Wood burner debate stoked up by scientists
Simon Fairlie takes issue with what he sees as alarmism about the environmental damage done by wood-burning stoves, while Peter Baddeley wonders why being green is so in conflict with being ‘clean’
Have environmental scientists nothing better to do than scare us with stories about how dangerous nature is (‘Eco’ wood stoves emit 750 times more pollution than an HGV, study shows, 9 October)? Humans have been living in close contact with fire ever since it first enabled us to cook food, keep warm and develop our brain capacity. Thousands of people in rural Britain (including me), and billions throughout the world, rely on wood fires as their primary means of cooking or heating, with minimal greenhouse gas emissions compared with gas cookers and oil-fired central heating, not to mention HGVs.
“The green transition is actually about stopping burning things,” says Kare Press-Kristensen, the lead author of the study. Really? Once he and his colleagues have succeeded in banning domestic wood stoves, they will presumably turn their attention to candles, campfires, bonfires and agricultural burning. When these are outlawed, they will need to deal with wildfires, which will increase if brushwood is not gathered up for fuel. Finally, when they have plugged the last volcano, and flame on earth is extinguished, their green transition will be consummate and humans will have added a few weeks to their life expectancy.
As for the comparison with HGVs, perhaps these scientists would like to prove their point by directing the fumes from the exhaust of a diesel lorry into their living room?
I commend your crusading zeal against pollution from wood-burning stoves, but it may not be as simple as you imply. I write as an owner of a Defra-approved “clean” log-burning stove. We are rural and burn only our own wood (naturally fallen or felled for safety). This is stored until the moisture content falls below 18% and burnt in the evening after the neighbours have closed their windows against the cold. We’re even willing to consider an electrostatic particulate filter.
We’ve reduced our energy bill and had thought we might have been helping the environment. Burnt wood emits marginally more CO2 than Robert Frost’s “slow smokeless burning of decay“, but no methane – a much more potent greenhouse gas. Must being green be so in conflict with being clean?