Dr. Tom Reed frequently talked about selling a billion clean burning woodgas stoves. Now that the Biden administration is pointing out that natural gas (and electricity made from fossil fuels) are things of the past, it can be imagined that using woodgas to cook may become a larger part of a post-fossil-fuel future.

“On January 27th, the President announced a series of climate actions that may well mark the beginning of the end of the fossil-fuel era…There’s a shock-and-awe feel to the barrage of actions, and that is the point: taken together, they send a decisive signal about the end of one epoch and the beginning of another. And that signal, most of all, is aimed at investors: fossil fuel, Biden is making clear, is not a safe bet, or even a good bet, for making real money. Coal, oil, and gas are the past, not the future.”

-Bill McKibben, The New Yorker, January 28, 2021

Unfortunately, using biomass for cooking is a difficult replacement because:

  • Smoke from cooking with wood is very dirty, damaging human health. 
  • Smoke is something like 680 times worse for climate change compared to CO2 by weight. (Roden, Bond, et al, 2008)
  • The wood fuel needs to be renewably harvested.
  • Although how to manufacture clean burning, carbon neutral biomass stoves is better understood, stoves need to be affordable to capture substantial market shares.
  • In the Millennium Villages, a retail price of something like $10 has been recommended to sell stoves directly into the market. (Adkins, Tyler, al, 2010)

Can affordable, clean burning, carbon neutral stoves be manufactured and sold?

In 2021, there seem to be at least two popular design options. Both rely on inexpensive, long lasting, refractory ceramic combustion chambers and prepared fuels: 

  • Natural draft or forced draft TLUDS, burning pellets
  • Forced draft Rockets, burning dry sticks of wood

Next week, we’ll explore these options.

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