Wood smoke is the smell of good living

Here we go again with the arguments of getting us hooked onto the monopoly of BC Hydro's energy grid.

Here we go again with the arguments of getting us hooked onto the monopoly of BC Hydro’s energy grid. In regards to the recent letter written by S. Kostamo about the first law of thermodynamics, I couldn’t agree more about having the security of heat, as well as cooking, drying or whatever other means of utilizing wood fibre as an energy source instead of the sole reliance on electricity or gas — two sources that will let you down during storms or looming catastrophes that could hit us at any time, or so we are constantly being warned of.

Also the fact about different forms of energy to deal with biotic material all around us that some of us choose to turn into heat instead of the slower process of decomposition or worse, shipping it off to another place to deal with it.

Since high school, and further on into my university education, we learned in biology about the all-important carbon cycle, so let me recap it here in a nutshell: sun’s energy allows growth of plants, plants store carbon and then die or rot, and carbon is released back to the environment and regrowth happens. When we burn wood, we release the sun’s stored energy and reap the byproduct as heat.

A clean burning fireplace will provide energy far more efficiently, and with lower environmental impact than any other fuel option. Other fuel options include oil, gas and coal, and when these sources are used, a vast amount of stored energy is released very quickly relative to fibre use, and along with it comes a heavy dose of carbon dioxide, hence our concern when it comes to climate change. Burning wood essentially is on par with what a naturally left forest would release as it dies and rots, and wood fire doesn’t contribute to global warming and has a significantly reduced level of greenhouse gas emissions.

When I lived on the Gulf Islands, we often went into days that we could count on one hand that we had no electricity due to storms, hence pretty much everyone had a source of heat that used wood fibre. Those that suffered during the ice storm that hit Montreal in 1998 had no other source of heat, but those that had fireplaces and wood stoves were popular households for many of their neighbours! We in the Cowichan Valley are not far from the Gulf Islanders in number of days each year without power, as well as the duration of each power outage during these storms.

Those of us, and I mean the silent majority of Cowichan Valley residents that live outside of Duncan and have wood heat as an option, have probably done things this way for several years, and feel that much more connected with our environment. Telling them to get off wood heat and rely solely on the corporate options of electricity or gas, is to me, a foolhardy option. I’d like not to put all my eggs in one basket.

If you buy property next to a farm, airport or race track, know that that operation has already been going on before you decided to move in next door and wanted to shut it down because it bothers you. Moving in to rural and suburban parts of the Cowichan Valley will probably bring you in contact with wood smoke. This is due to clearing up after downed branches and debris after a storm, or a house being heated by wood. It’s the smell of good living and the normal continuation of the carbon cycle.

Gord Hutchings

Cobble Hill