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.