Nonprofit finds hope against wildfires with unexpected ally: charcoal

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    • #443777
      • Total Posts: 9,978

      On Aug. 20, for the first time, Gina and her husband, Tom McCoy, fired up a machine they believe offers the best chance to reduce catastrophic wildfires in their valley — while simultaneously combating climate change, improving air quality and providing local jobs that help keep the forests healthy.

      The machine, recently delivered to the McCoys from the University of California, Merced, is a pyrolyzer, which creates biochar, a form of charcoal, from organic matter. Through C6 Forest to Farm, a nonprofit they founded last year, the McCoys plan to accelerate forest restoration by creating a market for the small-diameter trees that are a symptom of unhealthy forests and fuel for giant fires. They’ll make biochar from trees cut down during forest thinning. In doing so, the couple hope to reduce emissions created by raging wildfires and the burning of slash piles.

      Technology for making charcoal is one of the oldest known to humans. Historically, it consisted of digging a hole and burning wood in it. In technical terms, the method the McCoys plan to use is called pyrolysis: heating wood chips or sawdust in a low-oxygen environment to 750 to 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit. Pyrolyzing wood releases about half the emissions of open burning; the other half of the carbon is stored in the resulting biochar.

      Some large-scale pyrolysis methods require industrial-size facilities, but the research machine in the Methow is comparatively small. It fits on the back of a 5-by-5-foot trailer and now resides in a defunct 22-acre gravel pit owned by Okanogan County a short walk from the McCoys’ home. The McCoys plan to host public demonstrations soon. Their goals for this year are to make biochar from a slash pile left by a state restoration project, and from a 10-foot-high pile of debris at the gravel pit collected during road-clearing operations.

      Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

    • #443816
      • Total Posts: 4,267

      I use a 55-gallon drum to make biochar.  It works wonders for the garden.

      Corporate America consists of totalitarian entities laser-focused on short-term greed.

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