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Author: John Lockhart, Chairman

Yesterday (Jan 14th) saw the publication of the governments Clean Air Strategy 2019[1]  which states that open fires and wood burning stoves are now the largest single contributors of Primary Particulate Matter (PM), overtaking even the haulage sector, a factor not missed by this morning’s article in “FleetNews”.

We have known for some time that this was on the horizon and it is disappointing that despite all the efforts by the sector to promote the efficient use of woodfuel we have not done enough to address the issues and promote the importance of using good quality, well-seasoned woodfuel and well-designed efficient and clean burning technologies.

In our articles back in 2017:-

  • We need to avoid woodfuel becoming the next diesel.[2] and
  • Keep the home fires burning. [3]

we sought to bring the issues and more importantly the opportunities and benefits that using woodfuel as truly sustainable fuel source can bring.

“It is certainly true that wood burnt incorrectly can cause many issues, but equally if it is prepared and burnt well with knowledge and experience it can be one of the most efficient and truly sustainable fuels available.

One of the main requirements for your next load of logs is the carbon dioxide, so kindly provided by your current fuel.  In the process we also sustain and nurture our woodland assets and help them to support the multitude of other benefits that we so readily take for granted, in the form of wonderful landscapes, bio-diversity havens, shelter and shade, to name but a few.” 

In his award winning book “Norwegian Wood” [4] Lays Mytting details how Norway has addressed these issues and helped develop knowledge and understanding of the need to manage woodfuel effectively to ensure that it continues to deliver all the benefits whilst minimising the negative pollution risks.

Going forward the government has outlined its intentions in relation to woodfuel, in particular to-

  • Restrict the sale of wet wood for domestic burning
  • Restrict the sale of all but the cleanest stoves by 2022
  • Target communications for domestic burners to improve knowledge of environmental impact and clean burning strategies.

In essence the messages as set out in our article in Dec 2107 are still as valid and important as they were then.

  • Always burn good quality fuel that is dry and ready to burn;
  • Ensure that if you do harvest green wood that it is correctly seasoned, ideally for two years, before it is burnt;
  • Service and maintain your fire or stove to ensure that it works as efficiently as possible; and
  • Keep your flue and chimney well swept to maximise efficiency.

Using wood as a fuel, and the woodland management it supports, can bring huge and sustainable benefits, for example:-

  • Improved forest management
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Health and wellbeing,
  • Biodiversity
  • Shelter and shade
  • Landscape

These need to be recognised and promotes in conjunction with ensuring those now burning wood, many for the first time, are educated to understand the critical requirements to ensure that these benefits are not negated and possibly lost through concerns over pollution issues that can be largely negated through good fuel management and burning practices.

There is nothing like relaxing next to a wood fire and it is vital to remember and promote that when wood is used well and as it should be benefits far out weigh the pollution risks posed through poor preparation and management of one of our truly sustainable fuel sources.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/clean-air-strategy-2019

[2] https://lockhart-garratt.co.uk/need-avoid-woodfuel-becoming-next-diesel/

[3] https://lockhart-garratt.co.uk/keeping-home-fires-burning/

[4] https://www.amazon.co.uk/Norwegian-Wood-Non-fiction-Book-Year/dp/0857052551

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