Green Charcoal to Reduce Global Warming

biochar

According to scientists, global warming is increasing due to the burning of fossil fuels. Mainstream acceptance seems to have finally taken hold. Now the focus has turned to questions of, “How much oil is left?” We’re pondering a future without oil, but at the same time continue consuming it at an unsustainable rate for the planet.

Still, things are changing. We’re beginning to see alternative energy sources like wind and solar power taken into use worldwide, and green products like electric cars and biofuel become more prevalent in the marketplace.

I’ve seen past estimates that at our current rate of consumption and population growth, we may have less than 100 years of oil left on the planet to sustain our power needs, taking into account newly discovered reserves (but not greater needs in the future). Lately, I’ve heard a lot about the topic of peak oil. In a nutshell, once we reach the maximum oil production stage, the production rate will begin a final decline. At some period after, the oil supply will begin to run out (a difficult time frame to pinpoint).

To take steps to reduce oil consumption, I don’t think we need exact estimates of when the oil will run out. The fact that it will happen soon is justification enough.

In my view, the more sustainable options made available to the public, the better our chances of reducing society’s dependence on fossil fuels. With so many different life styles people lead, I think choice is important to make green products preferred over environmentally-harmful or non-renewable products. Its serious encouragement for consumers to buy green products if they are affordable and fit people’s needs.

Reducing our energy consumption or turning to different power sources are ways to reduce greenhouse gases, although it may take some getting used to in our commercial society built around oil. So I ask, what about other methods to reduce global warming? Let’s get the ball rolling, faster.

Recently, I read about a special charcoal called biochar developed by research teams at Cornell University and the University of New South Wales. Biochar is made by combining and heating different types of organic matter until only the carbon remains, stored in the form of briquettes. The gases given off in the production process of biochar can be used for energy, and the carbon briquettes can be introduced into the soil to improve fertility for farming. In this way, the carbon does not enter the atmosphere as CO2 gas, and so, does not contribute to global warming.

In ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology journal, the researchers reported measuring biochar’s life-cycle results and economic factors for various types of organic matter like yard waste, corn stover, and grasses. Taking into account transportation costs and the need for waste management systems in communities, they found that yard waste could hold the greatest potential for practical use in the short run.

It’s an interesting concept — Charcoal that you don’t burn in your BBQ, but rather stick in the ground to help your garden grow. If I saw biochar at my local store, I’d happily buy it knowing I can get healthier plants, while at the same time help reduce global warming. And, as the researchers suggest, if shipping costs for biomass could be somehow reduced, biochar systems that use all types of organics would become an economically viable solution. Adding to that, I think government tax incentives for biochar given to local farmers also wouldn’t hurt.