LogoPOINTS OF VIEW


Slogan for forest energy

A thank you to everybody who answered our question [see Forest Energy Forum No. 2] regarding our slogan "Need Energy? - Plug a Tree" to promote forest energy. A selection of the replies/alternative suggestions received follows:

"Need Energy?- Plant a Tree" (Raj Gujral, India)

"Need energy? Plant a tree" (Rogerio Carneiro de Miranda, Nicaragua)

In my view, the slogan "Need Energy? - Plug a Tree" is not appropriate, for the following reason: it might be misunderstood as PLUCK a Tree instead of PLUG a Tree. A simpler slogan could be "Need Energy? - Plant a Tree" (P.G. Joseph, Energy Conservation Fund, Sri Lanka)

"Need Energy - Plug a Tree": I am afraid this is not OK from a native (English) speaker's point of view. To plug may mean to block up a hole, to hit, or to promote but not to "obtain energy from". You presumably mean "plug into a tree" as in "the toaster was plugged into the wall socket", but even then there is a problem, to my ears at least, as "plugging in" seems to me a metaphor directly linked with: a) electricity; and b) urban, non-vital uses. Most wood energy is: a) in developing countries; and b) used for heat, not electricity. I don't really have another option. What about "Wood for Warmth"? (Christopher Prins, UNECE, Switzerland)

Ed. note: We had in fact considered all of Mr Prins' points - but wanted to be provocative! However, the concept we wish to disseminate here is a new one in which forest biomass can be used for both traditional (mainly heat) and modern energy (electricity, mechanical power from liquid biofuels derived from woody biomass and, of course, heat). This is why we adopted forest energy instead of wood energy. It includes all types of fuel derived from forests and trees: solid, gases and liquid such as bioethanol from woody residues for internal combustion engines produced in an environmentally friendly way. Our concept was "You need energy, plug into a tree".

Please continue sending your suggestions; a final decision will be taken in the next issue.


Hedon paper - lessons learned by rwedp

I wish to share with all of you (and look forward to your comments and views) the following notes from Prof. W.S. Hulscher, RWEDP, which he prepared for the Household Energy Donor Organisations Network (HEDON) meeting, held at the Intermediate Technology Development Group, Rugby (United Kingdom) in September 1997. These notes summarize the issues and lessons learned about the state of the art of wood energy for traditional uses in Asia. M.A.Trossero

Some misconceptions

1. There is no such thing as a "dirty fuel". However, "dirty technologies" do exist. This holds true for any fuel, e.g. traditional wood stoves, poor kerosene stoves, old diesel engines, many coal stoves, boilers and furnaces, etc.

2. Wood and other biomass are not per se traditional fuels. In Europe and North America woodfuel is considered modern. Worldwide wood and other biomass can be clean and convenient fuels on a small scale (households, commerce) or a large scale (industries, power sector), provided the users avail themselves of a proper technology.

3. Most of the woodfuels in Asia are used on a sustainable basis, contrary to common belief. Woodfuel use is not a main or major cause of deforestation. About two-thirds of all woodfuels originate from non-forest land. Areas where woodfuel use degrades forest land are the exceptions. Such exceptions require special attention, but do not form a basis for general policies towards woodfuel.

4. The so-called process of fuel transition is, in fact, a process of fuel complementation. The "modern" fuels come on top of the biomass fuels. There is no evidence for a net transition from woodfuel to modern fuels with rising incomes.1 There is no point in "helping people to make the transition"; on the contrary!

Some lessons

5. The main paradigm for successful improved cook stove (ICS) programmes has always been and will always remain "understanding users' needs". Lack of appreciation of this paradigm among fieldworkers is still faltering in many ICS programmes.

6. Improved health and greater convenience are the main and foremost benefits of ICS. Such benefits matter for both the individual and the country. Achieving these benefits justifies considerable costs.

7. There is no evidence whatsoever that more efficient stoves would help save forests and, indeed, that would be very unlikely. However, fuelwood saving by increased efficiency may add to users' convenience.

8. Acceptance of ICS is closely related to women's opportunities for paid labour. This linkage is not yet fully appreciated by designers of ICS programmes.

9. Failures of ICS programmes so far are largely due to incorrect starting points such as forest saving, village woodlots per se rather than women's income-earning opportunities, isolated micro-projects, inadequate understanding of users' needs and amateurism. Better starting points are health, kitchen design, convenience, income generation and strategic design of programmes/policies.

Current views

10. Sustainable use of wood/biomass fuels is carbon neutral, unlike the use of fossil fuels (for complete combustion). The current savings of greenhouse gases by sustainable wood/biomass fuel can be estimated. Results show that substantial benefits for the global atmosphere are thanks to poor households using wood/biomass fuels rather than coal or oil.

11. The sustainable potential of woodfuel in Asia is much larger than present consumption. Therefore, the use of wood/biomass fuels should be encouraged, and users should be discouraged from abandoning woodfuel.

12. Encouraging woodfuel use implies helping people to avail themselves of proper technologies, which are clean and convenient. Such technologies do exist and can be introduced at reasonable cost.

13. The health benefits fully justify the cost of improved stoves. These benefits go in parallel with greenhouse benefits.

Call for action

14. Introducing ICS is still to be undertaken on a massive scale. As yet, only a small percentage of poor countries' households have improved stoves.

15. ICS programmes should focus on improving health and convenience aspects, rather than efficiency per se.

16. Large-scale ICS programmes are justified by health and greenhouse benefits, and can be guided by current improved understanding.

17. Priority for technical stove research is in improved combustion of (loose) biomass under various conditions and for various types of biomass. This should result in better options for poor users in regions of wood scarcity.

 


FEF

Forest Energy Forum?
Forest Energy Fellowship?
Forest Energy Forever?

 

 


Fuelwood gap theory

I am most interested in learning more about any recent work on fuelwood supply and demand issues. Adrian Whiteman of FAO headquarters in Rome referred me to FAO's RWEDP Web site, which is full of useful information. Their most recent data point to the rejection of the "fuelwood gap" theory, at least as it pertains to the Asian member countries of RWEDP. I would like to know, however, whether this same analysis is true for the fuelwood situation in Africa, especially in the drier regions. Is there any person, or recent research data from FAO or elsewhere, you could refer me to regarding this question? I am particularly interested in determining the legitimacy of the fuelwood gap theory in different world regions, and in finding recent data on fuelwood availability and sources of supply, as well as any reports discussing the impacts of population growth on future fuelwood availability? Any information you could provide would be most appreciated. (Tom Gardner-Outlaw, Population and Environment Program, Washington, DC, USA)

In fact, the misconception that deforestation is caused mainly by woodfuel demand has been widely diffused since the 1970s, but many case studies and later evaluations have shown a different reality. Most of the forest biomass used for woodfuels is from dead trees, prunings and other woody wastes collected from forests, woodlands and trees in farming lands. In many other areas, a substantial amount of woodfuel originates from the biomass produced by land clearing operations to transform forests and woodlands into agricultural farms, where the use of this biomass as woodfuel is better than simply burning it as slash. Moreover, a considerable amount of woodfuel is obtained from trees planted in marginal and farming lands through agroforestry schemes.

Therefore, the old perception that fuelwood and charcoal are a major cause of deforestation needs to be revised. The major causes of deforestation are: i) conversion of forests to cropland and grazing areas for livestock; and ii) forest activities (where subsidies are widely and massively distributed). In addition, subsidies provided to the conventional energy sectors are directly and indirectly hampering the proper development of more sustainable wood energy systems. As a good example of non-energy forest uses, in Botswana, the fencing of fields alone to keep out livestock consumes one and a half times more wood than is used for cooking by farming households (Tietema, 1991. Quoted by Chidumayo in Renewable Energy for Development, July 1997).

However, in many places, woodfuel consumption is so great that it exceeds its sustainable production from available and accessible supply sources and thus many areas are facing fuelwood and charcoal shortages and depleting wood stocks. While in general fuelwood utilization as a household cooking fuel does not seem to face supply constraints, it is important to mention situations, such as Haiti, the Andean highlands and the Sahelian countries, where there is a clear and worrying pressure on forest resources. Unfortunately, the data available on woodfuel demand and supply in these regions are scarce and very aggregated. In FAO/FOPW, our current efforts are directed mainly to tackling this data and information problem which could lead to identifying areas and projects for the development of more sustainable wood energy systems.


Correspondence between fao's wood energy programme and pierre boileau, oecd

Regarding the main scientific and technical issues for further action related to the treatment in inventories, what is the position of IPCC so far for woodfuels (mainly fuelwood and charcoal) for traditional use: are they considered environmentally sound or not? How are woodfuels derived from land clearance operations considered? I have seen a particular inclination to consider the role of forests for carbon sequestration, but what about carbon substitution? (M.A. Trossero, FAO)

I can only speak for the IPCC Inventories Programme and not for IPCC as a whole. There are no judgements in the guidelines for preparing national inventories about whether biomass energy for traditional use is environmentally sound. The CO2 emissions are not included in totals of emissions if the biomass is produced sustainably. If it is not produced sustainably then the source of CO2 emissions will be calculated in the Land-use Change and Forestry sector.

There is much discussion about the methodologies for estimating CO2 sequestration from forests. At present there is great uncertainty in these methods because, as you know, the quality of the statistics can be a problem. If you could, please define your understanding of carbon substitution. My understanding in the realm of inventories is as follows: if there is substitution from fossil fuels to biomass use, then the CO2 emissions from that biomass use would not be included in emissions totals if the biomass was produced sustainably.

(Pierre Boileau, OECD)


A recent exchange of ideas consequent to the nairobi stovers forum

It was expressed that because of variations in diet and available fuel resources, the concept of a "perfect stove" is unrealistic. Rather, stove design is driven by the environment within which it is used. This fact is of particular importance when considering stove demand and distribution.

This certainly has some truth in it. However, in the United States, where we could have any number of variations of stove, there are essentially only two stoves: the four-burner plus oven electric stove and the gas variation of the same. There are a few speciality variations for small quarters, etc. but 95 percent of United States housewives have given over to these two - really only one - choices.

I have presumed that if one made a sufficiently advanced, low-cost, high-efficiency, low-pollution, high heat rate biomass stove, it would wash away a few hundred lesser stoves and eventually be accepted by the housewives of China, India and Africa who simply want to cook a good meal quickly. It might take a while to get them all to accept, but the key is "sufficiently advanced". On this basis I and others have been working on the "Wood-Gas Stove" for the last decade. Wood-gas adds the missing new dimension to biomass cooking.

I would value your opinion on this philosophy. (Tom Reed, Biomass Energy Foundation, Golden, Colorado, USA)

In Europe nobody will accept that Italian food is the same as British. If you get more excited you can go on listing thirty-odd countries in Europe which can be considered to eat different foods. But, strangely enough, they are more or less very happy to cook on gas or electric stoves that are mass-produced.

In India, the well-to-do city folk, in spite of the bewildering variety of foods they cook and eat, manage quite well with gas or electric stoves.

Perhaps another example will help.

Human beings can be looked upon as the passport control system does at the port of entry into a country. They can also be considered from the point of view of medical science - anatomy, physiology, etc. The latter even refuses to acknowledge whether we are big or small, white, black, brown or yellow. Thus, I find it difficult to accept statements that make a big issue of the eating habits of people. An improved biomass stove does not dictate to people what they should eat!

In 1983 Piet Verhaart wrote a paper entitled "On designing woodstoves", and he has a list of cooking tasks. They are less than the number of fingers on one human hand. If you are pernickety the number creeps up to eight! Never mind all those hundreds of thousands of recipes crammed into cookbooks that adorn the section called "cooking" in an average bookstore. That probably represents just 1 percent or so of the foods cooked and eaten by people.

I am sure almost every Indian and Mexican will swear by whatever god(s) they believe in that rotis and tortillas are worlds apart. But, as far as a cookstove design is concerned, they can be handled in a very similar manner. I find it a bit strange that this discussion has not graduated much farther from when we started on our stove project in 1980. Never mind that we are using a "state-of-the-art" communication medium.

I hope there will be some discussion on Tom Reed's and my thoughts so that we can leave the thoughts of a bygone era behind. (K.K. Prasad, e-mail: K.K.Prasad@phys.tue.nl)

Source: Stoves Web page, http://www.ikweb.com/enuff/public_html/Stoves.html

1 Many international and national agencies involved in wood energy suggest an overall shift away from woodfuel when incomes rise; this is misleading. North America consumes as much woodfuel per caput as South Asia, whereas the income per caput of the former is 40 times that of the latter. In Thailand, in the period 1980-1996, per caput gross national product increased threefold, whereas in the same period woodfuel consumption per caput increased by 68 percent. The 16 RWEDP member countries, in which the vast majority of the world's woodfuel users happen to live, exhibit no relationship between income per caput and woodfuel consumption per caput. Note that we refer to overall national consumption and not to case studies among selected user groups. (Source: Wood Energy News, 12(2): 20, October 1997.)

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