The scope of this column, inspired by the equation E=mc2 familiar to the knowledgeable sections of literati as the formula attributed to the famed Physicist Albert Einstein propounding his theory of special relativity is limited to the connect between mass (matter) and energy (heat) as a lay person understands. His theory that mass and energy are the same physical entity (and can be changed to each other) means one thing to the academics and another to common people in the particular context of matter of various kinds such as firewood, charcoal pellets, biogas, kerosene, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), Piped Natural Gas (PNG) specially for cooking food in homes. Two other sources of heat energy namely, solar radiation and electricity, which are in a different class, being available without the fear of scarcity as time passes may not compete with the aforementioned resources on the count of convenience and comfort in use. Kerosene, extensively used as fuel for cooking in homes has a short history dating back to mid-eighteenth century while the history of firewood is lost in antiquity.
While the use of firewood as fuel for cooking in urban homes is unthinkable this day, the rural population across the country continuing with the drudgery of collecting dry figs to meet their fuel needs, not to talk of buying their requirement of firewood from the virtually extant fuel depots, is more talked about in various circles leaving the situation unchanged. Expert articles in many languages have been published in the media explaining the many harmful consequences of burning firewood in the ill-ventilated kitchens of rural households. Designing smokeless ovens and providing LPG facility to the rural families have mitigated their hardship to a limited extent.
The national issue of continued availability of fuel in its currently familiar forms primarily as a source of heat energy is bound to assume steadily rising challenge as we pass from one year to the next. The requirement of the currently in-use fuels must first be met in every home of the land, unarguably every day. To say that as the nation’s headcount expands at whatever low annual rate can be achieved, the per capita availability of fuel shrinks as well as its consumer cost reaches inflationary proportion is saying the obvious. The obvious question that prompts itself is how long in future are we able to lay our hands on the alternatives among the cooking fuels, which obviously don’t include firewood. Biogas seems to be the best bet. The foregoing longish preamble beginning with the theorised connect between matter (fuel) and energy (heat for cooking) and ending with the question mentioned above should tickle the research fraternity of the country to do some out-of-the-box thinking so that the country’s millions don’t have to despair.