1. You state in your reply to my post that: "Solar energy can of course produce electricity, with which to cook. But it is also the case that, for better control over heat, many cooks prefer gas to electricity."
I am not referring to the use of solar PV-generated electricity to cook. Since a one hundred square foot PV panel is needed to power a single hot plate, this type of electricity for cooking is certainly not practical for the world's poor. I am referring to solar thermal cooking. Please see this webpage for more information. (http://solarcooking.wikia.com/wiki/Introduction_to_solar_cooking)
Cooking gas does provide the opportunity to adjust the flame, however I do not consider this an adequate justification for promoting the use of a finite fossil fuel, whose current extraction methods are resulting in increasing instances of underground water table contamination and the release of methane gas into the atmosphere, and which must be processed and transported thousands of miles from wellhead to consumer using fossil fuel powered refineries, ships and trucks.
2. You state that, "Given the price of LPG today, we agree with you that LPG would not be a fuel for the poorest of the poor."
Even if the two billion people who live just above the income level of 'the poorest of the poor" can afford LPG today, will they be able to afford it in 5, 10 or 25 years? Basic economics predict that the world's poor and their governments will not be able to compete for this diminishing and finite energy source over the long term since the global giants-the U.S., China, Japan, India, Russia, Europe, Brazil--their industries and their citizens will be able and willing to pay higher and higher prices to continue fueling their advanced economies.
3. You state that once the problems of: lack of familiarity with LPG, fears about safety, lack of enforcement of sound rules and regulations, lack of adequate competition resulting in high prices and lack of reliable cylinder delivery are addressed, households will be able to shift away from solid fuels to a gaseous fuel. But what will happen to these people when they can no longer afford that 'gaseous fuel" because global demand has outstripped global supply?
4. You state that, "the contribution of LPG for cooking to global oil consumption is very small" noting that even if one third of those currently cooking with solid fuels were to switch to LPG between now and 2030, that would amount to an annual increase of less than 40,000 b/d, or 5% of the increase in global oil consumption this year.
I understand that the potential amount of LPG consumed by poor families for cooking would remain small in comparison to the amount of petroleum-based fossil fuels consumed globally for energy production, heating, transportation and industry. My point is not that these poor people will have a discernible effect on the market, it's that in the next decade or two they will instead become the victims of this market as industrial and first world consumers drive up international gas prices and make LPG unaffordable for the world's poor.
5. I am not advocating solar cookers as THE solution to the energy problems of the poor. I am urging organizations like the World Bank to support the development and distribution of this inexpensive, zero emissions technology, which uses free energy and which could dramatically reduce the amount of money poor people spend on purchasing LPG or gathering fuel. There are already instances in India, Mexico and elsewhere of people combining the use of LPG and solar cookers to minimize emissions and reduce fuel consumption. The advantage of this for the LPG industry is that these people will remain their customers, even when prices start to rise. They may purchase less, but they won’t give up totally and move back to biomass. The advantage for the customers of using solar cookers is that they can still afford to buy some LPG, since they won’t have to use it for all of their cooking needs. The advantage for the planet is healthier people and a healthier environment.
Thank you for your willingness to engage in this discussion.