Would you like to curb or even reverse global warming? Help feed the world? Generate renewable energy?
Biochar is the answer, say its most fervent advocates.
If only life were so simple.
Biochar, alas, isn’t ready yet to be a meaningful solution to the climate crisis, or a way to enhance agricultural productivity at scale. But it’s an intriguing substance that has been around for thousands of years, and the production of biochar may prove to be one of the technologies that governments and business deploy to deal with the threat of climate change. As, potentially, a carbon negative technology, it’s worth a look.
Biochar, for those of you who haven’t heard of it, is a charcoal-like substance that is created today by pyrolysis of biomass. In layman’s terms, biochar is made by taking organic material, like agricultural waste, heating it to very high temperatures, and allowing it to decompose in the absence of oxygen.
To learn about biochar, I met recently in Boulder, Colorado, with Jonah Levine, who is a co-owner of his own small biochar business and, until recently, was an executive with a startup called Biochar Engineering. Jonah, who is 30 and lives near Boulder, got involved with biochar when a friend asked him to organize a conference on the technology in 2009 at the University of Colorado. A passionate environmentalist, he had previously worked as a wildlife biologist and as an engineer advising utilities on how to incorporate renewable energy into the grid.
Now he’s bullish on biochar.
“I feel like like I’m watching the beginning of an industry,” Jonah says. “Within a decade, I feel this will be a functional business space.” [click to continue…]