Saturday, December 23, 2006

Just in the nick of time, before winter had officially started on 21st, our wood stove has been installed. The only other heating available is some electric panel heaters, common in France, especially rural France where there is no piped gas supply. I call it chauffage nucleaire (nuclear central heating) as France is the country which generates the largest percentage of its electricity from nuclear energy, at 78.5%, in the world. Whether nuclear energy is “clean”, safe and the answer to our energy problems is open to debate but it’s clear that burning wood can be a very environmentally friendly way of heating and as we have our own woodland it’s free!

Have a look at Steve’s Chickenshack Blog of Tuesday September 26th for an explanation of how wood burns in a stove.

One thing that annoys me (many things annoy Stuart says Gabrielle!) is the claim by people who don’t wish to reduce their energy consumption that planting trees can “lock up carbon” and so, if they plant (or sponsor the planting of) a few extra trees, this somehow negates their energy profligacy. Burning fossil fuel is releasing CO2 locked up millions of years ago, when the carbon balance in the world was completely different. In comparison, burning wood is carbon neutral, which means that when a tree burns (or decays by rotting) it only gives up the same amount of CO2 that it has absorbed during its life.

There is certainly more effort involved in cleaning the window of the stove, lighting a fire and keeping it burning all evening than turning the thermostat a degree higher but this is very evocative for me of my grandfather’s daily routine when, enjoying his first cigarette of the day—no doubt a Woodbine or Embassy No.6—he’d emerge from the dark and mysterious cellar with a galvanised bucket containing coal, newspaper, kindling and Zip firelighters, a mesmerising process for a young grandson. Talking of him, I suppose he set a precedent for my coming to France: travelling with some mates aged 18 (in 1918) staying twenty days somewhere near the Somme, before being shot in the face for his trouble and repatriated via an Australian Army field hospital. He’d be pleased to know things are altogether better now in the French countryside!