Vilsack to keynote North American Biochar conference in Boulder

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will be the keynote speaker Monday evening, Aug. 10, at the North American Biochar conference at the University of Colorado, but the can’t-miss event at 2009’s “Char-apalooza” will be Sunday’s “Char-becue.”

The menu for that event is unclear, although almost certainly charbroiled, but the mission of the International Biochar Initiative (IBI) is obvious, as stated on the group’s Web site:

To “improve the Earth’s soils; help mitigate the anthropogenic greenhouse effect by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering atmospheric carbon in a stable soil carbon pool; and improve water quality by retaining agrochemicals.”

Well, yeah, who doesn’t want that? The conference was brought to the attention of the Colorado Independent by a reader concerned that a proposed Vail biomass plant that would use wood gasification to convert beetle-killed pine trees into hot-water heat and electricity would not produce biochar, defined by the IBI as “a fine-grained, highly porous charcoal that helps soils retain nutrients and water.”

“I would feel better about these biomass projects if they were also creating biochar,” the reader commented. So we checked with the proponents of Vail’s biopower plant and they informed TCI that it would produce potash (potassium carbonate), which can then be sold as fertilizer for $400 a ton.

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About the Author

David O. Williams

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail
and Real Aspen.

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