I spent some time today writing a letter to the Salt Lake Tribune. In a coffee shop, with a big cup of coffee to help my genius burn.To my millions of fans who are not local to Salt Lake City, I'll briefly explain that we really struggle with our air quality in the winter. Without frequent storms to keep things stirred up, cold, dirty air gets trapped in the Salt Lake Valley and the evil particulate matter called PM 2.5 makes the atmosphere unhealthy. The Salt Lake Valley is home to refineries, incinerators, cars, more cars, and the world's largest open-pit mine. In response to this mess, the state has decided to ban residential wood-burning of any kind. Restaurants with (for example) wood-burning pizza ovens are exempt, because I guess we don't want to clean up the air at the expense of yummy pizza. In presenting this to the public, the state Division of Air Quality (DAQ) is maintaining that this ban could reduce the emission of PM 2.5 particulates by as much as.. [drum roll] 4%. Wow. Good to know that no businesses were harmed by this highly impactful and forward-thinking proposition.
This pisses me off. Chuck and I have a special wood stove equipped with filters; and are interested upgrading to one with an even better filter. This matters not to the DAQ. A blanket ban on burning is easier to enforce, they say. All this for 4%. What we really need to do is move dirty industry out of the inversion zone and stop driving so much. And it would be helpful if people would stop burning fireplace fires. About 4% helpful. But for those of us who have high-tech wood stoves so that we can consume fewer fossil fuels, this conversation has become frustrating. Here's my letter. I'll publish it here because it won't be accepted by the Tribune. They have a 200-word limit for letters (even though very few people submit letters anymore and there is plenty of space on the letters page for high school girls to write in and rant about how much they hate it when other high school girls wear leggings as if they were pants), and this letter is 284 words. I just couldn't pare it down any more though, and still have it make sense. I sent it in with a note asking them to consider it despite its length. We'll see how it goes.
My family lives in a house featured in the 2004 Green Parade of Homes: praised for its utilization of recycled materials and reduced emissions of greenhouse gasses. Our desire to do our small part to reduce global climate change influenced our decision to choose wood for winter heat and cooking; along with an EPA approved wood stove, which reduces the emission of PM 2.5 particulates by 20 times that of the emissions from an open fireplace. Recently, we have been shopping for a new stove with the latest particulate filtering technology, which would reduce our particulate emissions by an additional 10 times over the current EPA standard. Our decisions are influenced not only by our desire to be good stewards of the earth, but are also grounded in economics: our neighborhood is not served by a natural gas line. Consequently, our backup fuel is volatile and expensive propane, at three times the price of natural gas. Heating entirely with propane would be not only more costly, but would increase our current environmental impact. I question the value of a complete ban on wood burning with no consideration of modern technologies. I would suggest DAQ apply a more surgical approach: the sole-source permitting process should be revamped to allow households to apply for wood stove permits based on their use of cutting edge technologies for particulate filtration. I realize this would complicate enforcement – however, as we move toward a community culture that cares deeply about the quality of our air both locally and globally, we need to welcome solutions, not create more problems in the name of expediency. Let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Not all wood stoves are created equal.
In other news, I have one of those heavy headaches caused by too much crying. Why does Sara insist on watching these teen tear-jerkers? First it was "The Fault in our Stars", which made me sob audibly; and tonight, it was "If I Stay". Jeeze. Chuck had to mop my face off with his sleeve. I cry even when I know the story is lame. I cry over Pepsi commercials. I cry when Timmy is in the well, even when I know Lassie is coming to the rescue. Real-life trauma? No tears. "The Notebook"? Snot everywhere.