The concept behind biochar is a bit complicated but very interesting. Based on an ancient Amazonian practice of burying carbon in the soil, the industry plans to sequester vast quantities of carbon in the soil and sell the latent emissions as credits on the worldwide carbon market. The theory is that if terra preta (charcoal enriched soil) is created on a global scale as much as 6 billion tons of CO2 would be prevented from entering the atmosphere every year. Although this is only about half of the 8 to 10 billion tons of carbon emitted yearly by human activity it is still substantial enough to be investigated. In fact, scientists around the world are saying that burying biochar would not only slow the rate of global warming it would also enhance the soil and make a side dish of sustainable biofuels as well.

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Everywhere you look these days you see someone going “green”. Car makers are developing solar powered cars, people are practicing water conservation and recycling services are common place in many states. Everyone seems eager to do their part. But it is true that some cities are moving faster than others and there are areas where recycling is still not offered and people everywhere who haven’t even thought about it. But the cities and peoples who have gone above and beyond in “going green” deserve some recognition.

In my search online to discover which cities rate highest, I saw that everyone from Treehugger to MSN, from Mother Nature Network to Move have done a rating of their own, based on available data. What I did was obtain data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Green Building Council and the National Geographic Society’s “Green Guide” to compile my own. These findings are varied in some ways but overall pretty consistant. You will see each of these cities somewhere on everyone’s list. My list is based on everyone’s research of each cities’ resource conservation, waste emissions, public transportation use, recycling habits, number of eco friendly buildings and overall green space offered to determine which one goes where on the scale of 1 to 10. However, you could not go wrong by moving to any one of these lovely places, as they are definitely way ahead of the rest of us.

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Perhaps you have heard about these and how they are a part of the solution to global warming. And perhaps you have also heard that Desert Hills Dairy Biodigester has begun plans and acquired land to construct the very first biodigester in the State of Nevada at Desert Hills Dairy in Wabuska, near Yerington, Nevada. But what the heck is it? And how can it help?

Biodigesters capture methane from dairy cattle to generate clean electrical energy! I know this sounds amazing but the problem created by cattle poop on meat and dairy farms is outrageous and dangerous and must be mitigated. You are aware, I am sure, that cattle poop is sold as manure for gardening and makes a wonderful fertilizer. Now, take the step mentally, from the energy and heat created by fertilizer to the energy required to make electricity. It’s really that simple.

The methane captured by the biodigester is enough to create a highly nutritious and non toxic liquid fertilizer, a high quality mulch by product that generates enough power to run both the digester and the dairy. This mitigates an enormous amount of the methane generated on the dairy and takes that much CO2 out of the atmosphere. Now, if we can just get them running on every farm and cattle ranch in the country.

According to the CEO of DHDB, Dr. Micheal Ganz, “Desert Hills is the largest and best managed dairy in Northern Nevada. We will use proven digester technology developed by GHD, Inc. in Wisconsin to obtain maximum yields from this installation.” Quote obtained online from Reuters.

Studies have proven that the methan produced from dairy cattle, in particular, has a greenhouse warming effect 21 times carbon dioxide. It has been established that a herd of 10,000 cows can produce as much as a billion cubic feet of methane annually. This information comes from studies performed at the University of Texas and from statistics compiled by the Midwest Rural Energy Council.

“At a time when the Nevada dairy industry has been severely damaged by the recession, income from a biodigester can make the difference between economic profitability and failure,” Dr. Ganz added, according to Reuters.

This is all well and good and I am very pleased with the ingenuity and effort that went into this device. American business will find a way as long as there is money and good will in it. However, if the climate bill gets passed as it is right now, this won’t make much difference. They’ll end up using the offsets from the diary farms to mitigate carbon creation at other locations, including China and India. As good as the biodigester is and I give kudos to those folk that invented it and are trying to use it, it will have nada impact on this mess if we don’t make everybody use it and not allow trade offs. Keep the pressure on. Write your congressman or woman and let them know how you feel.

Note: DHDB (Desert Hills Dairy Biodigester) is a subsidiary of Carbon Bank Ireland, LLC.

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The big news on the climate front is the bill released by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) last month. It is disappointing to many environmentalists and activists but they are now saying it may be as ambitious as we can hope for given the fossil fuel industry’s stranglehold on Congress. I am really not happy with it because it just won’t make a significant impact on our increasingly unstable climate. I consider that a disaster.

I guess this bill is a bit better, though, than the 1427 pages of garbage that Waxman and Markey pushed through the House in June. This is known as the American Clean Air and Security Act and both Waxman and Markey are Democrats. It was a complex bill that was hard to read and understand but it essentially had the fingerprints of agribusiness and oil industry lobbyists all over it. This bill by Kerry and Box is a leaner, cleaner bill with a few less fingerprints but it still doesn’t get past environmentalists and climate scientists who actually care.

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Now, here’s the thing. I’ve always wondered if the solutions to all these problems might be simple. After all, that’s the way it works in my own life; I spend endless hours and energy running through mazes and jumping through hoops only to discover that the solution was down a straight and simple path. Perhaps this is what we are doing to ourselves in the matter of planetary warming. Perhaps there is a lot of money in making it complicated. And be it not me who would deny people work and income. Yet, I can’t help but think about something I heard.

The sad part about our abilities to move ahead on this problem is the global economic crisis, which has taken precedence. The cost of proposed green initiatives is becoming a huge factor as world governments consider drafting environmental policies. This shift in priorities was evident in the last round of U.N. climate talks in Poland. After a full two weeks of negotiation, it looked as if participants were no closer to consensus on the terms of the treaty that will replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol. The current treaty, created in 1992, requires most developed nations to reduce their carbon emissions. But, currently, overall cost is one of the main reasons for this persistent stalemate on emissions caps.

But there was one interesting solution presented. The IPCC (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) issued a report that notes that if governments worked to exploit the natural capacity of forests to absorb carbon dioxide and deliberately aimed to increase the carbon sink that forests create, as much as 40 to 50% of human carbon emissions could be offset. I think this is fantastic and should be done like now. Please refer to my previous post on carbon sinks. Still, to my mind, the even more astounding fact is that this extraordinary possibility has been largely ignored.

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I know I’ve talked a lot about arctic melt on this blog but the information just keeps rushing in and I can’t ignore it. I guess just saying it’s a problem may be all that I should invest my time in but I am beginning to think I have to say it over and over again because there are so many people just ignoring this. Scientists are the source of this information, I didn’t get it from a novel. And new research is showing even more alarming information: they have found that some 10 cubic km of ice has already been lost from 1500 glaciers over the past nine years. Now, that’s what I call a fast melt.

So predictions have been revamped and they are now saying that the Swiss glaciers should be gone by the end of the century. That is Swiss glaciers. When we talk about the Swiss glaciers we are talking about a practical continent, a vast area of land. I mean, 1500 is a substantial sum of these peaks and 10 cubic kilometers is equal to about 6.2 square miles. Another study, based on a sample of only 30 of these glaciers indicates that these peaks are now losing a full meter of thickness every single year. A meter is equal to a little over 3 feet.

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In a generous move towards the forwarding of green energy initiatives, Wells Fargo and Co contributed a whopping $80,000 to GRID Alternatives. Grid Alternatives is a nonprofit that installs solar electricity systems for low income homeowners. The donation from Wells Fargo was earmarked for expansion of the Solar Affordable Housing Program and to build a model for this housing concept that can be replicated nationwide.

This is one of the most valuable contributions I have heard of thus far. This idea, GRID Alternatives, is a viable and tremendously useful solution for the financial outreach of solar energy. It is currently an expensive alternative to oil that most low income people would consider beyond their reach while these are exactly the people who need it most. Thus far, GRID Alternatives has installed over 200 solar electric systems in low income homes and this is currently generating over 3 million in clean renewable power. This effort alone reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 10,000 TONS a year.

“We’re committed to supporting clean, renewable energy and have invested in large-scale wind and solar projects nationwide,” said Barry Neal, director of Environmental Finance at Wells Fargo. “Our contribution to GRID Alternatives supports the deployment of solar electric systems to low-income families who can benefit the most from related cost savings in their electricity bills.”

In their efforts, GRID Alternatives hold down costs by training and leading teams of community volunteers in the job of installing these solar electric systems for low income homes. The organization launched its Solar Affordable Housing Program in 2004 and currently operates in communities in Northern and Southern California in partnership with local governments and nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity.

Wells Fargo integrates environmental responsibility into its business practices and operation. This year it launched a Solar Home Program to support the development of new solar homes in California. Learn more at Wells Fargo Environment.

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