GRE Argument Essay 163

The following appeared in a letter to an editor.

“In many countries, wood is the primary fuel used for heating and cooking, but wood smoke can cause respiratory and eye problems, and extensive use of wood causes deforestation, a major environmental problem. In contrast, charcoal, made by partially burning wood in a controlled process, is a fuel that creates less smoke than wood does. Moreover, although charcoal costs slightly more than wood, less charcoal is needed to produce the same amount of heat. Therefore, people who use wood as their primary fuel can, without experiencing economic hardship, switch to charcoal and can thereby improve their health and preserve the environment.”

The arguer recommends that people who use wood as their primary source of fuel can switch over to charcoal for health related benefits and for preserving the environment. This recommendation is supported by the fact that charcoal creates less smoke as compared to wood. Moreover, less charcoal is needed as compared to wood for generating the same amount of heat. The arguer asserts that extensive use of wood causes deforestation which will be limited with the use of charcoal and this would also ensure that people will be less exposed to smoke which is a health hazard. However, without additional information, the argument is rendered unconvincing in several respects.

A major lacuna in the argument is the lack of information pertaining to the amount of wood that is being used as fuel. It is likely that the countries where wood is being used as a primary fuel for cooking, have large reserves of forests and the amount of wood being used is very less as compared to the available forest cover. Moreover, there may be local laws that prevent people from using the wood of big and rare trees as fuel. Additionally, it is likely that the countries are conscious of the utilization of wood as a major source of fuel and these countries have initiated country wide drives to plant more trees so that the problem of deforestation can be addressed. People may be using the wood from fast growing trees as fuel. Moreover, major reasons for deforestation are the felling of trees for creating land for construction or farming, utilization of wood for furniture and homes, forest fires etc. Therefore, unless the arguer provides accurate data related to the amount of wood being utilized as fuel and the deforestation being caused due to the wood being used as fuel, it would be unfair to attribute the problem of deforestation with the utilization of wood as a source of fuel.

The arguer clearly states that smoke is injurious to health and since charcoal also produces smoke, it will still be a health hazard despite the fact that it produces smoke in lesser amounts as compared to smoke generated by burning wood. As charcoal has been created by processing wood, it is likely that charcoal smoke may be even more hazardous than wood smoke despite being produced in smaller amounts. Therefore, the usage of charcoal does not eliminate the possibility of contracting respiratory and eye problems.

As charcoal is produced by processing wood, it is evident that it will be more expensive as compared to wood. The people who are using wood as a primary source of fuel may be from poor family backgrounds and therefore, it is highly unlikely that they will be able to afford the high price of charcoal. If they had that much of financial support, then they would have already switched to other forms of fuel like gas or oil for cooking burners. Without presenting data related to the cost of using charcoal and the financial status of the people who are using wood as fuel, the arguer cannot hastily arrive at the conclusion that the people can conveniently switch to charcoal without experiencing economic hardship.

In conclusion, the argument fails to sound convincing as it has been seen that charcoal may turn out to be as detrimental to health as wood is when it is used for cooking. Moreover, as charcoal is also a different form of wood, the problem of felling trees for producing charcoal still exists. Hence, the conclusion that the usage of charcoal will result in health and environmental benefits, is by and large unreasonable and far-fetched. The argument could have been bolstered with additional information related to the benefits of using charcoal as compared to wood.