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A preparatory paper written for the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development was based on the premise that, for those in developing countries as for everyone else, only renewable energy sources qualify as sustainable.

In this opinion article, Kirk Smith argues that this premise is flawed. He says that the provision of household fuel such as liquefied petroleum gas to the world's poor would not appreciably add to the environmental burden of fossil fuels.

Furthermore, few of the renewable technologies available to replace fossil fuels are affordable, reliable or suitable for the rural poor. Smith questions whether it makes sense to ask developing nations to take on novel devices and fuels that have never been tried elsewhere, just to avoid a relatively small increase in greenhouse gas emissions or shorten the petroleum era by a few weeks.

Link to Science editorial

Reference: Science 298, 1847 (2002)