The industry needs to champion wood, lest we lose the culture and the infrastructure that has built up around its use.
The world can often seem too complicated for its own good. It’s a big reason some people, such as I, live in a rural place, where things are simpler to some degree.
Through this lens, I sort of hate having to write columns periodically on why burning wood for heat is good, because of course it’s good. We all know this. I don’t have to tell you that cutting your own firewood, or buying a load of logs from the local logger, or a pallet of pellets that were produced in the same region, and using that fuel to keep your family warm is a million times better than buying an imported fossil fuel product. You already know that the new wood chip boiler in your local public school has saved the taxpayers in your region hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But unfortunately, just knowing it is not enough. People like you and me need to champion wood, lest we lose the culture and the infrastructure that has built up around its use. And if we’re going to be good advocates, we need to hone our elevator pitches on why it’s a superior fuel. I’m a sucker for a long, meditative essay on the soulfulness of work and fire as much as the next rural geek, but much of the world has no time for meditative essays. People want things quantified and scientized, and there are plenty of misguided environmental activists and PR people from the fossil fuel industry who are filling the numbers vacuum with fuzzy math.
In light of all this, I was happy to read this new study on greenhouse gas emissions and state-of-the-art wood pellet boilers. The report was commissioned by the Northern Forest Center and conducted by The Spatial Informatics Group-Natural Assets Laboratory using data specific to the region’s forest composition and harvest practices, and the pellet sourcing and manufacturing of nine northern forest pellet mills. You can read the detailed methodology here.
Here’s the elevator pitch: On day one, using wood pellets for heat reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 54 percent compared to oil and 59 percent to natural gas.
After 50 years, greenhouse gas emissions from pellets drop to 62 percent less than oil, 67 percent less than natural gas, and 56 percent less than propane.
Here’s one more for you from the Northern Forest Center website that’s handy to have in your back pocket: Every dollar we spend on regionally produced wood pellets stays in the northern forest economy, creating jobs in forestry, logging, pellet manufacturing, and trucking. In contrast, 78 cents of every dollar we spend on imported fossil fuel (currently $6 billion annually) leaves the region; much of it leaves the country.
Know a Hillary supporter who’s extra motivated these days to do something to fight climate change? They could instantly cut their greenhouse gas emissions in half by switching from oil to wood pellet heat. Know a Trump supporter who’s into creating jobs and skeptical that climate change is even a problem? Remind them that only 20 cents of every dollar spent on oil benefits the economy in the Northeast, while one hundred percent of every dollar spent on wood heat helps make the rural Northeast great again.