Welcome to the 19th Century: Coal Comes Home Again


Filling the coal-fired stove in Sugarloaf, PA; Laura Pedrick for the NYT

The New York Times covers the return of coal as a heating source in American houses.

Problematic in some ways and difficult to handle, coal is nonetheless a cheap, plentiful, mined-in-America source of heat. And with the cost of heating oil and natural gas increasingly prone to spikes, some homeowners in the Northeast, pockets of the Midwest and even Alaska are deciding coal is worth the trouble.

John Taplin noticed this in the same edition as Elisabeth Rosenthal's article on passivhaus designs in Germany, and wondered:

Isn't it rather embarrassing that we are falling back on 19th Century dirty technology while the Europeans are embracing 21st Century methods of keeping themselves warm?

from the
"> depressing slide show.

The Times notes that this is not a particularly clean way to heat:

Burning coal does throw fine particles into the air that can pose problems for some people, similar to the problems involved in burning wood — though wood stoves and fireplace inserts are increasingly subject to regulation to cut down on pollutants.

"Coal stoves don't have that," said James E. Houck, the president of Omni Environmental Services, a firm in Portland, Ore., that tests air quality. "And there's no regulatory pressure for them to have it."

But people don't have a lot of options.

"Everybody's looking at wherever they can to save money," said Daniel Blaschak, a co-owner of the company [Blaschak Coal] . " 'Cause guess what? We no longer have disposable income. We are up to our necks in debt. And there's very few things we can't live without, but heat is one of them."

New York Times

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