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Nigerians look to biofuel as cost of cooking gas soars

Hairdresser Shola Abiodun Adeyemi begins preparing lunch by pouring out a glug of bright green biofuel gel into her stove, as many Nigerians seek to reduce cooking expenses.

The cost of living has skyrocketed in Nigeria since President Bola Ahmed Tinubu ended a fuel subsidy in May.

Bioethanol — a cheaper, renewable alternative to cooking gas — is becoming increasingly popular.

Regular cooking gas is now unaffordable for many, with inflation in Africa’s largest economy reaching more than 27 percent over the past year, according to the Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics.

Adeyemi is glad she can avoid paying around 1,000 naira (1.14 euros, $1.25) per kilogramme for gas.

A litre of biofuel costs the equivalent of just over $1, and users say they can get much more cooking done with it.

– ‘You’ll love your cooking’ –

The biofuel gel also offers a cleaner alternative in kitchens where families are exposed to the health risks of woodsmoke and other more polluting fuels.

Every year, more than 93,000 women die in Nigeria from diseases caused by domestic air pollution, according to the World Health Organization.

Bioethanol gel releases far fewer harmful emissions into the atmosphere than traditional fuels.

“It doesn’t darken your pot when you are using it, you feel comfortable, you don’t even need to stress. Even the smell, the odour it brings out, you’ll love your cooking,” said 43-year-old Adeyemi.

In Nigeria, carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced by over four million tonnes if all households used bioethanol for cooking, according to the United Nations.

In the wider region, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is seeking to popularise bioethanol. 

Guei Kouhie, coordinator of bioenergy and clean cooking programmes at ECOWAS, said the bloc wants countries to adopt “harmonised standards of bioethanol cooking and transportation and domestication.”

– ‘Products that save lives’ –

One of the firms selling the fuel and stoves is Kike Technologies, part of the Green Energy Biofuels company.

Its bioethanol is made using organic materials including food scraps, agricultural waste and even water hyacinth.

The company has sold around a million cookers in Nigeria and neighbouring countries.

Co-founder Femi Oye, who is also the CEO of Green Energy Biofuels, said he wanted to “create products that save lives.”

More Nigerian households have been turning to greener biofuels, according to the non-profit Clean Cooking Alliance — but there are limitations, especially during Nigeria’s economic crisis.

“With inflation, people embrace bioethanol for sure, but many others have gone back to wood and coal, (which are) even cheaper,” said Abel Gaiya, a researcher at Clean Technology Hub, a renewable energy think tank in the capital Abuja.

Gaiya also warned that defective stoves could lead to “some negative effects similar to gas, causing leaks, explosions and fires.”

He called on the government to get involved, a point echoed by Lilian Aremu, a business manager of Green Energy Biofuels who also co-founded Kike Technologies.

“If we have more support from the authorities, we can reduce production costs and many people, even in rural areas, will have the opportunity to benefit,” Aremu said.

Source: Macau Business