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 Biogas and Climate Change (Global Warming)

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Kenya

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Biogas in Kenya

What effect will the use of biogas have on Climate Change?

One or two biogas plants will have no measurable effect. But millions might. Every cubic metre of biogas used for energy is replacing some other fuel. As I have mentioned in the page on the Oil Drum Digester, in the African village that fuel will often be charcoal or firewood. Reducing the demand for charcoal will not directly slow down the build up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. However, it will have an effect on the forests. Forests do represent a reservoir of carbon - that is, if the carbon is held in the form of wood it cannot be in the atmosphere creating the Greenhouse Effect. (Forests have other effects, as their transpiration causes cloud cover which itself affects the world's climate, both locally and globally).

Biogas can also substitute for Kerosene, which is derived from oil products and so, whenever it is burned, new CO2 enters the atmosphere. Kerosene burning does have an affect on the climate problem - making it worse. However, compared to the CO2 emissions of the large industrial countries that caused by using kerosene for cooking in tropical countries is small.

My personal opinion is that the fact that biogas production substitutes for oil products, thus protecting the user from price changes, is probably a more important reason for encouraging its adoption than any consideration of climate change. But there is certainly one condition that would be important here.

 The Kyoto Agreement advocates the setting up of a trading system in carbon emissions. It seems to me that every biogas production unit should sell emission credits which industrial producers should pay for. That is, every farm-sized biogas plant should receive a credit from the trading system in actual money (hard currency).

In this way the value of the non-carbon emitting energy can be recognised. Carbon credits would not be a form of Aid, but a legitimate business payment for an important service provided that the world as a whole needs. A National Association of Biogas owners should be formed to negotiate these payments both via National governments and from the trading exchange itself. Both governments and individual farmers would then have an incentive for installing the necessary apparatus. There should soon be a local industry of making cheap biogas apparatus. Photovoltaic users should also receive these credits, based on the number of kilowatt hours they produce. How the quantities are verified has to be decided. Some kind of inspectorate would be needed to make sure that the gas was actually being made and used. This would be paid for by the Carbon Credit Exchange.

When governments take climate change seriously the mass adoption of biogas will certainly be one of the strategies to be used. In the tropical areas a combination of biogas, photovoltaics and hydro power will probably become the main alternatives to the fossil fuels. All these should receive payment from the carbon credit exchange - what will become in effect a tax on carbon emissions (whatever form of words is used). At the point where the use of oil and coal is declining the carbon credit payments will diminish and all these carbon-free energy sources will stand on their own feet.

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Biogas theory

 Home Power magazine

 A British supplier of solar and wind power devices

Refocus: Renewable energy journal

Last revised 8/01/05

 
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