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raymondbiochar

Director of the Sonoma Biochar Initiaitve MBA in Sustainable Enterprise, Dominican University Green MBA Program

SBI Advocates Cap and Trade Investments in Biochar for Agriculture

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Initiative News

In a recent letter to Assemblymembers Perez, Blumenfield, Gordon and Feuntes and Senators Steinberg, Leno, Simitian and Kehoe, initiated by CalCAN, the California Climate and Agriculture Network, the Sonoma Biochar Initiative (SBI) urged that biochar, a climate response tool and a material to benefit agriculture, be considered for investment under the cap-and-trade fee revenue that help meet the objectives of AB 32 climate response law.  SBI strongly supports investing a portion of the fee revenues in agricultural activities that reduce GHG emissions and actively sequester carbon.  Such investments in our communities can create jobs and spur innovation.

With the Air Resources Board moving forward with the first auctions of allowances in the summer and fall of 2012, the Legislature must appropriate auction revenues.  It is crucial that discussions continue to determine how best to invest these funds to meet the goals of AB 32 and to provide the greatest economic benefits. There must be urgent considerations about how best to allocate these resources.

The Governor’s budget and the Assembly Speaker’s bill, AB 1532, outline cap-and-trade fee funding areas, including funding to “reduce (GHG) emissions associated with water use and supply, land and natural resource conservation and management, and sustainable agriculture.”  Though not specified, we would add the imperative of capturing existing atmospheric carbon through biomass, processing it into biochar and sequestering it productively in agriculture.

Any legislative appropriation for a portion of the funds should go to agriculture in the first years of the program. A delay will mean lost opportunities to achieve GHG emission reductions in the food and farm sector and to sequester carbon beneficially within agriculture.

Potential GHG emission reductions in agriculture are substantial, and sequestering biochar carbon can help.  Biochar production is an innovative renewable biomass energy source, aids on-farm conservation measures, offsets some fossil fuel inputs, reduces biomass handling transportation emissions and sequesters carbon that helps build soil. Funding carbon sequestration efforts will aid in the preservation of farmland and the institution of the family farmer. With the right policies including support for biochar, agriculture can meaningfully reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, sequester significant volumes of carbon, and be a net positive contributor to the goals of AB 32.

The climate solutions that California agriculture has to offer can be realized with investments that overcome barriers for innovative producers who achieve real GHG emission reductions and sequester significant volumes of carbon. The sooner this potential is recognized and unleashed, the greater the ability of the state’s agricultural sector to provide needed climate solutions.

Raymund Gallian

Chairman

Sonoma Biochar Initiative

 

 

SBI Biochar Citizen Science Project

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Citizen Science Project, Initiative News

The Sonoma Biochar Initiative (SBI), in collaboration with Dr. Cecile Girardin of the UK Big Biochar Experiment, the Sonoma Valley High School Earth Club, The Sonoma Ecology Center, and Sonoma Compost Company, is spearheading a Biochar Citizen Science Project to gather data on the use of biochar in local gardens. You can check out out our web page here: https://sonomabiocharinitiative.org/citizenscience.

Biochar is a solid, charcoal-like material obtained from the carbonization of biomass using a process called pyrolysis. Biochar has been shown to increase soil fertility, improve water retention, reduce soil emissions of greenhouse gases, reduce leaching of nutrients in the soil, and reduce soil acidity. Biochar also has appreciable carbon sequestration value and may one day be considered as a major mitigation strategy for climate change.

Conceived in England by Dr. Girardin as a way to generate data on how biochar affects plant growth in different soil types around the UK, The Big Biochar Experiment currently has over 300 participants. Comprised of regular citizens from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the study was started in the Fall of 2011 and is only now starting to gather results. SBI heard of the effort, contacted Dr. Girardin, and asked if we could collaborate with her, promising to add our results to her study. She is also working with groups in Asia and Australia, making this the largest international study of biochar yet undertaken, and the only study using a large number of “citizen scientists” to gather the data.

SBI and the Sonoma Valley High School Earth Club are looking for 50 gardeners in the Sonoma Valley willing to take part in the project. This could include individuals, school gardens, community gardens, or even nurseries. Participants will be supplied with free biochar and compost and given instructions on preparing 2 – 1 meter square plots, planting, and harvesting according to a set of guidelines. Participants must be willing to photograph the plots and record leaf, stem and root weights at harvest. All of the data will be gathered by SBI and sent to Dr. Giardin at the end of November.

Please contact Raymond Baltar at raymond@sonomabiocharinitiative.org by April 19th if you are interested in taking part in this pilot study. Distribution of the biochar/compost will be done on April 21st. We are hoping to secure a grant to ramp up the number of gardens to 300+ next year.

Three more members

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Initiative News, Member News

We just added three more members to our group: Matt Banchero, a local arborist and biochar enthusiast; Laurie Gallian, Sonoma City Councilwoman and former mayor; and Oren Wool, organizer of the Sustainable Enterprise Conference and the Conference Director for the USBI Biochar Conference at Sonoma State University from July 29 to Aug. 1.

Thank you all for supporting SBI!

New Members!

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Member News

We’d like to welcome two new members to the Sonoma Biochar Initiative:

Benjamin Colby of Swallow Valley Farm

and

Charles Berkstresser of TragaLuz.

Thank you for supporting our efforts to educate Sonoma County residents and promote use of biochar to build healthy soils and redirect carbon.

11.5 Tons of Biochar Delivered To Sonoma Today!

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Initiative News

11.5 tons of biochar was delivered to the Sonoma Biochar Initiative this cold, December morning. The char is being stored in Sonoma courtesy of Sonoma Materials, whose generosity in giving us the storage space we want to publicly thank, and whose talented forklift operators unloaded the truck in what must have been less than 15 minutes (great job, Tony and assistant!). This biochar, made from wood waste and walnut shells, was made available through Sonoma Compost Company and we also want to thank them for arranging this delivery. Destined for use in vineyard and farm field trials all of this char is spoken for but we are hoping this will just be the first of many such deliveries moving into the future. Here are a few photographs I took to record the event.

It was a very full load.

SBI receives P. G. & E “Power Your Community” Grant

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Uncategorized

The Sonoma Biochar Initiative was recently awarded a $1000 “Power Your Community” grant from our local utility, P. G. & E. This money is being put to immediate use in helping us purchase a large quantity of biochar for local field trials in Sonoma and Napa counties. We sincerely thank P. G. & E. for helping us realize our goal of installing biochar demonstration plots to gather data on its effectiveness in local farm settings.

Governor Brown Signs the Renewable Energy Equity Act!

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Uncategorized

The following newsflash from CalCan could have significant implications for the widespread installation of certain biochar production facilities in rural California:
On October 8, the Renewable Energy Equity Act (SB 489) became law in California. This CalCAN-sponsored bill makes it easier for farmers and ranchers to develop small-scale, distributed renewable energy projects by allowing them to easily and effectively connect to the grid. The Renewable Energy Equity Act will help California farmers and food processors lower their energy costs, produce homegrown clean, renewable energy and reduce our state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

We are deeply grateful for the leadership of the author, Senator Lois Wolk, and her very capable staff for understanding the importance of this bill for California farmers and for the state’s renewable energy goals. Two of CalCAN’s farmer advisors have been leaders on the bill – Russ Lester and Jenny Lester-Moffitt at Dixon Ridge Farms  have led the field with innovations in producing heat and electricity by gasifying walnut shells. Justin Malan (Ecoconsult) and Karen Mills (California Farm Bureau) also made this victory possible.

New England Biochar in the News

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Uncategorized

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced that $225,875 is being awarded to four entities in Hawaii through the Conservation Innovation Grant.  One of these is a biochar project involving SBI member Peter Hirst of New England Biochar.

Whispering Winds Bamboo <http://www.whisperingwindsbamboo.com/> Cooperative Corporation, an organic bamboo timber, teak and produce farm in Hana, Maui, was awarded funds to convert bamboo timber waste to biochar using a farm-scale Adam-Retort, of which New England Biochar is the exclusive American supplier.  The grant was made to demonstrate that appropriately sized farm based charcoal kilns can be cost effective, income generating and fertility enhancing to a farm operation. Total sequestered carbon will also be calculated to show how much carbon footprint offset is made by the adopted technology during the project term.

The New England Biochar Adam-Retort is the unit that SBI and others are hoping to bring to the Sonoma Valley to support similar enterprises here.

“We are pleased to provide this federal funding to help these innovative projects to help our farming community,” said Mr. Angel Figueroa, NRCS Director of the Pacific Islands Area.  “These new techniques can be adapted by others.”

Peter will be in Hawaii in January as a principle presenter at the Maui Aloha Aina Body & Soil Conference <http://www.mauialohaaina.org> at Kumulani Farm in Olinda  and working with Whispering Winds on their project.

Before his arduous duty in the Islands, however, Peter will be visiting us here in late October and will be spending some time in the Bay Area before traveling to Chile to install an Adam-Retort for the Instituto de la Patagonia at Magellan University in Punta Arenas, Chile.