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wood kilns & pollution

updated mon 30 jun 97


David Hendley on sun 29 jun 97

One of the things that first attracted me to pottery was that I could make
something great out of a common, practically worthless material.

I make my glazes out of ashes (free & worthless) and glass cullet (recycling
my own glass). (I DO use purchased ingredients also). Half of the clay in my
claybody is local - it has never been on a truck or a rail car.

My kiln is heated with scrap wood from a near-by pallet mill. Same idea, I'm
taking a "worthless" material and getting good value from it. I retrieve the
wood before it is burned or simply piled up to rot (the mill does chip a
percentage of the scrap and sell the chips).

About 3/4 of my pots are sold at my shop. They are not shipped or trucked.
My shop is 100 feet from my house, so I walk to work.

In my mind my business is a model of an ecologically sound business. I
planned it that way. Its important to me.

Is my way of life threated because my kiln, which is "on" about 15 hours a
month, smokes??? My woodstove smokes for 15 hours a DAY in the winter (yes,
even in Texas we have a few weeks of winter). Should I switch to propane, a
non-renewable resource that has been proceesed, shipped around the country,
and trucked to my door? Which also pollutes? Should I fire in a grossly
under-insulated electric kiln? The level of insulation in electric kilns
borders on the absurd. Where would my electricity come from? In Texas it
would be genereated with natural gas, another non-renewable, polluting
source. The figure I always hear is that electricity is about 10% efficient
when used in resistance heating. In other words, 90% of the heat value of
the gas that produced the electricity is lost by the time the current is
heating my kiln. Talk about waste and pollution. The difference is that I
don't SEE any pollution, it's all taking place at the electric generating
plant, where they have purchased their "pollution credits".

I think that the threat of interference from the government, in the name of
"air quality" or "pollution control", is very real for wood-firing potters.
I don't think I will be personally affected any time soon because I live
miles from any neighbors, fire so little, and am in a traditionally
"low-regulatory" state. But I think NOW is the time to plan a defense
against such possiabilities. Once one potter is shut down the regulation
will only grow.

I don't have a clue as to how to fight this battle. Any ideas out there?
Don't wait until the regulation has already started!

I hope this will generate some discussion. I appreciate having a forum to VENT!

David Hendley
Maydelle, Texas