I attended last year’s VCAN conference and was shocked that there was little if any discussion on climate literacy, actual greenhouse gas/CO2 mitigation and carbon reduction. When will we go beyond environmental education, nature appreciation and the same-old, same-old stuff? Biochar, stable carbon made from waste biomass whose point-of-use is the soil as an amendment – not fertilizer in the chemical tradition – has a co-product of safe, affordable, localized, carbon sequestration that includes waste biomass management and renewable energy co-products. Jock Gill of Peacham, VT is the communications director for the Whitfield combined heat and char (CHC) system that goes beyond carbon neutral being carbon-negative. Thayer Tomlinson of Brattleboro is the communications director for the International Biochar Initiative (biochar-international.org) about to have it’s 5th international conference in Japan. Last year’s IBI Brazilian conference featured McKibbin as a keynote as a climate visionary but he’s a Luddite when it comes to understanding and promoting the systems-thinking of biochar. The Canadians and Australians are calculating the carbon offset value of biochar and Google and BP have developed a closed loop , producing all the electric power generation with the system (video on USBI2012 conference website) using switchgrass to make biodiesel for $1.25 a gallon, all the electric power generation needed to run the operation from biomass gasification, and finally utilizing the pyrolysis process to make the waste biomass into biochar and back to the soil for thousands of years – if you ‘believe’ in carbon dating.
Biochar offers long-term resilience building beyond emergency preparedness. Conservation of water – essential for food production, flood protection, air and water filtration, waste biomass management with a minimum of energy inputs, localized carbon sequestration – biochar’s benefits go on and on. After all these years it’s hard to believe biochar is still leading edge emerging technology …. unless you are a climate denier, don’t grow anything, and can’t be concerned with our incredible waste and children’s futures. Is it going to take another hurricane in the Green Mountains to get with the program?
We at VECAN believe that a diverse portfolio of solutions is our path to addressing climate change. With this in mind, we encourage you to attend this year’s VECAN Conference as a biochar expert and add it to the conversation – it is indeed a truly important piece to the puzzle. Thank you for your comment and we look forward to more on this.
I don’t believe that mass transit is the answer for a rural state like Vermont. It might help some of the people some of the time, but people like their independence. I think that we, as a state, need to offer more incentives for people who might consider buying an electric vehicle. Our electric portfolio in the state is pretty green, and so, to charge an electric car would go a long way in cutting greenhouse gasses-no gasoline or oil required. Because battery technology is so expensive, the cost to buy an electric vehicle is prohibitive. I think if people were offered incentives like having an EV’s sales tax waived, and/or having the cost of the specialized plug-in chargers covered, it would go a long way to having people seeing this option as a viable choice. I know the state wants to have state fleets outfitted with EV’s, but as an employee, I don’t think one would appreciate the benefits, and only see the drawbacks. Said person would not ever have to pay for gasoline or service, but would have to charge an EV-frequently, if the fleet gets limited range. This model is not going to sell more EV’s to the general population of the state.
I spent a lot of time thinking about this when I was in the electric vehicle business. I remember being in a traffic jam outside Boston with one of my business partners. I said “Imagine if all these cars were electric – there would be so much less pollution.” “Yes, ” he replied, “but we’d still be in a traffic jam.”
Two concepts come to mind.
First, think in terms of access rather than mobility. We need motor vehicles to access people and things that are farther than walking or biking distance. What if we had more flexible zoning to allow people to live closer to work and shopping? Single use zoning is a relatively recent innovation. Home businesses – living over the store – means no commute.
Second, think about rail, but not the present cargo rail system. Our rail infrastructure is designed to support cars filled with 250,000 pounds of iron ore. Our rail cars are designed on the same pattern, and to be able to push or pull dozens of other cars. It is totally overbuilt for transporting small numbers of people, so the infrastructure costs and vehicle costs per passenger mile are prohibitive.
Think in terms of bicycle weight rail vehicles. An ultralight single passenger vehicle on rails could weigh less than 250 pounds and use less than 500 watts to go 60 mph. Rails eliminate the need for the weight and cost of batteries and collision protection. The width of roadway would be reduced by a factor of four and the rails could be elevated over sensitive areas. Such a system would provide at least a 20:1 energy savings compared to cars. The best part – with individual vehicles the system could adapt to variable departure times and personalized destinations.
The argument again toltlay depends on the longevity of CO2 in the atmosphere which is largely guesswork. It’s all very well trying to force “action” by using scary numbers but what if the more obvious actions waste a lot of money and do nothing for bettering green energy technologies? Will they decide to revisit the guesswork only after we have already headed down the wrong path or will they do it now?
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