[Stoves] Clean coal burning stoves Re: History of clean Chinese stove development.

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott crispinpigott at outlook.com
Mon Sep 21 13:55:14 MDT 2015

Dear Ron


I am responding to your comments to Paul and indirectly, to me.


1.      I mostly agree with everything you say below.  But mostly for
reasons of wanting to save our valuable time, I now ask that this list stop
talking about coal stoves.  Biomass only stoves would be in accordance with
the way we started up almost 20 years ago (as the first list coordinator, I
think I wrote that sentence - which I gave a few days ago).  It is worse
than that we are wasting people's time, with only one person ever bringing
up coal and coal stove topics.  


I disagree with the idea that we the list members cannot have a say in what
topics we discuss. 


            2.  There was a concluding sentence in a Crispin message this AM
whose origin is masked by Crispin that I find more offensive that the
generally offensive material above it.  If Crispin didn't write these four
pro-coal paragraphs and this sentence,  

                  "Forty years of failure - improved wood stoves. Forty more
years? Our daughters deserve better."

we deserve to know who did.  And we can get rid of such trash with the
understanding that offenders will have all their material reviewed before
going out.  Policing is not difficult.


The definition of 'trash' is accorded to each individual. I forwarded that
sentiment to illustrate, from outside the cocoon of stove enthusiasts, what
serious scientists think about our 'science'.  Obviously the speaker is
informed and eloquent and fed up with being told 'I have an improved stove
that will save the world'. I never met a stove designer who did not think
his product was 'improved' even if there was no baseline or data to support
the claim.


You found the observations and opinions offensive. Well offense was taken
but none was given. How many development agencies are now taking the
position, "put up or shut up"? Some of us work in the real world where
armchair opinions carry little weight. Anonymous opinions can easily be
dismissed unless they strike a chord.


2.      .  What is worse that we get totally erroneous denier-based
non-stove pro-coal arguments - that too many list members are apt to
believe.   I am particularly incensed by Crispin's ludicrous statement from
this AM:


I am not sure what you mean by 'denier-based'. Is that the usual epithet for
those who read widely and understand the subject?


            The feeling these days is that for a doubling of CO2 the global
temperature will rise about 0.6 to 0.9 degrees.

A scientific rebuttal by a full time topic expert is at
html , showing Crispin is off by a factor of about 5.  


Perhaps you will take the time to read the IPCC's 2015 final version of
their September draft and alter your perceptions.  If you were a regular
reader of wattsupwiththat.com you would already have in hand a dozen
peer-reviewed papers in the past 18 months examining what is apparently
avoided at skepticalscience.


>I'm sure Crispin strongly believes that the world's largest ever scientific
study (IPCC's AR5) is dead wrong.  


You are incorrect in your assumption.


So wrong he needn't give a cite for the view from his own "Science" circle.
I find this type of error so often I basically now disbelieve Crispin.  


Our views of each other's opinions are similar though for dissimilar


This include his assertion that char produced in char-making stoves should
receive no credit unless burned in that stove.  How many dozens of list
hours have been wasted on that topic - which I believe comes from a denier


Your belief is again incorrect. What is a 'denier position'? Charcoal that
is produced either in the ash or in the combustion chamber cannot be
credited as unburned fuel. We examined this in detail in the past and so far
no one has presented a convincing argument showing that charcoal which
cannot be used in the same stove can in some way be accounted as unburned
raw fuel when calculating the fuel consumption.  Do you believe that
unburned remnant char is raw fuel?  


For those who are new to the list or have not heard this discussion before,
the issue is how to report the fuel consumption of a stove. There are two
camps: those who believe is should be the new fuel needed each time a
cooking cycle is replicated. There is another camp that feels the energy
released from the fuel, or more precisely the energy that could have been
released from the fuel that was actually burned should be reported - in
effect, the energy efficiency, rather than the fuel efficiency.  


The difference is large for the char making stoves Ron promotes so there is
a lot riding on this question. If a stove uses more raw fuel per cooking
cycle than a baseline stove, but produces a lot of charcoal, it can be
reported as 'using more' (scenario 1) or using less energy (scenario 2).
The difference is more than 100% of value. An example was discussed which
showed that a stove which used more fuel than the baseline three stove fire
was being credited with a 'fuel saving' of more than 50% even though it
actually consumed more fuel. 


The difficulty faced by the old guard of stove test methods is that if a new
tests correctly reports the fuel consumption, a lot of old stove performance
results will have to be recalculated and many 'good stoves' will have their
relative performance position changed quite a bit. The challenge is how to
whitewash the old results as 'valid' while moving to a new paradigm in which
the fuel consumption is correctly reported, so people know what they are
getting. The move from WBT 3.1 to WBT 4.x did not quite cut it so the
problem of over-claiming performance remains.


            4.  There are plenty of options available.  If Crispin started a
coal-stove list,  I would attempt to join.  I presume there should be some
existing list that can serve the claimed need.  I reject the idea that
Crispin wrote today:  "Change the purpose of the list so that the needs of
hundreds of millions of ordinary people are not abandoned.",   since I can't
recall any such guidance ever going in the coal-using direction from this


Coal is a biomass fuel.



I contend that writing and talking about coal as a cookstove fuel is
informative and we all need to be aware of its pros and cons, as well as the
occasional mentions of LPG and kerosene (paraffin).   See more below.

            RWL1:  I am only concerned about coal - as the others can be
made from biomass.  Absoluely we should debate, but there is an existing
rule already in place - that is being violated.


Coal is old biomass and there is no 'rule' being violated. Are you saying
that when you helped establish the list it was your intention to prevent the
discussion of improved coal stoves, or stoves that could use coal and wood,
briquettes, coke and so on? All these years we could have been improving the
lives of millions of people. 


3.  An impoverished household in Mongolia or elsewhere that can cook and
heat cleanly (health-wise) with coal is another truly small fish regarding
its CO2 footprint.  We should not be working or advocating against them
having coal-burning stoves that are CLEAN for their health (CO2 is not
poisonous).   That is so, especially while we affluent folks run around in
automobiles and heat much larger homes to probably warmer temperatures and
also lavish ourselves with air conditioning, with so much energy derived
from fossil fuels. 

            [RWL3:  Agree CO2 is not poisonous - but that from fossil fuels
(and 100 ppm already in the atmosphere) is a pollutant.  We can demonstrate
CO2 reductions, and they can/must help as well.   This is what COP21 is all
about - and I believe 193 countries will be agreeing that we have to do it -
painful though it is.  It is worse if we delay.  I have my doubts that the
world's dirtiest city is going to become acceptable without getting off

Whatever your positions, the health and economy of people who are going to
be using coal products in their multiple forms for the next one or two
generations deserve our consideration and expertise. I am not sure what the
world's dirtiest city is, but the 'most polluted capital city' was
Ulaanbaatar. Now, after 4 years of spirited coal stove improvement, less
than half the PM2.5 in the air is from coal combustion. Very little of it is
from ger stoves now that they have almost all been changed. There remain
numerous larger installations in homes and apartment buildings which are
being addressed presently. This required a coordinated effort by multiple


The GACC's official position on coal stoves, as recently articulated, is
that they support improved coal stoves. I think that is a good thing. New
large initiatives are being made to improve coal combustion particularly for
domestic cooking and heating. I think that is good too.


4.  One household is one small amount of CO2 that could be justified, but
would 100,000 households be a different story?   Or 10 MILLION households,
as could easily be the case if China turned to using the new coal-stove
design now in use in Mongolia?  That could be a lot of CO2 increase.   


Adopting the type of stoves (and others) used in Mongolia (UB-CAP) would
result in a decrease in fuel consumption because they are much more
efficient. They burn with a very high combustion efficiency and they have
higher heat delivery efficiencies. They also last longer reducing the long
term manufacturing cost. There are already hundreds of millions of people in
China using coal. Some are also using biomass briquettes which have a number
of limitations, particularly production cost. Many people use both.

But it would be a lot of CO2 if those became LPG burners.   Fuel supply is
crucial.   We cannot deny people the opportunity to cook their meals or warm
their homes because "acceptable renewable" fuels are not available.
Crispin, do you have numbers (CO2, black carbon, methane, etc.) about the
climate impact of the new coal burners in comparison with the climate impact
of the old-style coal burners?   How much better (lower climate impact)?   


I am not a student of climate impact because of the strong disagreements
within the field about what constitutes 'impact'. Most number are just made
up. Methane is poorly characterised in that burning wood that would
otherwise rot to methane is a reduction, so the emissions from the stove are
irrelevant. Measuring BC is difficult and there is nearly no data. Obviously
it is the product of incomplete combustion. Better combustion virtually
eliminates it. The piece I wrote about inherent emissions from coal is
relevant: if people sell the incorrect concept that BC emissions are
inherent 'in the fuel' then we have a problem because it mis-identifies the
core issue which is complete combustion, whatever the fuel.

Is that improvement not sufficient justification to stimulate (financially
bolster) the transition from the old to the new coal burners?   


To some it is and we use it to get money, just like everyone else. If people
want to finance CO2 reduction I have no problem with it, I just remind the
policy managers not to become dependent on that form of finance because it
is likely to disappear. Anything that delivers a better product is fair
game. Things are desperately in need of improvement. We do not need false
arguments to act. The worst false argument is that 'this stove will reduce
pollution' when it doesn't. If the evaluation method can't tell, or gives
really wrong answers, then it is a manifest failure. There are those who
would far rather address environmental degradation of the biome than save
CO2 emissions. Malawi is a case in point. They have some coal reserves and
have destroyed almost the entire national tree cover. It will need two
generations to recover fully. That is quite possible. They could switch to
coal or processed coal products for 40 years and re-establish the forests,
then manage them much better, now that we know how to do it. Re-establishing
the forests would absorb vast quantities of CO2. If that is your focus, then
you have to count that in the equation.


Ron, could that improvement be the realistic goal, or should the short term
goal be the abolition of all coal burning stoves?

            [RWL4:   Just as the Chinese have taken the global lead in PV,
solar hot water, and wind - they will soon be leading in biochar and from
char-making stoves.  Yes the short-term goal should be abolition of
coal-burning stoves.  And the Chinese know they have to do it - and I
congratulate them for their path (which can include improving their soils at
the same time).

China is absolutely short of biomass in terms of space heating and cooking.
If they start turning their available biomass into char to bury, they will
need nuclear power (which of course they are building) and other affordable
sources. Wind generated electricity is expensive, and requires 100% backup
from other sources of energy. That backup station is a cost to wind. There
is controversy right now in Ontario because a large PV system is being
installed (subsidised of course) to produce subsidised power, plus they have
to build at public cost a natural gas generating power station that will run
60-100% of the time to cover the gaps in the solar power. 


Small power generation in domestic stoves could address some electrification
needs but not in Ontario. The most likely technology is the thermoacoustic
generator. Once mass produced, it will change the whole power generation
equation, especially in rural areas.

5.  The GACC certainly embraces clean burning LPG and natural gas, and would
like to have clean-burning kerosene stoves.   The GACC either must condemn
those "advanced" fossil fuels and their stoves OR embrace coal with
clean-burning coal stoves.   To leave LPG in and exclude coal is hypocrisy
that must be addressed at the GACC Forum in November.   Either all cleanly
burned fossil fuels and their stoves must be acceptable to the GACC, or no
fossil fuels should be in the GACC discussions and programs.  


There is a difference between the stated position last November (no coal, no
kerosene, wood is tolerable until we can move everyone to electricity and
LPG) and the current stated position, clarified recently on this list
(thanks for that). All improved stoves are fair game. I do not know how long
that will last because the standard wording is that the GACC supports the
distribution of 'clean cooking solutions' to people who have historically
'been forced to use solid fuels'.  This aligns with the position promoted by
Berkeley since 1999 that all solid fuel combustion should cease because they
cannot be burned cleanly enough to eliminate risk to cooks (from exposure to
smoke). This policy and wording have been very consistent. Is it consistent
with 'coal in the meantime'?


India, China and other Asian countries are going to continue to use coal as
a domestic fuel for a long time to come. There are a lot of coke burning
stoves in India. Domestic coke they call it. Smokeless. 


            [RWL5:  There are more choices than you have given.  We know how
to make bioliquids.  If fossil carbon had the pollution price it should be
bearing (about $40/tonne CO2 per many estimates), there would be no question
about folks everywhere planting the trees we need for both carbon neutrality
and carbon negativity.   


That $40 is sucked out of someone's thumb and you know it. 


Big parts of China are already seeing such a tax.  China has planted more
trees than the rest of the world combined.  They are flaring much straw
still today.  They are one of the last countries to need to use coal.  Why
wouldn't they want to move away from coal-burning?  Especially as they have
already made commitments (with Obama) that are pushing other countries.
China does not need coal stoves.


That is incorrect. 


            I can understand Kirk Smith arguing for liquid fuels, but I am
sure he would prefer bioliquids.   The difference in cost between fossil and
bio sources is insignificant, even when you ignore the fossil CO2 damages.


Kirk has last year called for the introduction of DME (di-methyl ether) as a
domestic heating and cooking fuel. It is expensive and would require a large
subsidy. I can't see anyone trying to make and promote it. IF the difference
between coal and biomass fuels is insignificant, than making coal stoves
twice as efficient would present a major challenge to the biomass industry.
New biomass is hard to compress and mode around. Pellets and biomass
briquettes made in China are subsidised. Maybe that is why they appear to be
competitive on the local market. I will ask at the next South-South
Sustainable Stoves meeting. We always get a presentation on the industry,
its successes and challenges.


            As Dean Still has said today, we can get there.  I know there is
a long way to go in improving char-making cook stoves, with way too little
funding going towards this target.  I see some good work coming along -

All funding is welcome. My hand is open! You want char? We will make char.
You want fuel saving? We can do that too. 


We know (and are grateful) that leaders in the GACC and WB and EPA do read
the Stoves Listserv, although they seldom comment.   The comments in #5
above should have some reply by the end of October so that the issue will be
addressed at the November Forum, either with or without GACC's agreement
with #5.  Fossil fuels with GOOD stoves are either ALL IN or art ALL OUT.
At the Forum, certainly the World Bank and other financial backers of the
Mongolia success will be advocating for coal to be included, along with the
attendees from Mongolia.    Other supporters should be those who work with
LPG, natural gas, and kerosene, otherwise they face opposition to the
continued inclusion of those fuels in any GACC programs.  To exclude them
would be like making them automatic Tier 1 or Tier 0 (bad) stoves and fuels.


You present a worthy challenge: where are we with respect to improving the
stoves used from Eastern Europe to Vietnam that burn all available fuels
including coal, coke, peat, briquettes made from wood and wood waste, crops
and paper garbage? Who is included and who is not? Who should decide? Who
gets a veto? Is this like the UN? Will the little and primarily affected
countries have a say?


            [RWL6:  If GACC et al value carbon as is likely to come out of
Paris, they won't have to worry about prioritizing; they will emphasize
renewables.  It is time to give up on outdated, harmful technologies.  Many
large US firms put the pollution cost of carbon (such as the $40 above) -
and then use the resulting savings against that target to do other right
things.  Since the EPA is the main agency behind the CPP (Clean Power Plan)
- clearly anti-coal and pro-gas, they would be hypocritical to ignore the
coal-bio difference with cook stoves.

A friend of mine characterised the CPP and the war on coal (WOC) as cultural
warfare between the coastal people and the mountain people in the USA. The
origin of 'pro-gas' was Enron (formed by two natural gas companies) which in
their dying days were trying to get a monopoly on natural gas production
particularly in the Dakotas. They are behind the brief surge in nat gas
prices that started 15 years ago as their grip (and that of their
co-conspirators) tightened on supplies. They also funded PR campaigns in the
late 90's and early 2000's against coal and CO2 to promote gas. The CPP has
been successful in converting coal burning stations to natural gas. Combined
cycle gas plants are about as efficient as combined cycle coal plants (low





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