Biochar as a Climate Change Solution

Scott Henson
in group Drawdown Seattle

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What if we could sequester 10% of our current greenhouse gas emissions while improving the health of our soils, making farmers more profitable, and making our crops more resilient?

That’s the potential of biochar. With recent innovations in gasification technology, we can turn agricultural and forestry waste into a valuable soil amendment at large scales.

In this talk, Jeff will discuss how Biochar is a "shovel-ready", scalable CO2 removal technology.

From Project Drawdown:

Biomass slowly baked in the absence of oxygen becomes biochar, retaining most of the feedstock’s carbon. It can be buried for sequestration and potentially enrich soil.

In ancient Amazonia, the waste disposal method of choice was to bury and burn. Wastes were baked beneath a layer of soil. This process, known as pyrolysis, produced a charcoal soil amendment rich in carbon. The result was terra preta, literally “black earth” in Portuguese. Today, terra preta soils cover up to 10 percent of the Amazon basin, retaining extraordinary amounts of carbon.

These ancient roots of what is now called biochar have modern promise for agriculture and the atmosphere. Biochar is commonly made from waste material ranging from peanut shells to rice straw to wood scraps. During the slow baking of biomass in the near or total absence of oxygen, gas and oil separate from carbon-rich solids. The output is twofold: fuels that can be used for energy and biochar that can be used to enrich soil.

Jeff Thiel formed Carbon Innovations recently to promote market-based solutions to the global climate crisis. Carbon Innovations is pursuing a portfolio of strategies to reduce the carbon footprint of our economy. Jeff is working with building industry leaders to turn the built environment into a gigaton-scale carbon sink. He is investing in companies with technologies that are essential for a carbon-neutral economy. He is advocating for a national carbon fee and dividend policy, and educating students and community groups about the pathways to a thriving, decarbonized economy.

Jeff is an experienced executive and entrepreneur who has built and launched new products and services in industries ranging from PC software to financial services, health care, and K-12 education. Jeff was a co-founder of three software startups that shipped high-quality solutions on shoe-string budgets. Jeff worked at Microsoft for 10 years leading product management and development teams in the Windows and Consumer Products Divisions, after starting his career with global management consulting firm Bain & Co. He was a Dean’s Medalist at the University of Washington where he studied Economics and History and received his MBA with honors from the Wharton School.