Friday, August 15, 2014

[biofuelwatch] Re: [Biomass] EPA: Wood Smoke Carcinogens Equivalent to Smoking 2-16 cigarettes/day

I've heated my rentals in Vermont with wood for a total of 7 years, so have contributed my fair share of pollution into the world (and my own lungs), and therefore have no interest in "witch hunts." When I asked the EPA to provide me the info they had on wood smoke in comparison to tobacco (something that has been quoted many times) for an article I'm writing, this study is what they provided me--though I have obviously found many other, more recent, documentation as well. My interest was to fact-check the "wood smoke is 12 times more carcinogenic than cigarette smoke" that the State of Washington and other reputable sources have been attributing to the EPA, to be certain that I'm putting out accurate information, as I'm sure almost everyone on this list can appreciate.

We've got to make use of the studies that are available to us, since certain studies aren't replicated, and while years have passed since this particular one, much remains the same in regards to burning. I shared this study with the list because we have many people in the movement who work on this scale of biomass incineration and I think it's important to show solidarity, since the vast majority of our work is on industrial scale. I don't see any reason to dismiss Rachel Carson's work simply because it's decades old.

While I continue to focus mainly on the impacts from industrial scale biomass (electric and thermal), over the years those with concerns about all forms of wood burning (particularly physicians), caused me to look deeper at the residential issue, and from what I know now, I don't see how I can just ignore the facts. The biomass industry has pointed out this discrepancy in biomass opponents over and over in the media, to politicians, and on their webinars that I've attended, and this opposition for one kind of burning with support for another (that can be even dirtier) has, in my opinion, harmed the credibility of the Biomass Truth movement and made it harder to get our message out there for non-burn alternatives and cuts in energy consumption.

This isn't to say everyone who fights biomass needs to get rid of their woodstove (especially for low-income folks), but I hope they would consider the impact of them publicly advocating for burning, especially since very few residential wood heaters actually have any interest whatsoever in publicly opposing industrial scale biomass--I've spoken to hundreds, personally, with this in mind, and written many articles trying to recruit them to our side, I'd venture to say more than almost anyone else on this email list. Craig is one of the rare folks who both heats with wood and speaks out against industrial scale biomass and I think he's a valuable ally because of that fact. However, for the most part, while you'll find that some of them are sympathetic, they will almost never speak out against even industrial scale biomass, and so I've largely given up on trying to recruit them as allies--though I hope Craig remains one. While some of them might be alienated by an opposition to all forms of biomass, I just never saw anything other than a handful of these people as willing to contribute to the movement anyway, I'm sad to say, though I'd love to be proven wrong.

Personally, these days, from what I've learned, I definitely choose not to heat with wood, though it limits my options as a renter. While I don't condemn those who burn, I do want them to have the best information out there when they make their choices and am a bit confused when they don't even want to know. There are non-fossil fuels heating alternatives, though many of them, such as ground source heat pumps, are costly (though if the gov shifted its wood burning subsidies, it'd make a big dent), and obviously better insulation (Vermont has some of the oldest housing stock in the country). Other options include solar radiant heating (using solar hot water running through pipes) and some are even experimenting with using the heat from compost (though that's a long way off for most people). If we can create powerful computers that we can hold in our palms, surely we can find a way to heat our homes to 72 degrees without burning forests.

While some on this list are calling for a ban on woodstoves, I think the issue everyone can agree on is transparency: looking at all the information out there so we know what we're doing to ourselves, others, and the planet when we choose to burn. My main goal as an advocate around the biomass issue has been to get to the bottom of the real impacts of burning and provide those to the decision makers to counter industry's voice. The biggest obstacle remains to be simply getting this information out there so people can make decisions themselves. As long as people don't even want to know the real impacts, much less have discussions about them, we're not going to make much progress on anything, I'm afraid.

I've never heard anyone on this list call wood burners "bad people" or anything even approaching that. My hope would be that those who still don't have a problem with wood stoves who oppose industrial scale biomass at least have solidarity with those who do have concerns, to the extent that our messaging is consistent, namely, to do all we can to find non-burn alternatives.


Josh Schlossberg

Editor & Journalist, Energy Justice Now
Editor & Journalist, The Biomass Monitor
Steering Committee, Anti-Biomass Incineration Campaign, Energy Justice Network

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"Compromise is often necessary, but it ought not to originate with environmental leaders. Our role is to hold fast to what we believe is right, to fight for it, to find allies, and to adduce all possible arguments for our cause. If we cannot find enough vigor in us or our friends to win, then let someone else propose the compromise, which we must then work hard to coax our way. We thus become a nucleus around which activists can build and function." -- David Brower


Posted by: "Josh Schlossberg, Energy Justice Network" <>


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Biofuels are a wide range of fuels which are in some way derived from biomass.

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