Where does the thermal energy come from for industrial processes in the rural north-east? For the expanding milk-processing facilities, (…) or for producing plaster and ﬁring bricks and roof tiles for the booming construction industry?
By far the most important source of this process energy is fuelwood and charcoal from the tropical dry forest of the Caatinga (see Box). Fuelwood and charcoal are also used by rural households and bakeries. Local experts estimate that 30 percent of all the region’s energy comes from the Caatinga.
Yet more than 90 percent of the forest clearance that takes place is illegal – and environmentally damaging. And the combustion methods used are inefﬁcient. At the same time felling, transport, charcoal processing and the use of charcoal in countless production processes creates jobs and earnings for around ten thousand people. A simple ban would therefore be counterproductive. However, one ﬁnding remains clear: it is not farming, not urbanisation and not even the use of fuelwood by private households that is degrading the soil, reducing species diversity and accelerating the effects of climate change – these problems are caused mainly by the rapidly growing energy hunger of process industries.
Read the full article by Ingo Melchers: Rural 21 Fuelwood and Biodiesel.