Where has the all Good Firewood Gone?
More and more people ask me, "What happened to the firewood supply on Long Island?" There are many factors that lead to the 2008 shortage of quality Long Island firewood, but very simply it is a classic case of supply and demand. With many L.I. homeowners buying wood stoves and fireplace inserts this past year and less trees being made available for firewood, the firewood shortage was inevitable.
These basic facts have contributed to the shortage:
- $140 / barrel oil in June 2008 lead to a sharp increase in wood stove sales
- the economic slow down has caused less land clearing
- homeowners have been keeping downed trees
- November & December 2008 have been colder than 2007
- early 2008 firewood production costs were high due to oil prices
- the "Go Green" philosophy is catching on
- buyers wait too long to purchase their wood
Oil Prices Skyrocketed in the Summer
In June of 2008 oil hit $140 per barrel. The steep increase caused concern among homeowners for the upcoming 2008-2009 Winter heating season. Local wood stove installers were swamped with requests for new wood stoves & fireplace inserts. There's no documented statistics but I would estimate as much as a 25% to 35% increase in Long Island homeowners using wood stoves as supplemental heat.
The 2008 U.S. Economy Falters
There's no secret that the U.S. is currently experiencing a historical economic recession. The slow down started with the housing market and credit crisis trickled down to every aspect of the U.S. economy. Firewood comes from trees that are made available to firewood producers. There has been a severe decrease in quality trees made available due to the decrease in building, land clearing, landscaping and other tree producing projects.
Homeowners Keep Downed Trees
One of the main sources of local Long Island firewood comes from residential tree services. I know many tree services and their reports for the 2008 season were not good. They saw a sharp decline in tree removals and more homeowners were deciding to keep the trees. In the past tree companies would charge to take the trees away and then turn them into firewood. This year more homeowners had the trees blocked out and kept them to split into their own firewood supply.
2008 November & December Temperatures
Although the temperatures for the 2008-2009 season have not been dramatically cold they have been colder than November and December 2007. We have already had 2 snow/ice events and numerous nights below 32 degrees. Last year's warm temperatures may have lulled Long Islanders into thinking this year would be the same, unfortunately it has been much colder and so more firewood has been consumed.
2008 Production Costs Were High
Long Island firewood is produced during the Spring and early Summer (at least it should be). The 2008 production costs this year were high due to the price of oil. Firewood is very heavy and needs to be transported. The trucks and processing equipment use oil products. The high oil prices enticed some firewood producers to continue producing while others saw the production costs too high to risk turning a profit. Some producers decided not to produce or cut back production to avoid taking losses.
We all like to make choices to help the environment. The recent "Go Green" philosophy has been more popular than ever. With the U.S. dependency on foreign oil becoming more fragile, homeowners have looked for viable energy alternatives. Wood heat is an established renewable energy source that has gained more popularity over the past few years. Many homeowners has increased their past firewood consumption, while new consumers are added to the market regularly.
Don't Wait Until the Last Minute
Buying firewood during the Winter leaves the purchaser at risk of securing quality wood at a fair price. Firewood must be seasoned for a long period of time. It is not an on demand product. Once the supply is depleted there are very few options left (unless you buy Kiln Dried firewood). If you wait until the weather is cold you may find their are very few firewood suppliers with quality wood available.
Although no one can predict the future it is safe to say the "Perfect Storm" conditions that created the 2008 Long Island Firewood shortage may form again in the future. As a firewood producer I know that I can only produce so much firewood every year. As a firewood consumer you should be educated about firewood and diligent in securing your supply early in the season. Buying firewood during the Winter always leaves the possibility of encountering shortages, poor quality wood and higher prices. Be sure you deal with someone reputable that will be there every year to help keep you and your family warm.
We're here with quality KILN DRIED firewood all season long at: