The Obama administration’s war on climate change may soon be moving inside the kitchen.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy is set to unveil Tuesday six federal grants to universities to fund research on clean cooking-stove technology.
The announcement will put the EPA’s resources squarely behind a United Nations’ quest for cleaner burning stoves and an end to deadly cooking pollution.
“This research will help to improve air quality, protect public health and slow climate change,” the EPA said in explaining why the agency chief will preside over the announcement Tuesday.
To make the case for why these grants are so important, EPA noted the World Health Organization estimates that exposure to smoke from traditional cookstoves and open pit fires leads to 4.3 million premature deaths each year.
The fact is, though, most of the problem lives far from the shores of the U.S., where most Americans have modern gas and electric stoves.
Rather, the target of this research are the 3 billion people, mostly in the developing world, who still cook using solid fuels like wood, crop wastes, charcoal, coal and dung in open fires or leaky stoves, according to the World Health Organization.
WHO’s own website acknowledges most of the cookstoves that are the problems are in poor countries.
In fact, when the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory wanted to develop a more clean-burning cookstove a decade ago, it ended up going to Sudan’s Darfur region.
EPA officials did not respond to a request for comment on how many American homes would benefit from the research, or why the agency is focusing on a problem mostly centered in the developing world.
The grants are certain to hearten those worried about the health of women in developing countries affected by primitive stoves. But they could also renew a debate back in Washington why an agency charged with protecting Americans from pollution is focused on a problem that is far more prevalent off U.S. shores.