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Transforming Wood Heat in America

Wood Heat Concerns

Summary: There are four main environmental challenges commonly identified with residential thermal biomass: particulate emissions, sustainability of supply, high initial CO2 release and pest transportation.

Emissions are by far the most serious drawback, but equipment is getting steadily cleaner and incentive policies can have a positive impact in deploying the very cleanest burning models.

There are not yet significant sustainability issues with biomass for residential heat, but if other uses, such as electricity generation, are deployed on a larger scale, then overall sustainability issues may arise due to the high volume of wood required.

The concern over the high initial CO2 release is complex, but because of harvesting patterns and high combustion efficiency, residential wood heat provides significant carbon savings compared to fossil fuels in the short-term, and can approach carbon neutrality in the long-term.


Pest transportation poses very real challenges in firewood, but more so in firewood brought to campgrounds than used for home heating , and requires careful management and consideration.


This chapter will explore these issues as well as incentives and other policy options that can be employed in order to mitigate them.

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