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🌳 Biochar within the CDR Landscape

Carbon Removal Newsroom

Photo by Wander Fleur / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Radhika Moolgavkar
Guests: Dr. Holly Jean Buck | Professor | University at Buffalo &
Chris Barnard | National Policy Director | American Conservation Coalition
Category: 🌳 Carbon Capture

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[2:31] HB: “With biochar, you heat biomass residues, that could be wood chips, it could be manure, compost, rice straw […] in an oxygen starved environment over a period of time […]. And what you get out of that is a stable form of charcoal, which could then be put into soils […]. It can build organic carbon in the soil […], it can reduce nitrous oxide emissions from soil. So it has these co-benefits with agriculture, which is kind of one thing that makes it special in the CDR landscape.”

[3:19] HB: “How does it compare to other techniques? […] If you want to compare it on tons of carbon stored, there's an IPCC Special Report on Climate change and Land that said that it could mitigate between 300 million to 660 million tons of carbon dioxide per year by 2050. […] Cost is probably the main thing that's resulted in its lack of adoption, but we can say that for many CDR techniques.”

[4:53] CB: “One of the things that I was reading while researching into biochar is […] it's somewhat of a complex idea. […] There's probably still a lot of farmers that don't really know exactly how to leverage this solution to the best effect. […] Some of the studies show that you can actually increase your crop yield between 10 and 42% by using biochar. And so you'd assume that there's a pretty significant economic upside there as a result. But apparently a lot of farmers and people that would benefit from this just don't really grasp […] the potential of it, nor the techniques on how to use it. And so one of the things that I'm particularly excited about with […] the Growing Climate Solutions Act is that it would direct the US Department of Agriculture to actively have technical training and assistance for farmers to learn how to implement techniques like this.”

[7:11] HB: “Right now the market in the US for biotech is kind of a boutique market. […] I've heard figures like 50,000 tons a year. So there's some producers, I think, a growing number of producers that are passionate about biochar, but the government really has a few different roles. One is just in education in spreading the word helping farmers, but also with helping farmers with the startup costs of learning. […] And then we can think about demonstration scale, or even larger scale facilities, we can think about loan guarantees. There are some programs under the Department of Agriculture that are with kind of biofuels, but also include bio based products. Biochar can fit into a couple of places here, and they're also within state grants, but we really need to have that support, too. And then also research and development funding.”

[9:48] CB: “There was a study by the University of South Wales, published just last month, showing that […] the average carbon removal of soil is about 3.8%. And biochar could push that up to about 20%. And so as much as it might be kind of technically difficult to calculate each plot of soil for how much it actually additionally removes, using those kinds of baseline figures from various studies might be a good way of […] estimating that and taking that into account in a carbon credit market.”

[10:27] CB: “There's about 50,000 tonnes per year of biochar produced in the US. China does tenfold that, so 500,000 tonnes a year […]. And and the reason why I bring this up is that as we kind of go into the next decades, and we increasingly get hit with some of the impacts of climate change, from floods, to droughts, to storms, to wildfires, we need soil that is resilient enough to be able to continue feeding our population. And biochar actually has a very significant role to play in that because it makes US soil more resilient. It allows us to have more nutrients to build, it increases, crop yields, etc. And I fear from a kind of national security perspective, if we allow China to completely dominate that market, that they are better positioned to kind of take in some of these impacts of climate change, than we would be.

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify (Original Title: "Biochar, carbon dioxide removal in the US, and geoengineering")
🕰️ 33 min | 🗓️ 09/10/2021
✅ Time saved: 31 min

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