Climate change: Storing carbon

An article called “The Other Side of Global Warming” by Peter Donovan.

http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2007/10/28/04621/746

Donovan claims that the solution to climate change can’t come merely by reducing our output of carbon. What we must do also is store carbon in the earth. Some farmers and ranchers have modified their approaches and have begun to produce healthier food while building up the ability of their soil to store carbon.

People have figured out how to raise excellent food using mostly solar energy while building soil – but this isn’t at all popular with fossil carbon lobbyists, or with their many influential friends.

I teach math and know too little about the science that might support this man’s claims. But if any of you are interested in commenting, I will stay tuned (and I may have more questions).

There’s already studies underway to investigate pumping carbon dioxide into the porous ground beneath Michigan. It’s very expensive currently, from what I recall.

It’s a bunch of shit. What should happen is instead of subsidizing corn (and other) farming corporate fucks to not grow too much of anything they can’t make money on, we should at least require them to grow grasses (like switchgrass) that will sequester bajillions of tons of carbon from the air.

There’s a very nice abstract with some simple numbers in a paper on this very topic here: http://www.ars.usda.gov/research/publications/publications.htm?SEQ_NO_115=158355

Then as they harvest all this otherwise useless weed-grass and bale it up, we can cart it to the ocean and dump it in to stimulate aquatic development as well. Alternatively, they can sell all this otherwise useless grass to switchgrass biofuel programs and make a buck on it and then we can even stop the damn farming subsidies.

I thought that switchgrass stuff was just a huge boondoggle because it doesnt convert to ethanol efficiently.

It’s not about the switchgrass converting to ethanol, that’s icing on the cake. Switchgrass consumes a shitload of carbon per acre while growing.

And I think that ethanol from corn is utter bullshit. I’m sick and fucking tired of agriwelfare in this country.

Uh, that seems to be the sort of thing he’s recommending. I think he even badmouthed the corn subsidy in there somewhere, or am I thinking of a different article?

Cellulose crops like switchgrass are more difficult to convert into ethanol, but have the advantage of producing more raw material per acre, with less effort (perennial plant = doesn’t have to be replanted every year), and it grows without fertilizer, even in soil too barren to sustain corn. The bottom line is, there has to be some sort of non-grain alternative if we want to produce ethanol as a serious fossil fuel alternative, because even if we turned every kernal of corn in the US into ethanol and used none of it for food or feed (which will never happen, obviously), that would still only cover about 10% of our oil consumption.

We should mail our Congress people about this. I hear they really want to stop abuse of farm subsidies. They passed a big bill recently that said all over it how sorry they were that subsidies were being increased more for those poor poor multimillionaire farmers, and how they were going to try real hard next time to not increase them again.

In related news, I’m buying a farm as soon as I can.

Like Machfive said, that’s just a bonus. The point is that we’re already subsidizing corporate farms (either to not grow something, or by artificially buoying up prices of something). Instead, we could at least require them to grow something like this as a bonus to the carbon sequestering effort. Then the farmers can either toss the baled grasses into the ocean (bonus!) or sell them to ethanol researchers (bonus!).

As it turns out, ethanol as a whole is about 95% boondoggle. But that’s a seperate rant.

Yes, my unclear post was agreeing with the linked article; my call of BS was on the CO2 geo-pumping in the second post. It’s an OK technology but it isn’t going to accomplish much except partial sequestering of CO2 that isn’t released into the atmosphere yet; in other words, it will only very slightly cut down on new emissions.

Bamboo, baby. Grows like wildfire and is insanely useful. And delicious, for that matter.

H.