The power of ten

This e-mail on greenhouse gas emissions from biomass versus fossil fuel was posted on the Stoves list.

It has been argued that biomass, burnt as at present, is more greenhouse gas polluting than the current level of technology for fossil fuels. Let's blow a hole in this argument. Start with the oil fires of Kuwait, clean burning? Witness combustion at about the same level of technology as charcoal production around the world! Build a fire, and then smother it. OK?

Oil for example, has only been refined and burnt in efficient, clean devices for a short while. Most of the research for this was done during wartime with the war effort providing a ready market and funds for the new technology. The latest technology was developed with funds derived from sales of huge quantities of oil burning in less efficient devices for years.

I think the fossil fuel producers should pay us, by their logic, to remove the pollution they emitted, and recall their dangerous products which make people kill for and with them. All that money among so few people. I can think this way too.

What do you think the people on this list could do with the billions of research dollars spent on learning clean oil burning? What if, to compare apples with apples, we burn crude oil, and wood, in the same rated efficiency stove, and see where we are with emissions. The oil has to be refined? OK, then, let's compare #1 fuel oil, or gasoline, with wood-derived methanol. Who wins the emissions battle then? I can burn methanol in a metal bucket of sand with nearly no emissions. How about charcoal compared with coke? It's the same amount of processing.

The difference is, trees will grow forever, I have never seen an oil well produce new oil once drained. I'll wait and see if anybody has drilled one of those yet, I'll invest.

The fuel we burn is, by nature, going to be converted to methane, CO2 and CO anyway. Witness termite emissions of these gases. What do they think happens to biomass otherwise? It naturally adds background to the fossil fuel emissions. So all we have to do is to burn it cleaner than what it rots into, and we produce a net loss of methane emissions, in exchange for very little CO2, mostly water! Now, do your maths again. Everyone is pushing for hydrogen because it is so clean, what is methane anyhow? What percentage of cellulose is hydrogen?

Another argument I hear is that we will deplete the world's forests. No! Wrong again!

We will provide the incentive to replant the world's forests. The only significant product other than biomass which gives this incentive is lumber.

Beware of fossil fuel hype and learn these arguments well. If everybody on these lists would talk enthusiastically about the potential of biomass to ten people, then they would tell ten people, and so on. What power of ten do you need for your political argument? If you whisper as if we are on to something big and you hate to let it out (which is true, by the way), it seems to lubricate the process. How about that guy who turns human waste into gasoline?

We don't need lies to promote our fuels. Just the facts outsold (or maybe quiet). (Daniel Dimiduk, Shangri-La Research and Development Co., Dayton, Ohio, USA)


U-turn back to wood?

The following exchange comes from the Stoves list. Do our readers have any other examples of U-turns back to woodfuels?

Do you think that the average family that has already switched to kerosene or propane, would switch back to a wood stove? (Tami Bond)

Some families here in Nicaragua have done precisely that - switched back to wood, but with the Ecostove. That probably happened because even using wood as fuel, the Ecostove produces no indoor air pollution, no black-sooted pots, allows multiple cooking at the same time, and it uses 50 percent less fuelwood than traditional woodstoves. Also because LPG prices here are about US$0.50-0.60/kg. Many poor families were forced to switch to LPG for health reasons (no more smoke), but not for economic reasons. (Rogério Carneiro de Miranda, Director, Ecofogones y Reposición Forestal, PROLEÑA/Nicaragua, Apartado Postal C-321, Managua, Nicaragua; fax: +505 2490116; e-mail: rmiranda@sdnnic.org.ni)

[See Forest Energy Forum No. 8 for more information on Ecostoves.]




A single conversation with a wise man is better than ten years of study.

                      Chinese proverb