Monday, November 04, 2013

Melbourne's air pollution

In 1979 I moved into R's Elwood flat. I paid him board and saved madly. Within a couple of years I had enough for a deposit on a house and I bought our first house in East Malvern all on my own. He later bought a half share.

R's flat had an open fireplace and we used to buy wood from from a wood merchant in Inkerman Road. Before we left the flat, R had a gas heater installed in the fireplace. We no longer polluted the skies with smoke from wood.  By then most other people had switched from heating with an open wood or coal burning fireplace to oil heaters to gas heaters.

I was amused to see smoke rising from this chimney a week or so ago. You just don't see open fires burning anymore. Maybe the owners were planning a 'night in' without children around. As well as not seeing open fires, you do not see smoke like you used to. Imagine every house in this photo sending up smoke from the chimney. The air was often heavily polluted and very unpleasant. Traffic exhaust fumes may be less visible but probably worse for you. If we have advanced little in our progress to a greener Australia, getting rid of wood and coal burning fires along with rubbish being burnt in back yard incinerators and autumn leaves being burnt in gutters has been a significant achievement.


21 comments:

  1. Thank goodness air pollution here in the states has improved since the late seventies. I dream of a day that we can no longer worry about these things. I don't think it's too late.

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    1. We may not see it Keith, but the day will come.

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  2. My previous home in Woop-Woop has a small Koonara-style heater that warms the whole house. When I chucked in a big piece of yellowbox and 4 briquettes, the fire kept burning for about 7 hours. Not being a boy, "gathering" firewood was becoming expensive.

    We have gas central heating in Fkn which goes pretty much 24/7 - first for mother and now for Aunty. With an extra car in the drive there is no room to store wood for the Koonara style heater here, but it's much cheaper to heat just a corner of the house if we are alone. Our neighbour often uses the pot-bellied stove in his shed.

    The air is more pleasant in the burbs without a lot of wood smoke but, as you say, the stuff you can't see is what kills you. [e.g. asbestos on old railway sleepers].

    I often wonder just how much damage our coal fired electricity plants are causing here - not to mention in countries like India where our crappy brown coal is used.

    What are the environmental costs of gas cf electricity production?

    Incinerators and gully-traps? Can't believe what we were doing such a short time ago.

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    1. gas is burned in the production of electricity, so really you are paying for both. A gas heater therefore would be cheaper environmentally.

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    2. forgot the "also". gas is also burned, it isn't always coal...

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    3. FC, I think gas is preferable for electricity production and it can be easily switched on and off to meet demand, unlike coal fired plants. Gully traps? Ah yes, where you used to pour the left over paint and any other fluid to be disposed of.

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    4. Newport Power Station is gas fired and I think there is a new one out west somewhere.

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    5. Everyday I learn something new. So coal or nuclear are not the only options for power generation?
      Hope we needn't resort to fracking, though.

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    6. FC, in the nineties I heard that there is enough gas in Bass Strait to last 100 years. Even if it was a guess by someone, there is no need for fcurkers to frack. Power companies are not getting good returns on their investments in coal generated power because so many people have installed solar panels that generate more than enough power for home usage and sell for a profit back to the grid. I've checked these figures with a few people. We pay a bit of 20c per kilowatt hour for electric. Homes are getting paid 60c an hour for what they are putting back into the grid.

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  3. I agree. Traffic exhaust fumes are worse for the world... petrol is horrible. In order to keep the City pollution-free, I would not allow cars and buses into the centre of town - make them go by tram.

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    1. I agree Hels. I don't why anyone wants to drive in the city.

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    2. We need more Park and Ride facilities. Are you listening Dennis? Dennis...?

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    3. FC, the size of the full carparks on the way to Warragul was astonishing to me.

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  4. There is a house across the road from me that has a wood burning fireplace and a couple further over in the next block. Other areas of Adelaide still have them too, but I expect they will eventually be changed over. Gas and electric fires are cleaner, but more expensive, it's hard to say which is the better option. I'd go with gas if I had that option, one of those heaters designed to look like a real fire. I remember our backyard incinerator, we burned all kinds of rubbish and when they were banned, my dad dug a pit in the corner of the backyard and we buried stuff instead. In that instance I'd say the incinerator was the better idea, but other people would burn things that smelled and smoked very heavily so the pollution was awful and you had to be careful hanging your washing out in case your "delicates" ended up smelling of burning rubber tyres.

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    1. River, if you pay retail price for wood, I doubt it is any cheaper. I remember melted drops of plastic floating around in the air from an incinerator. Car tyers used to get burnt. They were shockers. We had one of those heaters that burnt gas and looked like a log fire. It was expensive to run and most of the heat went up the chimney. There are better ones now, I should think.

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  5. I miss the smell of a wood fire

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    1. Fen, it is a nice smell, as was burning leaves.

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  6. I used to love the smell of a wood fire, until I learned how bad for the environment it was given the increase in population. Rural Maine had some of the worst aire quality in winter in the Northeast US. Here, we have the beachside restaurants cooking skewered seafood on open fires all summer. Even that can make me choke some days, but I can't imagine the smoke is enough to affect total air quality.

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    1. Mitchell, you are teasing us with skewered seafood cooked on open fires. I doubt they would cause much pollution and some things are worth it.

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  7. Mmm, skewered seafood. Chilli lime prawns.....

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    1. River, Mitchell is a bitch and just trying to make us jealous. Take no notice of him.

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