Bio-based materials can provide energy in multiple ways. Certain crops can be used to produce ethanol, which can then be blended with gasoline to produce fuel for vehicles. Ethanol can also be used in cooking stoves, providing a cleaner alternative to wood or charcoal. Alternatively, crops – or their waste products – can be burned to generate electricity. Of course, Africa already relies on biomass for energy. The International Energy Agency estimates that over 80% of the continent’s population uses biomass – mainly firewood and charcoal – for cooking. But production of biofuels on a commercial scale in Africa has been very limited – the giant commercial biofuel plantations seen in Brazil and parts of Southeast Asia remain uncommon in Africa.
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