Anyone paying attention to the Obama Administration over the past eight years has seen the overreach of various government agencies expand to the point of ridiculousness. A perfect example of such overreach is the EPA, a rogue agency that has come to believe it doesn’t need to follow the law, can ignore Federal and Supreme Court rulings with impunity, impose regulations that have not been authorized by Congress, and can ignore science when it is in opposition to the agency’s agenda.
The latest bit of regulatory insanity from the EPA has a likelihood of making sure a number of Americans in Alaska will die of the extreme cold seen there during the winter. How will the EPA pull that off?
By banning them from burning wood to heat their homes.
…now comes the federal government to tell the inhabitants of Alaska’s interior that, really, they should not be building fires to keep themselves warm during the winter.Even though it doesn’t get quite that cold here in New Hampshire, or at least not for weeks at end, heating with wood is quite common here. While a number of people here use wood pellet stoves, most of us heating with wood use a woodstove. Yes, there are particulates in wood smoke, particularly when you first fire it up. But once it’s burning and up to temperature the smoke diminishes. I know I rarely see smoke coming from our chimney except right after I’ve added more wood. It heats well, is much less expensive than heating oil or propane. Natural gas isn’t available outside the few cities or larger suburbs. So those of us with limited means or frugal natures (or both) heat with wood. It is abundant. It is carbon neutral, if that’s important to you. It’s renewable. More importantly, it works even if there is no power, something that can happen during a blizzard or ice storm.
Like most people in Alaska, the residents of those frozen cities are burning wood to keep themselves warm this winter. Smoke from wood-burning stoves increases small-particle pollution, which settles in low-lying areas and can be breathed in. The EPA thinks this is a big problem. Eight years ago, the agency ruled that wide swaths of the most densely populated parts of the region were in “non-attainment” of federal air quality standards.
The problem is, there’s no replacement for wood-burning stoves in Alaska’s interior. Heating oil is too expensive for a lot of people, and natural gas isn’t available. So they’ve got to burn something. The average low temperature in Fairbanks in December is 13 degrees below zero. In January, it’s 17 below. During the coldest days of winter, the high temperature averages -2 degrees, and it can get as cold as -60. This is not a place where you play games with the cold. If you don’t keep the fire lit, you die. For people of modest means, and especially for the poor, that means you burn wood in a stove—and you keep that fire lit around the clock.
Of course the EPA’s fixation on preventing people from heating their homes with wood has even hit here in the lower 48, banning the resale of older but still serviceable woodstoves. If you decide to trade in your old woodstove for a new EPA-approved low emission, catalytic converter equipped, much more expensive woodstove, your old stove will be scrapped rather than resold even though it is still useable, perhaps by someone who cannot afford one of the new stoves but still needs to heat their home.
Then again, since when would an EPA bureaucrat care one whit about someone trying to keep their family warm in the depths of winter? We’ve certainly seen that with the action the EPA has taken in Alaska.