You might run across the term “biochar”. Inventing a word which is prefaced by “bio” give the word an impression of green, sustainable and environmentally friend, like biofuel and biomass, but these words have been hijacked to create an impression that does not accord with reality.
Biochar is simply charcoal. Charcoal is simply plant material, usually fine grained wood created by pyrolysis, which is the burning of these materials at very high temperatures in the absence of oxygen. The burning of course creates smoke and carbon dioxide and was traditionally undertaken by charcoal burners in forests, where they built charcoal furnaces and fuelled them from what grew around them.
The “biochar” can in turn be refined into fuel for road transport and aviation fuel. The biochar residue it is claimed, can be ploughed into the soil, sequestrating the carbon that it includes. I am unaware of any scientific research that proves that adding biochar to soil actually improves the soil. Many interested commercial businesses are campaigning for biochar subsidies in many countries.
To my simple mind the position of biorchar is no different, in the scheme of climate change, from the position of coal. You can burn coal to get energy, and you can refine coal into oil for fuel, and you can plough the residue, soot, into the soil sequestrating the carbon dioxide. The effect on carbon dioxide emissions is much the same.
The effect on the planet of biochar production is probably worse than the effect on the planet of mining for coal. Coal mining is mainly carried on underground or opencast, but as coal has a much higher calorific value than wood, much less land is despoiled by mining for coal.
Biochar production would require the conversion of land which is the home to millions of people being turned into industrial crop production.
One lobby for Biochar is seeking to include biochar production as part of the Clean Development Mechanism, so that they can tap into the undeserved wealth that the CDM can often create. Beware biochar.
Filed under: biofuels, biomass, carbon dioxide, carbon emissions, carbon trading, climate change, energy, global warming, pollution Tagged: | biochar, biochar and climate change, cdm, charcoal, clean development mechanism