We have little little interest in wood pellets because you cannot make your own, end of story. You can make firewood with a sharp rock if you have to, but pellets require some kind of chipper/grinder, a press or a mill, and a lot of room to work indoors.
This is the blessing and the curse of firewood. It allows too many people to be self-sufficient and the market cannot be controlled by big business.
Pellets enjoy support from industry because they require an industry to produce them. Firewood receives support from the NFA — an organization funded so far by the occasional firewood producer who understands our message and is willing to help. For every household that burns wood, there are two that cut and split their own — leaving industry representation to a small number of professionals who take firewood seriously. However, the firewood industry remains subject to the actions and attitudes of everyone who burns wood., whether they buy it or not. The math doesn’t work.
The pellet industry isn’t hamstrung by this DIY aspect of firewood. Big business understands how this works behind the scenes.
Firewood is vulnerable to attack simply because there are 2.48 million households in America that don’t buy oil or gas for heat. Access to that market of $2 billion is as easy as prohibiting people from burning wood, forcing them into buying any other fuel to heat their homes. When there’s that kind of money on the table you can be sure someone is thinking about how to get at it every minute of the day.
Even if no one is thinking about it, there’s not one reason for the oil companies to stand up for the people who don’t buy oil. There’s no reason for them not to support any initiative to restrict or ban wood burning, and plenty of reasons to. This is firewood’s Achilles heel.
The pellet industry tolerates firewood because it shares the same challenge in meeting emissions requirements. Pellet stoves are, by and large, cleaner than cordwood stoves, but not enough that clear legislation could be drafted to allow pellets but disallow firewood. (This is where concerns begin about the EPAs scheduled tightening of the standards again in 2020).
When I met with APHIS and the USDA about the EAB quarantine and how it affects small firewood businesses, I was informed, in a roundabout way, that this market is irrelevant and that my concern for small producers is admirable, but of little consequence. The concern regarding financial impact is focused on a handful of firewood producers who make millions of bundles for retail distribution nationwide.
No one cares about those who cut their own firewood, or even those who cut it for a living to sell to their community. The only financial interest in firewood is in making sure Wal-mart gets its bundles to sell.
This is why the National Firewood Association is asking everyone who values firewood to contribute to our cause — being the voice of firewood in America. It’ll take a lot of money to hire a lobbyist and launch nationwide media campaigns in defense of firewood.
What’s most important is that we join together to build the largest, most vocal group we can.
Talk to people about the NFA, and make sure they understand that firewood will remain frighteningly vulnerable to restriction as long as it is taken for granted.
Firewood is a pawn without a voice on the chessboard that is our domestic fuel policy.