I’ve been stacking a shit ton of wood (correct terminology is a “cord”) all morning, and while lugging those heavy little suckers, I desperately thought that there must be a better way to heat our house in the winter (read: it never really gets too warm anyway. 1860’s farmhouse.) Well, being the dorky environmental major, I set out on an internet quest (aka Wikipedia) to find the faults of wood fuel.
I came up somewhat short. Turns out, if done correctly, wood fuel is cheaper and better for the environment than natural gas or oil. Burning the fuel sends out CO2 into the atmosphere, yes, but that same CO2 would be put there anyway through the dead tree’s decomposition. Rightly done, using wood fuel is almost carbon neutral. If trees are heavily harvested in areas, that can cause soil erosion and habitat destruction, but if loggers are responsible and take residue (dead trees) out, there’s minimal impact to the environment. Particulate air pollution and other emitted chemicals (smoke) are a by-product of wood fuel and not so good for air quality, but how it affects an area depends on the conditions (area, climate, topography, number of people burning, efficiency of burning, etc.) in which wood fuel is burned. For instance, Melbourne, Australia has a bit of an issue with air quality in their colder months – lots of Aussies are burning wood, apparently.
Wood pellets – wood pulp compressed into little bits – are more dense, have less water, and weigh less (which means less fossil fuels used to transport it), and set up for cleaner combustion. I’m not sure if I’d rather haul pellet bags or cut up logs.
It doesn’t matter now, since I have two more cords of wood to go stack. Later.
Note: Amherst has fireplaces in its dorms, but these are purely for marshmallow roasting. We aren’t that green yet.