They Aren’t Coming For Your Firewood. But New York’s Energy Plan is Still Not Good.

A perennial topic of New York State’s unjust energy transition is home heating. The way we heat our homes has, since day one, been a vector for how the state plans to meet the CLCPA’s renewables and emissions targets. The primary strategy is to replace “non-renewable” and CO2 emitting natural gas and propane with electric heat pumps supported by a somehow renewable and emission free grid. However, in between these two options is wood, which is CO2 and particulate emitting, but also renewable (so renewable, in fact, the high efficiency units qualify for the same federal tax credit heat pumps get). Many, rightly so, believe New York is on its way to ban wood burning because of its supposed drawbacks. The most recent trigger for this speculation is New York City’s implementation of stricter wood burning regulations on its pizzerias, leading some to ask if this is the beginning of the slippery slope? The answer, thankfully, is no. But the reason reveals yet again that NYS’s energy plans are anything but rational.

The problems with heat pumps are numerous: need for greater home insulation, upfront cost, and dependence on an increasingly unreliable grid (James Hanley’s report Cold Reality elaborates on these problems in depth). The one that matters most here is the fact that in the coldest parts of the state (namely the North Country) current models of heat pumps, combined with older homes, cannot consistently heat homes to a comfortable level. New York’s climate architects themselves (the CAC) admit as much, stating they [cold weather NYers] “may need supplemental heat (wood, home heating oil, propane, or gas).” This shows why New York State won’t ban firewood, not because they don’t want to, but because to openly say a whole swath of New Yorkers will definitely go cold due to policy decisions is political suicide.

This is absurd. Firewood’s renewableness is not its main draw; its ability to work in blackouts, that the fuel is stored at the home, and that it can be harvested by the average person are. If green politicians and their lackeys cared about NYers, they would be pursuing policies that address the issues firewood helps solve; making the grid more reliable, making electricity cheaper, and expanding pipeline infrastructure. Instead, they glom onto the renewables of firewood as a way to smooth out the rough spots in their nonsensical energy goals.

The lesson here isn’t to let our guard down (if they could ban firewood, they would) it is that New York’s energy plan is irrational to its core. New Yorkers across the state, in a wide variety of conditions, need the ability to heat their homes. When the state only allows heating sources that fit its political agenda, this becomes much harder to do. It is long past time for this irrational plan to be scrapped, and one that ensures all homes are heated comfortably and affordably to go in its stead.