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Charcoal takes some heat off global warming
Date:8/10/2010

RICHLAND, Wash. -- As much as 12 percent of the worlds human-caused greenhouse gas emissions could be sustainably offset by producing biochar, a charcoal-like substance made from plants and other organic materials. Thats more than what could be offset if the same plants and materials were burned to generate energy, concludes a study published today in the journal Nature Communications.

These calculations show that biochar can play a significant role in the solution for the planets climate change challenge, said study co-author Jim Amonette, a soil chemist at the Department of Energys Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Biochar offers one of the few ways we can create power while decreasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. And it improves food production in the worlds poorest regions by increasing soil fertility. Its an amazing tool.

The study is the most thorough and comprehensive analysis to date on the global potential of biochar. The carbon-packed substance was first suggested as a way to counteract climate change in 1993. Scientists and policymakers have given it increasing attention in the past few years. The study was conducted by Dominic Woolf and Alayne Street-Perrott of Swansea University in Wales, U.K., Johannes Lehmann of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., Stephen Joseph of the University of New South Wales, Australia, and Amonette.

Biochar is made by decomposing biomass like plants, wood and other organic materials at high temperature in a process called slow pyrolysis. Normally, biomass breaks down and releases its carbon into the atmosphere within a decade or two. But biochar is more stable and can hold onto its carbon for hundreds or even thousands of years, keeping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide out of the air longer. Other biochar benefits include: improving soils by increasing their ability to retain water and nutrients; decreasing nitrous oxide and methane emissions from the soil into which it is tilled; an
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Contact: Franny White
frances.white@pnl.gov
509-375-6904
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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