Friday, May 11, 2012
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Friday, June 10, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
1. Tackle CO2 (cut CO2 emissions and remove CO2 from atmosphere and oceans) (policies B,C,D)
2.1. Reduce emissions of chemical gases such as HFC, PFC, SF6,, halon, CFC and HCFC (policy A)
2.2. Reduce emissions of pollutant such as CH4, N2O, BC, CO, NOx and VOC (policies B,C,E)
This can be best achieved through the following policies:
|A.||Protocols (Kyoto, Montreal, etc), standards, and regulations calling for deposits (refunded at collection) on products containing inorganic pollutants|
|B.||Fees on nitrogen fertilizers and livestock products to fund local application of biochar and olivine sand|
|C.||Fees on burning fuel (where burned) to fund clean local alternatives (incl. EVs, solar cookers, WWS energy)|
|Geoengineering (such as adding lime to seawater and aerosols to the atmosphere, carbon air capture, using UV light to stimulate methane oxidation, cloud brightening, etc; for more see the geoengineering group)|
|E.||Organic waste handling standards (e.g. the UNEP-proposed ban of open field burning of agricultural waste)|
|Purple||Inorganic waste policies (cycle A)|
|Green||Land use and organic waste policies (cycles B & E)|
|Orange||Geoengineering & energy-related policies (cycles C & D)|
Note! For an extended version, see this Comprehensive Plan of Action
Ten Dangers of Global Warming
America can win the clean energy race
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
1. Energy feebates
Impose fees on fossil fuel, on polluting power plants and on engines to fund local programs to electrify transport and to supply electricity in clean and safe ways, in particular by facilities that produce wind, solar, hydro-electric, geothermal, tidal and wave power. Link fees to rebates, through feebates tailored to fit local circumstances and to encourage electricified transport powered by renewables (see image below).
2. End perverse energy subsidies
End support for fossil fuel. There still are too many perverse subsidies for fossil fuel.
3. Global commitment
Agree on and support a new International Treaty, such as a strengthened Copenhagen Accord or a renewed Kyoto Protocol. Each nation should commit to reduce its emissions by, say, 10% annually. Nations should each be able to decide for themselves how to do this, provided they each meet their targets independently and genuinely (i.e. without buying or fabricating offsets or credits domestically or abroad). Border adjustments can help ensure that commitments are indeed met. As further discussed below, nations will also need to bring the atmosphere and oceans back to their pre-industrial state, and geo-engineering methods will need to be included, in a responsible way, as an indispensable part of such a comprehensive climate action plan.
4. Lifestyle change
Support lifestyles that are more environmentally-friendly. Encourage use of the Internet as an alternative to travel and commuting. Encourage homeschooling and working from home. Deregulate taxi services.
Impose standards and industry-specific regulations to ban products that cause large amounts of emissions, where good alternatives are readily available. An example of this would be incandescent light bulbs and gases used for cleaning and for refrigeration and air conditioning. Many nations have meanwhile set a date for a national ban and do actively promote a global ban. Another example would be gases used for cleaning and for refrigeration and air conditioning. Standards could be complemented by feebates, e.g. fees on sales of air conditioners that need HCFC-22, as well as on sales of HCFC-22 itself, while using revenues to fund rebates on the cleaner alternatives.
6. Support solutions
Support clean and safe energy. Apart from financial support, there must also be more active support in regulations and government policy to develop new facilities. Don't pick winners, but encourage competition and diversity among suppliers of such energy. Encourage interconnection and overlap of electricity grids, so that households can choose which grid to sell electricity to, if they generate a surplus in their backyard. Where needed, stop protecting intellectual property and use eminent domain provisions and fast-tracking legislation to speed up development of infrastructure.
7. Urban planning
Plan and develop new green communities, such as communities without roads (i.e. with footpaths and bikepaths instead of roads). Plan houses close together, around a local center of shops and restaurants. Redesign existing cities so that people have to travel less. Impose fees on combustion ovens and use the revenues to support energy saving programs, such as distribution of solar cookers (see image below), solar LED lights, more efficient appliances, buildings, etc.
8. Further feebates: Biochar and olivine
Support biochar and olivine. Impose fees on the sale of Portland cement, livestock products and nitrogen fertilizers and use the revenues to support biochar. Pyrolysis should be the preferred way to handle surplus biomass (see image below).
9. Government should lead
Make government take the lead in reducing emissions. Ask for ideas. Have more staff work from home. Look at ways to offer services over the phone, over the Net, etc.
Disclosure. Make that government departments and large companies publicly disclose their emissions of greenhouse gases. Make products display on their packaging the amounts of greenhouse gases needed to produce it.
The above ten recommendations have remained much the same since first posted back in April 2007, in Ten recommendations to deal with global warming. However, too little has happened since, reason for the need to add another four recommendations:
Prepare for the impact of climate change. Preserve species that are under threat from climate change. Protect and support areas such as rain forests. Assist with adaptation.
12. Carbon dioxide removal
As discussed under 8., various methods to remove carbon dioxide should be jointly applied to restore oceans and the atmosphere to their pre-industrial state, such as through biochar burial and olivine weathering. Furthermore, methods of carbon capture from ambient air should be supported. Fees could be imposed on aviation, while the revenues could be used to support carbon air capture, which could in turn produce synthetic fuel for use in aviation, thus kick-starting carbon air capture technology.
13. Further geo-engineering
Study, consider and responsibly deploy further geo-engineering methods to increase solar reflection and to deal with methane, in order to reduce the risk of runaway global warming, and use techniques such as algae bags to reduce acidification of oceans and pollution in general, in addition to above carbon dioxide removal methods.
Deploy plans for afforestation. Plan for desalination to irrigate and vegetate deserts and other areas with little vegetation.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
The energy and environmental policy that you have proposed for the U.S. is a patchwork of policies, ranging from higher fuel efficiency standards and subsidies for energy conservation and renewable energy, to "an economy-wide cap-and-trade program".
The problem is that the cap-and-trade program is not what it claims to be: it claims that it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050. However, a cap-and-trade program would not only be ineffective in reducing greenhouse gases, it would actually be counter-productive and lead to further pollution and environmental harm. Moreover, a cap-and-trade program would come at the detriment of other policies, the very policies that we need to implement, in order to reduce greenhouse gases.
President Obama, you have an important choice to make in the lead-up to C4, the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference. Instead of supporting cap-and-trade, it makes more sense to work towards an agreement for all countries to commit to each reduce greenhouse gases by a set percentage per year. Each country can then work out how best to make their reductions, leaving them a wide range of policy instruments (such as standards, taxes, fees, subsidies and rebates) to choose from, each establishing the mix that best facilitates the shifts that need to take place in their area of the world. While I am convinced that feebates will work best in many cases, areas should each decide for themselves what policy instruments they prefer. The main goal now is to support the commitment that is there around the world to steadily reduce greenhouse gases, to use this as the basis for a global agreement and to work out sanctions (such as tariffs) to back up this commitment.
Yes, we should help developing nations, but we should reconsider how we want other countries to "develop". We don't want to pay India, Pakistan and other Asian and African nations to imitate the lifestyle of "developed" countries, i.e. people traveling by car or plane to work in polluting industries, to return home to feed on a diet of meat and ice cream. Current levels of meat production alone add nearly 6.5 billion tons of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gases every year to the atmosphere, which constitutes some 18% of the worldwide annual production of 36 billion tons. Environmentally spoken, we need to ensure that "developing" nations do NOT develop into lookalikes of what we're now.
A global cap-and-trade scheme would not lead to reductions in greenhouse gases, instead would be counter-productive and would most likely make things a lot worse, for many reasons. But first, let's get one thing straight: a cap-and-trade scheme is NOT a "market" solution.
1. The cap is a regulatory monstrosity requiring extensive administration and policing, at substantial cost and risk of fraud and failure. It's a recipe for disputes, even war, about political decisions to prohibit one what another is allowed to do.
2. A cap-and-trade scheme may claim to give markets clarity by "putting a price on pollution", but it does not set a price, it only produces "permits to pollute", while floating the price. That may give speculators, lawyers and financial advisers opportunities to enrich themselves, but it doesn't give markets clarity about the cost of resources. Even in the unlikely case that the whole world would agree on a global cap-and-trade scheme, it's likely that politicians would keep changing the price, the number and the conditions of these permits -- there would be little or no clarity for investors, instead there are bound to be privileges for some and confusion for others, which all comes at the expense of giving markets the clarity they ask, in order to plan and develop the job and investment opportunities in the clean industries that we all need.
3. Apart from cost clarity, markets need investment confidence. Markets work better with some idea where best to invest and where to create job opportunities. Permits-to-pollute effectively constitute a tax on many products. It's the stick without the carrot -- it only targets pollution and protects polluters who want to keep polluting. Markets, by contrast, don't work well in the sole prospect of death and taxes. Instead, markets prosper in a healthy environment that promises opportunities for profits, investment and appreciation of brand name and assets, i.e. the carrot.
4. Markets are not calling for opportunities to trade in permits to spoil the environment. A small group of people may call for trading in permits, typically those who would feed on the profits of such trade. Indeed, those who advocate cap-and-trade most are likely to be the same lawyers, bureaucrats, speculators and financial advisers that have brought the world into the worst global crisis since the Great Depression. These are some of the very people that earlier sought to gain commission by propagating the myth that it was in the economic interest of the U.S. to become dependent on oil imports, to keep sending borrowed money to some of the politically most volatile regions in the world, while nurturing a perceived need for a U.S. military presence in those areas. All this has come at a terrible environmental and financial cost, at the cost of much human misery and at the expense of many good job and investment opportunities in local markets for clean and safe ways to produce energy.
5. While a cap-and-trade scheme is silent about what is to happen with the proceeds of the sale of permits, there should be no surprise as to what would happen if a cap-and-trade scheme would be imposed globally. A substantial part of the proceeds will flow from the rich and most polluting nations to the poorest places in the world, such as India, Pakistan and other Asian and African nations. A global cap-and-trade scheme would only allow the rich and polluting countries to keep polluting, while the people in these poor countries would be inclined to spend the money on things like polluting cars and eating meat, the very things that cause the worst pollution. Handing over money to government bureaucrats in poor countries makes them prone to accept bribes by industrialists who seek to sell more nuclear and coal-fired power plants. It's not markets that want this. Nobody benefits from this. It's a recipe for environmental disaster, corruption, terrorism and war, all resulting from policies that were ill-conceived and doomed to fail.
Should I go on describing why a global cap-and-trade scheme wouldn't work? Let's face it, cap-and-trade is a scheme designed by polluters to keep polluting - what both people and markets want is the opposite: Both people and markets want government to stop protecting the polluters and to instead support the safe and clean solutions that we all want and need. People want to live in a healthy environment. Markets want to invest in solutions that combine prosperity with a healthy environment.
Markets do not want to give "developing" nations the proceeds of such a cap-and-trade scheme. It isn't that markets are greedy, but the truth is that a global cap-and-trade scheme would be counter-productive and only lead to more people driving polluting cars and eating meat. I suggest that, if we are to impose a form of tax anyway, then let's simply impose fees on polluting practices, while using the proceeds where they were raised, in order to create better alternatives at the very places where such alternatives are needed most. Insisting that, to be applicable for rebates, alternatives should be clean and safe, that would genuinely allow market mechanisms to sort out what works best, while optimizing consumer choice and opportunities for jobs and for investment. That is what markets want and how they work best. Such a combination of fees and rebates (FeeBates) can be self-funding and budget-neutral, thus avoiding unnecessary bureaucracy and political turmoil. Nonetheless, as I said earlier, each area should be allowed to decide on their preferred mix of policies.
In conclusion, we should reject a global cap-and-trade scheme and instead work on a global commitment to reduce greenhouse gases, which should be assisted by information on how best to achieve afforestation, to make and use solar cookers, build pyrolysis ovens and bury biochar, build solar concentrators and wind turbines, build desalination plants, use carbon-negative building techniques, etc. All this can be done with technologies and resources that already are locally available all around the world. Ensuring that countries have access to such information will make that they can develop without being dependent on supervision and imports from other countries. To help other countries obtain this information is as much in their interest as in our own interest.
President Obama, I plead to you, don't let polluters misinform you. Please show the kind of leadership that we all expect from you and reject a global cap-and-trade scheme -- instead, unite the world into a commitment to come together annually to set a percentage by which each country should reduce greenhouse gases.
While the premise to unite the world may sound simple, we are aware that the challenges will be huge and exhausting. Please keep your strength in the confidence that the whole world, our children and our children's children will thank you for this!
Energy and the Environment
UN Climate Change Conference, Copenhagen, Denmark, December 9 - 18, 2009
How Meat Contributes to Global Warming
The Feebate Network
|This article is licensed under Creative Commons License|
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
We should recognize that a global emission trading scheme will only sabotage real efforts to reduce emissions. It's a scheme designed by neocons and polluting industries, who aren't interested in reducing emissions, but who seek to exploit the situation in order to sell nuclear plants to developing countries, which will have to be paid for with emission credits that will in turn let polluters in developed countries off the hook. The neocons see this as an opportunity to send troops abroad to supervise operation of plants and shipments of uranium, nuclear waste, etc. It's a recipe for dictatorship and for global economic, social and environmental disaster.
Global commitment, local action
Instead, we should reach a international agreement that makes more sense, and we should reach this agreement soon, at the latest in Copenhagen in 2009. This agreement should merely set binding annual reduction targets that each country should meet. This agreement should let decisions how to achieve those targets be taken locally, while preparing for trade sanctions against those who fail to reach their targets.
It should be left to local communities to each decide on the technicalities of how to reduce their emissions. After all, conditions differ from place to place; some technologies will work better in one area than in another area. There are many ways to, say, produce clean and safe energy; wind turbines may be attractive in some areas, solar energy may become more prominent elsewhere, while yet another area may predominantly exploit geothermal power; many areas may also prefer to import electricity. Similarly, hydrogen may well become the dominant way to power ships, while cars will predominantly drive on battery power in future.
What policies work best?
Meanwhile, we should be discussing what are the most effective policy instruments to both discourage sales of products that cause emissions and encourage sales of better alternatives.
Feebates are most effective
A framework of feebates is in my view most effective, each with fees imposed on a specific type of product and with proceeds in each case used to fund rebates on local supply of better alternatives. Such a feebate policy only needs to insist that alternatives are clean and safe - market mechanisms can best sort out what works best where.
A framework of feebates is the most effective way to facilitate reductions, because feebates have a double impact, in that they impose a fee on whatever needs to be discouraged, while then using the proceeds of these fees to fund rebates on better alternatives. Market mechanisms can best sort out which products deserve to get rebates.
Different areas can implement feebates in different ways. This flexibility makes feebates attractive for areas with unique circumstances that make a universal policy less applicable. Feebates can target whatever product causes most emissions in the respective area and establish a shift to the better alternatives available in each area.
Feebates are budget-neutral - proceeds of fees can accumulate in a trust, thus creating a pool of money from where rebates can be paid on a first-come-first-go basis. If needed, the trust can take out loans to ensure early payment of rebates.
Feebates are most effective when applied locally, i.e. by using the proceeds of fees collected in an area to support the better alternatives that are supplied in that same area. That way, most money will be used to make changes where they are needed most.
Instead of prescribing a specific technology, a feebate policy should simply encourage better alternatives, e.g. by insisting that alternatives should be clean, safe and otherwise acceptable to the community. A good feebate policy will optimize market mechanisms and respect consumer choice, which will further increase the overall effectiveness of the policy and minimize bureaucratic overhead.
Fees are best calculated as a percentage added to the price of a product. Similarly, rebates are best calculated as a percentage of the sales price. This also increases the effectiveness of the policy by minimizing bureaucratic administrative overhead.
Fees can be initially low, say 10% of the sales price. Especially when alternatives still have little marketshare, such a 10% fee will create a huge pool of money from where rebates can be funded. Rebates can then be high, say 50% or even more, to facilitate a gradual but swift shift to better alternatives. Once the shift takes place, percentages could change, i.e. fees could be increased, while rebates could decrease. This way, the feebate will phase itself out as the shift eventuates.Proposed FeeBates
Over the years, I have proposed a number of feebates, including:
- a 10% fee on sales of new gasoline cars, with rebates on local sales of zero emission vehicles;
- a 10% fee on sales of fossil fuel, with rebates on purchase and installation of local facilities that produce energy in safe and clean ways;
- a 10% fee on sales of building and construction work that uses polluting concrete (i.e. that contributes to global warming), with rebates on local purchases of clean concrete;
- a 10% fee on sales of fertilizers, with rebates on local sales of agrichar (or biochar); and
- a 10% fee on sales of meat, with rebates and vouchers on vegan-organic meals served in local restaurants.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Electric vehicles can cut greenhouse gas emissions in two ways. They are clean and efficient. By acting as storage capacity, they can also make the electric grid more efficient.
Electric cars are also cheap to drive and to maintain, and they don't make much noise. They still are relatively expensive to buy, but automated production and economies of scale can overcome this hurdle and make electric vehicles cheaper than gasoline cars.
If the electricity came from coal-fired power plants, driving an electric car still causes less greenhouse emissions than driving a gasoline car. Electric cars have zero emissions and are also more efficient. Thermal efficiency of power plants is higher than the thermal efficiency of most gasoline cars. Much of the fuel burned in gasoline cars turns into heat. Electric cars use regenerative breaking and do not use their motors when waiting before traffic lights. Electric cars use energy more efficiently, especially in city traffic that causes most of the emissions.
Impact on the grid - Running our entire fleet of vehicles on electricity instead of oil would not put much stress on the electric grid. One study concludes that if we transformed our entire fleet of vehicles into electric vehicles, they would jointly consume only 20% of grid capacity.
We wouldn't even need much expansion of the grid in terms of extra capacity or transmission lines. The majority of vehicles could run on the idle capacity that is available in the existing grid. One study concludes that there is sufficient idle capacity in the grid to power 73% of light vehicles, i.e. cars, SUVs, pickup trucks, and vans, without adding generation or transmission.
Moreover, such a move would benefit the grid. Car batteries can contain many times more power than what cars need for their average daily travel. Cheap off-peak rates would make it financially attractive to charge batteries at off-peak times, over and above what the individual user consumed during the day. The surplus can then be fed back into the grid to help out with high demand at peak times. Net-metering at good rates could make this attractive, while the grid becomes more efficient, more reliable and less prone to outages and glitches.
New batteries for electric cars are light, safe and do not harm the environment. Batteries are on the market now that allow electric cars to drive for hours without recharging. While these batteries are still expensive - they can cost over $10,000 - and are hard to get, mass production can overcome these hurdles.
Most cars only drive short distances. Recharging them at home and/or at work would suffice in most cases. In case they needed extra power to travel longer distances, their batteries could also be recharged at other locations with the required outlets, e.g. gas stations, parking buildings or parking meters. New batteries are now on the market that can be recharged in minutes, they can last for over a decade and can be recharged thousands of times without degeneration. This would make recharging convenient and safe, compared to filling a car with gas.
We don't all need to buy new cars. Many existing vehicles can be converted into electric vehicles. With some financial assistance, the conversion cost can pay itself back over time through savings on the cost of driving and maintenance. For those who cannot afford to buy a new electric car, there are also initiatives such as Project Better Place that plans to offer electric cars at a cheap price, while making profits on services such as car maintenance, battery upgrades and recharging the batteries. In an effort to offset the company's greenhouse gas footprint, employers may also contribute through leasing arrangements and by making recharging facilities available at work.
Renewable energy looks set to become the dominant supplier of energy. Wind turbines are being installed around the world. This will increase the amount of surplus energy in the grid at night. Storing this surplus energy in the batteries of electric cars will increase overall efficiencies.
Owners of electric cars will consume more electricity (but no gasoline) and are more likely to get solar panels, for the savings as well as to help the environment. Similarly, as more of their staff start driving electric cars, businesses will be more inclined to get solar panels on the roofs of their buildings and car parking facilities.
Solar facilities typically include a battery. Car batteries could be used instead. Most cars are parked at home when people switch on their lights, air-conditioners and TV-sets. Similarly, the power needs at work coincide with cars of staff being parked there. Using the batteries of electric cars to store electricity can reduce the need for batteries in solar facilities and will thus reduce the overall cost of solar facilities.
Cost of solar power has come down over the years. As an example, Nanasolar now offers thin film material at under $1 per watt. This promises clean and safe energy that is price-competitive with power plants. It also becomes increasingly attractive for households and businesses to install solar facilities. Recognising the market opportunities and the financial incentives made available at different levels of government, there now are numerous companies offering to help people adopt green energy at home without having to make large investments, sometimes even without any upfront payments.
A FeeBate Policy can help facilitate the switch to zero emission vehicles and to clean and safe ways to produce energy. A FeeBate policy can include fees on gasoline cars, with the proceeds used for rebates on zero emission vehicles. A FeeBate policy can also include fees on fossil fuel, with the proceeds used for rebates on clean and safe alternatives, such as wind and solar facilities.
In conclusion, all this will lead to a more distributed grid, with numerous suppliers and with numerous places where electricity is stored. The grid now draws electricity from a relatively small number of large power plants, to supply electricity in an area. Renewable energy supplies only a fraction of power, most of it through hydro facilities. The existing grid looks much like a broadcasting network, with a relatively small number of broadcasting stations sending content one-way to the public. In future, the grid looks set to become more distributed, with two-way connections to most users, much like a multitude of users can send and receive information over the Internet.
Friday, December 28, 2007
In essence, a Greenhouse Gases FeeBate policy will impose a fee on products that cause emissions of greenhouse gases, while the proceeds of these fees will in each case be used to help better alternatives, in the form of rebates.
In many respects, markets are best suited to work out which products and technologies should get support through rebates - the main criteria should be that they are replacements for the item that attracted the fee, that they are safe and that they cause little or no emissions of greenhouse gases, or - even better - that they are greenhouse gas negative.
The FeeBate policy should be adopted globally, but executed locally; levels of fees and rebates can be adjusted on an annual basis, depending on how successfully the shift takes place. Fees can be collected on items that are sold locally, or - if necessary - fees can be imposed on imported items.
The FeeBate policy that I propose includes:
- a fee of 10% on sales of new cars with internal combustion engines, with proceeds used to fund rebates for electric cars
- a fee of 10% on sales of gasoline, with proceeds used to fund rebates on purchases and installation of facilities that produce renewable energy
- a fee of 10% on sales of coal, with rebates given when electricity suppliers install facilities that produce electricity from renewable sources
- a fee of 10% on building and construction work using concrete that contributes to global warming, with proceeds used to fund rebates on buildings that used clean concrete
- a fee of 10% on sales of fertilizers, with rebates on sales of agrichar, which is produced by means of pyrolysis from various forms of biowaste
- a fee of 10% on sales of meat, with rebates and vouchers for alternative food (my personal favorite: vegan-organic food served in restaurants in communities without roads)
Saturday, November 3, 2007
The technology is identical to what is used in hydrogen cars such as the Ford HySeries, GM's HydroGen4 and Kia's 4×4 Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle, i.e. tanks holding hydrogen in the form of compressed gas, fuel cells, lithium-ion batteries and electric motors, in the case of this plane a single motor coupled to a conventional propeller.
Just like cars can (and already are) getting their electricity and hydrogen from the solar panels on top of parking lots, planes could similarly be powered from clean energy, such as from solar or wind power facilities in our backyards.
Boeing first announced the electric plane project in November 2001, when it said the first test flights could begin in early 2004. At the time, there was even speculation that the first flight would coincide with the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers first powered flight back in December 17th, 2003. Those plans have since been pushed back several times, but it now looks like it is finally going to happen.
Planes like this have the potential to reshape the face of the world. Imagine if we all used personal aircraft instead of cars. We no longer needed any roads, nor large, noisy airports. Instead we could use small airstrips to take off and land, perhaps in our backyards.
Communities without roads constitute a dramatic change in urban design. Houses could be smaller, as there's no need to put cars in garages. Without roads, houses could also be built much closer together - that in itself could reduce travel time. Simple pathways would be sufficient, connecting all such houses with a center comprising of shops, restaurants, medical specialists, lecture theaters, all within walking distance. Imagine the cost savings on cars, roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, railway tracks and railway stations, on gasoline and service stations. People could largely work from home and meet at facilities of the center closeby, resulting in further savings on office buildings and their car parking facilities.
There would also be huge time savings; given an abundance of small landing strips, planes could take us in a more direct line from one place to another, as opposed to the congested road system where cars line up for a multitude of traffic lights. GPS-navigation and radar technology could also result in a spectacular drop in traffic accidents; after all, there is much more space in the (three-dimensional) sky than on the (two-dimensional) ground.
To help such developments take off, we need to tax items that cause greenhouse gas emissions, such as fossil fuel, meat and fertilizers, with the tax proceeds going to local supply of better alternatives, such as solar and wind power, agrichar and vegan-organic food served in restaurants in communities without roads.
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Into the Wild Green Yonder - Boeing’s super-clean fuel-cell aircraft will create history this year with aviation’s first zero-emissions flight
The Hydrogen Economy - articles featured in this group
Change the World - articles featured in this group
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Many people already compost such biowaste in the garden, but all too often such biowaste disappears along with the general waste in the rubbish bin. As displayed on the picture below, analysis in Waikato, New Zealand, shows that about half of household waste can consist of kitchen waste, soil and garden waste. Such waste ends up on rubbish tips, where the decomposing process leads to greenhouse gases, such as methane. And all too often, farmers burn crop residues on the land, resulting in huge emissions of greenhouse gases.
All such biowaste could deliver affordable energy by using the slow burning process of pyrolysis to produce agrichar or bio-char, a form of charcoal that is totally black. Organic material, when burnt with air, will normally turn into white ash, while the carbon contained in the biowaste goes up into the air as carbon dioxide (CO2). In case of pyrolysis, by contrast, biowaste is heated up while starved of oxygen, resulting in this black form of charcoal.
This agrichar was at first glance regarded as a useless byproduct when producing hydrogen from biowaste, but it is increasingly recognized for its qualities as a soil supplement. Agrichar makes the soil better retain water and nutrients for plants, thus reducing losses of nutrients and reducing the CO2 that goes out of the soil, while enhancing soil productivity and making it store more carbon.
When biowaste is normally added to soil, the carbon contained in crop residue, mulch and compost is likely to stay there for only two or three years. By contrast, the more stable carbon in agrichar can stay in the soil for hundreds of years. Adding agrichar just once could be equivalent to composting the same weight every year for decades.
Agrichar appears to be the best way to bury carbon in topsoil, resulting in soil restoration and improved agriculture. Agrichar has the potential to remove substantial amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere, as it both buries carbon in the soil and gets more CO2 out of the atmosphere through better growth of vegetation. Agrichar restores soils and increases fertility. It results in plants taking more CO2 out of the atmosphere, which ends up in the soil and in the vegetation. Agrichar feeds new life in the soil and increases respiration, leading to improvements in soil structure, specifically its capacity to retain water and nutrients. Agrichar makes the soil structure more porous, with lots of surface area for water and nutrients to hold onto, so that both water and nutrients are better retained in the soil.
In conclusion, recycling biowaste in the above way is an excellent method to produce hydrogen (e.g. for cars) and to bury carbon in the soil and improve production of food. Agrichar is now produced for soil enrichment at a growing number of places. The top photo shows agrichar in pellet form from Eprida. Australian-based BEST Energies has built a demonstration pyrolysis plant with a capacity to process 300 kilograms of biowaste per hour. It accepts biowaste such as dry green waste, wood waste, rice hulls, cow and poultry manure or paper mill waste. The plant cooks the biomass without oxygen, producing syngas, a flammable mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. The agrichar thus produced retains about half the carbon of the original biowaste (the other half was burned in the process of producing the syngas).
Also important is to compare different farming practices. Carbon is important for holding the soil together. Farmers now typically plough the soil to plant the seeds and add fertilizers. This ploughing causes oxygen to mix with the carbon in the soil, resulting in oxidation, which releases CO2 into the atmosphere. Ploughing leads to a looser soil structure, prone to erosion under the destructive impact of heavy rains, flooding, thunderstorms, wind and animal traffic. Given the more extreme weather that can be expected due to global warming, we should reconsider practices such as ploughing.
Furthermore, the huge monocultures of modern farming have become dependent on fertilizers and pesticides. The separation of farming and urban areas has in part become necessary due to the practice of spraying chemicals and pesticides. Instead, we should consider growing more food on smaller-scale farms, in gardens and greenhouses within areas currently designated for urban usage. Vegan-organic farming can increase bio-diversity; by carefully selecting complementary vegetation to grow close together, diseases and pests can be minimized while the nutritial value, taste and other qualities of the food can be increased.
An issue of growing concern is nitrous oxide (N2O), which is 310 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas when released in the atmosphere. Much release of N2O is related to the practices of ploughing and adding fertilizers to the soil. Microbes subsequently convert the nitrogen in these fertilisers into N2O. A recent study led by Nobel prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen indicates that the current ways of growing and burning biofuel actually raise rather than lower greenhouse gas emissions. The study concludes that growing some of the most commonly used biofuel crops (rapeseed biodiesel and corn bioethanol) releases twice the amount of N2O, compared to what the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates for farming. The findings follow a recent OECD report that concluded that growing biofuel crops threatens to cause food shortages and damage biodiversity, with only limted benefits in terms of global warming.
All this is no trivial matter. Soils contain more carbon than all vegetation and the atmosphere combined. Therefore, soil is the obvious place to look at when trying to solve problems associated with global warming. By changing agricultural practices, we can add carbon to the soil and can minimize release of greenhouse gases.
- Soils offer new hope as carbon sink
- Surprise: less oxygen could be just the trick
- What we throw away
- The Carbon Farmers
- Living Soil
- BEST Pyrolysis, Inc.
- Eprida, Inc.
- Biofuels could boost global warming, finds study
- Biofuels: is the cure worse than the disease?