Biochar Could Offset Up to 12% of Greenhouse Gases, Says Study

by , 08/13/10

biochar, carbon emissions, charcoal, sustainable design, green design, renewable energy, alternative fuels, global warming

When it comes to solving our climate-change pickle, it might be time for deus ex machina-type proposals to take a back seat to something a little more homegrown: biochar. While the charcoal-like substance has often been pooh-poohed as a crackpot hippy idea — burning organic matter to capture carbon dioxide, really? — a new study in the August issue of Nature Communications concludes that the black stuff could sustainably offset as much as 1.8 billion metric tons of carbon emissions annually, or up to 12 percent of global greenhouse-gas production.

biochar, carbon emissions, charcoal, sustainable design, green design, renewable energy, alternative fuels, global warming

When left to its own devices, biomass (such as plants, wood, and livestock manure) breaks down and releases its carbon into the atmosphere within a decade or so. Subjecting that same biomass to high temperatures and creating biochar, however, locks the carbon in a stable state for hundreds, even thousands of years.

Biochar’s amazing properties don’t stop there. It’s also great for soil fertility and agricultural productivity, as ancient civilizations have long known. About 2,500 years ago, farmers in the Amazon improved their soil’s ability to retain water and nutrients by tilling it with charcoal. (Portuguese settlers later dubbed this terra preta, or “black earth.”) Plus, the addition of biochar can also reduce the amount of methane and nitrous oxide released by decaying plant matter in the soil.

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  1. bob_dewan December 22, 2010 at 7:17 am

    I hope this it will help you
    “The Biochar Revolution” with “The Biochar Solution”
    It is a truly biochar Bible.
    I believe this is the most beautiful holiday gift for your loved ones.

  2. shanegenziuk August 16, 2010 at 12:17 am

    Is it possible to convert used coffee grounds to Biochar? The reason I’m asking is that I started to use it in my garden earlier this year and have collected over a tonne of it so far. Across the world we throw thousands of tonnes of the stuff into landfill, where its potential is wasted.
    If you want to learn more about what I have been doing with coffee grounds in my community, and how easy it is for any one person to make a difference, check out my blog

  3. erich August 13, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    Biochar systems for Biofuels and soil carbon sequestration are so basically conservative in nature it is a shame that republicans have not seized it as a central environmental policy plank as the conservatives in Australia have; Carbon sequestration without Taxes.

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