At the start of the 20th century, humanity as a whole started getting more energy from fossil fuel than from wood for the first time. Since then the dominance of fossil fuels, due to their greater energy density, has rapidly grown. But now, in Africa, that transition is being reversed. The most rapidly growing fuel is charcoal from wood.
Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, charcoal use is growing by more than 5% per year, faster than the 3% growth in the use of fossil fuels (still by far the dominant source overall). Charcoal is now the primary source of energy for cooking in most African households. The reason is simple: most Africans can’t afford to use electricity or fossil fuels like kerosene for cooking. They cost too much.
This trend is disastrous for Africa’s future. Charcoal use in cooking causes even more concentrated air pollution than fossil fuels, killing millions with respiratory illnesses. Deforestation due to the use of charcoal, and , and even cheaper firewood, is estimated to cause the deforestation of 12,000 square kilometers of tropical forest every year—an area the size of Connecticut. In the next 20 years the growth of such deforestation could destroy 5% or more of Africa’s forests. While in most of Africa chopping down trees for charcoal is outlawed, such laws have very little impact. The driving force is the high price of fossil fuels.
Nor is this trend limited to Africa. In Brazil, charcoal production is also soaring, feeding both domestic use and the steel industry.
The only solution to the problems caused by the return of charcoal is a new source of energy that is far cheaper than fossil fuels. The Focus Fusion technology we are developing will be ten times cheaper than any energy source today, making abundant energy for not only cooking but water supply, air-conditioning, transportation and other uses available for all in Africa and in the entire world. Air pollution will drop, forests will be preserved and re-grown and trillions of dollars not spent on fossil fuels will be available to make an abundant life for all. No other energy source can be as cheap, clean, safe and abundant. Help us get there!
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