Life cycle assessment of cookstove fuels in India and China

Over half of the population in both China and India use traditional cookstoves that emit harmful air pollutants resulting in over a million annual premature deaths. Reducing pollution from cookstoves is a key priority as emissions from traditional cookstoves and open fires with solid fuels is a major health concern. Past studies have focused on the impacts of replacing “dirtier” stoves with “cleaner” stoves; however, less research is available on the full supply chain of the fuels used in the stoves. Use of traditional cookstoves fuels such as firewood and coal, combined with rapid rates of urbanization and industrialization, have contributed to resource depletion, deforestation, desertification, and biodiversity loss. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) is conducting research to provide data and tools that inform decisions regarding clean cookstoves and fuels for these countries. A life cycle assessment (LCA) was conducted to compare the environmental footprint of current and possible fuels used for cooking in China and India. This report provides the life-cycle inventory (LCI) environmental tradeoffs for cooking fuels on the basis of 1 gigajoule (GJ) of delivered cooking energy. The fuels evaluated include natural gas; liquefied petroleum gas (LPG); coal; kerosene; biomass (crop residue, dung, charcoal, firewood, wood pellets); biogas; sugarcane ethanol; and dimethyl ether (DME). The study also assessed electric stoves that utilize a diverse set of fuel types upstream.

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