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Page added on March 29, 2015

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The Biochar Moment

The Biochar Moment thumbnail
“”You want to be a billionaire? Solve a billion-person problem.”  — Peter Diamandis”


photo by Doug Clayton

We are meeting with government officials of X country. X has a serious dilemma, one which is not uncommon in this era, and which will become the norm for most countries very soon. X is throwing vast sums — 60 billion this year — into finding oil.

It does not consider the dilemma of what happens if it finds the oil and then cannot drill and sell it because to do so would be counterproductive to survival of life on the planet. It does not consider what might happen if it were extraordinarily lucky in its exploration and happened upon such great wealth that it attracted the interest of militarily powerful and ambitious neighbors. It does not consider the potential downside of a boom and bust cycle a favorable discovery of any size would augur, or the destruction of indigenous culture, endangered species or fragile habitats. It just wants the oil, for its own sake. It is like the truck driver on a long distance haul across Texas after midnight. It is locked into the white stripe, in the groove, doing whatever comes next, without much thought or planning.

We tell the government officials that we can provide more power than they need, at a tenth of the cost of the oil, and we can do it from feedstocks they consider wastes, and we can use processes that net sequester greenhouse gases at each step, with a lifecycle cost that is high in the black, low capital outlay and quick return on investment. Oh, and it arrests global warming, deepens soils, saves water and increases biodiversity.

Naturally, they are incredulous.

Surely we are trying to sell them snake oil, what we propose is illegal, or there is some neglected externality in our calculus that makes our proposal fall apart once exposed to serious scrutiny.

We say, no, actually. We have already vetted all these steps we propose. They follow a simple formula that has no secrets, no privacy, no confidentiality contracts, and anyone could replicate them in whole or part if they so desire. We list our tool kit: biochar, ecovillage design, permaculture, holistic management, keyline water systems, native agroforestry, alley cropping cell divisions, constructed wetlands and chinampas, leaf protein extraction, bioenergy crops that first produce food, and productive, satisfying and fun things for people to be doing together.

We say that if we do this, and others do also, we can stop destructive climate change without worrying about the outcome of the Paris climate talks in December, the obstructionist control of legislators, or the collapse of global Ponzinomic finance. It is justified solely by energy 5 times cheaper than solar cells and better, nutrient dense food, produced without all the costs of pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics and fertilizers. It solves so many seemingly intractable problems simultaneously that once set in motion it will never be arrested. It will create a garden planet.

The officials are both non-plused and unwaivering. They use all the standard cop-outs: buck-passing to higher authority, decrying the state of the legal system, urging we wait for a more politically attuned administration and perhaps spend that interim working for its election; and suggesting the need for further study.

No matter, whether the Paris outcome is fair or foul; whether the price of oil goes up north of $100 again or south to new lows below $25; whether governments come or governments go. Weather drives this market. The wise will look towards shelter. Once this package is readily available, and the expense is more than justified by immediate returns, the product will sell. Little, short of catastrophic economic collapse, can stop it.

the great change

6 Comments on "The Biochar Moment"

  1. Plantagenet on Sun, 29th Mar 2015 7:09 pm 

    Good to know all our problems can be solved with biochar.

    And to think I’ve been cleaning out my wood stove and just throwing the stuff away.

  2. Davy on Sun, 29th Mar 2015 7:55 pm 

    Delusional greenies wanting to trade a brown BAU for a green BAU and still feed 7BIL people. These folks are really just as bad as the brownies because they have zero percent chance of creating a green BAU complete with self-replicating AltE and a transitional permaculture food society for 7BIL people.

    I am a tree hugger. I love AltE stuff. I practice permaculture. I planted 30 grape plants today. My criticism is get real and be honest. The greenies both the AltE’ers and the AGW’ers could do so much more by admitting they have no fixes for BAU. We know that many of their ideas are good ones. These ideas are vital elements of a post BAU world. Their ideas will be the seeds of what will hopefully sprout once BAU decays.

    The problem is the wasted effort on preaching a silver bullet fix. Be honest and say there is no hope of a fix only an adjustment process and mitigation policies. Green has a place in this scenario. What we need now is good attitudes and lifestyles. Greenies tend to do better than the brownies. The brownies will go to the Nascar track and the greenies will go up to a mountain trail to hike as a generalized example. Which is better? Well the greenie one is slightly better because at least after the drive up the mountain the activity is walking and finding spirituality in nature instead of a gaudy car circus. Yet, if you want to be green then do not drive at all.

    The green AltE’ers are good generally because they are promoting sustainability and resilience in whatever local they are in. The large AltE power complexes are not so good but they can be salvage after the grid dies and their parts used for small end user applications.

    The AGW’ers have a hell of a point to make talking their climate doom ahead but what about the doom right ahead from BAU collapse? How are we going to feed 7BIL people if we stop carbon consumption? I ask only honesty for the AGW’ers. I can’t stand their projections of BAU scenarios well into the future. I have not seen one AGW’er analysis acknowledging POD and the resulting descent and the end of BAU. I want to see the AGW’ers do an analysis with their carbon models with 3-5-10 year descent scenarios. I want to see their projections with population decline starting in 5 years along with economic decline. I want to hear them say we need to end BAU completely except for agriculture to get carbon levels stabilized. They can then mention the amount of people that will die in that scenario.

    Again I am a tree hugger and love AltE. I believe we are killing the climate with BAU so I acknowledge AGW as real and deadly. I just am honest that there is little we can do. I ask the greenies to quit saying we can do anything but adjust and mitigate. They need to be talking plans to lower the pain, suffering, and death that will come with the post BAU descent not shiny AltE BAUtopian futures complete with moon travel and fancy EV’s.

  3. Perk Earl on Mon, 30th Mar 2015 1:27 am 

    When I clicked on the article it seemed likely there would be an in depth explanation regarding Biochar. Instead there is a ONE sided hypothetical cornucopian fantasyland discussion with Government/business.

    After rousting themselves from a deep fantastical slumber, they should give us the dollars and cents of it, explaining it in technical detail.

  4. Go Speed Racer on Mon, 30th Mar 2015 6:50 am 

    Biochar is when you are cooking greasy burgers on the BBQ, a cheap cut of hamburger meat and then one of ’em sets on fire and the grease burns it all to a cinder that even the dog won’t eat.

  5. Go Speed Racer on Mon, 30th Mar 2015 6:55 am 

    Whatever they proposing, it presumes a bunch of tattoo’d dope-dealing welfare and pot-addicted delirious hate-filled murderous criminal meth-heads (also generally known as Americans) will suddenly want to start eating yogurt sorting their trash, composting and growing grapes in a commune.

    That just ain’t so. The above mentioned ‘americans’ would rather hack each other into little pieces than do even a half-days work. i suggest we have government subsidized machetes to help them self annihilate each other, and solve the problem that way.

  6. Davy on Mon, 30th Mar 2015 7:58 am 

    Come on Speedy was that supposed to be funny? ha ha ha there I laughed.

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