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david hendley on wood burning

updated thu 27 jan 00


Nikom Chimnok on wed 26 jan 00

Right on David,

I think you have a very clear understanding of the situation re fuel
consumption, while the knee-jerk law'n'order phreaks (I'm not above some
name calling, and very far away) do not. In a cone 10 firing, over half the
wood is disposed of exactly the way the EPA would do it: above 1000 C. It
makes more sense to shut down wood-fired house heating, where the wood is
not burnt nearly so cleanly.

Here in the tropics it's even clearer. Trees grow so fast you've got to
whack them back constantly, or they'll take over major metropolitan areas.
Cutting forests has been illegal now for over 10 years (which means you can
only do it if you have big-time political/military connections) but the
potters can't even burn up all the junk wood--cutouts from orchards, broken
boards from torn dorn buildings, scrap from furniture factories, etc. Still
the owners of potteries pat themselves on the backs for their environmental
awareness as they switch to gas kilns. Everybody's spending big bucks to
import ceramic fiber modules from Australia, then frantically trying to fake
natural cone 10 ash glazes at cone 6, rather than just building well
designed wood burners out of local materials and doing it the easy way. Even
here they unquestioningly believe whatever the EPA says. This globalization
phenom has its drawbacks.

Nikom in Thailand
At 14:25 25/1/00 EST, you wrote:
>----------------------------Original message----------------------------
>You haven't convinced me, John.
>Your very detailed rendition of all the things I do to
>cause pollution just reiterates my point: we all, especially
>in the U.S., use up lots of resources and cause pollution.
>I admit it, never denied it. I'm no better or worse: that's
>the point. It's ridiculous to single out one small activity
>for drastic regulation while ignoring bigger problems.
>I would certainly get my hackles up if told my pollution is not
>OK by a government agent about whom I can make similar
>and even more charges.
>Meanwhile, the agency lets Exxon, General Motors, and Texas
>Utilities buy pollution credits to cause more pollution than I
>would with my kiln.
>The point is, a wood kiln is way, way, far down on the list of
>things that cause pollution.
>I also believe in arithmetic.
>A potter firing a kiln 15 days a year does not "add up" to a factory
>with 300 employees working 24 hours a day. In more than a few
>areas of life, size does matter (stop snickering, Tony). Implying that
>every one is the same is absurd. This would be like the new Police
>Chief in Dallas saying that he is going to rid the city of crime and
>directing his officers to arrest jay-walkers all day while ignoring all
>gang activity. According to your logic this would be great, because
>jay-walking is illegal, and "opinions do not change the fact that it
>is law." Remember, "we are all part of the problem", "everyone
>makes a difference", and "we are all guilty".
>Does this make sense:
>Hmm...Let's shut down a kiln that uses as fuel scrap wood
>that would otherwise be set on fire in big piles at the sawmill.
>That way we will still get the pollution effect of burning wood,
>except, since it's burning at a lower temperature, we can figure
>on it sending more particulate matter and gases into the air.
>Then the potter can start using an electric kiln. The electricity
>will be made by burning gas, a non-renewable resource that
>causes pollution when burned. The electricity will loose much
>of its energy being transported over miles of lines and then
>it will be used for electric resistance heating, the least efficient
>method of heating with electricity, in a poorly insulated periodic
>So, I guess, since I'm not an anarchist, I agree with you that we,
>as potters, must abide by laws. We do it all the time, by paying
>our taxes, obeying traffic laws, and not shoplifting at Wal-mart.
>What I'm saying is that the EPA trying to shut down a wood fired
>pottery kiln is DUMB. It is poor prioritizing, a big effort for minuscule
>result, and will simply shift the pollution to another place where
>it is not so noticeable, unless the penalty is death to the potter.
>This has nothing to do with potters or artists being "special" or
>better than folks in other professions; its purely practical.
>I think the difference between my thinking and John's is that
>he is willing to accept whatever the EPA says, agree that potters
>are dirty rotten polluters, and do as they say.
>I say that, unless we volunteer for the death penalty, we all
>cause pollution, but potters are way down below average. I say
>that bothering with regulating a seldom used wood kiln is poor
>use of my tax dollars, and politics, not genuine caring for the
>environment is the motivating factor.
>Just another example of monied powers-that-be getting what
>they want. Exxon and New Mexico Gas will be delighted to have
>the new customers when the wood kiln is shut down, and might
>even make a special contribution for the good work accomplished.
>Meanwhile, I'll continue to do all I can to cause the least harm
>and do the most good for the environment, which includes choosing
>to fire my pottery with scrap wood rather than petroleum. I take full
>responsibility for my actions. I hope someone can come up with
>a low-cost practical means to reduce kiln emissions to make wood
>kilns an even better firing choice.
>Finally, although I am passionate about this matter, I am pretty
>sure that I did not resort to any name calling in my previous post,
>as asserted below.
>David Hendley
>Maydelle, Texas