When people defend the use of wood stoves, they often say things like:
- “people just need to learn to burn better”;
- “people need to season their wood more”; and
- “bad burners should be dealt with but leave the rest of us alone”.
So who is supposed to pay for all of this – the education, the monitoring, the development of regulations, and the enforcement (and the health care costs)? A minority of people use wood heat, but all of us are expected to pay.
No other type of home heating:
- has emissions that can vary so greatly, depending on how it operated;
- allows illegal fuels to be burned so easily;
- requires education, monitoring, and enforcement (that others pay for) to try to ensure it is run optimally; and
- pollutes the local air exponentially more than other heating sources, even when it is a brand new stove that is run perfectly.
One reason wood burning is considered to be so cheap is that there are no extra taxes or fees for the fuel or a stove’s purchase or use–or fines for misuse–even though we know it harms people and costs our health care system. One article noted that in Metro Vancouver alone, “officials estimate the health-related benefits of reducing fine particulate matter from residential indoor wood burning will save the region and residents between $282 million and $869 million each year.” [emphasis added]
When other things harm our health or our environment, we usually create notable taxes to help deter their use (e.g. alcohol, cigarette smoking, fossil fuels) and, in many cases, stiff fines for breaking the law. We slap on health warnings.
Why is wood burning getting a free ride, given what we know how much it costs others in taxes and in health impacts?