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Much Ado about Kerosene: A Call for a Switch to LPG

There is a popular saying that if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Interestingly, not many appear to take this saying literally, especially when it comes to the preparatory stage of food making, otherwise known as cooking, a phase more often than not overlooked by many. After all, the end surely justifies the means. 

But not for those who do the actual cooking, either with firewood or by kerosene. They are the ones who feel the heat, but ironically only a few of them recognize the effect on their skin and general well-being from long term exposure to the heat and smoke from cooking with firewood or kerosene.

It is equally doubtful that they recognize the larger effect such cooking practices have on the ozone layer, and one can bet one’s last dollar that they have neither heard of phrases like global warming and climate change, topics that have become so important that they give leaders of powerful nations sleepless nights.

According to the World Health Organisation, around three billion people across the developing world still rely on solid fuels – traditional biomass, coal and firewood – for cooking on primitive stoves or open fires. This is mostly the case in the western part of Africa.  

Conversely, in more developed nations Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is used in food production. In fact, the USA consumes about 2300.98 barrels of gas a day, majority of which is used in food preparation. But why is the use of LPG for cooking so important?

A 2012 study by the Global Burden of Disease (GBD), one of the biggest surveys of global health ever undertaken found that over  four million people a year die prematurely from illnesses attributable directly and indirectly to indoor air pollution from solid fuel use such as lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and asthma amongst others. 

It is estimated that over 112 Million Nigerians still cook with unwholesome cooking fuels, estimated to be the cause of many health and environmental issues that plague the country and its people especially in rural areas.

Beyond the health implications, there are also issues of safety of lives and the environment. In 2016 alone, there were over 10,000 cases of household fires due to kerosene and firewood and their uncontrollable nature. These statistics give credence to the opinions of environmentalists and organizations calling for the overhaul in standardized trends in favour of more widespread LPG adoption.

According to Adekambi Falaye, a Lagos-based environmental activist, LPG represents a cleaner burning fuel with high combustion efficiency. “LPG is considerably safer than other forms of conventional fuels. It produces less harmful emissions than other fossil fuels and is less harmful to the environment and your health compared to most other conventional fossil fuels. LPG generates very little Carbon dioxide and is low in sulphur, nitrogen and other particulates – all of which contribute to pollution. If spilt, LPG quickly evaporates with no risk of ground or water contamination,” he said. 

Over the years, LPG has become more popular than ever, because of its benefits not only to homes but also to the environment. It produces no smoke which means it is less likely to cause any respiratory related illnesses. 

However, despite these advantages over other sources for cooking, most people in developing countries still go for kerosene and other burning fuels because it is considered the cheaper alternative, choosing cost over safety.  But even this argument appears to have been overtaken by event, as the price of kerosene continues to soar by the day.

Peace Anniah, a business owner and food trader complained about Kerosene scarcity and price increase saying: “I bought Kerosene at 450 naira per litre just yesterday and you need more than few litres to complete cooking. One may have to rethink the effectiveness”.  

Now compare this to the aforementioned the benefits of LPG and its relatively cheap price. Moreover, oil retailers have begun to develop attractive alternatives to encourage consumers to switch over to the safer and environmentally friendly LPG, with very interesting prizes that won’t hurt their pocket.  

A good example is OVH Energy, the leading oil retailer in Nigeria which has developed special 3kg cylinders called O-Gas, to support lower income households. The cylinders are very affordable, easy to handle, use and health safety conscious. In comparison, kerosene which is largely used in Nigeria contains toxins which are deposited in the atmosphere and sometimes in cooking food. OVH also partners with some microfinance banks to provide 3-in-1 O-Gas cooking stove bundles as financial for individuals and households who are worried about affordability.

Several health bodies and independent organizations have also been lending their support to the importance of switching to LPG. At the Oil Trading and Gas Logistics (OTL) conference 2016, President of the Nigerian Association of LPG Marketers, NALPGAM, Mr. Basil Ogbuanu highlighted the need for more understanding of the importance and relevance of the usage of LPG and its role in the pursuit of a cleaner energy that is also affordable in such a time as this where it is practical for one to minimize expenses.

OVH energy has also been an active advocate for LPG. Recently, the company commenced a nationwide campaign across all NYSC orientation camps, creating awareness on the health and environmental benefits of using LPG for cooking, supporting the millennium development goals of ensuring environmental sustainability. The oil retail giant has been driving this initiative through inter-platoon cooking and debate competitions in all NYSC camps across the Federation. This year, the company has educated NYSC candidates in Lagos and Kaduna and plans to replicate the initiative in over 14 NYSC campaigns across the geographical zones. 

Ganiyu Azeez, Head, Marketing and LPG at OVH Marketing said: “The socio-economic benefits of switching to LPG from traditional fuels and most other fossil fuels in developing countries cannot be over emphasized. There is a strong case for targeted policies by the government to facilitate the expanded use of LPG in Nigerian households to reduce the dirge of health and environment maladies.” 

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