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7.2 Industrialized countries

In Sweden the present unfavourable economic situation for wood gasification is the main reason why there are only a few plants for testing purposes in operation. The unfavourable economy is a consequence of the fact that the cost difference between petroleum fuels and electricity on the one hand and fuel wood on the other is not high enough to cover the high labour and capital costs of the gasifier system.

It is an interesting observation that the price of petroleum fuels in constant value in Sweden is presently not much different from what it was in the 1930's and is in fact lower than just after the Second World War. Only during the war was the price significantly higher. In general, similarly unfavourable economic conditions apply for wood gasifiers in most countries in the industrialized world with the possible exception of industries with a surplus of residual biomass fuels.

The situation will change only if there are substantial increases in oil prices or in the cost of electricity. Such a development is foreseen in the present energy policy of Sweden, which aims at increasing taxes on imported fuels and abolishing nuclear power before the year 2010, but it is not until after the year 2000 that economic conditions may have changed in favour of wood gasifiers.

It can be concluded that there appears to be no immediate future for wood gas as engine fuel in the industrialized countries. Wood gasifiers may be economic under some special circumstances, like at industries with a surplus of biomass residues but the impact on the energy balance will be negligible. This does not mean that there is no need to keep the technology alive and improve on it. The situation may have changed by the end of the century, and wood gasification is still the only realistic emergency alternative for many countries.

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