The EPA is gearing up to revisit its woodstove emission policies (NSPS) for the first time since the late 1980s. The next year is vitally important for the wood burning community in America and is an unprecedented opportunity to not only advance wood burning technology, but to modernize the way we think about wood heat and develop a vision for the future. Why shouldn't we envision near zero emission wood heating appliances? How can wood get the same tax credits as wind and solar? Can we overtake Europe as the world's leader in clean, low carbon wood and pellet heat?
These are not pie-in-the-sky questions. A few years from now we could have electronically-controlled gasification wood and pellet stoves in our living rooms. These modern stoves would significantly lower emissions and increase efficiency compared to products that are now on the market. And with even a fraction of the support that our government has provided renewable biofuels, like ethanol, these appliances could provide affordable renewable heat to the average American. This process could gain momentum with the EPA review of its emission policies next year.
Even without incentivizing the next generation of wood stove technology, the cleanest biomass appliances on the market today deserves parity in tax credits with other renewable technologies. While most states give generous tax credits for wind and solar, those tax credits primarily benefit the wealthy who can afford the high up front costs and long payback periods. Meanwhile, millions of poor and middle-income families have been using low carbon wood heat and have not yet fully switched over to fossil fuel heating. Yet, only rarely do they get tax credits to upgrade to modern, clean burning wood heat. Per dollar invested, wood heat can lower a family's carbon footprint much faster than solar or electric. It’s time for states to help poor and middle-income families to change over to modern, clean biomass systems and not just help wealthier families adopt what are often less efficient solar and wind systems.