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close this bookBoiling Point No. 20 - December 1989 (ITDG - ITDG, 1989, 40 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAcknowledgements
View the documentNew Stoves For Old
View the documentKerosene and Gas Stoves in Nagercoil, South India
View the documentKerosene Wick Stoves
View the documentAn Investigation on the Colombian Kerosene Stove
View the documentTrials to Use Mineral Coal from Kiwira Coal Mines in the DUMA Wood Stoves
View the documentEnergy & The Environment in the Third World
View the documentUse Of Non Biomass Stoves In Sri Lanka
View the document''Simply Living''
View the documentLow-Wattage Cookers in Nepal
View the documentBiochar Briquetting & Burning
View the documentSTOVE PROFILE
View the document''Gourd Roots Make Good Fuel''
View the documentThe South Indian Clay Crusher
View the documentNEWS

Energy & The Environment in the Third World

A review of 6 papers presented at a meeting at the University of York in April 1989 of the Third World Energy Policy Study Group and published by the University of Surrey Energy Economics Centre.

Edited and available from Peter Pearson, Department of Economics, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey GU2 5XH.

Reviewed by Ian Grant of ITDG.
Energy & the Environment in the Third World" by Peter Pearson.

The following extracts from this introduction indicate the interelation of the energy problems of the industrialized and 3rd world countries. The author looks at both traditional and modern or commercial fuels and their economic and environmental effects.

Environmental issues, especially those related to energy, are once more on the policy agenda and with more prominence than before. Many of the most serious impacts of environmental change occur in Third World countries. Moreover, the availability of and access to environmental resources, including energy resources, significantly affects the capacity of people in less developed countries (LDCs) to meet their basic needs and improve the quality of their lives. These countries are also of major importance to international environmental issues. If they are to develop their economies, their energy use must rise and hence they are likely to play an increasing part in contributing to - and perhaps cooperating in the resolution of - global problems like the greenhouse effect and damage to the ozone layer. Policy-makers in both developed countries and LDCs have begun to be concerned with understanding and formulating concepts of 'sustainable development' and with finding ways of translating them into action. Moreover, the greenhouse effect and the problems with the ozone layer have demonstrated that sustainability has global as well as national dimensions.

When we analyse these broad issues of energy and environment in the context of the Third World, a number of specific questions arise. The first question is:

1) To what extent and why are the energy-environment problems of LDCs different from those of the developed countries?

Energy Situation Differences

Here one of the major differences lies in the fact that while developed countries rely essentially only on the commercial fuels (petroleum, coal, electricity), in LDCs the use of traditional - often also non-commercial - fuels (fuelwood, charcoal, animal dung and crop residues) is widespread, especially but not exclusively in rural areas. In this sense the energy- environment policy problems of LDCs can be said to be much more complex than those of developed countries since LDCs have to deal with the very different problems associated with both types of fuel.

Patterns of commercial energy use tend to be different between LDCs and more affluent countries. They also depend on the availability of indigenous supplies of petroleum, coal and hydro-electricity.

For traditional fuels there is the whole range of well-known, complex and sometimes controversial problems associated with biomass fuel use. Thus, for example, in situations where wood use (usually not just or even mainly for fuel) persistently exceeds sustainable yields, local deforestation occurs. This then interacts with processes of desertification, soil erosion, sedimentation of watercourses and reservoirs and flooding. In addition, when woodfuel is scarce, people who have been forced down the 'ladder of fuel preference' towards animal dung and crop residues, may convert the conditioners of tomorrow's soil into today's inferior fuels. The consequences of these various processes include potential damage to human and degradable natural resources and lower levels of living.

The differences between both the socio-economic and energy situations of the LDCs and the developed countries would lead us to expect some difference in environmental quality targets. Moreover, socio-economic, energy situation and institutional differences would imply varying mixes of policy instruments.

In terms of socio-economic differences, the question has long been posed as to whether high levels of environmental quality should be the aim only of richer countries. Put another way, is environmental quality a luxury (with an income elasticitiy greater than one). If so, then the demand for environmental quality rises rapidly with income and perhaps poorer countries should postpone their "consumption' of it. However, this argument puts all the emphasis on environmental controls for consumption purposes and then mistakenly assumes that all such consumption is a luxury. Moreover, the argument ignores the impact of environmental control on productive capacities. I have argued earlier that especially if people have few assets, their ability to use and have continued access to well-maintained natural resources (land, water, air, forests and so on) may be necessary for their survival. Thus environmental control may be essential for the basic needs of the poorer groups in the population. The global or trans-national nature of a number of energy-environment problems, including the greenhouse effect, damage to the ozone layer and the problems of acid rain (this can also include problems such as sedimentation of watercourses and flooding), means that international cooperation is necessary if they are to be controlled.

LDC delegates to conferences on the ozone layer have not been slow to point out that the issue of equity in international environmental policy-making cannot be sidestepped. And when the idea of a 'carbon tax' to limit coal use and control the greenhouse effect is discussed, the LDCs understandably question why in equity they should pay high prices now for their use of the atmosphere (or accept equivalent physical limits on coal use) because the industrialized countries in the past added so rapidly (and without charge) to the stove of carbon dioxide while their economies were maturing. For the LDCs restraints on their coal consumption could seriously constrain their economic development, for example. Thus the LDCs are likely to cooperate with the industrialized world only at a price - if they are, in various ways, subsidised or otherwise compensated, whether financially or through the transfer of technology.

The issues I have raised above are evidently complex and controversial and can be tackled both theoretically and empirically in a variety of ways. This introduction has aimed simply to outline some of the broad energy-environment questions to which the research reported in this collection of papers relates.

Environmental Maintenance & Investment by Dennis Anderson (Shell International Petroleum Co.)

This paper considers the financial and legal problems facing Third World countries and the use of their national assets such as rain forests. It questions approaches such as "the polluter pays" principal and ways of charging or taxing so as to maintain the value or renewability of their assets. The issue of financial support has already been raised by the LDCs (led by China) in connection with CFCs and by the Brazilians in connection with rainforests. The point that subsidies to agriculture in Europe, Japan and the US cost these economies US$75 billion per year, more than twice the level of official development assistance, has not been lost in the discussions. It is possible that environmental issues will lead to a major restructuring of aid finance in the coming decade: Official aid is based on the principles of capital finance, with maturity structures, typically 10 to 15 years. With respect to issues of global warming, ozone depletion and deforestation, the environmental benefits of a policy are unlikely to occur until well after the loans have matured.

The environmental benefits accrue to the global community, not solely to the borrowing party.

Socio-Economic & Environmental Constraints on Coal Demand in Developing Countries

by M J Chadwick - Beijer Institute Centre for Resource Assessment and Management, University of York

Chadwick reminds us that 'The world has massive stocks of coal that dwarf the amounts of §il, gas and uranium deposits. Of over 10,000 x 10 tonnes of total deposits 1,500 x 10 are economically recoverable. Developing countries have a significant proportion of these stocks."

Unfortunately, he concentrates on coal for electricity generation and ignores the main fuel use in the 3rd world ie. domestic cooking and heating. Domestic fuel has its own special problem ea. distribution, suitable stoves and buildings, cultural changes and of course atmospheric pollution.

Energy in Zimbabwe and Zambia by Colin Stoneman and John Suckling - Centre for South African Studies, University of York, UK

ZIMBABWE is rich in coal and hydro electric potential and in wood which supplies about 60% of its energy needs. However, in some parts of the country there are severe shortages of wood for cooking. Nationally wood consumption is well above sustainable yields. Most of the forests are commercially owned. Despite this, only 17% of its energy investment is in wood, most is on hydro electricity which is not usable for rural domestic cooking. Coal is not yet widely used as a domestic fuel or to produce gas for this purpose.

Zambia's lower percentage of woodfuel in its energy budget no doubt reflects its greater degree of urbanization. Hydro power and oil are the other main energy sources, much of which is used by the declining copper industry. The article does not examine the problems of domestic fuel.

Local Planning - A Solution to Fuelwood Conservation and Substitution

by Peter Young, Andy Brown and Theo Schilderman of ITDG, UK

Young points out that although economists, planners and policy makers offer advice and theories about the global or national problems of wood fuel shortage and deforestation, they do not address the day to day problems of the housewives, stove builders, charcoal burners, village and women's development organizations. ITDG believes that the energy problems of poor, rural Third World countries need to be tackled from the bottom with the people affected.

He emphasises that fuel shortages must be studied at the local rather than the national level. These countries do not have the communications, transport systems, commercial and other infrastructures which allow bundles of firewood to be moved to a village from forests on the other side of the country in the way that gas or oil or corn flakes move in the industrialized countries.

It must be accepted that although the industrialized countries need to cut down on their profligate use of energy, rural development in the Third World will demand large increases in energy use with consequent environment damage. They must help Third World governments to find the best ways to meet this demand and to carry out the necessary studies and research. Their governments must be helped to resist pressures to put their energy investment into their towns and capital cities rather than the rural communities.

ITDG is involved both in more efficient end uses of energy such as improved stoves, food processing, steam engines etc. and in small scale fuel sources such as biomass briquetting and micro-hydro electricity generation. It looks at localities where there are severe energy shortages and tries to find ways to ameliorate the situation of the people affected and at the same time to generate income earning opportunities. Young and his colleagues are in the process of establishing a biomass energy programme and capability so that they can identify such situations and find solutions.

Details are given of two such ITDG programmes- Schilderman's more efficient small lime kilns in Malawi which will burn soft woods or coal and produce cheaper lime and Brown's design and production of cheap, electric storage cookers operating on off-peak power from micro-hydro electricity systems. Environmental considerations must be given equal consideration with socio-economic impacts in all development plans.

Assessing Wood Supplies in Africa by Terry Douglas, Richard Critchley, Ian Ryle and Phil O'Keefe - -Newcastle- upon-Tyne Polytechnic Andy Millington - University of Reading, UK

This paper describes work in progress to classify and map the wood resource of Africa. It is an attempt to describe where resources are located, how much there is and how much can be taken as yield. The work is financed by the ESMAP programme of the World Bank.

Ed Note:- Our next edition, BP 21 - April 1990 will have the main theme "Stoves, Energy and Environment". We hope the above review of some recent papers will provoke our readers to write about their stove and fuel problems and how they may be influenced by their environmental effects both local and global. The present edition shows that there is already an increasing interest in non- biomass fuels. We know something about health hazards from biomass fuel emissions in the kitchen atmosphere from the work of Dr Kirk Smith reported in previous editions of Boiling Point. We know much less about the relative atmospheric damage caused by the traditional biomass fuels and "new" fuels such as coal, kerosene, gas and electricity use, distribution, extraction or generation.