BIOCHAR: The Latest
Biochar news is soaring through the Internet, and so is controversy. Bottom line -- BIOCHAR IS A MIRACLE CURE BUT LIKE OTHER POWERFUL REMEDIES IT MUST BE USED ONLY AS DIRECTED.
Here is a bunch from the March International Biochar Initiative newsletter:
Chapter 1 of Biochar for Environmental Management now Available Online
The Introduction, Foreward, and Chapter 1 in PDF Format of Biochar for Environmental Management is now available online at the IBI website, thanks to Earthscan Press. In March 2010, the entire book will be available on the IBI site to read online. For more information, click here.
IBI is pleased to announce the following new resources for biochar researchers, gardeners, farmers, and photographers.
IBI Biochar Trials Document Now Available
Many people all over the world are now experimenting with biochar in their home gardens. Farmers, nursery operators and schools are all looking for more information about how to use biochar. The interest is high, but until now, there has not been much information available outside of the academic world. The good news is that for all the budding experimentalists out there, IBI Extension Director Julie Major has compiled A Guide to Conducting Biochar Trials. This guide is now available to download as a pdf file from the IBI website.
A Guide to Conducting Biochar Trials will help you design your scientifically valid biochar experiment at any scale ranging from a few pots in a greenhouse to a large farm. The Guide contains data sheets for you to record the details of your design setup and your results. If you would like to register your project with the IBI, send an email with your contact information to Julie Major.
Biochar Bibliography: Search IBI's RefShare Database for Peer-Reviewed Articles Relevant to Biochar, Black Carbon, and Terra Preta.
This database offers up-to-date references with abstracts, whenever available. It is maintained and updated by IBI, and contains articles relating to a wide range of biochar-related topics organized in folders. Available here
Announcing the Biochar Gardens photo group on Flickr. Biochar Gardens is a place for farmers and gardeners to post pictures of their gardens, farms, containers and greenhouses that use soil amendments based on biochar. Please share pictures of your garden at all stages of growth, from preparing your soil to harvesting. Members would also love to see your pictures of composting and your methods for making charcoal and preparing your biochar soil amendments. You can indicate how you would like to share your photos and if you like, leave contact information so that potential users can get your permission to use your photos in their publications. See the photos here.
16 March 2009, BBC News, Engineer on turning sewage into charcoal. Video interview with German engineer Helmut Gerber as he demonstrates his pyrolysis machine. See it here
16 March 2009, BBC News, How to make your plants grow faster. Video interview with Dr Bruno Glaser from Bayreuth University in Germany as he shows results of his experiments with biochar. See it here.
12 March 2009, Nòva, Il bio-segreto di Eldorado. The bio-secret of Eldorado. Two video interviews here: one with inventor Nat Mulcahy demonstrating his pyrolyzing biomass stove, and one with Franco Miglietta, a researcher at the Institute of Biometeorology, CNR, in Florence, Italy, showing his biochar field trials. See it here.
March/April, Orion Magazine, Plants Suck, by Bill McKibben who says: "After twenty years of studying climate change, if I'm sure of anything, it's that there's no one fix that will save the world." And also, "If you could continually turn a lot of organic material into biochar, you could, over time, reverse the history of the last two hundred years. During those two centuries we've taken millions of years of compressed organic material-weeds and sticks and dinosaurs and plankton-and drilled and mined them up to the surface so we could burn them. All that ancient biomass is now up in the atmosphere, causing problems. Big problems, like melting the ice caps. The biggest problems ever." Read more here.
30 March 2009, CNN, Can 'biochar' save the planet?, by Azadeh Ansari. Focus of this article is on researchers in Athens, Georgia. Includes interviews with research engineer Brian Bibens, biochar researcher Christoph Steiner, and Eprida CEO, Danny Day. Read more here.
28 March 2009, Green Left Weekly, Can biochar help stop climate change?, by Renfrey Clarke. Review of Australian biochar research finds much promise and calls for more investment: "Private capital, meanwhile, remains unwilling to take the risks involved in developing a large-scale biochar industry. The need is obvious for governments to step in." Read more here.
28 March 2009, The Guardian, Letters: Credit and criticism for biochar. Several letters in response to George Monbiot including one from IBI Executive Director, Stephen Brick.: "We don't have all the answers on biochar production and utilization; indeed the mission of the International Biochar Initiative (IBI) is to seek these answers, objectively and quickly." Read more here.
27 March 2009, The Guardian, Charleaders must cool enthusiasm for setting fire to the planet, by George Monbiot. Monbiot responds to rebuttals of his March 24 column. Read more here.
27 March 2009, The Guardian, This gift of nature is the best way to save us from climate catastrophe, by Peter Read. Read more here.
26 March 2009, The New Republic, Saving the world-with monster microwaves, by Rob Inglis. A look at Carbonscape's microwave biochar technology and the controversy aired in The Guardian. Read more here.
26 March 2009, G-Online, Biochar - a solution to climate change?, by Katie Lee. A review of biochar research in Australia with quotes from Annette Cowie, forest scientist for New South Wales's Department of Primary Industries in Sydney, Australia. Read more here.
25 March 2009, The Guardian, We never said biochar is a miracle cure, by Pushker Kharecha and Jim Hansen. Response from NASA climate scientists to Monbiot: "It is unfortunate that George Monbiot has insinuated that one of us (Jim Hansen) is a believer in biochar as a "miracle" solution for the climate crisis. If he is basing this on our published papers, then he has grossly misunderstood them." Read more here.
25 March 2009, Solve Climate, Biochar and George Monbiot's misguided rant, by Max Ajl: "Monbiot is right to pillory ... vast plantations of socially and ecologically disruptive fast-growing monoculture trees. But that doesn't mean biochar isn't a good idea, even if it makes for good copy to attack it and its proponents in the harshest terms." Read more here.
25 March 2009, Environmental Research Web, Competing to solve climate change. "UK based newspaper the Financial Times and sustainable development charity Forum for the Future are running a competition to find the most innovative solution to the effects of climate change... The winner will receive $75,000 donated by global electronics giant Hewlett-Packard." One of the finalists is the biochar producer Carbonscape. Read more here.
25 March 2009, Greentech Media, Cars into electricity, corncobs into ammonia. Review of some pyrolysis technologies including processes to make ammonia-based fertilizer and biochar from crop waste. Read more here.
24 March 2009, The Guardian, Biochar: Much is unknown but this is no reason to rule it out, by Chris Goodall. Goodall, author of Ten Technologies to Save the Planet responds to Monbiot: "George
Monbiot is right to tell biochar enthusiasts to calm down... Nevertheless in his eagerness to get us to tone down our enthusiasm he goes too far. Biochar is a useful and important way to help reduce
atmospheric concentrations of CO2." Read more here.
24 March 2009, The Guardian, Biochar: let the Earth remove CO2 for us, by James Lovelock. Earth scientist James Lovelock responds to Monbiot's column critical of biochar and its proponents. "George Monbiot is wrong to dismiss biochar out of hand - burying carbon is one way to tackle climate change." Read more here.
24 March 2009, The Guardian, Woodchips with everything. It's the Atkins plan of the low-carbon world, by George Monbiot. The Guardian's environmental columnist criticizes biochar and its proponents:"The latest miracle mass fuel cure, biochar, does not stand up; yet many who should know better have been suckered into it." Read more here.
24 March 2009, Reuters, Harnessing pig power for clean energy, by Gerard Wynn. Discusses the challenges of soil carbon sequestration, including biochar. Read more here.
23 March 2009, ISTOÉ Magazine, And the good news of the land, article in Portuguese about Brazil's terra preta, biochar research, and the upcoming IBI conference in Sao Paulo in 2010. Read more here.
23 March 2009, The Engineer, Green giants? In-depth analysis of technology developments in China and India with mention of biochar as a preferred sequestration technology along with information on India's Environmental Engineering Research Institute [NEERI] where biochar research is ongoing. Read more here.
23 March 2009, Farm and Dairy, No-till works, but is not always applicable for storing carbon. Article compares no-till methods to other soil carbon sequestration techniques including biochar.
Read more here.
19 March 2009, InSciences, Climate change is such a serious threat to national security that military organizations are now part of the solution. Report on the Climate Change & Security at Copenhagen
conference and discussion of "fast-action" mitigations that include reduction of soot emissions and increased use of biochar. Read more here.
19 March 2009, Business Day, The colour of carbon, by Denise McNabb. Report on progress and setbacks for emissions trading schemes in Australia and New Zealand and news that "Cit Investment Research ... is also sceptical about the magnitude of achievable abatement from forestry and biochar..."
Read more here.
19 March 2009, CNET News, Manmade biomass coal offers storage and fuel, by Candace Lombardi. Report on Carbonscape's Black Phantom machine: "The invention combines two popular environmental efforts: using biochar for carbon capture and storage (CCS), and developing alternative fuel sources from biomass." Read more here.
Additional stories on the Black Phantom are here and here and here.
17 March 2009, Canadian Business Online, Alterna Energy extols virtues of biocarbon, by Joe Castaldo. "Inside the boardroom of Alterna Energy's office in Prince George, B.C., a row of what appear to be coal briquettes rest on a ledge. Company president and co-founder Leonard Legault picks one of them up, rests the plum-sized object in his hand and explains, 'This is a carbonized apple.'" Read more here.
16 March 2009, BBC News, Biochar: Is the hype justified?, by Roger Harrabin. "A growing worldwide movement is now bringing together the soil scientists fascinated by the benefits of biochar..." The author interviews some of the scientists, including Bruno Glaser of University of Bayreuth where new studies show that "biochar may almost double plant growth in poor soils." Read more here.
15 March 2009, The Prep, BioChar Experiment. Report on biochar science project in the newsletter of Seton Hall Preparatory School: "Environmental Science teacher Dave Snyder has partnered up his class with a cutting edge green start-up that is modernizing some environmentally positive agricultural techniques that actually go back centuries." Includes detailed description of experimental method. Read more here.
14 March 2009, Waikato Times, Prizewinner is a gas. Jake Martin, 17, won three of the top prizes in New Zealand's Realise the Dream national awards for science students for his wood gasifier that produces biochar which Jake uses to fertilize his mum's vegetable garden. Read more here.
12 March, 2009, The Guardian, Battersea woman wins eco award, by Katie Wilson. "A Battersea woman and her team beat off stiff international competition last week to be crowned winners of the Cooling the Planet environmental award." Their idea was to use hydro-pyrolysis to produce energy and biochar from landfill waste.Read more here,
12 March 2009, Il Sole 24 Ore, Lucia Stove, born in Tortona, is the solution to bring energy and biochar to villages, by Marco Magrini. The story of Nat Mulcahy and how he came to invent his co-axial gasification stove that produces biochar. In Italian. Read more here.
12 March 2009, Cornell Sun, Univ. turns waste into renewable energy. The Cornell University Renewable Bioenergy Initiative will use multiple approaches to produce energy from university biomass waste, including pyrolysis. "Having many different complementary bioenergy approaches under one roof is especially intriguing because we have in our landscapes multiple feedstocks that require differential treatment," said Prof. Johannes Lehmann, crop and soil sciences. Read more here.
11 March 2009, The Australian, Carbon hopes push case for charcoal, by Jill Rowbotham. In-depth review of pyrolysis research in Australia, biochar and climate policy and the struggle to produce enough biochar to supply research programs. Read more here.
4 March 2009, BBC News, Big problems need big solutions, by Tim Lenton. Lenton discusses implications of his study on geo-engineering. He says: "Perhaps the most potent option, on the century timescale at least, is to grow plants to get CO2 out of the air and then convert their biomass to both charcoal and (bio)fuels." Biochar is also attractive as a potentially income-generating option. All other options are likely to cost money. Read more here.
25 February 2009, New Scientist, Hacking the planet: The only climate solution left?, by Catherine Brahic. A look at geo-engineering options. Includes an interesting graphic side-by-side view of biochar and other options. Graphic is here and Read more here.
Industry Press Releases
20 March 2009, Carbonscape, NZ company makes shortlist in UK climate challenge. Read more here.
23 March 2009, Mantria Industries, Mantria Industries, LLC and Carbon Diversion Inc. release EternaGreen BioChar specs. Read more here.
30 March 2009, EternaGreen, BioChar Brokers offers first online and retail sales of EternaGreen™ BioChar. Read more here.