Tuesday, 29 July 2008


bill mckibbons new website/global campaign 350.org

here's the blurb (their capitals, not mine ;)

"350 is the red line for human beings, the most important number on the planet. We're planning an international campaign to unite the world around the number 350, and we need your help. Everyone on earth, from the smallest village to the cushiest corner office, needs to know what 350 means. The movement to spread that number needs to be beautiful, creative, and unstoppable. What we need most right now are on-the-ground examples for how to take the number 350 and drive it home: in art, in music, in political demonstrations, in any other way you can imagine. We don't have all the ideas and all the inspiration. We need you to act on yours. Check out 350.org to get involved, and start planning your action today!"

by the way as 99% of those reading already know...

350 ppm is what james hansen (nasa) has said is a safe limit on atmospheric co2

a safe level being one just before which we get into runaway climate change caused by positive feedback mechanisms,

an example of which is the releasing of old methane trapped in the siberian permofrost

tipping elements like this mean that as temperature increases, the worse this gets the faster it gets worse

the other point about 350 being we passed this 'safe limit in the 1980s.

meanwhile it takes 40 years for the heating events caused by greenhouse gases to become warming.

think of it in a 'we all ready fell out of the high window but we havent hit the ground yet' sort of way.

scientists like hansen (and the potsdam inst and others) are calling for urgent efforts not just to slow down emissions, but to take out whats already up there - for instance using biochar (putting crushed coal or captured carbon into agricultural soil).

in the 'oh shit we are falling' scenario that would be like a parachute (ish - we are still in for a crash landing)

so there - hence 350


Erich J. Knight said...

"- for instance using biochar (putting crushed coal or captured carbon into agricultural soil)."

NOT COAL, Biochar is from Biomass.

Biochar, the modern version of an ancient Amazonian agricultural practice called Terra Preta (black earth), is gaining widespread credibility as a way to address world hunger, climate change, rural poverty, deforestation, and energy shortages… SIMULTANEOUSLY!

This technology represents the most comprehensive, low cost, and productive approach to long term stewardship and sustainability.Terra Preta Soils a process for Carbon Negative Bio fuels, massive Carbon sequestration, 10X Lower Methane & N2O soil emissions, and 3X Fertility Too. Every 1 ton of Biomass yields 1/3 ton Charcoal for soil Sequestration.

Indeed, Dr. James Hansen, NASA's top Atmospheric authority, is now placing it in the center stage of pro-active solutions for the climate crisis.


I hope you will come to share my passion in getting the word out on the wonderful solutions provided by TP soils.
I'm sort of the TP list (and data base at REPP-CREST) cub reporter, most all my list postings, under shengar@aol.com, are news items, collaborative work, lobbying efforts with government, writers and journals.

The new Yahoo Biochar discussion group;


Thanks for your interest


the current news and links on Terra Preta (TP) soils and closed-loop pyrolysis of Biomass, this integrated virtuous cycle could sequester 100s of Billions of tons of carbon to the soils.

This technology represents the most comprehensive, low cost, and productive approach to long term stewardship and sustainability.Terra Preta Soils a process for Carbon Negative Bio fuels, massive Carbon sequestration, 10X Lower CH4 & N2O soil emissions, and 3X Fertility Too.
Indeed, Dr. James Hansen, NASA's top Atmospheric authorty, is now placing it in the center stage of pro-active solutions for the climate crisis.

UN Climate Change Conference: Biochar present at the Bali Conference


SCIAM Article May 15 07;


After many years of reviewing solutions to anthropogenic global warming (AGW) I believe this technology can manage Carbon for the greatest collective benefit at the lowest economic price, on vast scales. It just needs to be seen by ethical globally minded companies.

Could you please consider looking for a champion for this orphaned Terra Preta Carbon Soil Technology.

The main hurtle now is to change the current perspective held by the IPCC that the soil carbon cycle is a wash, to one in which soil can be used as a massive and ubiquitous Carbon sink via Charcoal. Below are the first concrete steps in that direction;

S.1884 – The Salazar Harvesting Energy Act of 2007

A Summary of Biochar Provisions in S.1884:

Carbon-Negative Biomass Energy and Soil Quality Initiative

for the 2007 Farm Bill


Bolstering Biomass and Biochar development: In the 2007 Farm Bill, Senator Salazar was able to include $500 million for biomass research and development and for competitive grants to develop the technologies and processes necessary for the commercial production of biofuels and bio-based products. Biomass is an organic material, usually referring to plant matter or animal waste. Using biomass for energy can reduce waste and air pollution. Biochar is a byproduct of producing energy from biomass. As a soil treatment, it enhances the ability of soil to capture and retain carbon dioxide.

( Update; In conference the $500 M was cut to $3M....:( :( :( )

John Grant said...

hi erich, great information thanks

the terra preta story is amazing
(i saw a documantary on that once)
i didnt realise this was based on the same thing

on your clarification - "biochar" is as you say

the reference to crushed coal as an alternative comes from holmgren (permaculture founder) the principle is similar, but not exactly the same

both methods mimic the fertilising effect of volcanic activity. holmgren reckons improving soil in these ways could (apart from its other benefits) take out an amount of atmospheric carbon roughly equiv to that put up by all the world's vehicles, he based this on some studies done in australia, it's in his latest book

it was david wasdell who told me about biochar, and he is a real stickler for scientific accuracy, so would appreciate your corrections/info!!!

Erich J. Knight said...

Ialso see comparisons with Zeolites and brown coal as soil amendments.

Here is the rest of my standard TP Technology propaganda posting;

the current news and links on Terra Preta (TP) soils and closed-loop pyrolysis of Biomass, this integrated virtuous cycle could sequester 100s of Billions of tons of carbon to the soils.

Tackling Climate Change in the U.S.
Potential Carbon Emissions Reductions from Biomass by 2030by Ralph P. Overend, Ph.D. and Anelia Milbrandt
National Renewable Energy Laboratory


The organization 25x25 released it's (first-ever, 55-page )"Action Plan" ; see; http://www.25x25.org/storage/25x25/documents/IP%20Documents/ActionPlanFinalWEB_04-19-07.pdf
On page 29 , as one of four foci for recommended RD&D, the plan lists: "The development of biochar, animal agriculture residues and other non-fossil fuel based fertilizers, toward the end of integrating energy production with enhanced soil quality and carbon sequestration."
and on p 32, recommended as part of an expanded database aspect of infrastructure: "Information on the application of carbon as fertilizer and existing carbon credit trading systems."

I feel 25x25 is now the premier US advocacy organization for all forms of renewable energy, but way out in front on biomass topics.

There are 24 billion tons of carbon controlled by man in his agriculture and waste stream, all that farm & cellulose waste which is now dumped to rot or digested or combusted and ultimately returned to the atmosphere as GHG should be returned to the Soil.

Even with all the big corporations coming to the GHG negotiation table, like Exxon, Alcoa, .etc, we still need to keep watch as they try to influence how carbon management is legislated in the USA. Carbon must have a fair price, that fair price and the changes in the view of how the soil carbon cycle now can be used as a massive sink verses it now being viewed as a wash, will be of particular value to farmers and a global cool breath of fresh air for us all.

Also Here is the Latest BIG Terra Preta Soil news;

The Honolulu Advertiser: "The nation's leading manufacturer of charcoal has licensed a University of Hawai'i process for turning green waste into barbecue briquets."

See: http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/antalkingsford

ConocoPhillips Establishes $22.5 Million Pyrolysis Program at Iowa State

Glomalin, the recently discovered soil protien, may be the secret to to TP soils productivity;


Mycorrhizae Inoculent;


The International Biochar Initiative (IBI) conference held at Terrigal, NSW, Australia in 2007. The papers from this conference are posted at their home page; http://www.biochar-international.org/home.html

Terra Preta Soils Technology To Master the Carbon Cycle

Man has been controlling the carbon cycle , and there for the weather, since the invention of agriculture, all be it was as unintentional, as our current airliner contrails are in affecting global dimming. This unintentional warm stability in climate has over 10,000 years, allowed us to develop to the point that now we know what we did,............ and that now......... we are over doing it.

The prehistoric and historic records gives a logical thrust for soil carbon sequestration.
I wonder what the soil biome carbon concentration was REALLY like before the cutting and burning of the world's forest, my guess is that now we see a severely diminished community, and that only very recent Ag practices like no-till and reforestation have started to help rebuild it. It makes implementing Terra Preta soil technology like an act of penitence, a returning of the misplaced carbon to where it belongs.

On the Scale of CO2 remediation:

It is my understanding that atmospheric CO2 stands at 379 PPM, to stabilize the climate we need to reduce it to 350 PPM by the removal of 230 Billion tons of carbon.

The best estimates I've found are that the total loss of forest and soil carbon (combined
pre-industrial and industrial) has been about 200-240 billion tons. Of
that, the soils are estimated to account for about 1/3, and the vegetation
the other 2/3.

Since man controls 24 billion tons in his agriculture then it seems we have plenty to work with in sequestering our fossil fuel CO2 emissions as stable charcoal in the soil.

As Dr. Lehmann at Cornell points out, "Closed-Loop Pyrolysis systems such as Dr. Danny Day's are the only way to make a fuel that is actually carbon negative". and that " a strategy combining biochar with biofuels could ultimately offset 9.5 billion tons of carbon per year-an amount equal to the total current fossil fuel emissions! "

Terra Preta Soils Carbon Negative Bio fuels, massive Carbon sequestration, 10X Lower CH4 & N2O soil emissions, and 3X FertilityToo

This some what orphaned new soil technology speaks to so many different interests and disciplines that it has not been embraced fully by any. I'm sure you will see both the potential of this system and the convergence needed for it's implementation.

The integrated energy strategy offered by Charcoal based Terra Preta Soil technology may
provide the only path to sustain our agricultural and fossil fueled power
structure without climate degradation, other than nuclear power.

The economics look good, and truly great if we had CO2 cap & trade or a Carbon tax in place.

.Nature article, Aug 06: Putting the carbon back Black is the new green:

Here's the Cornell page for an over view:

University of Beyreuth TP Program, Germany http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/?q=taxonomy/term/118

This Earth Science Forum thread on these soils contains further links, and has been viewed by 100,000 self-selected folks. ( I post everything I find on Amazon Dark Soils, ADS here):

There is an ecology going on in these soils that is not completely understood, and if replicated and applied at scale would have multiple benefits for farmers and environmentalist.

Terra Preta creates a terrestrial carbon reef at a microscopic level. The nanoscale structures provide space for cations, the micro spaces, safe havens to the microbes and fungus that facilitate fertile soil creation, while sequestering carbon for many hundred if not thousands of years. The combination of these two forms of sequestration would also increase the growth rate and natural sequestration effort of growing plants.

The reason TP has elicited such interest on the Agricultural/horticultural side of it's benefits is this one static:

One gram of charcoal cooked to 650 C Has a surface area of 400 m2 (for soil microbes & fungus to live on), now for conversion fun:

One ton of charcoal has a surface area of 400,000 Acres!! which is equal to 625 square miles!! Rockingham Co. VA. , where I live, is only 851 Sq. miles

Now at a middle of the road application rate of 2 lbs/sq ft (which equals 1000 sqft/ton) or 43 tons/acre yields 26,000 Sq miles of surface area per Acre. VA is 39,594 Sq miles.

What this suggest to me is a potential of sequestering virgin forest amounts of carbon just in the soil alone, without counting the forest on top.

To take just one fairly representative example, in the classic Rothampstead experiments in England where arable land was allowed to revert to deciduous temperate woodland, soil organic carbon increased 300-400% from around 20 t/ha to 60-80 t/ha (or about 20-40 tons per acre) in less than a century (Jenkinson & Rayner 1977). The rapidity with which organic carbon can build up in soils is also indicated by examples of buried steppe soils formed during short-lived interstadial phases in Russia and Ukraine. Even though such warm, relatively moist phases usually lasted only a few hundred years, and started out from the skeletal loess desert/semi-desert soils of glacial conditions (with which they are inter-leaved), these buried steppe soils have all the rich organic content of a present-day chernozem soil that has had many thousands of years to build up its carbon (E. Zelikson, Russian Academy of Sciences, pers. comm., May 1994). http://www.esd.ornl.gov/projects/qen/carbon1.html

All the Biochar Companies and equipment manufactures I've found:

Carbon Diversion

Eprida: Sustainable Solutions for Global Concerns

BEST Pyrolysis, Inc. | Slow Pyrolysis - Biomass - Clean Energy - Renewable Ene

Dynamotive Energy Systems | The Evolution of Energy

Ensyn - Environmentally Friendly Energy and Chemicals

Agri-Therm, developing bio oils from agricultural waste

Advanced BioRefinery Inc.

Technology Review: Turning Slash into Cash

3R Environmental Technologies Ltd. (Edward Someus)
WEB: http://www.terrenum.net/

The company has Swedish origin and developing/designing medium and large scale carbonization units. The company is the licensor and technology provider to NviroClean Tech Ltd British American organization WEB: http://www.nvirocleantech.com and VERTUS Ltd.
Genesis Industries, licensee of Eprida technology, provides carbon-negative EPRIDA energy machines at the same cost as going direct to Eprida. Our technical support staff also provide information to obtain the best use of biochar produced by the machine. Recent research has shown that EPRIDA charcoal (biochar) increases plant productivity as it sequesters carbon in soil, thus reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide.http://www.egenindustries.com/

Australian Bio Chars

Australian Biochars was incorporated by Paul Conyers and Jerome Matthews and has a number of associates within S.E. Asia many of whom were involved with the EU sponsored Cogen 3 project.

Paul is a long-time business consultant whose imagination has been captured by the prospect of soil carbon both increasing crop yields and capturing greenhouse gasses while Jerome, after many years as a lawyer, became concerned about the pollution caused by agriwaste, particularly rice husk, of which more than 150 million tonnes is generated annually.


If pre-Columbian Kayopo Indians could produce these soils up to 6 feet deep over 15% of the Amazon basin using "Slash & CHAR" verses "Slash & Burn", it seems that our energy and agricultural industries could also product them at scale.

Harnessing the work of this vast number of microbes and fungi changes the whole equation of energy return over energy input (EROEI) for food and Bio fuels. I see this as the only sustainable agricultural strategy if we no longer have cheap fossil fuels for fertilizer.

We need this super community of wee beasties to work in concert with us by populating them into their proper Soil horizon Carbon Condos.

Erich J. Knight
Shenandoah Gardens
1047 Dave Berry Rd.
McGaheysville, VA. 22840
(540) 289-9750

Jon Alexander said...

I'd be interested to know what you think of this on the level of a communications platform. 350 is a neat round number in and of itself, but it can be quite hard to see how I personally affect that, and therefore what I can do... I find the 90% reduction target an easier number to relate to my everyday life. That said, every little helps.