Biochar Pt. 2: Too Good to be True?

In my last post, I talked about some background and the benefits of a substance called biochar. At the end I posed the question why isn’t biochar a more mainstream and wider used method of carbon sequestering and soil fertilization? 

So far, the biochar market has not gained the recognition and investments needed to make it viable commercially. It is mostly produced by small scale farmers at this point. Thus, all of the claims of positive benefits seem to be a result of erratic and infrequent tests and results.

Supporters claim that burning biomass is “carbon neutral” and that the carbon released during the burning and creation of biochar will be reabsorbed by new trees or plants. But, as pointed out by many articles, trees and other carbon absorbing plants take years to regrow. Sometimes they don’t grow back at all. Between deforestation a destroying habitats, cutting natural forests would result in a carbon debt that might not be repayable. Additionally, in the burning process on a large scale, there are worries of an oxygen sink.

Biochar is relatively uncharted territory in the geoengineering world. Right now it seems to be successful on a small scale, but before it reaches commercial outlets there needs to be more research. All of these declarations, positive and negative, are nothing more than speculation at this point, but because of the direction of both economic and political climates regarding energy resources, biochar supporters have had a hard time receiving funding.

For more information, this article does a great job of breaking down the positives and negatives of this movement: http://e360.yale.edu/features/refilling_the_carbon_sink_biochars_potential_and_pitfalls

What do you think? Should biochar be implemented large scale?

Image: Kosñipata Biochar Project
1. http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/elist/eListRead/biochar_black_gold_or_just_another_snake_oil_scheme/
2. http://e360.yale.edu/features/refilling_the_carbon_sink_biochars_potential_and_pitfalls
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2 thoughts on “Biochar Pt. 2: Too Good to be True?”

  1. From what I’ve read it doesn’t seem like there is enough information to make a large scale change. I think they should perform some more organized scientific tests before we make any big jumps in our production (you mentioned the tests are erratic and infrequent)

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