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Beating winter with sticks

For a couple days in November, oil shot up over $99 a barrel, a candy bar away from $100. Experts warned that families heating their homes with the stuff could expect fuel costs to increase about $1,800 over last season. It was enough to send shivers down your back.

Fortunately, as of this writing in December 2007, the price of a barrel of crude was playing in the $90 range; still awfully high by historic standards, but better than the big one oh-oh. Still, kick in ARM adjustments and the credit crunch squeezing some central New Yorkers, and you get a lot of anxiety, with people praying for global warming to save them from freezing this winter.

Hate to tell ya,' but it ain't gonna happen. At best, global warming is a weather forcast - and how often do these guys get it right? At worst, it's gonna take a few years, not likely to benefit anyone facing this winter's heating bills.

Wood offers a simpler way to warmth. Best of all, it's a fuel that's renewable, and often sits at curbs just waiting for someone to come along and pick it up.

No heat without a fire

Nothing warms us quite as quickly and soundly as fire. Hell, the burning ball of gas we call the sun has been doing it for as long as anyone can remember.

But all flames aren't equal. Take the natural gas powered flames in the furnaces of most Syracuse homes. Stoked automatically by the utility gods, they send short spurts of canned heat through the house, warming our bodies and preventing our pipes from freezing, and that's about it.

For sure, National Grid is nice to have around. But its prices can jump all over the board like a freshly caught fish, leaving some of us feeling downright helpless. A wood fire, on the other hand, makes you the master of the heating bill, and can warm your soul, too.

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