As winter approaches, the groundwork is being laid for a perfect storm of unprecedented firewood shortages in the Northeast and Great Lake states. This may result in the impression that biomass is taxing our forests too heavily, when it’s almost entirely due to other factors.
Like last year’s pellet “shortage,” this year’s shortages are mostly a supply chain issue. Industry has been waiting for the consumers, and now that they're here, is playing catch-up. As far south as Maryland, people couldn’t even find pellets in late September.
So far, coverage of the firewood shortage has been good, and scores of articles typically cite the causes as: last year’s cold winter, a wet spring and summer kept loggers out of the woods, a declining number of loggers, competition with other biomass users, new restrictions from transporting wood over state lines to combat invasive species, and more people heating with wood and and pellets.
There is one thing none of the articles mention: the shortage is likely to result in far more smoke because more people will be using unseasoned wood. The shortage began as a shortage of seasoned wood. Now it’s a shortage of any wood.
Also, coverage rarely mentions that about half of American homes that heat with cordwood—5 million—obtain their own wood and will not be affected by this shortage.
The real seasoned wood heaters have a two-year supply of wood in storage, because even wood purchased in the spring is not necessarily ready in the late fall. It’s many of the people new to heating with wood who are the least prepared this winter and don’t have enough seasoned wood.