As winter approaches and an energy crisis rages, Europeans are stockpiling wood and cleaning their chimneys

Peter Engelke, who owns a warehouse close to Tempelhof Airport in Berlin, is installing a new security gate there because he is worried about desperate people stealing his products. The priceless resource in jeopardy is firewood. Engelke’s actions are a reflection of the growing worry felt by Europeans as they prepare for this winter’s energy shortages and potential blackouts. The latest indication of the region’s crucial position as Russia reduces supply in the standoff over the war in Ukraine is the alleged destruction of the Nord Stream gas pipeline.

European Union leaders met in Prague on Friday but were unable to reach consensus on a gas price ceiling due to worries that such a measure may jeopardize regional supplies. Since natural gas and electricity account for up to 70% of heating in Europe and Russian deliveries have been significantly restricted, wood, which is already used by over 40 million people for warmth, has grown in demand. In France, the cost of wood pellets has nearly doubled to 600 euros per ton, and there are indications that people are buying it in a panic. Hungary even went so far as to forbid pellet exports, and Romania put a six-month price cap on firewood. Deliveries of wood stoves might now take months.

Along with worries about shortages, a rise in living costs is being exacerbated by the energy crisis, with euro-zone inflation reaching double digits for the first time ever in September. A growing number of struggling households in the area are forced to choose between heating and other necessities. The managing director of the British wholesale firewood supplier Certainly Wood, Nic Snell, remarked, “It’s back to the old days when people wouldn’t have the whole house heated.” They would use the heat from the stove or open fire while seated around the fire before retiring to bed. This winter, there will be a lot more of that. Gabriel Kakelugnar AB, a producer of high-end tiled stoves that typically cost 86,000 Swedish kronor ($7,700), has seen a surge in demand as a result of the trend. Due to their complex design, which uses numerous channels to store and transport heat, stoves can keep a room warm for 24 hours.

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“People began to invest more in their homes throughout the pandemic. The owner and managing director of the business, which is located less than an hour away from Sweden’s largest nuclear plant, Jesper Svensson, noted that things have now, of course, intensified. Customers now have to wait until March for delivery, up from as little as four weeks a year ago due to a more than fourfold increase in orders. Making every effort to stay warm in the upcoming months is the main concern for many Europeans. As winter draws closer, the concern has grown more urgent because the desperate need for heat may have negative effects on human health and the environment.

Roger Sedin, chief of the air quality unit at the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, issued a warning about inadequate ventilation and attempting to burn damp firewood, saying, “We are concerned that people will just burn all they can get their hands on.” When people burn wood improperly, pollutant levels can reach extremely high levels, according to the author. According to him, particulate matter can lodge deep within the lungs and result in heart attacks, strokes, and asthma, and he said that the danger is especially high in cities. Sedin advised, “You need to consider your neighbors.”

Germany’s association of chimney sweeps is dealing with a deluge of requests to connect both new and ancient burners, and consumers are enquiring about burning horse manure and other strange fuels, demonstrating the lack of knowledge there as well. Hording indications are also present. According to Frederic Coirier, CEO of Poujoulat SA in France, which manufactures wood fuels and chimney flues, some customers have purchased two tons of wood pellets when less than one ton is typically sufficient to heat a home for a year. According to Trond Fjortoft, the founder and CEO of the Norwegian wood supplier Kortreist Ved, “people are thirsty for wood and they are buying more than normal.” “Typically, when the weather turns chilly, someone will suggest that we order some wood. This year, it began in June, at the time that Russia reduced its gas exports.

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The crisis in Berlin brings up frightening memories of the gloom that followed World War II. Residents cut down almost all of the trees in the central Tiergarten park for warmth because fuel was in short supply. Though they no longer go to such extremes, Berliners are generally concerned about staying warm. In order to protect the logs, coal briquettes, and heating oil, Engelke had to stop accepting new clients and install an additional security gate. We are quite concerned as winter approaches, he added.

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