While I don’t hold with some of these people who like to coddle up to the Global Warming crowd, I do agree that Maine needs to be taking the lead with energy and heating costs. One of the schemes hatched by the Comrade Baldacci camp is to begin heating with wood. Simply heave your furnace into the landfill, and replace it with a new energy efficient wood stove.

But we have some problems here in Maine with doing that. While some figures have been released that show a decline in the Maine forestry industry as to there being less business, and therefore more trees available to harvest for firewood, they don’t tell the whole story. There are reasons the timber industry is failing, and part of that has to do with the way Maine does business. Or should I say,discourages business.

But that would bring us into the middle of the politics of Maine cesspool. And as much as I’d like to nip at some heels, it won’t bring this post to an end. What I want to discuss here is the potential for alternative energy systems. I mentioned heating with wood wasn’t the way to go, and here’s why. Some manufacturing companies have recently been marketing what are called ‘outdoor wood boilers’ and the market is increasing. This is all well and good, and it does lower ones need to rely on an imported fuel. But they are not the best answer.

One of the reasons is because of the output of the equipment. These boilers heat water up outside, and use a circulating pump to move the hot water throughout the house through baseboards or radiators. Unfortunately, you need to keep a fire going twenty four hours a day, or risk freezing your unit. The way this is done is through a slow fire method of burning. This results in a colder fire, and makes for a very smoky fire with lots of creosote and other unburned chemicals going up the chimney.

Eventually, and this has actually started, neighbors will complain about the nuisance caused by such a fire. Some Maine communities will either ban the equipment, or strictly regulate it, making it more expensive to install and maintain. Another drawback is that it is still a carbon based fuel. Unhealthy chemicals are released in the combustion of wood,just like any other carbon based fuel. If you live in a valley community where everyone heats with wood, those chemicals will be trapped when high pressure areas confine the smoke. Have you ever been travelling through the mountains and come over a rise to see a village obscured by haze on a clear morning? That’s what you’ll get if we all turn to wood.

One of the alternatives, and probably the only sensible one at the moment is solar power. With the right setup, you can not only heat your house, but power all of your appliances as well, allowing you to live free of the grid. As much as I hate to put money into Al Gore’s pockets, this has a lot of benefits, but initially, it can be costly.

Here in Maine we have the problem of short days and a long heating season, but with the right kind of set up, it can be done. Even in a town or city. And with today’s technology, and a slew of vendors peddling solar energy products, it can be easy for the homeowner to accomplish. Over the next few months I will be addressing this issue from time to time. I feel as though it is time for Maine to get back into the business of being a leader. We have a problem with the cost of heating our homes, and a solution is available.

Wood is certainly an alternative to foreign oil. But it still has the same emission of chemicals problem. We also need to bear in mind that if everybody heats with wood, it will increase demand for firewood, making it become scarce and driving the cost up. Soon we will be in the same boat as we are now. And again, we need to bear in mind that it is not the healthiest of alternatives.

And that’s Dan’s Maine view for today.

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