LETTER – Woodlot owner says the full costs of alternatives to wood heat are overlooked

Dear editor,

The anti-wood burning film noted in today’s (Jan. 11) Record presents several other methods of heating one’s home on this cool and damp Island. I will argue that each of them share an environmental footprint much greater than firewood.

The opponents support the use of heat pumps, natural or propane gas, or wood pellets. Let’s have a closer look at each of these sources of comfort.

Heat pumps are made of high-tech non-renewable materials such as steel, aluminum, plastic and copper. They are also totally dependent on electricity. Imagine the scene on Salt Spring Island during the recent lengthy storm damage. The family sitting around a defunct appliance basking in the lack of heat rubbing mittened hands together and eating congealed canned soup.

Propane or natural gas is produced afar by fracking and drilling. Extensive pipelines, railroads or highway trucks/ferries are required to bring these to the Island. Ironically the front page of the same issue of the Record shows protesters in support of an anti-pipeline in northern BC.

Heating oil? I can add nothing to the existing knowledge of the intrinsic dangers of that.

Electricity needs vast powerlines over clearcuts kept in control by aerial applications of herbicides. Also the fragility of powerlines has been proven recently.

Wood pellets are produced in the interior from the byproducts of harvesting beetle-kill pine. Then brought to our suppliers by diesel truck from a great distance. Also the stoves require a fan and auger to feed the pellets. No electricity, no heat.

I, like many of my friends and neighbours, burn wood. It is perpetually renewable and is sourced locally. For many years TimberWest and other industrial companies disposed of post-harvesting residue by smoldering slash piles which admittedly were problematic.

However, the contractor operating out of our family woodlot now has an agreement to sort out the recoverable firewood, haul it to the processing yard and cut it into lengths then deliver it to local homes (even including Hornby Island). It is a win-win-win situation. The forest companies achieve their management goals and regulations, the public receives a legal and sustainable source of fuel, wood waste is diverted from landfills, and the contractor provides employment to several workers as well as purchasing supplies, vehicles and goods from local merchants. Can this much be claimed by the alternatives?

Get your firewood in the spring, have a good dry woodshed to season the chunks and burn your stove hot and clean. Buy local, buy legal, buy early.

Before you jump on the anti-stove bandwagon, look carefully at the true costs.

Harold Macy,

Headquarters Creek Woodlot Ltd.