Does Biochar Deliver Carbon-Negative Energy?
Wednesday, May 19, 2010 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All
Averting dangerous climate change was central to the agenda in Copenhagen, but viable strategies to meet energy needs and at the same time reduce greenhouse gas emissions have not been sufficiently explored. Agricultural carbon provides tremendous theoretical opportunity, but just how to weave carbon sequestration by soils into modern carbon management is not clear.
Biochar systems may offer a theoretical way forward, but have been met with as much criticism as enthusiasm. Some herald biochar as the sole solution that can save us from climate collapse, while others see a scam of global proportions looming, or at best a failure as through past efforts to use biomass for energy. Whether friend or foe, scientific inquiry is starting to provide some answers to the most contentious issues. Basic assumptions have been addressed and show the site dependency that can be expected from managing agricultural landscapes and complex feedstock streams. But final assessment is still outstanding and will depend on evaluation of biochar systems at scale of implementation. The complexity of biochar systems may be both a strength in its ability to address multiple sustainability issues, but also a challenge in timely and global implementation.
Johannes Lehmann, associate professor of soil biogeochemistry and soil fertility management at Cornell University, received his graduate degrees in Soil Science at the University of Bayreuth, Germany. Prior to his appointment at Cornell, he coordinated a research project on nutrient and carbon management in the central Amazon where he started work on Terra Preta soils. During the past 10 years, he has focused on nano-scale investigations of soil organic matter, the biogeochemistry of black carbon and the development of biochar and bioenergy systems. Dr. Lehmann is co-founder and Chair of the Board of the International Biochar Initiative, and member of the editorial boards of Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems and Plant and Soil.