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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Columnists > Garden Guru

Taxing our Ash off

Sep 11, 2020

By Jim Boxberger - correspondent

Driving this past holiday weekend, my wife Vicki, commented on how much firewood is just sitting there in the woods along-side the road just rotting. We heat with wood all winter long, and she just twitches when she sees firewood not being used.
These days when fuel oil and propane are still expensive it is amazing to me how lazy we have become as a society when free heat is just laying on the ground. Every year trees grow and some trees die and with proper harvesting we have a renewable resource that is extremely affordable.
I have a wood lot and every year we take about five or six large trees that will produce about twelve cords of wood or so for heating our house for the winter. It does take a lot of sweat equity getting the trees harvested, blocked, trucked to my house, split and stacked, but luckily I have a lot of friends and family to help.

Now the E.P.A. (Environmental Protection Agency) has put some restrictions in place especially in regards to outdoor wood boilers and furnaces, not because they pollute the air, but because the government hasn't found a good way yet to tax your firewood.
Well that is until the new 4% energy tax that was imposed on Sullivan County residents on September 1st. This tax is across the board on all heating sources including wood, wood pellets and coal. This is why you see more regulations in regards to wood stoves every year. But if you have an old wood stove like mine, there are usually grandfather clauses that allow you to continue using them if they were in operation prior to the regulation going into effect.
One example of this is my woodstove which has an 8” flue, modern regulations only allow for 6” flues which reduce the heat output or BTU's of the stove. BTU stands for British Thermal Unit which is the amount of energy needed to cool or heat one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.
Which in itself is curious as Brits use the Celcius scale, not Fahrenheit. But even a modern woodstove with a 6” flue will heat a small bi-level or large ranch home comfortably.
Granted firewood is not the most convenient form of home heating, there is a lot of hard work that goes into producing enough firewood for a winter, and it seems to be that the hard work is the reason people don't do it. The work is a lot easier when you can get friends and family together as many hands make for easy work, and this is definately the case with wood cutting.
Just like harvesting the garden every fall, firewood should be cleared from the forest floor every year as well. The forests in Sullivan County alone produce several thousand metric tons of lumber every year and less than 5% of that is currently being used for any purpose. It seems wasteful to leave a renewable gift to rot on the ground, just to pay high prices for fossil fuels and send the profits overseas.
Stop and think about how much tax is involved with fossil fuels? The companies that produce these products pay all sorts of taxes that they pass on to you. Then transport the product and pay road tax and other commerce taxes that they pass down to you, and so on. This is the case for all fossil fuels including coal and to some extent wood pellets as well.
And now there is a 4% tax on all these products as well. It may be time to rethink how we heat and good forest management helps prevent the dangers that we see out west with wildfires. By clearing the forest floor of all that fuel we can make healthier forests for both the flora and the fauna.
So next time you see a burly guy wearing flannel ask if he is a lumberjack and give him a big hug.





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