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Wood Burning, Biomass, Air Pollution, and Climate Change

57 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2016 Last revised: 15 Jun 2016

Christopher D. Ahlers

Vermont Law School

Date Written: April 5, 2016

Abstract

Domestically and internationally, there is a trend toward greater reliance on the burning of wood as a partial response to the problems of global warming and climate change. But in labeling wood burning as a source of “renewable energy,” consumers and corporations have overlooked a more compelling and immediate health problem. Worldwide, air pollution causes the deaths of approximately seven million people every year, far more than the number of deaths from climate change. Mortality is largely due to air emissions of fine particulate matter. Given the popularity of burning wood and regulatory loopholes, the public health effects of air pollution go underregulated, and often unregulated. As a source of energy that is generated by combustion and results in the direct emission of fine particulates, biomass is like coal, oil, and natural gas (non-renewable energy), and unlike solar and wind (renewable energy). Whether biomass may play a role in an effective climate change strategy is unclear and is the subject of ongoing debate. Recent attempts to address the problem of residential wood burning through the Environmental Protection Agency’s New Source Performance Standards and New York City’s Local Law 38 of 2015 demonstrate the political and legal challenges to regulating emissions from the burning of wood.

Keywords: wood burning, biomass, biogenic, air pollution, climate change, smoke, particulates, PM2.5, renewable energy

Suggested Citation

Ahlers, Christopher D., Wood Burning, Biomass, Air Pollution, and Climate Change (April 5, 2016). Environmental Law, Vol. 46; Vermont Law School Research Paper No. 4-16. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2759644

Christopher D. Ahlers (Contact Author)

Vermont Law School ( email )

8163 Oak Leaf Lane
Williamsville, NY 14221
United States
716-636-4830 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.vermontlaw.edu/Our_Faculty/Faculty_Directory/Christopher_Ahlers.htm

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