‘Wood Banks’ Provide Critical Heat as Gas Prices Spike

Hardwood logs stacked on a farm converted to supply firewood in Vermont
Hardwood logs stacked on a farm converted to supply firewood in Vermont. Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images
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With methane gas heating bills projected to be 28% higher than last winter, “wood banks” have become increasingly critical sources of heating fuel for people living on low- and fixed-incomes, The Guardian reports.

About half of U.S. homes burn methane gas for heat, making those families especially vulnerable to price shocks driven by gas exports and geopolitical events. There are more than 100 official wood banks in the U.S. in addition to many other unofficial locations run by local charities and community groups.

“I feel bad supplying firewood, when what they should be doing is going to cleaner sources of heating their homes,” said Tony Aman, an arborist who co-founded Maine’s Downeast Wood Bank in 2021. “But when you’re stretched for money, especially if you’re in poverty or disabled, it makes it very difficult to afford that conversion.”

Maine does have a program to cover the cost of a heat pump for eligible homeowners, installing 80,000 heat pumps since 2019.

As reported by The Guardian:

Wood banks can also be beneficial to local ecosystems, ensuring wood that otherwise wouldn’t be used commercially doesn’t end up going to waste. “A lot of the climate change challenges actually are opportunities for wood banks,” said Jessica Leahy, a professor of forestry at the University of Maine.

In Maine, eastern tent caterpillar, emerald ash borer, browntail moths and other insects have spread through forests, killing hardwood trees like oak and ash. Maine’s quarantine restrictions prevent transport of trees from infected areas. But wood banks are a useful local solution for turning these immovable, dying trees into firewood for low-income households.

For a deeper dive:

The Guardian

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