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Envirofit, Fort Collins, sells low-soot cook stoves in India

Envirofit™ International of Fort Collins, CO, gets a nice play in today’s Wall Street Journal, which reports on low-tech approaches to reducing pollution and the production of green house gases. Envirofit™ has sold more than 100,000 low-soot cooking stoves in southern India, the Journal reports. Similar efforts are being developed for Mexico, Kenya and other third-world countries by consulting firms such as Berkeley Air Monitoring Group. Jeffery Ball’s impact graphs:

Consider the basic cook stove—a low-cost option that can dramatically reduce pollution.

More than half the world’s population burns fuel indoors to cook and heat their homes, according to the World Health Organization. Those indoor fires emit small particles that can get lodged in the lungs and that account for 1.5 million deaths annually, says the organization, which calls the fires “the killer in the kitchen.” The fires also contribute to a smoggy plume known as the Atmospheric Brown Cloud. Studies, including some from Stanford University, say the cloud is trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Several companies and nonprofit groups are trying to sell large numbers of low-cost stoves, particularly in India. The stoves look like pasta pots. Because of their design, they cook a meal with less wood, which they burn more cleanly. So the stoves can slash emissions of pollutants by more than half, manufacturers say.

A paper earlier this year co-authored by Mr. Victor, the California energy expert, estimated that if half the families in India began using improved stoves, the Atmospheric Brown Cloud would shrink by about one-third.

Envirofit International, a Fort Collins, Colo., nonprofit group, has sold some 100,000 stoves over the past year in southern India. The organization sells them largely out of vans that roll along dirt roads in rural villages. One study notes that 60 million stoves, if sold in India for only $5 each, would cost $300 million. Even if the stoves cost more, that rollout would be cheaper than most other clean-energy options.

“The energy problem,” says Steven Chu, the U.S. energy secretary, “can be advanced a long way by pretty low-tech stuff.”

Simple but dramatic efficiencies are starting to be tapped by industrialized countries too. In the case of U.S. homes, studies say that using existing energy more efficiently is cheaper than renewable energy.

Yet federal tax incentives have long favored the pricier approach. Uncle Sam gives people who install renewable energy at home—such as rooftop solar panels—a tax credit valued at 30% of the project’s total cost. But the credit for consumers who install more-efficient mechanical equipment, such as a furnace, is capped at $1,500. And the credit for people who make even-lower-tech improvements that studies say are the most effective—like installing insulation—is capped at $1,500. That applies just to materials, though the bulk of the cost of these projects is labor.

Links:

Envirofit™ International.

Berkeley Air Monitoring 

Small Energy-Saving Steps Can Make Big Strides; High-Tech Solutions Can Help Lower Consumption, but Researchers See Faster Progress in Low-Tech Measures; Think Cook Stoves. By Jeffery Ball.

Posted by Donald E. L. Johnson on 11/27/2009 at 10:29 AM

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