As you well know modern wood heat presents an extraordinary opportunity for Northern New England and New York. Local heat keeps money in local communities, creates jobs in forestry and manufacturing, cuts heating bills, helps keep forests as forests, decreases carbon dioxide emissions over time, and more.

What you may not know is that the Center’s work is about more than just putting boilers in basements in demonstration projects: it’s really about transforming the region’s energy economy. This vision keeps us going when obstacles arise, and it’s why we’re so intent on helping build a sustainable market for modern wood heating systems.

It’s impossible not to notice this season’s low oil prices. In the wood heat world, where the easiest way to promote a fuel switch is (arguably) to emphasize cost savings, this isn’t the terrific news it is for people whose oil bills have dropped. On the other hand, it gives us an opportunity to look at oil and wood cost trends and to highlight some of the other reasons that modern wood heat makes sense.

If you want to branch out in your gift giving this year, consider giving a gift from the forest.

Skilled woodworkers in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York turn out a variety of beautiful, useful, fun and durable products from the region’s forests. Each item is made by a local artist or manufacturer from the renewable resources of the forest. These gifts speak of tradition, creativity, and lasting quality, plus you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that your purchase is supporting the forest economy in our region.

I recently posed this question to friends, and most of them – no surprise – said no. They don’t like the cost or distant sourcing of oil and propane, don’t like smoky old wood stoves, and don’t like the environmental impact of natural gas extraction. Heating often seems like a necessary evil for those of us in cold climates, who feel like we have to choose between “least bad” options – and yet heating systems exist that are actually beneficial to the regional economy, communities and environment.