Leading article: A waste of energy

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Several years ago, when confronted with the environmental damage inflicted by gas-powered patio heaters, B&Q sought solace in the old arms dealers' defence: "If we do not sell them, then our competitors will."

It is therefore with a swell of warmth (renewably generated of course) that we note that the DIY firm has changed its mind and has decided to stop selling the devices after all. B&Q claims this is purely an environmental decision, although some will inevitably detect commercial imperatives at work. It is following the lead of Wyevale Garden Centres, which stopped selling the heaters last month.

Perhaps the bottom is falling out of the "outdoor living" market. But the motivation is surely less important than the fact that there will be fewer patio heaters on sale when this decision is implemented. One standard propane patio heater with a heat output of 12.5 kilowatts will produce around 34.9kg of C02 before its fuel runs out. Some can churn out 14 kilowatts, which is equivalent to five powerful electric fan heaters being turned on full blast.

But it is not just the hunger with which these devices gobble up energy that has led them to being described as an "ecological evil" by Friends of the Earth, it is their sheer pointlessness. At least 4x4s, another "ecological evil", were designed to fulfil a genuine purpose, namely traversing road-less fields and hills. What is the original purpose of a patio heater? To allow a person to sit outside without wearing a jumper during the colder months.

Outdoor living sounds like a wonderful concept. But, please, let's do it with a coat on.

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