly out of its current state. At any time, the world could suddenly become much hotter… Such a sudden, catastrophic change is the… one that must be avoided at all costs."
Would not planting trees and carbon tradability help? Yes it would. However, the issue of clean air goes a lot further than simply planting and protecting trees, recycling or trading carbon emissions; it has to do with our entire way of life. For example new scientific evidence by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) shows "planting trees to absorb CO2 is no substitute for cutting fossil fuel emissions" the report "shows this strategy to be based on a dangerous delusion… In fact the suggestion that planting trees means less atmospheric CO2 ignores simple logic. Before the large-scale development of industry… forests were in equilibrium with the atmosphere… This equilibrium has been increasingly upset by… CO2 in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels… It could prove a devastating mistake." "New Scientist" 23/10/1999 Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change
Fossil fuels emissions are like junk food. One can live for a while on junk food, but sooner or later problems will arise. Wood however, from the overall and elevated perspective has none of the above, as wood emissions are neutral, wholesome, environmentally lawful and biodegradable, with kind ecological effects, a perfect and flawless fit for our environment.
GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE WITH A MORAL DIMENSION
Thinking persons have questioned our course of life for some time. John Stuart Mill in 1857 posed the following questions: "Towards what ultimate point is society tending by its industrial progress? When the progress ceases, in what condition are we to expect that it will leave mankind? "Today, nearly 150 years later we can give these answers with certainty, as we witness first hand the environmental degradation and ill health.
The book "The Limits to Growth" states: "Although the perspective of the worlds people vary in space and in time... The majority of the worlds people are concerned with matters that affect only family or friends over a short period of time. Others look further ahead in time... Only a very few people have a global perspective that extends far into the future." (Bold & Italics ours) In like manner pollution generated by gas and electrical appliances is out of site out of mind.
There is a moral dimension attached to the above issue. It is a matter of recognizing left from right, right from wrong, between the natural and the unnatural. The eco-crisis and environmental pollution, along with the general spirit of lawlessness afflicting man today, is a by - product of a far more serious moral pollution. In other words the mental and moral pollution precedes the environmental one, the other one simply follows, we can’t possibly have a clean environment in a morally confused world.
WOOD IS EVEN BETTER THAN WIND OR SOLAR
In fact studies show that wood energy is cleaner and cheaper than wind or solar power which "may take 18 months to become greenhouse gas neutral, given the high use of energy - intensive aluminium… and photo voltaic cells. Biomass energy is also is considered to be cheaper than other green energy sources… It is 20 to 40 per cent less expensive than wind and 10 times cheaper than solar power." "The Australian Newspaper" 24/07/1999. Similarly the Mercedes hydrogen car although "clean burning," has been dismissed by the German environmental groups as inconsequential, because of the raw materials and energy required during production. In addition we have the pollution from the plastically enclosed lead acid batteries.
The International Energy Agency task 25 in their prepared paper "The Role of Bioenergy in Greenhouse Gas Mitigation" said: "Among these solar-based renewable sources, energy from biomass is considered to be one of the most promising… Considering… the need to reduce… fossil fuels, bioenergy will be among the most important energy sources of the future... with a CO2 mitigation benefit... First, use as a substitute for more energy - intensive products (e.g. concrete, steel) leads to indirect replacement of fossil fuels. Therefore, the enhanced use of wood products can help in reducing CO2 emissions." (Bold, Italics ours)
The "Choice magazine" May 1997 reporting on The Australian Home Greenhouse Scorecard developed by Sustainable Solutions for the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) Victoria and NSW EPA, the Australian and NZ Environmental and Conservation Council, concluded with the following annual CO2 emissions (pollution) figure for heating a 160 sq. m. house:
- “Natural gas produces 500 kg in Perth and 900 kg in Sydney.
- Electric off peak 2, 200 kg in Perth and 3, 900 kg in Sydney.
- Coal slow combustion 900 kg in Perth and 1, 800 kg in Sydney.
- Wood slow combustion 20 kg for Perth and 90 kg in Sydney."
Yes, from the global and elevated perspective wood emissions are harmless and indeed benevolent as trees have a built in mechanism that renders them neutral. Regrettably though, globally, for every ten trees logged, one is planted, in Australia the ratio is around eighty to one. A disaster indeed! Dr. Bill Parker, Editor of the Australian and New Zealand Solar Energy Society Journal writing to the "West Australian" on 3rd April 2000 said the following: "It seems our local Natural Power scheme is not going to make much difference, at least with solar energy technologies… There is little scope for the other traditional sources of green energy such as hydro in WA’s south. So the smart money is on biomass… That is where the real stimulus will come from."
Author Geri Harrington in his work "The Wood Burning Stove Book" concluded: "Another reason wood is the favored fuel of ecologists is that it can be classed as "solar" fuel... The energy, which we receive as wood heat, is solar energy… wood aids the environment… It is the only fuel that is completely clean while it is prepared for burning… Wood is even cleaner as fuel than most so-called solar heating. As… most solar heating devices depend heavily on plastics" and require "supplemental heat sources… there is no question that wood is the most desirable fuel in terms of ecology. Its use would improve rather than adversely affect our environment." (Bold & Italics ours) Its use would indeed improve the environment, as overcrowded, old and sick trees give way to younger and healthier trees. Younger trees absorb more CO2 and emit more oxygen, about six tons more per acre annually than the old trees.
Why then do some blame the wood stoves? Apparently profits are involved, money; outlawing fossil fuels and polluting industries (the real culprits) is not easy. The book "5000 Days to Save the Planet" admitted: "The nature of political and economic power in modern industrial society dictates that measures to combat environmental destruction are only acceptable if they do not interfere with the workings of the economy."
SECURITY / INDEPENDENCE / KEEPING IN TOUCH WITH NATURE
This of course does not mean and is not a license to misuse the remaining forest plants. Trees are a gift, are given to us to be used with care and sensitivity, their value in combating soil erosion, salinity, attracting rain etc. is beyond description.
Therefore use them selectively, on merit, logically then should the need arise to cut two trees, three should be planted. Sustainability is non-negotiable, in short trees (like any other commodity) are our servants not our masters. We are self sufficient with fruit trees, surely we can be with our forest trees, which are considerably easier to grow than fruit trees.
Along with their practical value and the cozy home atmosphere they create wood stoves are indeed a treasure, part of the traditional Australian heritage; reminiscent of a quieter and normal way of life of a bygone era. The savings of a wood stove are substantial.
The WA Office of Energy estimates that a typical Perth home uses 32% of its energy bill on water heating, over 12% for heating and 12% for cooking - a saving of over 56%, a lot more in colder areas of the south, (e.g. Melbourne is 83%.).
With the ever rising and volatile energy costs, a wood stove is a haven, a refuge, in fact is even more relevant and pertinent today than ever before. It is free from the conventional energy sources, is not susceptible to "cuts or strikes" and provides a feeling of security and independence in these troublesome and uncertain times.
Unlike the electric and gas cooking devices of more recent times, wood is a living fuel, a friend, thus a personal touch is required, it has to be talked to, cared for and encouraged. It quickly becomes the star attraction; visitors warm their backs, children their shoes and mums dry the clothes near it, life seems to revolve around it. Keep in mind the human body fares better in a warmer environment than in a cooler one. It moderates and keeps at bay the aches and pains that creep in during the later years, thus giving a feeling of well being. Hence the migration from southern to mid and northern Australia.
The procuring and gathering of firewood requires a certain amount of exertion, which can only benefit the functioning of the human body and can be fun, as a lot of people make it a picnic with family and friends. Besides, there is the inner emotional satisfaction as one keeps in touch with nature; going about his daily and challenging business of living and providing for his family needs. Wood stoves are for the lovers of nature, environmentalists, ecologists and those with a keen appreciation for the finer things in life. Suffice to say the most flavorsome pizzas, scones and roasts come from the wood fired ovens.
Granted, modern fossil fuel based stoves e.g. electric or gas are more convenient. How long though will our convenience last? Should convenience disregard our health, sustainability, clean air and environmental values? Wood nevertheless has character, warmth, ambiance, a touch of romance with nostalgia and an aesthetic value in handling and using it. Electric and gas fires often masquerade as wood, but not so the wood fires - no need to. No other fuel comes near it for environmental protection, clean air, home ecology and avoiding pollution. Bear in mind our discussion today is not superficial, but rather structural, important and has to do with our clean air, health and our very survival. Although the decision to use a wood stove is personal, one thing we can say with certainty: Wood has a proven environmental, ecological and health track record; fossil fuels do not as our present high levels of pollution and ill health show.
Author Nigel Smith in his book "Wood: an Ancient Fuel with a New Future" concluded: "The common perception that wood is an old fashioned energy source, a thing of the past, is thus rapidly fading. Under wise management, a brighter future lies ahead for humanity’s oldest fuel." All things considered, there is a distinct and sharp division between a wood stove and catastrophically polluting gas and electric stoves - a chasm of day and night. Countless scientists and authors too numerous to mention have spoken in defense and in support of firewood and it is the favorite fuel of ecologists and environmentalists. Clearly, when used wisely and on a small-scale, a wood stove enhances, enriches our environment, lives and cuisine.
Biomass - humanity’s authentic, original and oldest fuel, virtually pollution free, greenhouse and global warming neutral, natural, organic, solar. A lot better for the environment, body and soul.
If you would like more information on this subject check any encyclopedia
or search the internet for “biomass” or “bioenergy”.
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please contact us.