At one time, when my kids were at home, I used 1500 gallons of heating oil to heat my house.
10 years ago, heating oil was $1.00 a gallon, and I did not care if someone wanted the temperature at 72 deg.. Today, my last oil fill-up was close to $4.00 a gallon. However, my oilman
is crying these days. Why? Wood pellet technology. Since I installed my wood pellet stove, my
oil use has gone from 1500 gallons a year down to 500, and most of that is to heat hot water.
Many people in my area (New Hampshire) have adopted wood pellets for thier primary heat. In fact,some municipalities are using wood pellets to heat their buildings. Another nice thing about wood pellets is that the particular pellet I am burning is milled 30 miles down the road, keeping the dollar flow in America and not overseas. I had 5 tons delivered this fall at a cost of $1125 including delivery. Doing the math, 1000 gallons @ $4.00 a gallon vs. $1125 yields a savings of almost $3000 dollars. Of course, the stove and installation costs $4500, but I got a 35% rebate from the government for energy efficiency. The wood stove pellet rebate has now expired.
Going forward, I am looking at a solar hot water system that can produce 140 deg. water at
a temperature of -10 deg. F in direct sunlight. The system is $8000 not including a government credit of 35% available through 2016.
In retrospect though, if I had availability to natural gas, I would not have to take the above actions.
We as a nation are swimming in natural gas. It is plentiful and cheap. However, although I am only two miles from natural gas lines, a line will not be run out to us because the properties in the area are one plus acre in size and considered rural district. No municipal water or gas for you.
Wood pellets will remain economical only until they become popular, and then they'll get hyperexpensive, because trees take decades to grow.
Oil is the concentrated energy of hundreds of millions of years of plant activity, and we're burning it all up in a couple of hundred years. You're not going to get that sort of energy density out of biomass, and not going to sustain any sort of energy usage on it.
Coal and fission and solar are the future, for the next several centuries. Then if we don't have an economical fusion reactor design, it'll just be solar and body heat.