What would you do if you couldn’t heat your home this winter? Unfortunately, that’s a reality many Americans may face.
Electricity costs are soaring, and we’re all feeling it.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, August electricity bills jumped the most since 1981, gaining 15.8% from the same period a year ago.
Total energy costs currently stand about 24% above August 2021 levels.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that 20 million US homes are behind on their electricity bills.
It’s not just higher prices that are of concern. Greater demand due to a hot, hot summer in most of the US has put a strain on our grid.
The question is HOW bad could this get for American households?
While we can’t predict the future, we can look to Europe for clues on how bad it could get – and on how to prepare for a full-blown energy crisis.
As of press time, Europe is in trouble. Big trouble.
The combination of the ongoing energy crisis and the war in Ukraine has resulted in soaring energy prices that the average citizen cannot afford.
As a result, people have turned to firewood.
The problem is, the demand has sent firewood prices soaring…and supply is scarce.
It’d be easy to dismiss this as a problem happening “over there” and “never here,” but that isn’t the case.
Far from it, friends.
We’re a stone’s throw away from finding ourselves in the same situation as Europe. And the time to prepare is NOW.
Keep reading to see what led Europe to this point, their current firewood situation, and how you can prepare for winter weather without heat.
Europe’s Energy Crisis
At press time, Europe is facing an extreme energy crisis with electricity prices 1,000% higher than normal levels.
The war in Ukraine is only part of the problem. Well before the Russian invasion, an energy crisis was brewing in Europe due to ongoing supply constraints, the push for renewable energy, lack of coal, and rising energy demands.
The invasion only exacerbated the problem, as countries issued a ban on imports of Russian energy supplies, including natural gas.
In early September, Russia indefinitely shut off the Nord Stream 1 pipeline –Europe’s main pipeline transporting natural gas between Russia and Europe via Germany. In addition, Russia has completely cut off supplies to Denmark, Bulgaria, Finland, the Netherlands, and Poland.
At press time, it’s been reported both Nord Stream 1 and 2 are leaking, which could compound Europe’s energy problems.
In Europe, natural gas is used to heat homes and generate electricity. Without as much supply coming from Russia as before, natural gas prices have reached extraordinary levels, affecting the cost of electricity.
Business Insider reports, “The surge in natural gas has driven electricity prices to record highs, piling the pressure on consumers and businesses across the EU. German baseload power, the benchmark European electricity price, is trading more than 1,400% above its average in the 2010s.”
Europeans are not only concerned about the cost of heating a home during a frigid winter, but they’re also scrambling to find alternatives…like firewood.
The Price of Firewood Is Soaring…and Supply Is Scarce
With the inability to afford soaring energy prices, many Europeans are turning to other sources of heat – primarily firewood for use in fireplaces and wood stoves.
Heating furnaces and wood stoves are selling out across Europe as people scramble to prepare.
The problem is that, like natural gas, the demand is causing the prices to rise to extreme rates…and shortages.
In France, the price of firewood has risen an average of 10% compared to June.
In Bulgaria, according to Euractiv, “Around half of the households use firewood in winter because it is the cheapest and most accessible fuel, one cubic metre of firewood has risen from €40-50 in 2021 to around €100-150, depending on the region.”
In Poland, wood prices are already almost 100% higher than a year ago.
This summer, Germany’s Federal Firewood Association said the market was all out of wood.
The high demand has led to many Europeans being placed on a waitlist of 3- 5 months, with experts believing not all orders will be fulfilled.
In an effort to ensure there is enough firewood to go around, some areas in Europe are placing purchasing limits on the amount of wood households can buy. Other areas, like Poland, are telling citizens to gather their own firewood from the forests.
Things Here Are a Bit Better…But Not by Much
America’s brewing energy crisis is probably going to get worse before it gets better. And the sad truth is, many Americans will not be able to afford the high prices headed their way this winter.
In fact, many families currently cannot afford their energy bills.
In August, the National Energy Assistance Directors Association released data showing more than 20 million families are behind on their utility bills. “U.S. families have about $16 billion in utility debt, up from $8.1 billion at the end of 2019. The average amount owed rose from about $403 to $792.”
It’s not just costs that are rising, but also demand. As the population grows, so does our need for energy. We’ve already seen evidence of this with rolling blackouts happening in California and Texas.
As Bernard McNamee, a Republican former member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, says, “The crisis now is much worse than it was in the 70s. Everyone is looking around, and no one seems to know what to do.”
To say McNamee’s statement is unsettling is an understatement.
The truth is, if we don’t figure a way out of our own energy crisis, we may just find ourselves foraging for our own firewood – sooner rather than later.
[Related Read: The Global Energy Crisis Is Personal]
Tips for Cutting and Storing Firewood
Whether you have a wood-burning fireplace or not, it is wise to stock up on firewood in the event America experiences troubles like Europe. Here’s what you need to know.
- Have the right supplies. Cutting firewood is not an easy task. In addition to the strength required, you also need several tools and gear to make the process run smoothly. You’ll need a chainsaw, safety gear (long clothing, work gloves, and safety goggles), first aid supplies, a log splitter, and an axe.
- Check the legality. If trees are on your property, you should be allowed to cut them down (unless you have a strict HOA). However, if you want to cut firewood from a nearby national forest, you will need a permit. The National Forest Service also has specific guidelines for where you are allowed to cut.
- Start sooner rather than later. Firewood generally needs to be seasoned for 6 months, which allows plenty of time for all the sap to dry up. If you try to burn unseasoned wood, it won’t work well and will produce too much smoke.
- Pay attention to the length. It’s much easier to cut your pieces of firewood according to the length you need, such as the appropriate size to fit in your fireplace or wood stove, than to have to go back and re-cut the wood later.
- Store it correctly. The firewood needs to be stored on top of a wooden rack in a dry area of your home or property. If not stored properly, it will rot.
- Keep it out of sight. Concealing a giant woodpile isn’t exactly easy – or feasible. If you can, store your wood somewhere it’s not out in the open for all to see.
Tips for Preparing for a Winter without Heat
Whether you lose power for an extended period of time, your heat gets cut off, or you have to cut back due to financial constraints, there are some steps you can take to stay warm during the winter.
- Winterize your home. Preparing now and winterizing your home will make a big difference during the coldest days. Look for ways to protect your home from harsh winter weather, such as investing in weatherstripping, insulation, and energy-efficient doors and windows.
- Invest in a generator. A generator acts as a backup power source should you lose power. Keep in mind that to run the generator, you will also need to stock up on fuel.
- Move into a smaller space. During the coldest months of the year, move your family into smaller spaces in your home. Rather than using every room in your house, stay in the most southern-facing rooms and close off rooms (and shut off vents) that aren’t used as much.
- Install alarms. If you are using other sources of heat or power (such as portable heaters and generators), it is critical to make sure you have functioning smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Have other heat sources. If you are fortunate to have a fireplace, make sure you have enough firewood ahead of the cold season. If not, consider investing in other heat sources, such as a wood stove, portable heater, or survival stove.
The time to prepare is now, friends.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply