From The New York Times, “Burning Coal at Home Is Making a Comeback“:
Problematic in some ways and difficult to handle, coal is nonetheless a cheap, plentiful, mined-in-America source of heat. And with the cost of heating oil and natural gas increasingly prone to spikes, some homeowners in the Northeast, pockets of the Midwest and even Alaska are deciding coal is worth the trouble.
Burning coal at home was once commonplace, of course, but the practice had been declining for decades. Coal consumption for residential use hit a low of 258,000 tons in 2006 — then started to rise. It jumped 9 percent in 2007, according to the Energy Information Administration, and 10 percent more in the first eight months of 2008.
Online coal forums are buzzing with activity, as residential coal enthusiasts trade tips and advice for buying and tending to coal heaters. And manufacturers and dealers of coal-burning stoves say they have been deluged with orders — many placed when the price of heating oil jumped last summer — that they are struggling to fill.
The story quotes an air quality official from Fairbanks who regards burning coal as harmful to local residents’ health. Also cited is the president of an environmental testing firm from Portland, Oregon, who notes that restrictions on wood-burning stoves do not apply to coal-burning ovens. But that’s it in terms of opposition.
Too bad the NYT reporter didn’t ask a representative from a national environmental group for a comment, perhaps the answer to this question: “Your organization is leading a national ad campaign against coal as a source of electricity. Would you also like to ban the burning of coal in homes so people can stay warm in the winter? If not, why not?”
Environmentalists must surely dislike coal on all fronts; widespread acceptance of coal for home heating makes it more difficult to argue against the fuel generally as an evil, environmental monster. After all, you can’t concede that it’s OK for people to heat their homes with coal but then object to the use of an electric baseboard heater because the electricity is generated from burning coal.
(Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds, who recalls heating with coal in Heidelberg. Your correspondent remembers traveling through eastern Germany soon after the Wall fell, while they still burned high-sulfur brown coal. Now that was awful.)
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