The sickness of polluting the suburbs continues

15 02 2014

What kind of mental midget thinks that wood burning is a good idea, when this is the reality of burning wood.

This kind of mental midget who manufactures wood burners and wants to condemn the general public to the smoke they spew out?

But that’s an old wood burner you’d say and why don’t they swap it out for a new one? Well becasue new ones stink to high shit as well:

It’s time to move beyond wood burning. It is not only time to ban wood burning. It is time to criminalise it.

A conversation with woodburner manufacturers

16 12 2013

This is an interesting exchange with some woodburner manufacturers. It’s pretty clear that not only are they wilfully ignorant of the harm that wood smoke does, they are clearly completely deluded.

Back in April I must have been annoyed with the dubious claims (let’s not quite call them lies, even if lies they be) on a certain NZ woodstove manufacturer’s website – “Heat your entire home with one of our wood burners. Carbon neutral and sustainable, wood is the cheapest form of home heating” they claim (is there a Trade Practices Act in New Zealand I wonder) Carbon neutral, really? Conveniently ignoring the methane and soot. Cheapest? Really? It depends on the local price of wood and whether you knick it from a forest or not, and whether you include the external costs to the community (estimated at $2000 a year per burner in Sydney, NSW, and the figures for NZ are below,  but let’s like the industry, conveniently ignore those substantial externalised costs, shall we?). And of course on the website hardly a mention of emissions, nor of the harm that wood smoke does. Not one mention of the HAPINZ study with the estimated death rates attributable to wood smoke. Such an inconvenient truth all those diseases that wood smoke causes hey?

They, for some of their stoves, claim 0.7 g/Kg emission rating (I’ll leave it as an aside, but that is still a whole lot of pollution even if they could get their stoves that low).

So I sent an initial enquiry on their website, but I can’t remember what it was exactly.

Here’s the first reply  from April 2nd: (I’ll put their replies in a nice bullshit brown colour)

Subject: Re: Brand X Website Enquiry

Matthew, no need for that as our fires meet the tough Christchurch regulations(1g/kg)which are stricter than all but the tiny pockets of Central Otago (.7/kg)such as Arrowtown, Cromwell etc. The national level is 1.5g/kg everywhere else apart from Hastings City and Nelson City where they are the same 1g/kg as Christchurch . If you wish to know the exact emissions level of each wood fire we produce go onto our website (address below) and on the home page we have a resources tab. Hit this tab and go to installation instructions. This document on page  3 has all the certification numbers and emissions level.

 Richard X

My replies will be in green.

Do you provide real world figures ? The study at  suggests that laboratory tests are largely meaningless and the real rates for supposed 1.5 g/kg fires can be around 13 or 15 g/kg, which is also backed up by this study here: and the supposedly clean fires have only reduced not eliminated the problems in Arrowtown, Cromwell etc.

So I am inclined to think the whole industry is based on bullshitting the customers (and the poor bastards who live next door to your customers

And I don’t know why you’d claim that 1g/kg are “tough regulations” at all. It should be more like 0.05g/kg and the heaters should actually be proven to work at that level in the real world with a typical idiot mug punter using it (as the real world is full of them).


Italics for emphasis are mine.
On 2/04/2013 4:14 p.m., Richard X wrote:
Matthew we make some of the cleanest fires in NZ which well and truly pass the prescribed emissions and efficiency tests BUT all that goes out the  window when an end user puts wet wood or a plastic milk bottle or whatever in the fire. We can hardly be responsible for users who couldn`t care less about emissions.  If people are serious about emissions, as you obviously are, then the easiest way to reduce them is to regulate the fuel so people use only
clean dry firewood and use the fire as we instruct. If that was the case there would be a huge difference to air quality. The standard is set by government, not the manufacturers and is a somewhat artificial but nevertheless empirical test. We manufacture fires that comply with those test standards – otherwise we couldn`t sell woodburners so to call the manufacturers bullshitters is a bit harsh don`t you think. I called the Christchurch standards (1g/kg) tough, not because we can`t meet them easily as we do but because these levels are substantially below the national standard of 1.5g/kg. In fact we manufacture and sell fires below the even tougher .7 standard of those little pockets within Central Otago . These fires such as our XXXX for example are sold nation wide so we at XXXX are actually manufacturing and selling fires that are well below the required standard of most regions. As you said in your last sentence it is the “mug punters” that upset the effort we put in to make a clean fire.

 Richard X
No I think it is fair to call woodburner manufacturers bullshitters. There is a huge amount of misleading advertising and greenwash in the industry. I think there is a lot of greenwash on your website too (burning wood is not carbon neutral when you consider the methane or a few other factors, nor is the price guide taking into account the efficiency of heatpumps (my 8.2 kilowatt heatpump costs 2.4KWh)so you should really divide the 15 or 20 c/kw/h by 3 or 4 to get the real figure). I don’t believe that your models match the advertised rates in the real world (and yes I agree that a lot of that is beyond your control, but it will always be beyond your control, so that is the real world, and we can’t discount how your products are actually used.)

Yes Arrowtown had a better 2012 than 2011, but it still needs to get cleaner still, and I don’t think it is going to get there with products as clean as your cleanest ones.

Also the 50ug of PM10 /m3  standard needs tightening, because 50 ug is still too high and causes too many detrimental health effects. In 2007 the Australian standards comittee looking at it recommending halving it
to 25ug/m3 and it got vetoed by the AHHA (which is a HUGE conflict of interest)

As someone who had to move away from a supposedly clean heater (not one of yours) that still polluted me out of my home I am very sensitive, not to smoke, but to greenwash. When weighing up the evidence I really can’t see that there is any technology apart from maybe very expensive scrubbers that could make it that wood burners aren’t going to continue be a pain in the arse for our whole society. I think that going for “clean” burners that aren’t really that clean is wasting time. We’re going to have to go to complete prohibition as the failure of them in the central Otago towns become all the more apparent. Christchurch is going to have another awful winter of many exceedances. I got offered a well paid job at Airways. Any guess why I took a lower paying job in a cleaner city?


Keep in mind this from HAPINZ 2012 while reading Richard’s next reply. This is the reality – “Emissions from domestic fires are on average 2.5 times greater than emissions from motor vehicle sources nationally. However, in most South Island and central North Island locations, impacts from domestic fires are well in excess of the 2.5 average, with values from domestic fires ranging from 3.8 times greater than for motor vehicles in Christchurch City to 16 in Central Otago District (with many TLAs around 10).” Who’s conveniently forgetting” here Richard? Me or you?Also what is the actual uptime for electricity supply in New Zealand? >99%?

It is apparent you feel very strongly on the matter and I don`t think I am likely to change your opinion. I note you link wood fires to Christchurch air quality conveniently forgetting dust from demolition, dust in the air, vehicle emissions etc etc (it is as I am sure you know a particulate measurement measuring particles of PM10 and under and does not identify the origin of those particles). The carbon exchange you mention and we refer to is strictly related to
carbon balance. Would you outlaw farting as I understand most intestinal gas consists of methane which you mention as being released when operating a fire. I`m sure there is much more methane released by humans and animals than wood fires. What are you going to do about the explosion of the human population in the world which is a significant contributor to methane release as is decomposition of plant material, a natural process of a living planet? You seem to have a somewhat selective perspective but fortunately there is room for different opinions in our society. Don`t forget the good and the pleasure our products provide. We keep people out of the health system. How would you stay warm, cook your food and provide light when the power goes off. Many people were very grateful for our appliances when power supply failed.

Richard X

Not much construction dust or vehicle emissions in Alexandra, Arrowtown, Clyde or Cronwell. But typical of the pro-burner groups always wanting to blame others and they are mighty prone to stupid arguments – your farting argument- check.

“Don`t forget the good and the pleasure our products provide.” and don’t you forget the bad and the misery they also provide.

Matthew (a victim of wood smoke pollution)

PS this reply of yours which I consider not very worthwhile sees me making your company next on my Greenwash targets

Strangely he seems quite ok with him being able to dictate where I live. Well why can’t I live wherever the fuck I want? Why should his ilk dictate to me where I can live or not? How is that not a sign of psychopathy?

Again notice it is also not the smoke causing the problems, it’s the lack of wind. Always someone to blame other than the real source of the pollution – burning of solid fuels in residential areas.

And he believes smoke is not harmful??? A class 1 carcinogen – proven cancer causing to humans is not harmful?? That is wilful ignorance. Being that stupid or that deep in denial should be a criminal offence.

Again, he wants me to solve the world’s problem, first it was overpopulation, and now it is homes that have owners who can’t seem to take responsibility for their own wellbeing. Hey buddy I am trying to save the world from a real hazard to health and wealth. I’m educating people about the harm that wood fires are doing. As for pushing for regulated dry wood for woodburners, hilarious. Regulated dry wood still burns too dirty in even the supposedly clean stoves. And as for vehicle testing and cheaper electricity I’d support both, but I won’t fall into his little strawman trap.

And don’t I just love “As I said look at the BIG picture – cars, humans and animals, life processes all contribute more.” I am looking at BIG picture and there is no place for dirty fuels in residential areas. If my focus was as narrow as selling woodburning stoves I might be as tunnel visioned as you Richard, but I’ve read and understood everything from the chemistry, to the epidemiology, to the economic arguments, to the monitoring data, to the policy documents to the greewash that your industry puts out. A ban on wood burning would be economic, hugely beneficial, critically urgent, achievable and highly desirable.

Matthew if you have been to Central you will know that it is a dusty dry environment and just as smoke lies sometimes on those still days so do fumes from vehicle exhausts and dust so not all wood fire created particles by any means.

Why don`t you push warmer homes by insulation incentives, regulated dry fuel for woodburners, vehicle emissions checks with WOFs, cheaper electricity etc.etc

I believe that our products create more good than harm – only a very small  minority of the population are negatively affected by smoke which by itself is not harmful – the small particles suspended within it CAN be to that small percentage of the population susceptible to brochial problems but cold homes and damp atmospheres can do them even more damage.

As I said look at the BIG picture – cars, humans and animals, life processes all contribute more.

As for yourself it seems like a windy environment is the best living environment for you as the wind blows away the many particles in the air that could cause your discomfort so Wellington, or any of our West Coastal areas is obviously best.

Richard X

I think I got a bit upset with him.

Richard, Absolute hornwsaggle. 95% plus of Central Otago problems are caused by woodsmoke.

Smoke is not harmful??????? Geez are you really ignorant of that? 1200 NZ premature deaths a year. 120 in Ch’church.

Luekaemia is caused by benzene. More benzene in CH’church is caused by wood burners than by vehicle emissions. Then there’s stroke, cardiac arrest, lung cancer, throat cancer, mouth cancers, even breast cancers. Then there is emphysema, bronchial stuff, asthma. There’s even studies out there showing it makes kids thicker by 5 IQ points. Mutagentic, Teratogenic, Carcinogenic, know what those words mean?

You really are lying to yourself, aren’t you?

And those 0.7g/kg burners haven’t fixed the problem in those Otago towns and I’m going to be screaming it from the roof tops.

Only wood burner prohibition is going to work.

I tried to live in Raumati South thinking wind would be good for me. I lasted 6 months. Thank goodness I was only renting. Then when the Wellington RC monitored Raumati South (after whinging from others rather than me, as I had already decided to move away from it) guess what? it was polluted with too many exceedences over the 50ug/m3 limit.

I don’t live in Wellington because if I lived in the suburbs, if I did find a place to live, and someone installed one of your products next door I’d have to sell up and move again. People need protection from them. They don’t perform as advertised. They are misadvertised and missold. They are not fit for purpose. That’s the problem with greenwash. People are misled into bad decisions. I and everybody else should be able to live wherever they want and can afford without having to worry about being smoked out of their homes.


That was last April, and  today, 8 month slater, I got this. From another Richard at the same company. I’ll make his blue because it kind came out of the blue. I’ve used some italics for the No Shit Sherlock moments:

Hello Mathew,

Richard X is no longer is a customer service position in our company and the new staff member came across your conversation and showed it to me. While you both actually made valid claims, the reality is somewhere in the middle. There is a need for wood burners as a low cost and effective energy source for heating but there is also a need to keep improving the emissions.

There is no denying that wood burners have been terrible emission producers in the past, but there is also no denying that with stricter emission regulations, the pollution levels are on a downwards trend. These things take time and can’t be solved overnight. The most effective way of reducing the emissions is to have everyone on the same page. If the regulatory authorities are reducing emission levels at a rate at which manufacturers can sustainably adjust to, the downward trend continues. Perhaps not at an extreme rate that you would like, but it avoids the negative reaction from the manufacturers like in Australia where any progress gets blocked.

My main reason to email you was to inform you of the new ECAN Ultra Low Emission Burner. Basically they have developed a new test which is 0.5g/kg of particle emissions but this includes start up, un-seasoned wet wood and hard wood. The idea is to lower the emissions from 1g to .5g but to also represent a more realistic test which reflects real world results. We have a fire currently in the lab right now going through the testing.

I suspect what will happen is that if there are some appliances which pass this regulation, then it will most likely be adopted by other local authorities and become the national benchmark.

It’s very early days yet, but most manufacturers are starting work on this new product.

My point is to not make hasty generalizations about the industry and especially our company, I am personally dedicated to reducing the emissions of our fires. Our most popular fire in the last 3 years has been our XXXX YYYYY which has an emission rating of 0.37g/kg, making it one of the cleanest on the market, but our ultimate goal would be to have all our fires pass the ULEB requirement and we have dedicated significant resources into developing technology in order to do so.

Feel free to contact me if you would like any clarification.

Richard Y

Funnily enough we have the same aim. I too am dedicated to reducing the emissions from his products, but unlike him, I deal with reality, so I just want the stupid dirty things banned. 0.37g/kg laboratory testing of course is probably 10g/kg real life, and a natural gas burning heater  is about 0.01g/kg. So really wood is about 1,000 times dirtier than burning natural gas, and gas is still dirtier than electricity. 98% of electricity on the South Island is hydro generated too. I think it is completely morally bankrupt to burn wood in any town on the South Island, except probably the wee-est of them (and even then in winter Ranfurly or Tuatapere, two places I’ve stayed in in winter can be unpleasant)

Anyway here is my reply:

You actually believe the shit you just wrote? I don’t.

The problem can be solved overnight. And your fires’ emissions can be got down to zero. All you have to do is not light them and legislate them out of existence.

Your industry has made promises before and has absolutely failed to deliver. You’ve had years to work on cleaner products. Your industry is a total failure, and are total shysters. Your real goal is to pull the wool over people’s eyes and to waste more time, delaying the inevitable, which is a total ban on solid fuel burning in residential neighborhoods.

I see the “ultra-clean” burners mandated in central Otago have completely failed to live up to promises. Real world emissions will continue to be higher than you measure in the laboratory, because education on how to use a burner to minimise the emissions has failed every time it has been tried. The education campaigns are all wrong. Lesson number 1 should always be to not to use wood. It is still a complete myth that wood can be burnt cleanly. It can’t. And even if your stoves did achieve 0.37g in the real world (don’t make me laugh) it is still two orders of magnitude worse than what is needed.

The only emissions abatement project that has worked in the real world is where wood burning stoves have been changed out for non-wood burning products.

Again your industry will fail to deliver better air, and still people will dire prematurely, there will still be neighborhood fights caused by wood smoke and people will still be forced out of their homes.

Give up, and get an honest job. Your industry is a joke.

PM2.5s cause harm at less than 5 micrograms per cubic metre. One wood burner in a neighborhood can easily exceed that under regular and common conditions. Why does your industry fail to recognise the not very high intellectual hurdle linking stove emissions and ambient air quality? Please support legislation that will actually work to protect air quality and that is prohibition.


The woodstove manufacturing industry really is staffed by idiots who seem to be in complete denial about the harm that they are actively inflicting onto the community. The HAPINZ report put the economic cost on the community of each wood burner in New Zealand (including all the ones on farms and remote rural properties) at $2.38 billion and $0.93 billion on motor vehicles (2006 dollars).

HAPINZ 2012 says: The total social costs associated with anthropogenic air pollution in New Zealand are estimated to be $4.28 billion per year or $1,061 per person, with the following contributions attributed to each source:

 - 56 per cent due to domestic fires
 - 22 per cent due to motor vehicles
 - 10 per cent due to industry
 - 12 per cent due to open burning.
Whilst banning motor vehicles or shutting down industry would be economically devastating, the other two pollution sources on the list are eminently disposable. There are clean and arguably cheaper replacements for wood burners (capex of heatpumps is relatively expensive, but opex is cheap – that’s called an investment) and most open burning is completely unnecessary (I get by composting, mulching and chipping, and I can’t see why others shouldn’t be expected to do the same) It means the country could save $2.9 billion dollars annually by simply banning wood burning and open burning. And it would also save hundreds, if not thousands of lives.
The real tragedy here is that that is not government policy already, and why isn’t it government policy already? Because those in power have listened to the industry and not to me. That was clearly a tragic error of judgement. The woodburner manufacturing  industry participants are clearly demented.

Another reason to ban rural burnoffs

31 10 2013

Not only do antisocial dickheads continue to harm their neighbours with nuisance smoke from unnecessary rural burnoffs, but there’s a chance they’ll put your home and your family in harm’s way: like what happened in Te Ranga, Bay of Plenty yesreday.

Te Puke fire chief Glenn Williams said, “It was another reminder to rural residents to take extreme care when burning rubbish, This is the third one in less than a couple of weeks where people have been burning rubbish and it’s spread to shelter belts.”

My definition of extreme care would preclude putting a match to rubbish. In fact that is something only a stupid, antisocial dickhead would do. We really do need to get through to the stupid people.

Rollback the tide

18 10 2013


Air pollution declared a class 1 carcinogen by the WHO

18 10 2013

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has declared outdoor air pollution as Carcinogenic to Humans (Group 1).

From it:

The IARC evaluation showed an increasing risk of lung cancer with increasing levels of exposure to particulate matter and air pollution. Although the composition of air pollution and levels of exposure can vary dramatically between locations, the conclusions of the Working Group apply to all regions of the world.
A major environmental health problem
Air pollution is already known to increase risks for a wide range of diseases, such as respiratory and heart diseases. Studies indicate that in recent years exposure levels have increased significantly in some parts of the world, particularly in rapidly industrializing countries with large populations. The most recent data indicate that in 2010, 223 000 deaths from lung cancer worldwide resulted from air pollution.
Other Group 1 carcinogens include:
Formaldehyde, benzene, cadmium compounds, engine exhausts, diesels, tobacco smoke, gamma radiation, plutonium, etc, etc, etc.
Most outdoor air pollution’s particulate matter in New Zealand is from the domestic burning of wood. If you want to make New Zealand a safer place to live with less environmental exposure to carcinogens, so you are less likely to die of cancer, then don’t burn wood. I want to live in the cleanest, least cancer causing environment myself, so I would kindly ask for the complete prohibition on wood burning. There were 3.2 premature deaths attributable to air pollution worldwide in 2010. A large chunk of them were preventable if we clean up our act.

The small engine menace and what we can do about it

12 10 2013

This is a cross post with my other blog – Wellington Regional Cycleways.

The ideas in this post have been kicking around in my brain for a while, but the thing that is spurring me into action is this post at Crikey’s Urbanist Blog by Alan Davies “Can scooters make our cities work better?” That post talks about the Dutch experience of allowing light mopeds onto cycle paths and what Alan is calling Powered 2 Wheelers (P2W), which includes electrically and petrol assisted bikes and scooters.

At their lower speed end P2Ws are e-Bikes, or electrically assisted bicycles, as I’ve been riding for the last 4 years, and these tend to have the same characteristics as bicycles and happily coexist with other cyclists on cycle infrastructure.

At their higher speed end P2Ws are traditional mopeds and motorcycles which belong on the road with the cars and trucks.

And in the middle there is a plethora of products where it is not obvious where they belong. They don’t belong on cycle paths and they don’t belong on roads, as they are too slow to keep up with highway speeds. These include petrol driven motorcycles, petrol driven kick-scooters and petrol driven skateboards, electrically powered scooters (ie moped form, rather than kick-scooters) and electric motorcycles.

Preventing these becoming widespread is important

Preventing these becoming widespread is important

Why they don’t belong on cycle paths and shared paths is three things: speed, noise and fumes. Electric bicycles can go fast, but in NZ where they are limited to 250W there are plenty of normal bicyclists who ride faster than e-bikes. Fast bicycles have skinny tyres and fit, skinny riders. There are no fumes and only a slight motor hum from electric bicycles. The hum is generally so low it is easy to sneak up on ducks and pukekos without scaring them.

Conversely all those petrol-driven P2Ws just don’t belong on cycle and shared paths. The noise is annoying. It is unmuffled and high-pitched and in an environment where the other users are quiet, they piss with everyone else’s tranquility. Plus 2-stroke emissions are absolutely foul-smelling and foul-tasting, but more on that later. And whilst they may be too quick for cycle paths and shared paths with pedestrians they are generally too slow for general road traffic.  Vehicles that go 50 or 60km/hr don’t belong where people are walking and doing 15 or 30km/hr on a bike, and they don’t belong in 80 or 100 km/hr zones either. They need kind of a middle speed infrastructure. Some cities, such as Kuala Lumpur have got special scooter infrastructure where scooter lanes parallel the motorways. But there scooters are much more in use. I think for Australasian conditions building another parallel infrastructure would be be a waste of money and space, considering building the slow speed infrastructure (ie bicycle lanes) is really just in its infancy.

Instead the middle speed P2Ws should be discouraged from sale. The main reason to discourage their use and hence not need infrastructure for them is air quality. Cities that do have large moped, scooter and tuk-tuk use have very bad air quality. They have very bad air quality because of the emissions from 2-stroke engines. In Bangkok I suffered black snot and nose bleeds and after a few days a raspy cough.

I’ve noticed an uptake in 2-stoke scooters in Wellington and Palmerston North, the places where I hang out the most. When I am a pedestrian or cyclist I hate having a 2-stroke motorcycle or moped go past. I hear them, and yes the sound is annoying (very annoying to me, but some people claim to like it, so to each their own) but then I know I am going to be tasting the smoke, and it’s not only smoke, but a suspension of unburnt oil and petrol. The number and amount of carcinogens I’ll be unwillingly ingesting is quite high.

I do find normal motorcycles annoying as well. Trail bikes, because they’re two-strokes, but also the Harley style. With Harleys it is only the great bloody ruckus that comes out of them, but their engines seem to be cleaner (hint they’re not 2 strokes).

When on occasions 2-stroke engines are encountered on cycle paths they are definitely not welcome. I have been known to be belligerent and block the path to mopeds, telling them to “fuck off of the bike path”. There are a number of petrol powered kick scooters, petrol assisted bicycles out there that are getting used on bike paths, and they do not belong.

So that’s my opinion. If it is quiet, clean and slow enough to be on a bike path then good, and if it’s fast enough to be at highway speeds then good, go on the road. If it is in the middle then it’s no good.

Of course the vehicle emissions of highway users need to be regulated to meet air quality goals too. Diesels need to get cleaner, and 2-strokes need to get banned.

There goes the neighborhood

There goes the neighborhood

Why 2-stroke engines should be banned.

2-stroke engines are notoriously filthy. This is taken from How Stuff Works.

  • Two-stroke engines produce a lot of pollution — so much, in fact, that it is likely that you won’t see them around too much longer. The pollution comes from two sources. The first is the combustion of the oil. The oil makes all two-stroke engines smoky to some extent, and a badly worn two-stroke engine can emit huge clouds of oily smoke. The second reason is less obvious: Each time a new charge of air/fuel is loaded into the combustion chamber, part of it leaks out through the exhaust port. That’s why you see a sheen of oil around any two-stroke boat motor. The leaking hydrocarbons from the fresh fuel combined with the leaking oil is a real mess for the environment.

2-strokeSo what is in the emissions of 2-strokes:

  • unburnt hydrocarbons (HC) – about 30% of the fuel/oil mixture comes out of the exhaust unburnt, the petrol itself being a carcinogen, but also the other nasties found in petrol including benzene, which causes leukaemias
  • Carbon Monoxide  (CO)
  • Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), which react with some of the unburnt hydrocarbons forming ozone (O3)

The volume of pollution is surprisingly quite high. Despite getting way better fuel economy than a car or a gas-guzzling SUV, scooters and motorcycles can pollute 90 times as much as a SUV.  (Think MotorCycles and Scooters are Great for the Environment? Wrong! , Motorcycles, scooters big polluters   , Motorcycles and emissions the surprising facts.)

Hypocrisy is a moped rider with a face mask

Hypocrisy is a moped rider with a face mask

What needs banning

To prevent their uptake and thereby protecting urban air quality I think all 2-stroke engines for transport vehicles should be banned. For petrol driven mopeds 4-stroke technology is cleaner. For dirt bikes and trail bikes (which probably should be controlled anyway and limited in sale to people who have the private land to ride them without annoying the neighbours. as illegal motorcycle riding is a problem in many places) again there are 4 stroke engines. For petrol assisted bicycles there are e-bikes. For petrol assisted skateboards and kick-scooters there are electric versions.

What about other uses of 2-strokes.

Many inland waterways regulation ban 2-stroke engines because of pollution concerns in freshwater. 4-stroke engines are a viable alternative.

For garden and power tools, such as lawn mowers then 4-strokes are viable alternatives, although lithium ion technology has grown up and is practical for many uses.

Firstly on lawn mowers. Choice Australia will no longer recommend 2-stroke lawnmowers because of the pollution and says “A four-stroke motor typically emits half the carbon monoxide and one-tenth the hydrocarbons that a two-stroke produces.” There is no need to sell 2-stroke lawn mowers at all.

Personally I maintain over an acre of gardens and have been progressively spending my pocket money on a certain brand of 18V Lithium Ion power tools. Ryobi, Makita, Bosch and Hitachi are some brands that have such systems of interchangeable batteries and tools.

Depending on the system there are 18V and 36V batteries of sizes generally in the 1.5 to 4 Amp hour range, and then there are power tools and gardening tools available. Makita does make a small bicycle that can use its batteries, but that is an exception. E-bike batteries tend to need to be a bit gruntier than these kinds of batteries.

I’ve been replacing some of my wood working tools and some of my garden tools with one of the systems. I had a petrol Line Trimmer/Whipper Snipper which was noisy and smelly and I have replaced it with an 18V line trimmer. It is so much quieter, not smelly, and also lighter to use. My wife couldn’t use the petrol one, and I couldn’t use it for too long without feeling tired, but the electric one is light and easy. I also replaced my hedge trimmer (ok I cut through the cord), and got  a reciprocating saw which is great for pruning, and for me has replaced a chainsaw. I also got a blower vac. I gave away another battery blower which had a lead acid battery which was heavy and had a 10 minute battery life. The new one with lithium ion batteries goes for half an hour. I find with 3 batteries I can have a session in the garden swapping them between the tools and recharging them as needed and I never have run out of battery power. The batteries charge in less than 90 minutes.


There are some tools I’ll never use outside my workshop, such as a mitre saw, so there are some tools where it still makes sense to buy with an electric cord, but I think of all the tools I have used in the garden there is nothing I would ever buy a petrol model of again (and certainly not a two-stroke). There is a chainsaw that Ryobi sells in Australia for it’s 18V ONE+ batteries, but it isn’t sold in New Zealand (slightly different safety laws I think). I do wish that the battery design was standardised between the manufacturers to give more choice amongst the tools. (Imagine how annoying it’d be if there weren’t standard AAA, AA, C, D and 9V battery sizes). I also do wish that there was a household vacuum cleaner that used the batteries as I could vacuum the whole house on one charge easily, and it’d get rid of the hassle of the cord.

Of all the power garden tools only perhaps chainsaws and lawnmowers still might be a legitimate use of a petrol engine. Then for light chainsawing battery chainsaws will be ok. (and if you want to whinge about cutting up the firewood, wood burners should be banned due to pollution concerns anyway). Chainsaws might be the one legitimate use of a 2-stroke engine, as they need to be wielded at many different angles, which 4-strokes aren’t really designed to do. Blower vacs (or lazy man’s brooms) definitely should be things other than 2-strokes. As I said my Li-Ion one works brilliantly.

Lawn-mowers as I have said above need not be 2-strokes, and going on my experience of the rest of my Li-Ion battery tools, when my 4-stroke one finally gives up (or I get sick of the noise and the fumes, 4-strokes pollute as well) then I am going to look at replacing it with a Li-Ion battery one. Then my 1 acre garden is going to have zero petrol inputs at all.

Apart from some very small niche markets, it is very feasible and very desirable to prohibit the sale (and soon after the use) of 2-stroke engines entirely. Prevention is the best cure, and good policy would be to make sure there isn’t a break out of 2-stroke engine sales that will reduce urban air quality and ruin cycle path amenity for the rest of us who don’t make such bad decisions.

Make a submission on wood heater standards

28 09 2013

If you live in Australia or New Zealand then before the 7th of October 2013 (next week) you can make a submission on the AS/NZS4012 and AS/NZS4013 wood burner standards – (Link to Standards Australia – public submissions page).

For some food for thought here’s mine :

Submission on the AS-NZS4013 standard

Speak up for your right not to breathe carcinogenic wood smoke pollution.


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