Skip to main content

Wood Fired Heaters Threaten Australia's Clean Air

Winter finally came to Melbourne today, bringing with it the smell of wood-fired heaters.  And as lovely as it is to curl up in front of a fireplace on a cold night, I'm here to remind everyone that they are absolutely atrocious for air quality.  Sorry about that.

A recent story in The Examiner highlighted how wood-fired heaters are negatively impacting upon Tasmania's air quality.  Wood smoke is also the biggest contributor to wintertime air pollution in Sydney.  The top tips for operating your fireplace from EPA Tasmania were to make sure you use dry wood and to get the fire burning hot by leaving the flue fully open for 20 minutes whenever adding new wood, and never let the fire smolder over night.  Further tips are available from EPA Victoria and the Department of Environment and Energy.

Operating your fireplace efficiently is important, but even when working correctly wood-fired heaters are bad for air quality, both inside and outside the home.  Australia needs to end its love affair with wood-fired heating and start heating its buildings properly.  Natural gas and electric heaters are far better options, and in any case good insulation is important and will always be an environmentally sound investment.  And if you still want a crackling flame as a centerpiece of your home, consider a pellet stove: these heaters burn compressed pellets of sawdust and biomass fed from a hopper in a constant flame.
   

Comments

  1. In the southeast of the US from east Texas to Florida and to Virginia there is a hapidly growing industry to clear cut forests, manufacture wood pellets and ship the wood pellets to Europe, mainly to the UK, to be burned in electric power generating stations. This is being driven by (1) false science stating that this is "green" renewable energy, (2) bogus emission accounting that allows power companies to report zero emissions for all their reliance on wood pellets, and (3) huge government subsidies in the UK being paid to power companies to burn wood pellets.

    Here in North Carolina most all of the wood pellets are being manufactured from hardwood forests, including some old growth ones and ones in wetlands. These hardwood forests are very slow to regenerate and the loss of biodiversity by this clear-cut logging is massive. Our Facebook page includes many papers by climate change scientists, air quality specialists and naturalists. https://www.facebook.com/woodpelletsnc/

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Australia's Clean Air Myth

I've been thinking a lot about air quality in Australia recently as I wrote up my submission in response to Victoria's Air Quality Statement, which will help shape a future air quality strategy for this state.  The Clean Air Statement presents a rosy picture for air quality in Victoria - our air is repeatedly described as "great" and "very good" - and this leaves the impression that air pollution is not a current health danger to Victorians.  Anecdotally, I have seen this attitude adopted by Australians around the country, who ask me why I need to research air quality in Australia and tell me that we already breathe clean air.  It is true that our air is cleaner than many of our neighbours, but this doesn't mean that it is healthy.  Air pollution in China, for instance, is one of the biggest handbrakes on development in what may soon be the world's biggest economy, and it is meaningless to compare it to Australia.

So, how big is Australia's air …

Is Someone Cheating on the Montreal Protocol?

The Montreal Protocol regulates emissions of ozone depleting substances.  It is ratified by every nation and bans the use of chemicals including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), long lived substances which break down the stratosphere's protective ozone layer.  The international treaty has led to decreasing atmospheric levels of CFCs, and the ozone layer is beginning to recover.  It is now being reported, however, that atmospheric levels of one CFC (trichlorofluoromethane, CFC-11) have slowed their rate of decrease, attributed to a new CFC-11 source from Asia.

The origin of these new CFC-11 emissions are unclear, and will be difficult to pinpoint.  They may be from clandestine use of the banned substance, but could also arise from leaky CFC-11 stockpiles.  An international effort to investigate this issue now appears warranted, since it threatens to undo much of the good work of the Montreal Protocol.

CFCs are not the only threat to the ozone layer.  Recent studies have shown that the o…

New Zealand's Toxic Methyl Bromide Problem

Concerns are mounting in New Zealand around the continued use of methyl bromide for fumigation.  Methyl bromide is a highly effective fumigant, but it is also depletes the ozone layer and is harmful to human health.  Under the Montreal Protocol for the regulation of ozone depleting substances, use of methyl bromide is banned for all but a few exempt quarantine purposes. This ban has seen measured atmospheric levels of this substance drop from about 10 to 8 parts per trillion. In New Zealand, however, methyl bromide usage is soaring, with a 2020 deadline to eliminate methyl bromide emissions looming.

One of the biggest exemptions for methyl bromide use is in fumigating logs for export. China and India are the main destinations and both prefer methyl bromide treatment as a bio-security measure. New Zealand is a significant exporter of logs to China and India, and in recent years has grown to become one of the biggest users of methyl bromide worldwide. The NZ government have a 2020 deadl…