Biogas in El Salvador

Finding sources of energy which are renewable and do not have negative environmental consequences is an important goal for El Salvador's future development. Raúl Gutiérrez at IPS describes how growing use of "biogas" can provide an alternative energy resource and reduce deforestation in El Salvador:
This biofuel is obtained through the fermentation of organic matter including manure, sewage sludge, municipal solid waste, biodegradable waste or any other biodegradable feedstock, under anaerobic conditions. Biogas is comprised primarily of methane and carbon dioxide.

Installing a biodigester does not require in-depth technical knowledge or a major investment, as the cost runs to no more than 300 dollars. The equipment can be homemade, poses no health risks, and does not produce offensive odours, while it helps cut family fuel expenses.

Biogas can be used as a fuel for vehicles or to generate electric power, and can also be burned directly for cooking, heating and lighting.

The airtight biodigesters often consist of a cement tank covered with dark plastic sheeting, or several barrels soldered together. The biogas plant is fed with diluted manure through a tube or hose, and has an outgoing biogas valve made of PVC.

The Chilean Evangelical Service for Development (SEPADE) notes that contrary to what most people think, agriculture accounts for 30 percent of all emissions of methane, which is the second most important greenhouse gas, after carbon dioxide.

SEPADE points to the environmental benefits of installing biodigesters on farms to make use of manure, in order to cut air pollution and produce renewable energy, and says such equipment will be "indispensable" in the future....

Households which are able to use biogas as fuel for home cooking, will have less need to cut trees to provide firewood for home cooking fires. Deforestation is a major problem in El Salvador, the same article reports:
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports that El Salvador is the Central American country that has suffered the worst environmental degradation, with over 75 percent of the soil suffering erosion to some degree, as a result of deforestation, urbanisation and the heavy concentration of the population.

El Salvador is the second most deforested country in Latin America after Haiti, with less than five percent of the land area forested, and hardly any primary forest left.

A FAO report on non-timber forest products in Central America says firewood represents 92 percent of energy consumption in the Salvadoran countryside, and between 51 and 69 percent nationwide. This, along with the expansion of the agricultural frontier, has driven up deforestation to an average of 4,500 hectares a year.


Anonymous said…
Tim, seeing how you've been following the mining controversy involving Pacific Rim-communities, I felt like taking the liberty to post an update on this situation:

A Colatino piece states that community members, and organizations protesting the presence of Pacific Rim allege that the intimidation campaign by part of the company and our corrupt institutions (gov, police, army) has intensified:

Could you with your all encompasing reach (whatever additional sources you possess) dedicate another blog entry to the "Cursed Gold" Saga?

Thanks and keep up with the great job.
Anonymous said…
By the way, just an additional comment:

Deforestation+mining+Millenium Account+corrupt government+zona norte= People left in poverty of usual with their livelihoods deteriorated because of the enviromental impacts all this destruction in favor of mines and transnational companies the Longitudinal del Norte and mining will cause. I can only imagine the population movement this will cause=more migrants to US or to the cities...
Hodad said…
I have been advocating the use of Sustainable Systems and Appropriate Technology for years in Central America
unfortunately, the groups such as CESTA and others in ES seem only to talk
it takes getting the hands dirty to get the point across and to show what can be done
small biogas systems and composting toilets can be made for the same amount of money and meterial as a pila
and you cook off of the waste you create
been done in India for years, small scale and large

one of my goals starting in 1996 was to open a center in ES for the use of such technologies, however i was sidetracked, and have had bad partners that stole my money for these implimentations[these cases are NOT over]
on my sites, and, I am advocating the use of HEMP in CA as a salvation for the 'american' farmer
more info and links to info are there

and of course HEMP seed oil would be a very good fuel for high compression engines[diesel] for propulsion of small fishing boats
and not very much pollution at all,
only from the lubricants used, which only petrol can fulfill
[what will we use for grease when the oil runs out, a very old question debated late night over cognac many many years ago at Stage and Studio]

we will see what the future brings, but first is to get rid of all the ineffective so-called leaders and 'lawyers are good for fish bait only'
maybe folks are waking up??? hope so, and realizing that the current status quo is only in it for themselves and their oil,chemical,pharmacy,military indutrial complex buddies
and NOT for the good of the 'common man'

Engineers Without Borders...
Hodad said…
just saw your post
those involved with mining should leave EL SALVADOR today
or things WILL get violent
not a threat, just a promise
the people have awoken
Rusty said…
I agree that gold-mining is not a viable means of growing the Salvadoran economy, and in the end will probably do more harm than good to the communities where it takes place, but the article in colatino doesn't seem to corroborate the claim that the "intimidation campaign" is increasing.

The protester who destroyed the Pacific Rim cameraman's camera should have been arrested. This isn't peaceful protesting. A righteous cause doesn't need violence to uphold it. Look at the civil rights protesters, allowing milk to be poured onto their heads in the midst of jeers, while they stoically, silently, and POWERFULLY upheld the righteousness of their cause. Read Gandhi's words on peaceful protest, or Thoreau's Civil Disobedience. Look at Jesus's surrendering himself to the Roman authorities to be executed, calmly telling his disciple to put away his sword after he cut the ear off of the first Roman soldier to take Jesus away (Matt 26:51-52 "Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword"). These are the methods of the righteous. Let the morality of your cause draw the support of the people, not the threat of violence. Illuminate the discretions on human rights perpetrated by Pacific Rim, clearly. This post only shows the protestor's destructive infringement of a Pacific Rim employee's right to film in a public place.
Basta de Casaca said…
Hi Tim and all readers of this blog,

In March 8 2007, LA PRENSA GRAFICA published an article which said that Tony Saca got 57% "approval" from public opinion.. you can see it here:

IN CONTRAST Take a look at the CID Gallup Latin America Public opinion surveys in Central America and the Dominican Republic, First trimester 2007:


We have to ask: Why is that none of the salvadorean newspapers have made that information public?

Why do they hide that information?

Why do they lie to us?

Shame on salvadorean journalism!; IT SUCKS!

That's bull-shit!

I agree with HODAD26, PEOPLE HAVE AWAKEN!, but the "forth power, which is working for ARENA", is trying to cover up.
Anonymous said…
Um, Rusty, you can actually even read the word "intensificado" (intensified) in the second paragraph:

"Según los activistas antiminería metálica, la transnacional canadiense ha intensificado sus estrategias de compra de voluntades, agresión a líderes comunales y división de las comunidades de Cabañas. Esto, con el apoyo de los alcaldes de San Isidro y Sensuntepeque, la PNC y del Ejército."

According to antimining activists, the canadian transnational has intensified their strategy of will purchases, agresion to communal leaders, and divisions between the communities in Cabañas. This with the aid of the mayors of San Isidro and Sensuntepeque, the police, and the army.

Tim said…

It's not completely clear that the CID/Gallup poll and the LPG Datos poll are inconsistent. It appears the CID/GALLUP let people describe the presidents' performances as very good / good / neither good nor bad / bad / very bad. LPG Datos asked a different question -- how much do you view Saca's performance: approve much, approve some, disapprove some, disapprove much. The key difference is that LPG Datos does not appear to have offered a neutral response. CID noted that Saca is not one of the presidents where a majority disapprove of his performance.
Hodad said…
this is EL SALVADOR!
the system does not work
they know it now
just shame most are now lazy with thier cushy remitances

from early on till now
the option for THE PEOPLE
is violence 79-92 history sometimes repeats itself

peace and love in ES , does not work

gold mining destroys the environment and most importantly the water systems, water is LIFE!

it needs to be stopped and will be stopped by whatever means
they can also be dealt with in Canada and the USA, their homes and work places
La Movimento La Raza, know what that is about?
read about it

it[gold mining] will NOT be tolerated and this MCC 460 million is also being looked at

but we will see how much
'huevos' these democrats now in Congress have
revolution is needed for change
just how it is
i just want to surf and fish,
I have read the bible, Koran, and most of Walden's writings
'Civil Disobedience' in 8th grade
and am Buddhist, however, there ARE limits
gold miners go home,back to Canada
so you will not have accidents

but i thought this blog was about biogas?
which is part of a solution for the less fortunate
which are now 95% of the population
Anonymous said…
This is Rusty again. I apologize for being off topic. Biogas is a positive step toward energy independence and environmental conservation that we need to be supporting in El Salvador. Has the Peace Corps done anything with this? CARE International? Some organization with the necessary infrastructure needs to create a pilot program for Biogas education in the campo.

Points about the use of violence and the Pacific Rim issue:

"intimidation" for me, implies the threat of force. What Pacific Rim is doing is bribing community leaders, something that happens at all levels of Salvadoran society, across the political spectrums. These community leaders are the Judas's of the movement, and should be treated as such. The anti-mining movement needs to create a stronger core group with enough people who are not corruptible.

To Hodad - Why are the people of El Salvador categorically different from the rest of the world that their situation could only be resolved through violence? This seems almost racist to me, assuming that the country is what, too messed up to be ameliorated through peaceful resistance? I live in El Salvador, and I believe modern day El Salvador, despite the rampant injustice that exists, is politically more mature and more democratic than the U.S. South prior to the Civil Rights movement, more than Pre-apartheid South Africa, or Colonial India, all of whose political oppression was largely removed through peaceful resistance.

El Salvador's current problem is economic oppression, which is a problem that exists all over the world, and which we all must pitch in and do the hard, painstaking, self-sacrificing peaceful democratic work together across nations, cultures, and social classes to solve, because we're all part of the same economic system.
Anonymous said…

Why don't you go to support the mining protest?

See if the army and Police treat you fairly.

For what we salvadoreans are known is for resistance.

in 1980 there were massive peaceful demostrations, which were atacked by the death squads.

Now day the same happens.

The arrest of one of the comunity's lider was illegal, he was only participating in the demostration.

Violence only comes from the military and the police!

That's not democracy, it is brutality!


Have you read el recently?

Presidente del ISTA parceló Áreas Naturales para favorecer a familiares y simpatizantes de ARENA

That's the level of corruption in El Salvador, my friend.

As you can see they (ARENA) had given land to buy votes.

The article showed that even though
Tony Saca was not even a candidate by the time the land were given by the president of ISTA with documents that place Tony Saca as an factual president, when he was not.

Lot of work and reading about these topics need to be done, to reveal how ARENA had came to power by Fraudulent Meaning of Elections.

see you around.

By the way does any body knows how these Biodigestors work?

I'm trying to make Biogas with some rubish I had accumulated throught the years, wating for the good samaritan to tell how to convert it into electricity as they did in 1800 in Europe.
Hodad said…
protons right on
we will make some biogas
when i get there,
if i do not and go to Nicaragua, where the government now is 1000 times more 'people friendly'

i replied to Rusty a long diatribe
but did not post it

he is young and idealistic, as i was in the 60's 70's
just newly arrived,. not having been in ES since 1983 and seen what is going on,

and a reply in regards to why Salvos react as they did up to 1992
anyway, we will see

and peace corps USAID are all propoganda of USA/CIA bullshit
they are idealistic when they join
but the former head in ES was an idiot and did nada....
they have 3 missions there now probably
but not AT or Sustainable Systems development, except some water quality enhancement , maybe
water can be treated in the 'bush' with a 55 gallon drum, so rocks and sand and charcoal from wood

gold miners go home
before i arrive
and tell all the fishermen what this gold mining will do to the water in ES and how it will negatively affect fishing
then you will have to deal with thousands of not happy fishermen,

lawyers are good ONLY for fish bait,
as are politicians

that are NOT engineers
you think these peacefuil marches last week and month in DC did any good?
here everyone has the cushy fat life
plenty of cell phones and video games and grocery conveinece store at every corner,
no one cares what is going on in El Salvador here in USA, very very few
the salvos get here and get fat and cushy also
just facts
Steve Last said…
Building biogas plants is good but I make a plea that the following text from the article is of vital importance in my opinion. "SEPADE points to the environmental benefits of installing biodigesters on farms to make use of MANURE..." In other words, use waste to feed AD Plants, not any food crop. many nations have ignored this and that is bad for those nations.