A proposed ban on wood burning in Paris has been overturned just days before it was due to come into effect following a campaign by Segolene Royal, the ecology minister and former partner of president François Hollande.

Parisians wishing to settle down in front of a warm log fire over the cold winter nights breathed a sigh of relief yesterday as the ban on open log fires in the Paris region, set to begin on January 1, was overturned.

The ban was initially proposed after a study by Airparif, the body in charge of measuring air quality, claimed that fireplaces were responsible for 25 per cent of fine-particle emissions, and produced as much pollution as cars and trucks.

But the study was hotly contested, with even Green politicians arguing that these numbers were grossly overestimated.

It’s obviously possible to argue over the different effects of the invention of central heating and the Clean Air Acts etc. But there’s no doubt at all that the burning of coal and wood in domestic fireplaces had a significant effect on air quality in towns. I well recall (because I had to pay for it once) the effort that went into scrubbing the buildings of my native Bath of the couple of centuries of accumulated soot that stuck to the buildings.

And I also recall getting off at the airport in San Luis Obispo for the first time. A small coastal town in California. And my first reaction was to ask a local friend whether there was some awful conflagration happening. No, just the wood fires in the houses that you can smell.

Here in rural Portugal I’ve a fire going in the office. And I can see the smoke coming out of the chimney. Here population density is so low it doesn’t matter, the fields are getting a light dusting of carbon, oh dear never mind.

But seriously, controls over open fires in urban areas are an obvious thing to have. Even if wood is “renewable” there’s still a real and serious pollution issue here.

41 thoughts on “Weird”

  1. Weird also that, if it would make them unpopular, the Greens choose not to see the pollution. We should all get emotionally attached to nuclear reactors.

  2. Don’t go searching for logic or consistency in French laws: thataway lies the asylum.

    My guess is they wanted to bring the law in but couldn’t find anyone to enforce it. Maybe the French police don’t fancy banging on doors to any house where they see smoke coming out of the chimney, and had a quiet word with the politicians? In the UK the police would be doing dawn raids with SWAT teams and making multiple arrests.

  3. Is this the law of unintended consequences…?

    When I moved to Cyprus in 2002 fuel was dirt cheap and everybody heated their homes with diesel fired boilers. ‘Heating Diesel’ (which was just diesel that was delivered to your house) was even subsidised in winter…. clever people had huge tanks installed and ran their cars on the cheaper ‘heating fuel’ all year…

    When we joined the EU in 2004 the price of fuel rocketed. Instead of ‘diesel’ we now have diesel for cars, heating diesel and red diesel for farmers (all the garages had to install new tanks).

    Now the village I live in is full of wood smoke in winter and the days are filled with a symphony of chain saws as the locals cut down trees (illegally) for fire wood.

  4. They’re particularly stupid to not oppose log-burning, which is even more polluting than coal. In the UK, most urban areas are declared Smoke Control Zones, where you can only burn “smokeless” coal, not ordinary coal or wood or biomass. Greens be damned, this is a public health issue!

  5. Well, at least they’re consistent.

    Shutting down coal-fired generators and replacing them with wood chips shipped over from the USA is similarly kind to the environment.

  6. Most UK cities that are Smoke Control Zones allow log burning if using an efficient DEFRA approved wood burning stove. I have one in my flat in Edinburgh.

    The point of them is you can’t see smoke coming out of chimney or smell the woodsmoke as so efficient all the particulates are burned in the stove rather than allowed to go up the chimney.

  7. We’re talking about the Paris Region here, a specific area stretching almost from Montmirail in the east to Dreux in the West, from Nemours in the south to L’Isle-Adam in the North: 12,000 odd square km compared with nearly 2,600 square miles encompassed by London’s M25 which makes the Paris Region about twice the size of land within the M25.

    Daft not to burn logs if they want to.

  8. Hallowed B

    That piece is fascinating. I had the very same series of arguments this Xmas with family and friends, but didn’t know about the carcinogens.

    Even stranger is the blind spot that the Climate faithful have for wood fires. How many of those lovely eco-houses on Grand designs have a cutesy wood burner as the focus in the front room?

    So, next time you have to listen to a high priest of the faith bang on about Climate warming/change/disruption/weirding, ask them if they have an open fire or lovely wood burning stove.

  9. I grew up in a farmhouse with an open fire in the living room: we used to start it with normal coal, chuck on some anthracite to get it really hot, then throw a log on the embers to get it going for the last hour of the evening. Half the living room was full of soot thanks to a crap chimney, but damn it was warm. This is the benchmark I think of when I consider the difference between heat and temperature. Central heating just can’t heat a room like an open fire.

  10. bloke (not) in spain

    Always amuses, the people with the log fires (& particularly the scented candles) will often be exactly the same people have a horror of second hand cigarette smoke.

  11. How many fires are we talking about?. Wood can’t be cheaper than gas/electric unless you live in a forest. With transport costs to urban areas it seems unlikely that wood is the average Parisians fuel of choice.

    Also–worrying about woodsmoke from your housefire giving you cancer is stupid. You are going to die of something. The micro-chance that denying yourself the chance to snooze by the fire might save you is like having your house built to float in case a tsunami gets inland.

  12. In Spain in winter, small towns like Osuna in Andalucia are badly polluted by wood smoke. With expensive electricity and no mains gas, most Spaniards heat their homes by burning logs.

  13. I go through a couple of hundred quids’ worth of logs each month. I love the smell of woodsmoke. That’s me and my family fucked, then.

    When I lived in London I used to burn anything – coal, wood, coke, bits of old plastic – on my open fire and no-one so much as noticed, or if they did they didn’t say.

  14. bloke (not) in spain

    “In Spain in winter, small towns like Osuna in Andalucia are badly polluted by wood smoke. With expensive electricity and no mains gas, most Spaniards heat their homes by burning logs.”

    I’d love to know where they’re getting their logs from. Andalucian firewood is ruinously expensive.

  15. And here is the possible answer.

    I hope it does what it claims. While I prefer hi-tech to eco-freak the supposed cost savings are so great (if true) that, in this age of windbill (sic-and it is) thieving I will look to get several. Also ideal for poor pensioners, 25000 of whom are said to die from cold every year. And just what you need in a winter blackout caused by eco-piddle power.

    http://inhabitat.com/egloo-heats-your-room-without-electricity-for-10-cents-a-day/

  16. Despite domestic central heating, out here in the sticks we all burn wood. I have underfloor heating but rely on wood-burning stoves to supplement the propane boiler. Without the stoves life would become decidedly uncomfortable during winter (there’s also a scattering of Dimplex heaters for out of the way corners). The cost of wood has escalated somewhat in recent years, however, the stoves still prove cost effective.

  17. bloke (not) in spain

    Incidentally. On that “expensive ” Spanish electricity.
    Last electricity bill I have to hand (10 mths old) has it at just under 13c/kWh(10.1pence) Electricity meter here(UK) is showing 15.16p/kWh

    Expensive Spanish electricity?

    Just for comparison:
    Haven’t seen a French EDF bill for ages but they’re showing 14c/kWh base & 10.6c/kWh on the off peak tariff (when we used to run appliances/charge up storage heaters.

  18. Tim Newman: Good point. Paris is tiny, the Paris Region (I assume they mean Île-de-France) is enormous

    That’s right. AirParif isn’t a typo – the “-if” part indeed refers to the Île-de-France.

  19. bloke (not) in spain

    Wow!
    That “Egloo heats your room without electricity for 10 cents a day” must be the finest example of ‘arts graduate triumphs over the laws of physics’ ever encountered.

  20. Mr Ecks, why bother with the terracotta candle containers. Just use long lasting candles.

    The candle first has to heat them up, wasting energy, then what’s left and not gone into the air, is allowed to radiate out over time. So yes, it will give out heat after the candle has gone out, but it will be a tiny proportion of what the candle gives out in free air.

  21. @Tim,

    I guess you get a lot of radiant heat off an open fire, far more than from a centrally-heated “radiator” (actually I think they should be called convectors).

  22. Mr Ecks,

    I’m glad you’re interested in such products. May I also interest you in chipping your car engine to obtain more horsepower with less fuel? The car companies are in cahoots with Big Oil, they deliberately tune their cars to needlessly burn more fuel than they need. My patent-pending chipping business could literally save you millions.

    You may also like a plug-in device which is guaranteed to save you up to 40% on your electricity bills. For an extra £49.95 (+p&p) I’ll chip it for you to crank it up to 60% efficiency.

    Finally, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter for more information on the air-powered car and the thorium-powered car, as well as tips on a cheap way into the property boom with timeshares, and how to invest in the rare metals market.

  23. Andrew M, do you also stock those devices that harness the unused electricity produced by your car alternator to electrolyse water into hydrogen and oxygen to feed into your engine for free power?

  24. Andrew K,
    Not quite, but I have one that uses the electricity from your phone line to power your kettle. Simply plug it in at night, and in the morning you’ll have a thimble-full of lukewarm water.

  25. The Greens are entirely consistent; they want to wind us back to pre-Industrial Revolution power sources – wind, water, logs, animal dung, donkey wheels and slaves. We should set aside a reservation for them & enclose it with electric fences.

  26. Andrew MK 0:

    Thanks for your double act lads. You are of course physics/engineering graduates who know what will won’t work. I hope so–cos otherwise that might suggest that you know car chipping can’t work based on some bullshit article in which the journo asks the opinion of two schucksperts who say chipping won’t work. If he had paid to have a car chipped and then tested that might have been different.

    Here is the terracota “inventor” himself. It seems he claims only that the room temp will be increased (in a 20m squared room) by 2 to 3 degrees.:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ewxblBOLfI

    As for the idea–see this–it does not appear to be original.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WEGlQ4xBa8

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1l4jg_FJ5Yc

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yac7iZW4q58

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b11dqKJrulk

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvFOCwWBdKk

    Like I said I prefer hi-tech but with scummy greengang govts trying to impose energy poverty on us –this is an idea that might just save somebody’s bacon one snowy day.

  27. ‘But seriously, controls over open fires in urban areas are an obvious thing to have. Even if wood is “renewable” there’s still a real and serious pollution issue here.’

    Habeas corpi . . . show us the bodies.

    There is no threat to life from people burning wood. Your eyes burning doesn’t mean people die.


  28. Haven’t seen a French EDF bill for ages but they’re showing 14c/kWh base & 10.6c/kWh on the off peak tariff (when we used to run appliances/charge up storage heaters.

    Nowadays it’s 15.10c/kWh peak, 10.44c/kWh off peak. Or 13.72c/kWh base, if you choose not to do the peak/off peak thing.

  29. Final Pendantry of 2014
    Habeas (2nd pers sing, pres subj) = you may have
    corpus (3rd decl, neuter, acc, sing) = the body

    show = Monstra
    us = nos
    the bodies = corpora

  30. bloke (not) in spain

    @TimN

    Shall we run that EDF(France) base tariff past the readers again.
    It needs doing.

    13,72 c(€)/kWh.

    10.65 pence

    Think on that, when the winter quarter’s bill arrives

  31. So Much for Subtlety

    Rob – “When even Greens say research is exaggerated you know it is probably total balls.”

    I am not sure that is what they are saying. I think it is more likely they are saying that a wood ban would impede their efforts to take us back to a mediaeval past of subsistence peasants and so therefore the science must be wrong.

  32. bnis

    “I’d love to know where they’re getting their logs from. Andalucian firewood is ruinously expensive.”

    I spent last winter in the mountains near Alcala la Real. Three months of logs cost me €60 including delivery, which is hardly ruinously expensive. The wood seemed to be mainly olive stumps, roots and prunings. Everybody in all the neighbouring villages heated their houses with logs, and on still days a brown haze hung above the rooftops. I noticed the same thing (and log piles beside houses) in Osuna, Priego de Cordoba and parts of Granada.

    “Expensive Spanish electricity?”

    Your comparisons are meaningless without details of the standing charge – and a PPP adjustment. For an Andalucian peasant with a couple of hundred olive trees, and a seasonally variable income, 13c/kwh is very costly – or at least is perceived as such.

    And if you are paying 15.16p/kwh in the UK, I’d suggest you change your supplier asap, unless your standing charge is rock bottom.

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