The authors assessed multiple strategies to reduce mortality as well as greenhouse gas emissions from household fuel sources. They gathered a large database of current fuel use in African nations. Using this as a baseline, they defined multiple scenarios for future fuel use by varying the mix of wood, charcoal and petroleum-based fuels used in households and improving the sustainability of wood harvesting and charcoal production techniques.
The best situation in Africa would be to transition from biomass fuels to petroleum-based fossil fuels such as kerosene and liquid propane gas, the authors noted, which could prevent 1.3 to 3.7 million premature deaths, depending on the speed of transition. The authors argue, however, that current economic conditions and energy infrastructure in Africa make petroleum-based fossil fuels an unlikely option.
"If you switch everyone off the dirtiest fuels to burning clean fossil fuels, you get the biggest health benefit," acknowledged Daniel Kammen, the Class of 1935 Distinguished Chair of Energy at UC Berkeley and a co-author of the paper. "But the economic cost to most African nations - collectively the poorest region of the globe - of that switch is impossible."
Majid Ezzati, assistant professor of international health at the Harvard School of Public Health and a co-author of the paper, added that "it's also a lot easier to disseminate charcoal in
Contact: Robert Sanders
University of California - Berkeley