Could barbecues help fight climate change?

Last week (21st October 2010) the following article “Could barbecues help fight climate change? was published in the Guardian newspaper. Here is our response:

“It is interesting to see the potential for biochar production in the USA although the scale of this is probably relatively insignificant. The production of charcoal is not large in developed countries compared to other fuels, for example in the UK it is 5000 tones per year. Assuming that 80% is C, then that is 0.8 x 5000 = 4000 tonnes C. That compares with an annual emission of c. 165 MTC or 0.0024%. However we do see this technology as having particular relevance, and at a much larger scale in developing countries. Biomass is used as a fuel (for cooking or heating) by over 2.4bn people, the majority in developing regions.

One other issue which is confusing in this article is the comparison of the heat from the production of biochar with burning charcoal, which is likely to be very different – burning the biochar its self is a more comparable heat source.

Biochar can be produced by a variety of technologies from large-scale industrial processes to charring kilns, but biochar production in cook stoves in developing regions, has received special attention for several reasons:
* Stoves can use waste biomass, which can not be burned well in many traditional stove designs.
* It reduces dependency on buying or making charcoal and increases self sufficiency – the biochar produced can also be used as a fuel in charcoal stoves, where required
* Indoor air pollution is reduced, because it is a more complete combustion process which provides benefits in particular for women and children who are typically present during cooking activities
* It is an efficient process, traditional stoves can use 3-6 times more fuel than gasification cook stoves
* The resultant biochar (around 25-30% conversion rate) can be used as a soil amendment, which can potentially create carbon finance

There are however risks and unknowns related to biochar production, the agricultural impacts, and the carbon storage potential, and these topics are currently being discussed in the e-workshop hosted on Hedon by the UK Biochar Research Centre and Appropriate Rural Technology Institue – India: http://www.hedon.info/BiocharUKBRC.”

Sarah Carter & Dr Simon Shackley

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One Response to “Could barbecues help fight climate change?”

  1. Sarah Carter Says:

    Quite a balanced article on this theme from CNN:
    http://edition.cnn.com/2010/TECH/innovation/11/17/green.barbecue.stove/?hpt=C2

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