The EPA and Wood Burning Stoves

I read an article in Forbes last week about new EPA regulations that ban wood burning stoves that put out more than 12 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter of air. As a point of reference, the article notes that 2nd hand smoke from smoking in a closed car puts between 3000-4000 micrograms of particulate matter in a cubic meter of air. The new 12 microgram limit eliminates the use of most wood stoves currently used in the U.S. When I think of externality producers in need of government regulation, the household heating their home with a wood burning stove doesn’t seem like it should be very high on the list. I’ve not seen empirical research that the EPA used to reach their decision that such regulations were necessary, but I wonder if maybe the regulation wasn’t the result of pressure from outside environmental lobbies. For some groups, any amount of pollution should be eliminated no matter the cost imposed on producers (in this case Bob and Mary heating their home) or the environment’s assimilative capacity. That families can’t afford to use alternative methods for heating, or can’t afford new stoves that meet the new 12 microgram limit may not matter. More puzzling to me is scope of this particular regulation. It’s incredibly broad affecting populated areas where pollution may be a problem as well as vast open areas like in Alaska where the air is cleaner. Meanwhile, in China a new coal plant is being built every week…

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2 Responses to The EPA and Wood Burning Stoves

  1. phillels says:

    I agree that eliminating all pollution is too costly to society. Sometimes the benefits outweigh the costs. In this case, the benefit of burning wood in Alaska for heat may far outweigh the cost of the pollution when oil heat shipped halfway across the world is the alternative.

  2. hornechr says:

    I also agree with you on this one, the abatement cost associated with eliminating all pollution is much too high to even be considered. I also find it difficult because of how much air pollution travels when it is created. Much of what we do here in America or China does within their boarders has a drastic effect on the rest of the world. However all we can try to do in this sense is lead by example and have strict air quality standards, hoping that the rest of the world follows.

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