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Sustainable Cooking Stoves

David Lehr, WorldChanging
Energy poverty in the developing world is a complex and ongoing problem with serious impacts on health, economic growth, and the overall environment. The impact on the poor is particularly felt in their day to day needs for cooking fuel – much of it coming from either oil or gas – or from the decreasing availability of freely collected fuels such as firewood or its derivative, charcoal.

Growing price volatility for these products has created shortages of fuel and increasing uncertainty around meeting basic needs. Indoor pollution from smoke contributes to health problems such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, cancers and eye diseases, and of course there are ongoing risks or burns and fire from unstable cooking pots and stoves.

As I have learned more about these issues and cooking fuel in particular, I was surprised at both just how complex they are and the number of organizations trying to find “better stove solutions,”

… There are other alternatives that have the potential to move away from wood and fossil fuels altogether which I will write about in future posts. One of the more interesting wood fuel organizations I have seen is Stove Team International in Eugene, Oregon. Their approach has been to set up small factories in Central America that produce affordable and fuel-efficient stoves, largely initially using volunteer labor and small grants to cover the costs of construction.
(14 January 2009)

Saving the Economy, One Furnace at a Time

Paul Rogat Loeb, Common Dreams
Like most Americans, I’m guarding my dollars, but when my furnace died during Seattle’s coldest winter in decades, I needed to replace it. And when I did, with a high-efficiency Trane model made in Trenton New Jersey, the costs and gains underscored key lessons about what we need to do to craft a stimulus package that actually builds for America’s future. My new furnace saves energy and fights climate change. It promotes American jobs, and pays back its costs in a reasonable time frame. It points toward how to genuinely renew America’s economy instead of encouraging the same consumption for consumption’s sake that has helped create our current problems.

Let’s look at what my $5,000 purchased. It supported Trane’s factory workers in New Jersey and in their main plant in Tyler, Texas, supported local Seattle installers, and supported beleaguered New Jersey, Texas, and Washington state and city governments through the sales tax I paid and the taxes paid by the companies involved. In my personal economy, it meant I’ll save more than a third of my yearly gas bill and a commensurate amount of my CO2 emissions. My old furnace was a thirteen-year-old 70% efficient model that was down to barely 60% because single-cycle furnaces lose 1% a year as their burners corrode and heat exchangers get less efficient. The new one is 97% efficient and will maintain far more efficiency because its variable speed motor is much easier on its components.

… So how do we make similar choices affordable for everyone, whether or not they have the savings to do this on their own? Imagine if the pending stimulus package helped people make such investments nationwide, combining direct incentives with low or no-interest loans, along the lines of those long advocated by Al Gore. Imagine if it prioritized energy efficiency and investment in renewables, particularly those that are American-made.

I’m not saying high-efficiency furnaces solve all our economic or environmental challenges. Plugging building leaks, adding insulation and switching light bulbs give the maximum energy efficiency for the least expenditure of dollars. We need solutions that move us toward eliminating fossil fuel use altogether, like solar thermal, industrial-scale wind, advanced geothermal, ultra-efficient green buildings, and smart electrical grids.

Paul Rogat Loeb is the author of The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen’s Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear, named the #3 political book of 2004 by the History Channel and the American Book Association. His previous books include Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time. See
(13 January 2009)

The Roots of Energy Efficiency
UC Television, University of California
A convergence of factors contributed to a stable per capita energy demand over the past 30 years in California, as compared to dramatic increases nationwide. What does the future hold? (56 mins)

UC Davis presentation and panel discussion on the Energy Efficiency, including Art Rosenfeld, John Macdonald and Amory Lovins.

This is part 2/2 from the UC Davis Series – The Roots of Energy Efficiency

Part 1 is available at
(15 January 2009)

A Chill Blows Through Wind Power

Mark Scott, Business Week
The green energy sector has a lot riding on 2009. Policymakers from Washington to Beijing have pledged billions of dollars in “cleantech” investment to jump-start the depressed global economy and create millions of new low-carbon jobs.

That should be a boon to the wind power industry, which is working to harness the world’s second-largest source of renewable energy after hydroelectric. As with the solar industry, wind power has been hit by a sudden slowdown in private sector investment as credit has dried up and the price of oil has fallen from its mid-2008 high. The industry hopes public spending will help fill the gap until the global economy gets back on its feet.

The multibillion-dollar stimulus packages are particularly important for Europe, which remains the largest wind energy market worldwide and is home to six of the world’s top 10 wind turbine manufacturers.
(12 January 2009)