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Letter: Demonizing pellet fuel


Last modified: Monday, February 08, 2016
*Archive Article*
The recent article on Mohawk Trail Regional School’s consideration of wood pellet boilers is troubling. FRCOG’s health agent asserts that pellet heating systems are “a much more pollution prone source of heat” than oil or propane. Wood pellets are renewable and can be locally produced. Pellet fuel is not new; installations are common in the region, and will continue to proliferate, especially as boiler system technology advances, and production and delivery infrastructure becomes better established. Casual and vague demonization of pellet fuel is not constructive. Before undertaking a “health impact analysis assessment” (how, by whom, and at what cost?) perhaps it would make sense first to do a quick assessment of the many existing systems at schools, hospitals, and other facilities, public and private, around the region.

This is not the right place to discuss the “carbon neutrality” question, but the issue of the “high energy required to manufacture and transport wood pellets” is a red herring. How about oil, natural gas, propane? Lot of energy to manufacture and transport them, don’t you think? Even when they’re transported by pipeline! Coal? Nuclear? Hydro? Even solar panels, seen by some as the solution to almost all energy problems, require a lot of energy to manufacture and transport.

Remember that the raw materials for wood pellets are produced as part of ongoing forestry, sawmill and wood manufacturing operations. The trees they come from grow in the region; someone who lives near you works in the woods harvesting and trucking the raw material. The assertion in the article that there are “no standards” for how pellets are made is untrue. The specter of “clear cutting of forests” to meet the demand for wood pellets in Massachusetts is a scare tactic, as is the prospect of “heavy metals and toxins from demolition wood.”

Whether pellet boilers are right for Mohawk Trail is a complex decision involving a lot of technical and financial factors, but it would be a mistake to abandon a wood pellet system simply on the basis of the concerns raised in this article.

CHARLES THOMPSON

Massachusetts Forest Alliance

Marlborough