Fuel Prices Spark Demand for Firewood | miyakawa3 | May 26, 2011


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Fuel Prices Spark Demand for Firewood

by miyakawa3
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Fuel prices spark demand for firewood


By CLARKE CANFIELD, Associated Press


PORTLAND, Maine — Sky-high prices for oil, kerosene and other fuels have put pressure on an alternative heating source in New Hampshire and all of New England: good, old-fashioned firewood.


Demand for firewood is up across the Granite State and northern New England this season, driving firewood prices to unprecedented highs. Even in the nation’s most heavily forested states, some dealers are scrambling to find enough raw supply to cut into logs.


New Hampshire Agriculture Commissioner Steve Taylor said the supply of firewood has dwindled because loggers are busy supplying the sawmills. Plus, he said, there are not enough loggers to meet the growing demand for wood.


At the same time, more Granite Staters are turning to firewood because the skyrocketing price of home heating fuel.


Jeff Taylor at Fireplace Village in Bedford said woodstove sales are up substantially. So much so, one maker of woodstoves, Hearthstone, has a waiting list two months long.


How much wood…
A hundred gallons of home heating oil generates roughly 14 million BTUs of heat. A cord of hardwood firewood generates about 20 or 21 million BTUs of heat.
Using that formula, it’s a simple matter of math to figure out how much consumers can save using wood to heat their home.


If a home uses 1,200 gallons of heating oil over a winter, it would cost $1,800 to heat at $1.50 a gallon, or $2,160 at $1.80 a gallon. The average statewide price of oil last week was $1.91 a gallon, according to the State Planning Office.


A homeowner would require about eight cords of wood to generate the same amount of heat. If the wood cost $150 to $200 a cord, the cost would be $1,200 to $1,600. Under this scenario, the savings would be between $200 and nearly $1,000.


It’s not much easier to find firewood either.


Commissioner Taylor said there is precious little dry firewood to be had in the state because of the rainy fall.


“The wood got good and soaked,” he said.


Wood that was wet will not dry out during the winter.


“The water is still there. It’s just frozen,” Taylor said.


Taylor’s advice — buy next year’s firewood supply by April and store it in a well ventilated and covered area.


Greenbacks, green wood


Jake Dyer, who owns Southern Maine Firewood in Gorham, Maine, has sold more than 3,000 cords of wood over the past year. He still has green wood for sale, but ran out of ready-to-burn seasoned wood in October.


“The biggest problem now is we can’t buy enough wood to supply our customers,” he said.


Ray Colton of Colton Enterprises Inc. in Pittsfield, Vt., said he has sold almost 4,000 cords this season, about 1,000 more than last year. His company sells wholesale kiln-dried wood, the majority of which goes to the Boston market.


“We’re selling as fast as we produce,” Colton said.


The strong demand has pushed prices to levels never before seen, said Peter Lammert of the Maine Forest Service. Seasoned firewood is now selling for roughly $180 to $230 a cord, and green wood goes for $145 to $160. Lammert said prices a year ago were in the $140 to $160 range.


Similar prices are being reported in New Hampshire and Vermont.


Lammert, who has been following the firewood market for decades, said he expects demand to be even higher for next winter.


“If Iraq and Kuwait and Iran all blow up, the price of oil could just be terrible,” he said. “If Americans had the gas prices Europeans have, we wouldn’t drive the vehicles we do. And if oil prices stay as high as they are, we won’t be heating the whole house with oil.”


Cord consumption


Firewood dealers typically buy their wood supply from loggers and then cut it to length, split it and sell it to consumers. It is usually sold by the cord, which is a stack of wood 4 feet wide by 4 feet high by 8 feet long.


Mainers were burning more than 1 million cords a year when oil prices shot up in the early 1980s, according to the State Planning Office. But as oil prices fell, so did firewood consumption. By 1995, Mainers were burning fewer than 400,000 cords a year.


These days, more people are again turning to wood as a supplemental heating source to cushion the high price of oil and other fuels, and as a backup against power outages, said Paul Reed Jr., owner of Reed’s Firewood in Durham, Maine.


Oil prices are hovering at close to $2 a gallon in Maine, up more than third over a year ago. At $2.18 a gallon, kerosene is 56 cents higher than last year. Propane averages $2.06 a gallon, up 43 cents from a year ago.


Even with high firewood prices, Reed said consumers can still save hundreds of dollars in the winter by burning wood. “Firewood at $180 a cord is still a deal compared to what it costs to heat your home with oil,” he said.


Patti Schaffer and her husband, James, own Timberwolf Firewood in Lebanon. She said firewood sales were in the dumps when oil prices were less than $1 a gallon several years ago.


But demand has picked up the past couple of years — and went out of control last summer when gasoline, and later on heating oil, hit $2 a gallon.


“From July on we’ve been booked out three months,” said Schaffer. “People who ordered their wood in September got it in December.”


In Corinna, Ron Judkins started selling firewood last May with plans to run the operation full-time when he retires from U.S. Postal Service in 2006. He has sold more than 1,000 cords of wood, and that’s working just part-time.


“The people I knew in the business said that in the past, firewood orders had died out by the middle of November. But I’m still out straight,” he said.


Wood stoves hot


It’s not just firewood, either. Sales of wood-burning stoves are up 10-12 percent at the five Black Stove Shops in Maine.


Company president Frank Tarantino said sales started picking up in August — about a month earlier than usual — when oil prices started rising fast and analysts were telling consumers to hold on for the ride.


“It was a combination of high prices and uncertainty of the future,” Tarantino said.


Firewood dealers say they’ve had difficulty finding enough supply of timber from loggers, who also sell to mills.


Part of the reason is that some mills, notably in Millinocket and Lincoln, that been had shut down or had production cut back were in need of wood when they came back up during the year, creating competition for firewood dealers who were going after the same wood.


The shortage was further exacerbated when Canadian loggers were prohibited from working in Maine between April and October because the U.S. cap on visas had been reached.


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June 02, 2014

Fuel prices spark demand for firewood

Fuel Prices Spark Demand for Firewood

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