2012 US Biochar Conference at SSU Explores Impact of a New and Ancient Technology


The 2012 U.S. Biochar Conference will be held at SSU from July 29 to Aug. 1, bringing together growers, entrepreneurs, investors, scientists, policy makers, policy analysts, engineers, producers, users, and students focused on the topic of biochar technology.

The Sonoma Biochar Initiative (SBI) expects the conference to attract as many as 400 participants worldwide. To date over 120 professional abstracts have been received from professionals working in all aspects of biochar production and use. Biochar has the potential to help limit climate change while increasing soil fertility, raising agricultural productivity, and reducing pressure on forests, say SBI organizers.

Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow-in-Residence of the non-profit Post Carbon Institute, has been selected as the keynote speaker.

Heinberg is widely regarded as one of the world's foremost peak oil educators. The author of ten books, including "The End of Growth: Adapting to our New Economic Reality" (June 2011), "Blackout: Coal, Climate, and the Last Energy Crisis" (2009), and "Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines" (2007), he has also written many essays and articles that have appeared in journals such as Nature, The Ecologist, and The American Prospect, and on web sites such as Alternet.org, EnergyBulletin.net, and ProjectCensored.com.

"It may be an overstatement to say that biochar can save the world," says Heinberg. "But it does address some of the biggest environmental and human problems we face--climate change, topsoil depletion, and food shortages. We'd be foolish not to give this new/ancient technology a decent chance."

Raymond Baltar, SBI Director says the conference will significantly boost awareness of biochar's benefits in the local agricultural community and on the West Coast.

When done responsibly and sustainably, production and use of biochar have been shown to boost crop yields, build long lasting soil fertility, and conserve water.

"The fact that it can also sequester carbon for hundreds or even thousands of years holds great promise as a viable, scalable mitigation strategy for addressing climate change," he says.

Gaining increasing attention since 2007, biochar is elemental carbon obtained through high-temperature thermochemical decomposition of organic material (biomass) in the absence of oxygen (a process termed "pyrolysis"). The primary market for biochar is as a soil amendment, with many recent scientific studies worldwide showing it can increase agricultural yields, reduce inputs, and conserve irrigation water.

The production process also yields valuable by-products such as syngas, which can be used to produce renewable energy, and heat that can be used for drying or to produce steam.

Biochar sequesters carbon and its use mitigates existing carbon dioxide load in the atmosphere. Every pound of biochar in the soil is the equivalent of sequestering three pounds of carbon dioxide.

SBI was chosen by the United States Biochar Initiative (USBI) to host the conference for its practical, enterprising focus on biochar opportunities, the abundance of agricultural partners in the region, and the county's national standing as a leader in addressing climate change. SBI is working in partnership with the Sonoma Ecology Center on the event.

"California's reputation for progressive environmental and energy policy and its extensive venture capital resources provide an excellent setting for showcasing this innovative technology," said conference director Oren Wool.

"The environmental professionals I speak with are excited about biochar's potential and possible influence in carbon markets. When I mention biochar to grape growers and farmers they are very receptive to building quality soil and conserving water."

The Sonoma Biochar Initiative is working with local farmers on the best way to get biochar into the ground in Sonoma County. 

For more information, visit http://sonomabiocharinitiative.org.

Search Newscenter

Subscribe to SSU NewsCenter