Sunday, May 13, 2007

Which biofuels? (2)

(Continued from 10 May post)

Since last autumn, it's been reported that Richard Branson is allocating up to three billion dollars for research into biofuels. A long article in the 14 May edition of The New Yorker fails to provide any substantial detail on the nature of the research he is supporting, despite its length.

Tom Goreau of CGRA, Danny Dan of Eprida and others recommend large scale production of biochar. Goreau and others say this may be the only way to avoid dangerous climate change because it can actually reduce atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. 'Merely' cutting global emissions by 80 to 90% within a few decades will not be enough, they say.

An article published last summer in Nature (Black is the New Green, 10 August 2006) reported estimates by Johannes Lehmann of Cornell University that biochar in combination with biofuels could store up to 9.5 billion tonnes of carbon a year. ( Last summer I expressed an interest in investigating this claim for a widely read science magazine. The editor was actively unwelcoming of the idea.)

Goreau and collleagues were promoting char and tidal power on behalf of the Small Island Developing States at the Commission on Sustainable Development meeting in New York finishing 11 May (a background paper is here). Unfortunately I was unable to make it. Media coverage of CSD coverage seems to have been dominated by a row about Zimbabwe assuming the Commission Presidency.

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