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By: Erin Voegele
Biomass Power & Thermal

While the calendar might say that the 2012/'13 winter officially starts on Dec. 21, those of us in the northern regions of the country know that winter weather is already here. For many of us, the cold weather not only marks the unofficial start to the holiday season, it also means high home heating bills are on the way.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration released its annual Short-Term Energy and Winter Fuels Outlook in October. According to this year's projections, household expenditures for heating oil will increase 19 percent this year. If that estimate turns out to be accurate, it will mean households that burn heating oil will face expenditures higher than any previous winter on record. However, oilheat is not the only household heating fuel expected to experience significant price hikes this winter. Household expenditures for natural gas are expected to increase 15 percent, with electricity and propane measuring in at relative 5 percent and 13 percent increases...(to read the full article, please click here)
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VT Sustainable Heating Initiative aims to put pellet stoves in low income households

By: Matt Sutkoski
Burlington Free Press

Vermont's weather took the inevitable yearly turn toward wintry this week, but some households are staying unexpectedly toasty warm because of work by the Vermont Sustainable Heating Initiative.

The Heating Initiative has been selected as a finalist in the first-ever Creative Edge Award competition sponsored by FreePress Media and the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce. The other finalist is Gardener's Supply Co. The winner will be announced at Tuesday night's annual chamber dinner.

Generally speaking, the poorest Vermonters tend to use the most expensive and least environmentally friendly fuels to heat their homes, said Thomas Tailer, the executive director of VSHI.
VSHI aims to install wood pellet stoves in low-income households. The stoves use fuel that cost roughly 40 percent less than other fuels providing the same heat output, said Thomas Dickerson, a board member for VSHI.

Pellet stoves have the added benefit of emitting fewer pollutants and greenhouse gases than other fuels, Dickerson said...(to read the full article, please click here).


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European Biomass Association
Bioenergy systems can have an impact on terrestrial carbon stocks - in both positive and negative ways. However, recent attention has been almost exclusively focused on scientific papers that have not sufficiently evaluated actual sustainable harvesting and biomass feedstock utilization practices and the positive role biomass can play in ensuring healthy and productive forests. The experiences on certification of bioenergy are also ignored. Bioenergy can and must contribute to climate change mitigation.

Bioenergy has a closed carbon cycle unlike fossil fuels
Carbon emissions and sequestration into biomass are part of a closed cycle, with exchanges between terrestrial and atmospheric carbon pools. As a forest grows, the atmospheric carbon decreases, and vice versa, without any net change in carbon in the cycle. With fossil fuels the situation is radically different. When fossil fuels are mined and burnt the carbon that would otherwise have been stored in earth's crust is suddenly released to the atmosphere. This permanently increases the amount of carbon in the cycle, raising global temperatures for millennia to come, thus creating a real carbon debt for future generations. It is strange to suggest that biomass would be worse than coal on account of its carbon cycle. Preferring fossil fuels over biomass is counterproductive to society's ambitions to mitigate climate change...(to read the full statement, please click here).


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Did you know that PFI fuel manufacturer members can list available fuel inventory on our website? If you are a fuel manufacturer, have fuel available and would like to post that information on our website, please email Jason Berthiaume. Be sure to include company name, location, contact name and phone number.  
Hearth retailers and others looking for available fuel should visit the page for periodic updates on which manufacturers currently have inventory available for shipment.   


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U.S. Government Winter Fuels Outlook Includes Pellets and Wood for First Time
EIA Administrator Sieminski says wood pellets represent a "significant opportunity" for consumers to save money

October 10, 2012 - The U.S. government released its annual assessment of prices and availability of heating fuels today and for the first time it included information on pellets and firewood. After gas and electricity, wood is the third most common heating fuel in America, but the annual Winter Fuels Outlook had never discussed it prior to the 2012-13 heating season.


The Winter Fuels Outlook is put out by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), an independent statistical and analytical agency within the Department of Energy. Reports published by the agency are the premier source of energy information in the country and are used to guide economic policy and educate the public.


During today's press conference, EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski mentioned the "significant opportunity" for consumers to supplement their oil heat with wood pellets, as well as with electricity.


The inclusion of wood and pellets in the Winter Fuels Outlook came after over a year of discussions and meetings between the EIA and a coalition of wood and pellet groups. Senator Shaheen (D-NH) also raised the importance of pellets as an alternative to oil in New England with Administrator Sieminski.


According to the EIA, wood and pellets now produce more residential heat in the US than propane and nearly as much as oil. Wood produces 0.5 quadrillion Btu (quads) per year, propane 0.49 quads and oil 0.6.


EIA projects that average household expenditures for heating oil and natural gas will increase by 19 percent and 15 percent respectively over last heating season. The agency expects the country will experience colder temperatures compared to last year's mild winter, with oil and gas prices remaining virtually the same.


In terms of wood and pellets, the report said:

Wood consumption in homes has risen over the past 10 years, reversing a trend seen in the last two decades of the 20th century. In 2009, U.S. households consumed about 0.5 quadrillion Btu (quads) of wood. Household fuel oil consumption, by comparison, was only slightly higher at 0.6 quads. In homes across the United States, wood is most commonly used as a secondary source of heat and is second only to electricity as a supplemental heating fuel. Twenty percent of New England homes (1.1 million) used wood for space heating, water heating, or cooking in 2009 (EIA, Residential Energy Consumption Survey, 2009). This is nearly twice the national rate. Almost half of all rural households used wood in this area of the country. In contrast, only 12 percent of urban New England households used the fuel.

According to data previously published by the EIA, the average American household heating with wood consumes two cords of wood per year. This number includes homes that use wood or pellets as a primary, secondary or occasional heat source. The EIA also documents that consumption in rural areas is more than twice that of urban areas. The EIA estimates that 91% of homes that heat with wood use firewood, 8% use wood scrap and 6% use pellets.


Wood use also trends strongly with income level, according to EIA survey data, with households making $20,000 or less using more than twice the amount of wood as households making $120,000 or more. 


"The EIA's focus on wood and pellets is an important and timely step in the right direction," said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat, a non-profit consumer organization based in the DC area. "The next step is for states to start including the price of pellets in their monthly fuel price reports," Ackerly added.


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The Alliance for Green Heat promotes wood and pellet heat as a low-carbon, sustainable and affordable energy solution. The Alliance is a 510c3 non-profit organization based in Maryland. 

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