Local view: Wood pellets are among the cleanest heat sources
The Jan. 11 letter, "Burning wood and wood pellets adds to air pollution," made claims that must be addressed. In the struggle to reduce air emissions harmful to the atmosphere, some people sometimes go a little overboard and even suggest we coul...
The Jan. 11 letter, "Burning wood and wood pellets adds to air pollution," made claims that must be addressed.
In the struggle to reduce air emissions harmful to the atmosphere, some people sometimes go a little overboard and even suggest we could live in a sterile environment. The letter writer probably uses electricity made from coal and believes she is protecting the environment. Her letter suggested to me that parents could be arrested for bringing their children to campfires.
I prefer to deal in facts, not fantasy -- and following are some facts.
Wood pellets are among the cleanest-burning, most-renewable energy sources on Earth. Yes, burning biomass such as wood pellets emits carbon dioxide. However, unless there has been a change in land use, carbon dioxide emitted from biomass is removed from the air by new plant growth. Therefore, the emissions are not classified as a carbon dioxide contributor. Who claims that? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Wood-pellet fuels are 92 percent cleaner then cord wood in air-quality particulate. Who claims that? An EPA case study, as presented at a conference in November 2006.
Wood-pellet fuels are zero carbon dioxide contributor fuels. Wood pellet fuels are allergy-free and contaminant-free. And wood- pellet heating systems do not contribute to ozone levels. Who claims all that? The Wood Pellet Association of Canada, based in George, British Columbia.
No one should make blanket detrimental statements about a product. The fact is if newspapers are burned, more pollution would be generated than if wood pellets were burned.
Consider the following numbers from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency: Burning natural gas emits 117,000 pounds per billion British Thermal Units, or BTUs, of carbon dioxide, the leading contributor to global warming. Burning oil emits 164,000 pounds per billion BTUs and coal 208,000 pounds per billion BTUs. Burning wood pellets? Zero.
Likewise, burning natural gas emits 92 pounds per billion BTUs of nitrous oxides, oil 448 pounds per billion BTUs and coal 457 pounds per billion BTUs. Wood pellets? Only 12 pounds per billion BTUs.
And burning natural gas emits seven pounds per billion of particulates, oil 84 pounds per billion and coal 2,744 pounds per billion. Wood pellets? Between 23 and 130.
No heating fuel is perfect. Wood-pellet fuel, because it features a uniformly compressed density and uniform moisture content, is the cleanest and most renewable fuel on Earth.
Wood-pellet fuel comes at a fraction of the cost of some fossil fuels. It's a renewable resource found in our own backyards. Wood-pellet heating systems do not contribute to ozone levels and are considered to be in compliance with the Kyoto Accord stance on air emissions. Wood pellets are easy to ship and can be delivered in compact bags to any home. Wood-pellet costs are stable and not subject to the whims of foreign producers. Wood pellets burn at a very high temperature, eliminating waste so often associated with wood heat. In fact, a 40-pound bag of pellets produces only three ounces of ash.
Gerald W. Brown of Danbury, Wis., spent much of his career as a fire protection contractor in the nuclear power industry and has more recently been involved in farming and projects involving the commercial uses of peat and wood pellets as energy sources.