The deficit is over $1.3 trillion*, and a fierce debate rages over extending Bush-era tax cuts. But despite domestic spending trouble, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is expected today to announce a $50 million commitment to providing clean-burning stoves to Africa, Asia, and South America.

But according to a New York Times report, Clinton feels the $50 million commitment is a “modest” start. “Like anything,” Clinton said, “we have to start somewhere.”

The reason for such a humble approach is that Clinton believes the problem caused by primitive indoor stoves is so large. As the Times tells us, smoke from indoor stoves kills 1.9 million people due to “lung and heart diseases and low birth weight.”

Still there are other “global” concerns: “The stoves also contribute to global warming as a result of the millions of tons of soot they spew into the atmosphere and the deforestation caused by cutting down trees to fuel them.” The Times later makes the shocking revelation that the stoves’ smoke is “perhaps the second biggest contributor to global warming.”

Clinton acknowledged the global issue and the health affects, but also introduced a new reason for the funding: primitive indoor cooking is a “women’s status” issue. Again, the Times expands:

The gathering of fuel is mainly done by women and children, millions of whom are exposed daily to dangers in conflict-torn regions. The need to forage for fuel also keeps millions of children out of school.

However, the article does point out that the organization on the receiving end of the money (Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves) does have a long term goal of creating a business model around new stove production. That’s important because the stoves have a relatively short life — two to five years.

“You’ll need a supply chain and business model that delivers them, not on a one-time basis, but as a continuing enterprise,” said Reid Detchon, vice president for energy and climate at the United Nations Foundation.

As the Times explains, that’s at least good news for women and children: “This microproject model is expected to provide business opportunities for women while reducing the fuel-gathering burden of women and children around the world.”

*This story originally contained the number $13 trillion instead of the correct $1.3 trillion.

UPDATE:

Thanks to CNSNews.com for sending along the following video of Hilary presenting the clean-stove initiative at an event for her husband’s Clinton Global Initiative. With Bill at her side, Hilary announced that “Our long term goal is to have universal adoption all over the world”:

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