Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Australian Liberal Party and Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Yesterday Australian Liberal Party leader Malcolm Turnbull gave an interesting speech on climate change policy to the Young Liberals conference. The associated change in policy direction was leaked to the Saturday newspapers, here for example.

Turnbull has been under pressure from the Nationals who are opposed to an emissions trading scheme. As a result we get this:

The Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, will announce a three-pronged policy of greenhouse gas reduction that will impose no direct costs on businesses or homes and require no behavioural change, and aims to eradicate divisions in the Coalition over climate change.

It's astonishing that a serious response to climate change can be advertised as requiring "no behvioural change" but there you go.

The speech itself is interesting, with three major policy proposals.

Our plan captures three gigantic opportunities for CO2 abatement that the Rudd Government has ignored:
· A Green Carbon Initiative - a comprehensive biocarbon strategy ofinvesting in the health of our landscape, restoring soil carbon by reversing over-grazing and excessive tillage, embedding CO2 in biochar (charcoal fertiliser), tree planting, and revegetation;
· Dramatically increasing energy efficiency, especially in buildings;
· Constructing at least two industrial scale carbon capture and storage power stations deploying industrial scale solar energy and geothermal energy and harnessing the energy of the oceans through tidal and wave power.

The Green Carbon Initiative aims to address the issues of terrestrial carbon sequestration discussed in my previous post. Turnbull has been talking to serious people about this and the measures he proposes seem worthwhile. Of course the small matter of the structure of the incentives in the Kyoto protocol and its successors needs to be addressed so that Australia gets full credit for any moves in this direction. It's hard to know how to weigh the contributions of serious thought and political opportunism in this proposal.

As to the second point, increased energy efficiency should be the FIRST priority of policy makers and politicians in response to the twin challenges of climate change and the need for economic stimulus. Here I would fault Turnbull only for inappropriate emphasis.

His third point which mainly emphasizes carbon capture and storage at coal fired power stations needs a serious caveat. CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE IS AN UNPROVEN TECHNOLOGY. On the other hand the various sources of alternative energy generation are already technologically feasible and even economic in the right circumstances. Again the emphasis is all wrong.

Finally the implication that the Rudd Government is not thinking about any of these approaches seems a little unfair!

Nevertheless the politics of climate change and emissions trading in Australia look to be very interesting in the coming year.


Truth Seeker said...

The LIberal plans sounds like more pork for business backers of the Liberal Party. Who cares if the methods being attempted actually work? The intended result is a justification for transferring large amounts of tax dollars to the private sector. It might evn work! But if it doesn't they still get the money....and that's the MOST IMPORTANT THING about the policy.

Erich J. Knight said...

I thought these updates and endorsements may interest you,

Senator / Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar has done the most to nurse this biofuels system in his Biochar provisions in the 07 & 08 farm bill,

Below are my current news & Links to major developments;

Erich J. Knight
540 289 9750

Biochar, the modern version of an ancient Amazonian agricultural practice called Terra Preta (black earth), is gaining widespread credibility as a way to address world hunger, climate change, rural poverty, deforestation, and energy shortages… SIMULTANEOUSLY!

The IBI Announces Success in Having Biochar Considered as a Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Tool;

POZNAN, Poland, December 10, 2008 - The International Biochar Initiative (IBI) announces that the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has submitted a proposal to include biochar as a mitigation and adaptation technology to be considered in the post-2012-Copenhagen agenda of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). A copy of the proposal is posted on the IBI website at
The International Biochar Initiative (IBI).

Modern Pyrolysis of biomass is a process for Carbon Negative Bio fuels, massive Carbon sequestration,10X Lower Methane & N2O soil emissions, and 3X Fertility Too.
Every 1 ton of Biomass yields 1/3 ton Charcoal for soil Sequestration, Bio-Gas & Bio-oil fuels, so is a totally virtuous, carbon negative energy cycle.

Charles Mann ("1491") in the Sept. National Geographic has a wonderful soils article which places Terra Preta / Biochar soils center stage.

Please put this (soil) bug in your colleague's ears. These issues need to gain traction among all the various disciplines who have an iron in this fire.

I also have been corresponding with Michael Pollan ( NYT Food Columnist, Author ) to do a follow up story.

Since the NGM cover reads "WHERE FOOD BEGINS" , I thought this would be right down his alley and focus more attention on Mann's work.
It's what Mann hasn't covered that I thought should interest any writer as a follow up article;

Biochar data base;

NASA's Dr. James Hansen Global warming solutions paper and letter to the G-8 conference, placing Biochar / Land management the central technology for carbon negative energy systems.

The many new university programs & field studies, in temperate soils; Cornell, ISU, U of H, U of GA, Virginia Tech, JMU, New Zealand and Australia.

Glomalin's role in soil tilth, fertility & basis for the soil food web in Terra Preta soils.

Given the current "Crisis" atmosphere concerning energy, soil sustainability, food vs. Biofuels, and Climate Change what other subject addresses them all?

This is a Nano technology for the soil that represents the most comprehensive, low cost, and productive approach to long term stewardship and sustainability.

Carbon to the Soil, the only ubiquitous and economic place to put it.

In a recent National Public Radio interview, Michael Pollan talks about how he was approached by a Democratic party staffer about his New York Times article, The "Farmer & Chief", an open letter to the next president concerning U.S. agriculture/energy policy. The staffer wanted Pollan to summarize the article into a page or two to get it into the hands of Barack Obama. Pollan declined, saying that if he could have said everything that needed to be said in two pages, he wouldn't have written 8000 words.

Michael Pollan is well briefed about Biochar technology, but did not include it in his "Farmer & Chief" article to President Obama, (Which he did read & cited in a speech) but I'm sure Biochar will be his 8001th word to him.

540 289 9750

Total CO2 Equivalence:
Once a commercial bagged soil amendment product, every suburban household can do it,
The label can tell them of their contribution, a 40# bag = 150# CO2 = 160 bags / year to cover my personal CO2 emissions. ( 20,000 #/yr , 1/2 Average )

But that is just the Carbon!
I have yet to find a total CO2 equivalent number taking consideration against some average field N2O & CH4 emissions. The New Zealand work shows 10X reductions.If biochar proves to be effective at reducing nutrient run-off from agricultural soils, then there will accordingly be a reduction in downstream N2O emissions.

This ACS study implicates soil structure as main connection to N2O soil emissions;

Biochar Studies at ACS Huston meeting;



665 - III.


Most all this work corroborates char soil dynamics we have seen so far . The soil GHG emissions work showing increased CO2 , also speculates that this CO2 has to get through the hungry plants above before becoming a GHG.
The SOM, MYC& Microbes, N2O (soil structure), CH4 , nutrient holding , Nitrogen shock, humic compound conditioning, absorbing of herbicides all pretty much what we expected to hear.

Company News & EU Certification

Below is an important hurtle that 3R AGROCARBON has overcome in certification in the EU. Given that their standards are set much higher than even organic certification in the US, this work should smooth any bureaucratic hurtles we may face.

EU Permit Authority - 4 years tests
Subject: Fwd: [biochar] Re: GOOD NEWS: EU Permit Authority - 4 years tests successfully completed

Doses: 400 kg / ha – 1000 kg / ha at different horticultural cultivars

Plant height Increase 141 % versus control
Picking yield Increase 630 % versus control
Picking fruit Increase 650 % versus control
Total yield Increase 202 % versus control
Total piece of fruit Increase 171 % versus control
Fruit weight Increase 118 % versus control

There is list of the additional beneficial effects of the 3R FORMULATED BIOCHAREU DOSSIER for permit administration and summary of the results from 4 different Authorities who executed different test programme is under construction
I suggest these independent and accredited EU relevant Authority permit field tests results will support the further development of the biochar application systems on international level, and providing case evidence, that properly made and formulated (plant and/or animal biomass based) biochars can meet the modern environmental - agricultural - human health inspection standards and norm, while supporting the knowledge based economical development.

We work further on to expand not only in the EU but in the USA as well. My Cincinnati large scale carbonization project is progressing, hopefully the first industrial scale 3R clean coal - carbon plant will be ready in 2009.

Sincerely yours: Edward Someus (environmental engineer)

EcoTechnologies is planning for many collaborations ; NC State, U. of Leeds, Cardiff U. Rice U. ,JMU, U.of H. and at USDA with Dr.Jeffrey Novak who is coordinating ARS Biochar research. This Coordinated effort will speed implementation by avoiding unneeded repetition and building established work in a wide variety of soils and climates.

Hopefully all the Biochar companies will coordinate with Dr. Jeff Novak's soils work at ARS;

October 28, 2008

U.S. Department of Agriculture to Evaluate CQuest™ Biochar

Non-Funded Cooperative Agreement Signed

The objective of the biochar research is to quantify the effects of amending soils with CQuest™ Biochar on crop productivity, soil quality, carbon sequestration and water quality. Field trials will involve incorporation of biochar in replicated field plots and on-farm strip trials with monitoring of crop yields, soil quality, water quality, emissions of greenhouse gasses, and soil carbon sequestration. Laboratory studies will involve amending soils with biochar and quantifying changes in soil quality and microbial activity during incubations.

Biochar will be shipped from Dynamotive's West Lorne facility to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) locations in Iowa, South Carolina, Idaho, Washington, and other ARS locations. Initial results are expected during the 2009 growing season.