[permaculture] [Fwd: Re: [SANET-MG] Putting the carbon back: Black is the new green]

Lawrence F. London, Jr. lfl at intrex.net
Sun Sep 10 13:37:00 EDT 2006

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [SANET-MG] Putting the carbon back: Black is the new green
Date: Sun, 10 Sep 2006 13:22:28 -0400
From: Karl North <northsheep at JUNO.COM>

One debate that is heating up is around the whole soil organic
matter/carbon sequestration/biofuels question. I have followed this
debate for a while because of my long interest in soil organic matter
accumulation on my farm. My take so far is that most of the debate lacks
holistic perspective - it fails to consider all the angles. Of the many
parts of this debate I would like to select one for discussion here: Is
char/pyrolisation (a la terra preta) and effective solution? For farming?
For climate stabilization? For energy production?

This is some relevance to the Cornell/Ithaca community near my farm
because Cornell scientists have weighed in on the question. Johannes
Lehman has said: "This is the only way to make a fuel that is actually
carbon negative"
(http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v442/n7103/full/442624a.html). John
Gaunt, another Cornell scientist, is said to be working on making the
practice carbon-tradeable. The idea is to convert farm and other wastes
to fuel and in addition a con        centrated form of carbon that is put
back into the soil.

My question is: Don't the farm-integrated biogas systems developed by
people like Thomas Preston
http://www.ias.unu.edu/proceedings/icibs/rodriguez/paper.htm and the
Institute for Science in Society http://www.i-sis.org.uk/DreamFarm2.php
produce the same results (fuel, fertility and carbon sequestration)
without the extra energy cost of pyrolizatiion? In other words, why char
organic matter before sequestration? And isn't it better for both soil
biology and aggregation to let soil organic matter additions decompose
through the various soil carbon pools? Pyrolisation seems like it
fast-tracks the process toward inert carbon. Its promoters claim that
carbon in this form is sequestered more permanently. But so is some of
the carbon added to soils from compost or biogasification residues. And
the char product of firms like Eprida
http://www.eprida.com/data/Energy_article.pdf that are piloting
production of the stuff contains only half the carbon of the original
organic waste input. Where did the rest go? Don't all carbon
decomposition processes release CO2?

Lastly, Preston and others have demonstrated that poor peasants can
afford biogas production systems. Can they afford pyrolization, or is
this just another capitalist trick whose goal is mainly sequestration of
profit to international capital? Or is it just another band-aid on our
main problem: a civilisation addicted to excessive energy consumption?

Karl North
Northland Sheep Dairy, Freetown, New York USA
"Mother Nature never farms without animals" - Albert Howard
"Pueblo que canta no morira" - Cuban saying

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