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Biofuels & biochar - March 9

Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage

US ethanol producers urge Obama to up ethanol content of motor fuels

Suzanne Goldenberg, Guardian
America's ethanol producers, who have been hit hard by the economic recession, today urged the Obama administration to raise the ethanol content in blended motor fuels to 15%.

Wesley Clark, a former Nato commander and Democratic presidential candidate who now lobbies for the ethanol industry, said the move to use more of the corn-based fuel would help America create jobs at home and cut back on the use of imported fuel.

... The industry, despite years of subsidies by the US government, has been suffering in recent months, with falling prices and production because of the economic downturn. VeraSun, one of the country's largest producers, filed for bankruptcy after losing hundreds of millions of dollars in the corn market.
(6 March 2009)

Monbiot: Biofuels do far more harm than good

George Monbiot, Guardian
Yesterday the EU imposed temporary tariffs on US biodiesel because subsidies over there distort trade - but that shouldn't be the only reason to stop the biofuels juggernaut
Is there any trade crazier than the liquid biofuel business? Apart from a handful of cars and vans running on used chip fat, it exists only because of government rules and subsidies. So what social benefits do these buy?

Biofuels are supposed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They do the opposite. Almost all of them produce more greenhouse gases than petrol (gasoline) or diesel, for two reasons:

emissions of nitrous oxide (a very powerful greenhouse gas) caused by the application of nitrogen fertilisers

the destruction of grassland, wetland and forest caused by the expansion of agriculture stimulated by this new market

In the comments section
Paul Robins: Agreed first generation biofuels have been an unmitigated disaster, do you think any future biofuels would live up to their promise?

George Monbiot: The question remains of where the raw materials will come from. Currently biomass (cellulose or lignin) is being proposed as the answer to almost every imaginable environmental problem. Are we going to strip the planet bare to save the biosphere?
(4 March 2009)

International Biochar Initiative online

International Biochar Initiative (IBI)
Welcome to the International Biochar Initiative. IBI is a registered non-profit organization supporting researchers, commercial entities, policy makers, development agents, farmers and gardeners, and others committed to supporting sustainable biochar production and utilization systems that remove carbon from the atmosphere and enhance the earth’s soils. It advocates biochar as a strategy to:

  • improve the Earth’s soils;

  • help mitigate the anthropogenic greenhouse effect by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering atmospheric carbon in a stable soil carbon pool; and
  • improve water quality by retaining agrochemicals.

The IBI also promotes:

  • sustainable co-production of clean energy and other bio-based products as part of the biochar process;

  • efficient biomass utilization in developing country agriculture; and
  • cost-effective utilization of urban, agricultural and forest co products.

From the IBI's February newsletter

Update on Progress for Biochar in the UNFCCC Process
Further progress has been made in raising the profile of biochar as a climate change mitigation and
adaptation technology within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC), with the submission of additional papers in support of biochar by parties and observers
to the UNFCCC process. ...

Practitioner's Profile
Project 540: Biochar Kiln Designs for Small Farms
A group of volunteers at the Rainforest Information Centre in Lismore NSW, Australia have formed a village-scale biochar work group that has won a grant to produce small farm and village-scale non-polluting biochar kilns. APE-UK, Artists for Planet Earth, selected the biochar kiln project from many hundreds of applications for a grant of £5,000. APE-UK grants are funded from sales of world music tracks donated by musicians The volunteers, calling themselves the "Project 540 Biochar Kiln Group," are focusing on the low tech, low cost end of the biochar production spectrum. Geoff Moxham, Production Team Coordinator said: "I'm guessing that small local units are going to be needed, will be built everywhere, anyway, and we might as well get the emission (especially CH4) under control as soon as possible, or we'll just make things worse." ...

Updates on Regional Biochar Groups
With this newsletter, IBI is inaugurating a regular report on the activities of the many national and regional biochar groups that are forming. ...

IBI and Biochar in the News
Below is a quick roundup of biochar in the news in February 2009 highlighted by a large number of articles from the Australian press on bringing farming and forestry into carbon emissions trading and the role of biochar.
(February 2009)
Much material on biochar available at the site. -BA

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