Wednesday, November 28, 2007

This stove cooks -- but burns

A Salvadoran wanted to help the environment and his country's poor. Instead, his acclaimed invention has cost him his family and savings.
It's a stainless-steel cooker that uses about 95 percent less fuel than conventional wood stoves, with minimal pollution. It would seem to be a can't-miss technology in a country where millions still cook with wood and most forests have been destroyed.

The device has garnered Nuñez a prestigious environmental prize. It has earned him a U.S. patent. And it has won fans among some Salvadoran peasants who no longer spend a good chunk of their days hunting for firewood and the rest inhaling cooking smoke.

Nuñez gambled that the government or nonprofit groups would finance production of the appliances to distribute to low-income people. But Salvadoran officials so far have shown scant interest in his invention. Environmental groups have offered praise but little financial backing.