Dead Swedes provide home heating


Some religious leaders may be incandescent with rage and public opinion may be inflamed, but two Swedish crematoria say they have no plans to stop heating local homes with the energy from burning bodies.

"It's only sensible," said Borje Stolt the chief inspector of Helsingborg crematorium in southern Sweden. "It's environment-friendly, and relatives can console themselves in the knowledge that the death of a loved one benefits the whole community."

News that heat from the furnaces of the two newly built crematoria in Helsingborg and nearby Boras is being piped directly to district energy companies has sparked uproar in the Swedish press and consternation among church members.

"I have a very serious problem with this," said Henrik Nystrom, a pastor in Boras, where the local energy company heats 60,000 homes and estimates the crematorium has supplied about 10 percent of its needs over the past six months. "True, you still get the ashes. But imagine going home to a nice warm house after a funeral service and wondering just how much the deceased is doing to help."

Lanyard Nelson, a baptist preacher in Helsingborg was even more incensed."No one wants Aunt Astrid heating up the living room," he said. "It is a shocking idea, disrespect of the dead and of the bereaved."

But Stolt said he found nothing wrong in the principle that Swedes should contribute to a cleaner environment even after their death.

Cremation is already an energy-intensive business he noted, using between 2 and 3 gallons of oil per incineration. Without the cooperation of the energy company the crematorium would have to release the excess heat and poisonous gases into the environment.

"To do that safely, we'd need to install cooling and purifying apparatus," he said. "That alone would use another 25 cubic meters (875 cubic feet) of oil a year. Plus, the energy company would still have to produce the heat we provide. We just can't afford to be sentimental about this." He denied the crematorium was making money on the deal "Accusations that we are enriching ourselves from the bodies of the deceased are totally inaccurate," he said.

Roger Bergstrom, the head of Boras district energy company, stressed that he had held exhaustive discussions with church and council authorities before launching the scheme. "There was rather a lively argument, but in the end they were supportive," he said "I think the problem is that people haven't been properly informed I'm sure if we'd explained what we were trying to do, there wouldn't have been this fuss.

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