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A Letter From The Publisher, Dec. 24, 1979

3 minute read

Long before oil started to become as costly as gin, before the quest for “alternate energy sources” became the moral equivalent of war and before he started writing this week’s cover story on “The Cooling of America,” TIME Contributor Jack Skow bought his first woodburning stove. A city boy who now lives in rural New London, N.H. (pop. 2,943), Skow offers a modest explanation for his extraordinary foresight. “I was one of the first in town to get a wood stove, in 1973, because I went broke from electric heating bills.” Since then, Skow has spent much of his autumn harvesting hardwood on his property, hauling it home in his temperamental pickup truck and burning it efficiently in his five-count ’em, five-woodburning stoves. The trend he pioneered in New London and discusses in this week’s story has become a way of life for Skew’s neighbors. Says he: “You get parties up here where home are not talking about adultery or Iran, but about the superior quality of their wood stoves. Of course, we all tell incredible lies about how long our model will hold a fire.”

The gospel of wood power has yet to reach suburban Weston, Conn., 170 miles closer to the equator. But one resident, TIME Associate Editor Christopher Byron, is an ardent stoveowning votary. Byron, whose guide to new heat-saving gadgets accompanies Skew’s story, has two wood stoves in his home. He adds: “I have fitted the house with every form of insulation and heat-saving device short of an IBM 370 to run the furnace.” Among them: storm windows, weather stripping, a new DOUG BRUCE fuel-efficient oil furnace and a clock-timer thermostat that shuts off the furnace at night. “The temperature drops by only 15° with the heat off,” says Byron, “and then we use electric blankets—one of the greatest inventions of modern man.”

Reporter-Researcher Sara Medina, who helped report the cover story, and Nancy Griffin, who wrote the section on cold-weather fashions, wage their battles to keep warm in New York City apartments. “Undershirts are the answer,” advises Griffin. Medina has found a radical solution to the high cost of fuel. Says she: “We don’t use the stuff.” For the past six winters, Medina and her husband have made do with the 60° to 65° provided by a fireplace, southern exposed windows, weather stripping and heat from surrounding apartments. Says she: “We discovered the layered look in clothing long before it was in fashion, but we’re healthy, our plants seem to flourish and our cats grow pelts like minks.”

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