Americans living in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic U.S. are increasingly turning to a source of heat favored by humans for thousands of years: wood.
More and more people are using wood as their main source of heat as opposed to heating oil and kerosene.
The Energy Information Administration reports that, “All nine states in the New England and the Middle Atlantic Census divisions saw at least a 50% jump from 2005 to 2012 in the number of households that rely on wood as the main heating source.”
Those who switched to wood burning were spared high fuel oil and kerosene prices during this year’s harsh winter.
About 2.5 million households across the country now use wood as the main source of heat in their homes, up from 1.9 million households in 2005. And another 9 million households burn wood as a secondary fuel source for heating.
Millions of families faced skyrocketing energy prices as record low temperatures and snowfall hit much of the country. The U.S.’s constrained pipeline system could not keep up with the demand for propane and natural gas, causing prices to surge and utilities to burn oil and coal for power.
Midwesterners are expected to pay 54 percent more this winter on propane than last,reports EIA, and Northeasterners are expected to spend 7 percent more. Those who live in areas fueled by natural gas will pay 10 percent more this year and five percent more for electricity.
“Cold temperatures have continued to tighten heating oil supplies and helped drive up retail prices,” according to EIA. “Weekly U.S. residential heating oil prices increased by $0.20/gal during January and have averaged near $4.24/gal since the beginning of February.”
But EIA adds that heating oil prices will probably average about one percent lower this winter than last because of lower crude oil prices. Though natural gas spot prices hit record levels during periods of extreme cold.
But what this winter’s severe price swings demonstrate is the danger of over-reliance on one fuel source, says the coal industry. While low-priced natural gas is a good source of fuel overall, gas-fired plants have trouble operating in cold weather — which coal plants have make up.
This winter, gas-fired power plants failed due to cold weather and federal regulations that make it nearly impossible to burn coal.
“This year’s historically cold winter has served as a crystal ball into our future, revealing the energy cost and electric reliability threats posed by the Obama Administration’s overreliance on a more narrow fuel source portfolio that excludes the use of coal,” said Laura Sheehan, spokeswoman for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.
If the Northeast’s natural gas infrastructure is not improved and prices remain volatile during the winter, it might not be such a bad idea to burn wood for heat. But even that may become harder thanks to federal environmental regulators.
The Environmental Protection Agency recently updated its wood stove emissions standards that would effectively ban The EPA’s new action bans 80 percent of the wood-burning stoves in America, “the oldest heating method known to mankind and mainstay of rural homes and many of our nation’s poorest residents,” reports Forbes.
EIA notes that: “Most households still burn split logs, although wood pellet use has risen in recent years. And while households in higher income brackets are more likely to use wood, those at lower income levels who burn wood consume more on average.”
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