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'And' 

Editor:

Michael Winkler's letter (Mailbox, May 18) compares the environmental impact of wood stoves and biomass energy and concludes that wood stoves are worse. While a cord of wood produces more greenhouse gas and air pollution in a wood stove than a biomass plant, the sheer volume of mill waste burned at the plant more than makes up the difference. In the worst case scenario where every wood heated home in Humboldt has an uncertified stove, annual CO2 emissions would be 66,000 metric tons. That's nothing to sneeze (or cough) at, but the biomass plant emits 300,000 tons, which warm our planet for decades before they are reabsorbed.

Mr. Winkler also said we can take comfort that biomass emissions are regulated. But don't get too comfortable because the emissions limits in those regulations are not based on public health but on the best performing biomass plants, which are still dirtier than coal. A recent review of North Coast Air Quality Management District records revealed multiple failures to enforce even these low standards.

In the midst of a climate crisis with wildfires worsening air quality throughout the West, what to do about wood stoves and biomass plants is not a question or either/or. The best answer for climate and health is "and." Replacing just one wood stove with a heat pump prevents nearly a ton of fine particulate emissions over its 15 year lifetime, averting $24 million in health damages. We can now access thousands of dollars in state and federal incentives to do this and keep our wood stoves for backup, but to get the really big greenhouse gas reductions we urgently need, we must shift the millions we're already spending on biomass to invest in clean energy instead.

Wendy Ring, Bayside

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