Want to Really Help the Poor? Give them LPG!

Gas Drilling Impacts - Nick Grealy ReportsNick Grealy
Administrator of NaturalGas2.0NoHotAir and ShaleGasInfo Blogs


Those who are truly serious about helping the poor will realize their first need is inexpensive energy and LPG is one of the ways to deliver it quickly.

The US shale revolution is echoing across the world, some times in places far away from its sources as in LNG. More initials are in a multilevel good news story in how even humble LPG is joining the party.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas, long a niche product used by the poor to cook and the rich to barbecue, has become a rare bright spot amid a broad commodities rout, riding on the wave of strong economic growth in India and parts of Southeast Asia.

LPG is best known to consumers as propane or butane used in heating appliances and vehicles. But it is also used in the petrochemicals industry and the electricity sector, acting as a replacement for diesel in generators and power stations.

While tumbling prices for oil, gas, coal and industrial metals have seen energy companies and miners slash capital expenditure, investment is flowing into the LPG sector to feed burgeoning demand from the world’s poorer nations.


Which level to look at first? Alleviating developing world poverty? Or saving millions of lives and improving health?:

The World Health Organization says 3 billion people globally cook using solid fuels such as charcoal and coal on open fires or traditional stoves, producing high levels of carbon monoxide, but it has been hard to switch people to clean energy.

More good news comes from empowering women. Freed from the backbreaking task of gathering wood, older women become economically active. Young girls spend more time in school, not wasting hours each day collecting wood as the IEA points out:

Use of biomass is not in itself a cause for concern. However, when resources are harvested unsustainably and energy conversion technologies are inefficient, there are serious adverse consequences for health, the environment and economic development. About 1.3 million people – mostly women and children – die prematurely every year because of exposure to indoor air pollution from biomass. Valuable time and effort is devoted to fuel collection instead of education or income generation. Environmental damage can also result, such as land degradation and regional air pollution.

Just as the mainstream media dare not contradict the leave it in the ground PR machine on the completely uncontroversial solution of natural gas saving lives by replacing diesel in London buses, a similar denial occurs when natural gas dares to solve even greater problems far away from smug, smog ridden, London greens love to hug to keep in a job.

The World Health Organization says 3 billion people globally cook using solid fuels such as charcoal and coal on open fires or traditional stoves, producing high levels of carbon monoxide, but it has been hard to switch people to clean energy.

This is the result in India alone:

NEW DELHI: Indoor air pollution (IAP), resulting from chulhas (stoves) burning wood, coal and animal dung as fuel, is claiming a shocking 500,000 lives in India every year, most of whom are women and children.

According to the World Health Organisation, India accounts for 80% of the 600,000 premature deaths that occur in south-east Asia annually due to exposure to IAP. Nearly 70% of rural households in India don’t even have ventilation.

As usual, there is a nugatory green niche solution that provides Western greens with another virtuous job creation scheme, which is of course the actual point. Replacing smog with smug:

Over the past two years, 60,000 rural villagers in four states in India have been connected to affordable, solar powered energy by international non-profit The Climate Group, as part of an innovative program that could be extended to save as many as 1.5 million lives a year by cutting indoor air pollution from kerosene lamps.

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Yet LPG has far greater immediate potential.

The World Bank says LPG helps reduce poverty, giving millions of households access to cooking heat and electricity for the first time.

“Reduction of extreme poverty is impossible without addressing energy scarcity,” said Anita Marangoly George, senior director of Sustainable Development at the World Bank. “We see LPG as crucial in fighting energy poverty.”

The root of this accidental good news demonstrates how the world natural gas industry, not Indian villagers, are the new untouchables:

Previously mostly produced in the Middle East, its rise over the last few years has come as a side-effect of the U.S. shale oil and gas exploration boomof which LPG is a by-product.

With LPG production from shale soaring since 2006, the United States has this year become the world’s biggest exporter.

Its soaring production has also made LPG much cheaper, a key ingredient for its success in developing countries, with U.S. propane prices down 70 percent since 2014.

Shale gas is directly responsible for saving actual lives while empowering the poorest people in the world.This should be celebrated, yet:

What is Oxfam’s view on fracking?

The longer we fund new ways of extracting fossil fuels, the longer we delay a shift to low carbon energy. Until we prioritise renewable energy sources, climate change and global hunger will continue to get worse.

The natural gas industry has to step in to the vacuum others fill and celebrate the positive news of natural gas. But, that takes money, organization, and most importantly, imagination: something opponents have an abundance of, and ineffective natural gas PR has precious little of.

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