Monday, April 09, 2007

Problem:A Natural Gas OPEC - Solution: Pellets

This story provides a nice segue into a post on my activities for the past few weeks which has resulted in a dearth of posting. Soon, $300 a month natural gas bills will be the quaint old days when natural gas was cheap.

Two things prompted me to investigate the world of bio-fuels.

1) My house has been at 62 degrees during the day and 58 degrees at night for the past two years and the number of dollars it takes to do this in a 1600 square foot house just boggles my mind. The U.S. produces a fair amount of the natural gas but a fair chunk of it comes from our annoying neighbours to the south. Geopolitics aside: My family and I are tired of freezing our arses.

2) My attention had been drawn to an individual named John Sharpe who runs Distributist Press. I don't know enough about Distributism to make any definitive statement about it but from what I gather its an anti-corporate, anti-communist and thoroughly Roman Catholic view on economics. From what I can gather the major tenet of Distributism is "keeping it local." Expect more on Distributism in the near future. Distributism is really interesting economic analysis and bonus: it has the effect of driving neo-Catholics in apopolyptic rages.

Put these two things together and you get heating your house with wood pellets, something I did for five years in my old house which saved me thousands of dollars. (see right)

There exists an amazing (but not new) technology consumers can use to heat their home: they're bio-fuels in the form of wood, corn, wheat and, soon, grass packed into the shape of a pellet and burnt in a furnace. This is not throwing logs into the fireplace. Most fireplaces lose the same amount of heat as they produce. At best a fire place is 25% efficient. A free standing wood stove is around 50% efficient. New pellet stoves and newer oil and gas furnaces are around 80% efficient and the super-duper-Al-Gore-save-the-planet oil and gas furnaces are about 92% efficient.

There's nothing like a nice fire and there's something even nicer in spending $450/yr to heat your house to 72 degrees, all the while buying a product produced in Jaffery, NH and sold in family owned stores. This being New England, I'll be burning the local stuff: wood pellets.

As stated previously, the blogmaster takes no position on global warming but, for the record, bio fuels like wood pellets, corn, wheat and switchgrass are carbon neutral. Wood pellets are made from sawdust harvested from mills. For centuries, this dust was considered a waste product. The airborne ash and smoke from pellet stoves are virtually zero (as opposed to fireplaces and wood-log stoves.)

Here's a picture of the little beauty me and the misses picked out. The pellet stove (really a furnace) inserts right into our worthless and dangerous fireplace.

Editorial note: My apologies to readers who may be dismayed by the dollar sums and percentages and monetary concerns gracing the blog but readers should be reminded that your humble blogmaster grew up in a hard scrabble housing project and went on to a degree in economics from a prestigious university. That $110,000 bachelors degree has to be good for something! I've always got money on my mind and my mind on money. A curse, yes, but perhaps with further study of this whole Distributism thingy, it'll be a platform for new insights on the Faith for those who practice it in this corrupt world.


Roy F. Moore said...

Mr. Shawn, this is Roy F. Moore, a contributor to the weblog "The Distributist Review" and moderator of the Distributism Yahoo Group.

Thank you for your interest in this alternative to BOTH Capitalism and Socialism. I invite you to check out both the weblog and the Yahoo Group for more information and discussion on this alternative.

BTW, I encourage you to visit our colleague at the weblog "The ChesterBelloc Mandate". It is an archive of many articles relating to both Distributism and the Social Teachings of the Church. Hours of good reading for you.

The Review's address:

The Mandate's address:

Permit me to also mention checking out the website of the American Chesterton Society:

Thank you for your time. May you and yours have a safe and Holy Easter Season. Praise be Jesus Christ!

Thomas Shawn said...

Thanks Roy, I was just at your Distributist Review blog a minute ago. It's an honor to have you post here.

As a matter of fact, I'm trudging through Chesterton's Orthodoxy right now but its a tough read for a non-philosopher (as I had heard.)

I think Chesterton and Distriburtism will keep me busy for the next thirty years or so ... all this has stirred a deep interest in me.

M. Alexander said...

Good, I've been waiting for someone to explain Distributism to me.

I'm worried that it is really socialism when applied economically because it seems to have been conceived by G.K. Chesterton who was a romantic idealist. Though I like him none the less for it, I'm worried he was overreaching getting involved in economic policy.

Gen Ferrer said...

I don't think Chesterton was overstepping his bounds by discussing economics at all because economics is the attempt to predict human behaviour in the marketplace. Thus Chesterton and Belloc were simply influenced by Rerum Novarum, an encyclical reviewing the moral behaviour of men in the market.

This is the main argument between Catholics who claim the popes have no competency in economics -as if economics were a true science- while those of us who believe moral behaviour is completely related to the financial world.

Socialism wishes all power centralised to the federal government, Distributism wishes more local cooperation and governance.

Socialism is interested in federal price control, Distributism believes our economies are best suited by both supply and demand as well as price negociations through local guilds and consumers.

Socialism believes in state employment and public properties, whilst distributism believes in more private property and self-ownership/cooperative businesses.

Socialism wants to set the minimum wage, distributism believes that if employment occurs, it must pay a living wage because an employee's wage should be set by what he needs to live.

Thomas Shawn said...

Thanks gen, thats a good start to get us thinking on these issues.

There needs to be a Catholic way of thinking for modern economic man. Now, we all know socialism for the evil that it is. We also need to analyze, capitalism, especially corporate capitalism that threatens to invade every aspect of our lives as surely as socialism would.

These two, socialism and corporate capitalism have been courting each other, like a synthesis of theological heresies, and that portends danger for the modern man.

Corporate capitalism sometimes seeks to wipe out and co-opt localized free market capitalism they same way the neo-catholics have sought to co-opt and wipe out Tradition.

Sometimes you run into pure monopolies like the natural gas company so the home heat issue is a good way for a Catholic family to strike back.

M. Alexander said...

Gen wrote:

"Socialism wants to set the minimum wage, distributism believes that if employment occurs, it must pay a living wage because an employee's wage should be set by what he needs to live."

This is where I get nervous. Who sets the living wage?

I agree that Capitalism has run amuck in this country and the oil companies are bleeding us dry but I don't believe any of the Popes addressed distributism- maybe they identified elements of it without mentioning it by name?

Anonymous said...

Using wood pellets is not such a huge problem.. we just have to try it. But it can really be expensive though