In 2015 I wrote here a comment “Wood and pellets: a “burning” fine particulate problem“, where the small particle emissions were compared to those of traditional fossil energy sources, and found extremely high. As we are now in a time where Diesel-bashing has become the newest green fad, I was agreeably surprised by an article from Michael Le Page in the New Scientist (4 Feb 2017), titled “Where there’s smoke” (access is paywalled!). He writes how log burning in London and other cities has become a major pollution problem, emitting often much more PM 2.5 than Diesel trucks.
A Danish “eco-friendly” wood burner was found to emit through the chimney 500000 small particles per cm3, to be compared to the 1000 particles/cm3 found at the tail-pipe of a modern Diesel truck: so one eco-family thinking to save the planet caused as much pollution as 500 Diesel trucks!
Look at this graph from the Danish Ecological Council showing the particulate count inside a Copenhagen wood burning house:
This “correctly installed stove” caused an inside pollution 4 times higher than that of the most polluted street!
As I wrote in my former article, log burning certainly is the big contributor, well exceeding a pellet stove. But regarding the romantics, it is difficult to negate the much higher emotional appeal of a burning log compared to some smoldering pellets.
What I really find so scandalous is that people have been coaxed by infused “climate guild” to switch to wood burning, and now the nasty side of this eco-fad shows up. But as much as Diesel bashing seems to be hip, ignoring the pollution caused by wood burning is a real scandal. A scandal which seems a perfect “déjà-vu”, a repeat of the politically motivated push to the less CO2 emitting Diesel engines in the 90’s.
Do eco-politics always must swing from naively pushing a “climate” solution to recognizing (after a longer latency) that the nuisances of the solution might well be higher than the putative dangers they are meant to avoid?
PS1: here a plot from the Australian Air Quality Group showing the contributions to PM2.5 pollution from different sources (Jun/Jul/August is Australian winter):
The peak during July shows that woodsmoke contributes about 10 ug/m3, whereas transport and industry together only about 1 ug/m3, i.e. ten times less! (see here)