Breathing clean air and burning wood to keep warm is crucial to many Utahns. Utah can serve the needs of all the people by encouraging the use of EPA-certified stoves and inserts so we burn wood far more cleanly and efficiently than our ancestors did.
A recent Deseret News editorial focused on the issue of burning wood in our valley ("Wood burning ban," Dec. 14). I found the picture quite offensive. The picture shows a nice house with smoke billowing out of the chimney, implying that people who burn wood create bonfires in their fireplaces and are all well-to-do, thus not really needing to burn wood to keep warm. They are just mindlessly polluting because they feel like it. What a stereotype.
I'm all for stopping stinky and inefficient wood-burning; I'm asthmatic and have to breathe it too. I have taken measures to burn wood as cleanly as possible, and have spent quite a bit of money and research on buying an efficient fireplace insert and maintaining it properly.
Our insert easily meets EPA guidelines for wood-burning stoves and inserts. Once our insert is up to temperature, all you see are heat waves coming out of our chimney pipe. These new stoves burn wood much more efficiently and use much less wood. They are constructed to use radiant heat more efficiently, and burn gasses that might not otherwise get burned. All this translates into far less particulate emissions.
Utah is to be applauded for its past efforts to clean up the air. These efforts have been reasonable approaches that have had measurable, positive results. The annual emissions test you submit your car to every year is a fine example of a reasonable and successful approach to lower the amount of air pollution. No one had to give up driving a car; just had to give up driving stinky ones. Another has been the reporting of pollution levels and the suggested "no burn" days. We don't burn on these "no burn" days.
The state and federal governments offer tax incentives to buy cleaner technologies, such as hybrid/electric cars and solar arrays on rooftops. The total ban on wood-burning has the potential to hurt a small percentage of our population who are trying to make ends meet and keep warm, and risks non-compliance anyway. I have some ideas.
First, I propose the state offer a tax incentive for converting over to EPA-certified, cleaner-burning wood stoves/fireplace inserts and widely publicize it! Training on how to use these stoves should be required.
Second, enforce existing laws already in place for those who violate the "no burn" days and offer the option of waiving the fine if they install an efficient stove/insert within 30 days. With this money collected, fund a program designed to provide assistance to others who may not be able to pay the initial cost of converting over to a more efficient stove/insert. This may not be cheaper than just saying, "OK, nobody can burn at all," but it may get better compliance in the long run and would be a real help to those who are struggling to stay warm.
We'll all have better air and keep dedicated wood-burners' sense of independence intact; a win-win situation for everybody. With today's new technologies in wood-burning stoves and fireplace inserts, burning wood need not be eliminated.
Teresa Clawson raised her children around a fireplace insert that warmed them inside and out for many years.