Firewood heats twice

Firewood heats twice

After going to live in the forest, David Thoreau wrote in his Walden essay that wood heats twice: when it is cut and when it is burned. 161 years later, the journalist Lars Mytting explained in "The Wood Book" (Alfaguara) –translated in 2016 by Kristina Solum and Antón Lado- why a prehistoric heating method can and should coexist with the internet connection.

Despite the fact that Norway is an oil-bearing country, the forest occupies a third of its extension. In that country and in Sweden, where this unique trial has sold more than 200,000 copies, 25% of homes are heated with energy from wood combustion. Half of that firewood is cut by users.

Mytting says that when it's very, very cold (minus 30 degrees), the power grid collapses. And electricity gets more expensive. The management of firewood, in stoves and fireplaces, is, instead, in the hands of the end user. That you can buy green firewood and dry it to provide heat for the winter. Unlike coal, fuel or kerosene, wood is not only renewable. Above all it must be renewed. Mytting points out that forests have a formidable absorptive capacity. But also that trees don't live forever. For this reason, a tree absorbs CO2 as it grows, "but sooner or later that gas has to come out again." The CO2 emission generated by burning in a stove is exactly the same as if the tree dies and rots. While decomposing, a tree emits the gases it has trapped throughout its life. That is why rejuvenating the forest is to increase the capture of CO2.

100 years of air conditioners and kerosene tanks have not succeeded in establishing the atavistic relationship with heat that links us to the oldest energy of humanity. Heating with wood is not only a sustainable, logical and economical option, it is also an experience that appeals to the senses. Today in Norway and Denmark, the consumption of firewood multiplies by 10 that of 1976, the date in which modernity led to covering linoleum floors, using plastic utensils in the kitchen and discarding firewood as dirty. However, this consumption is still far - it is half - of the amount of firewood that the Norwegians cut down at the end of the 19th century with the only help of axes and saws.

The union between state-sponsored research and Norway's largest stove producer - the Jøtul company - improved combustion and reduced carbon dioxide emissions to just 5%. How did you get it? Reducing suspended particles. “Smoke is energy gas. Watching it come out of the chimney is like watching gasoline drip down the tailpipe, ”writes Myyting. Also remember that the difference between correctly or incorrectly burning wood is colossal. The bad combustion of wood can pollute as much as the traffic in an urban center.

Today there are boilers capable of heating entire buildings with heat transmitted by water. As if that's not enough, in his praise of wood for fuel, Mytting recalls that no one ever started a war over a wood forest. “A pile of logs cannot prevent a war, but it generates little conflict material.”

By Anatxu Zabalbeascoa
The country

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