Friday, September 14, 2012

Eat Carbon Credits or Carbon-based Foods?

We all have read or heard about Carbon Credits, and other Environmental Credits accruing to Big Business... but I don't really understand all the logic in them. If an industrial plant produces too many greenhouse gases, it seems they can simply buy carbon credits from someone doing a better job for the environment, and continue polluting. I think partly it's just another shell game in financial manipulation, because it surely hasn't improved the air quality, ozone layer, global warming and greenhouse gases that I can see. 

There's a lot of talk encouraging us all to reduce our "carbon footprint" (and some of us do) but somehow I don't think we will run out of carbon based fuels (wood, oil, coal and natural gas) before mankind makes it almost impossible to grow anything edible on this lovely blue planet. Human beings are carbon-based, and our foods are carbon-based. How does buying and selling carbon credits help us grow more and healthier foods and live a healthier life?

On the other hand, burying small bits of carbon (natural charcoal, NOT charcoal briquettes) in my garden certainly improves the health of the soil, and lately I see many more earthworms and other visible organisms. (I can't see the gazillion others without a microscope.) I'm also beginning to see more and healthier production in the very earliest beds I amended with biochar 5 years ago, and I finally feel like I'm getting to be a better steward. Bits of carbon in the soil sequester carbon dioxide, which plants need to grow and produce fruit, grain or flowers. Sometime back, I wrote a piece on Biochar for Reading it will give you some background if biochar is unfamiliar to you.

Our nearby land grant university got a grant of several million dollars to build a pyrolysis unit to burn factory (CAFO) chicken house waste into biochar about 3-4 years ago. The problem for me is that the biochar they made was such fine powder that most of it blew away during the demonstration I saw, long before it could be incorporated into the topsoil (even on a day with very little breeze). Plus, it was dirty and nasty to breathe that black dust while it was being applied.

I have a wood burning stove as my back-up emergency heat, although I seldom need it much. The small bits of charred wood left among the ashes are filtered out later and scattered across my garden. (I break them up with a hammer if they are larger than a walnut, but it's dirty work.) Since I don't till anymore, I cover the bits with a thick layer of compost and within a year or two it all becomes part of the soil, loose and fertile. Eventually that soil will be many inches deep, rather than the scant layer of topsoil that hasn't washed into the creek over many, many years! I don't walk on much of my garden, so it's not compacted other than on the paths.


  1. Very nice post. I usually put ash in my garden when I have it as well. It really helps.

    1. Becky, wood ash is not always good in the garden, depending on the pH of the soil. Perdue Univ.

  2. I always have to scratch my head when I hear about carbon credits, come on folks get real.

  3. The carbon credits stems from the Kyoto protocol (from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.) You are right in that it is a shell game. It created a new market between the participating countries.. the Carbon Trade Exchange(CTX).
    A carbon credit equals 1 tonne of carbon dioxide (or another greenhouse gas.. but the amount is adjusted to equal the approximate damage equal to 1 tonne of carbon dioxide. Like methane (CH4) is 20 times stronger than CO2. So 1 carbon credit for methane = 1/20th of a tonne.)
    This is a bit simplified version to explain it.. Country 1 exceeds their allotted emmissions allowance. Country 2's emmissions were less than their allotment. The amount they were under by is converted into carbon credits. The credits are able to be purchased by Country 1 to offset their over-emmissions so they are then in compliance with the Kyoto protocol.
    Then it gets into companies who reduce their pollution and stewardship (for which they can get paid).

    Rather like global monopoly. Build a wind farm.. collect 200 credits.

    Does it work.. well, this summer we just passed the 400PPM mark of CO2 in the **Arctic** (which many scientists viewed as the point of no return.)


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