NYT Observes - Wood Burning Falling Out Of Favor

new york state exposure to coal image

Image credit: US Clean Air Task Force (pdf file)

There's a 2-page article in the New York Times, Home & Garden section in which it is explained that residential wood burning has recently become a guilt factor for persons with pro-environment leanings. I'd have to agree that burning wood in a big city fireplace can be a silly affect that is no more justifiable than wearing of Lynx fur collars, than blood jewels over exposed bosoms, or flying out of the urban hellhole for exotic vacations. Not to mention the dumping of vast quantities of Big Apple-generated excrement near the Mexican border.* So, I guess the Times & I agree on some things. I do have a problem, however, with glossing over details of Federal and state regulations for safe wood burning and carbon-neutral aspects of bio-fuel. Most of all, with failing to acknowledge that parts New York might have to be abandoned in an urbanized minute, were it not for the coal emissions required to keep those iPhones running (as pictured).

Extrapolation fallacy.
From the Times:

Hard as it may be to believe, the fireplace -- long considered a trophy, particularly in a city like New York -- is acquiring a social stigma. Among those who aspire to be environmentally responsible, it is joining the ranks of bottled water and big houses.
Vulnerability to the personal circumstance extrapolation fallacy is strong on the political right as well: e.g. 'Enjoying the snow storm? How's that global warming working out for you now?'

Fair disclosure.
I burn 3 chords a year of well seasoned firewood in my EPA-approved fireplace insert.

The air-shed I reside in does not have a problem with particulates, but still I take care to get the firebox hot quickly, so as not to smoke the neighbors.

My furnace oil supplier gives me a rebate at the end of the year because of reduced oil use (from Venezuela and Saudi Arabia) due to supplementing with wood heat.

The firewood comes from a landscape management company that otherwise would have to pay to landfill it. I made sure they hire US citizens.

Just some context.

Acknowledgments beyond the fray.
There are states where relying heavily on wood burning for home heating is generally a bad idea from a public health standpoint. EPA has codified management of this issue to a fine point; and, State air quality management agencies are charged with enforcement of Federal air standards for such fixed emission sources (except for Texas, on account of the Tea Party thing).

Conversely, there are places where wood burning makes public health and economic sense - most of the country, probably, if you look at it in terms of square miles instead of population. So, there are many low income families for which wood burning makes sense, and for which which there is no more affordable way to keep warm. This is probably the point that New Yorkers would most easily miss.

*As for where New York waste water treatment plant sludge goes(via Environmental Advocates):

When New Yorkers flush, their waste often ends up travelling 2,065 miles away, to an isolated impoverished county on the Mexican border whose largest town can't even afford a sewer system of its own. Roughly 20 percent of New York City's sewage sludge is transported to a waste disposal site just 3 miles Northeast of Sierra Blanca, Texas in Hudspeth County. Sierra Blanca is a town of approximately 600 people, 75 percent Hispanic, 40 percent under the poverty line with an average yearly income of $8,000 per family. (Sierra Blanca had also been targeted for a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility. Fortunately, plans for that facility fell through, due to local, regional and international opposition)

NYT Observes - Wood Burning Falling Out Of Favor
Image credit: US Clean Air Task Force (pdf file)