Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Diesel cars and wood-burners

Update 26th January 2017: Wood stove fad is blamed for pollution

I have spent quite a bit of my younger life in cities full of diesel cars. The fumes from these cars made me quite ill. As such I could not understand why the UK government was giving incentives to drivers of diesel engines.

"Diesel was supposed to be the answer to the high carbon emissions of the transport sector, a lower emitting fuel that was a mature technology – unlike electric or hydrogen cars. In the early 2000s the Blair government threw its weight behind the sector by changing ‘road tax’ (vehicle excise duty) to a CO2-based system, which favoured diesel cars as they generally had lower CO2 emissions than petrol versions.

It inspired British car makers to invest heavily in a manufacturing process that most countries outside Europe have ignored. In 1994 the UK car fleet was only 7.4% diesel. By 2013 there were 10.1m diesel cars in the UK, 34.5% of the total.

But studies have since shown that diesel cars’ emissions of other pollutants can have serious impacts on the health of people exposed to them."

Source: The Guardian


What about wood-burners? Again I lived with my frugal mum who used charcoal to cook for much of the time we shared our flat. Those choking fumes are not so great when it is not for the occasional open-air barbecue.

Now living in Greater London where we are never cold enough to require a real fire and, as I also understand, there is a ban on polluting wood and coal-based fires, why has the wood-burner been touted as an 'eco alternative'?

I could not get my head around it.

On one hand I am telling people to stop using paper tissue made from wood, and on the other we were told that burning wood in wood-burners was eco-friendly. ??? How? It just did not add up. But fearful of being told that I was stupid, or worse, being trolled, I had kept my opinion to myself all this time.

Now we are told about this new 'inconvenient truth':

"But the cold truth is that — at odds with its perceived green credentials — the wood-burning craze is posing a real danger to the environment, and to our health.
Air quality experts say the stoves contribute to an ever-thickening cloud of smog engulfing our towns and cities, which is increasing the risk of cancer, lung disease, heart attack, stroke and even dementia.

Exacerbating the problem is the seemingly innocent habit people have of throwing open the doors of the stove to recreate the effects of an open fire or to warm up a room more quickly — thereby flooding the air with a deadly cocktail of noxious gases and toxic wood smoke particles.

Wood smoke is a cocktail of gases and dangerous microscopic particles. Some of these blobs of soot, called PM2.5s, are 100 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair and can get deep into our lungs. They’re so tiny that experts think they may even be able to get through the lungs and into other organs."

Source: The Daily Mail 

We want to care for the environment. But let us not be too hasty in trying to resolve one issue without considering its impact on the rest of the situation. Or, as social anthropologists would say, we need a holistic approach.

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