Terra Preta angle for Alex…

Okay, Alex, here’s my take:

1.  Combine the clear implications summarized in this article.

2.  The fact that the City of Irving landfill has trash brush and treefall taking up twenty acres, twenty feet deep.

While City of Irving gives away as much of this in the form of mulch as they can, turning this stuff into char for the gardeners and landscapers would turn a costly trash product into something that could serve to:

  • cut carbon out of the local air (this is an issue b/c TX is, unfortunately, largely dependent on coal-fired power)
  • increase the general fertility and water-retention of the area due to increased soil fertility
  • improve the Las Colinas Tufa that is both (relatively) infertile, and ridiculously instable, by increasing the amount of humus in the soil.

What I need to do is to get with the City’s folks at the landfill (and hopefully avoid having to make a City Council presentation in the process), and potentially pull a grant working on the “global warming plus TXU pollution plus landfill issue” angle.  But my labor in that process would inevitably be relatively small unless sufficient grants were available to turn that into salary:  and even then, I’m hard-committed to teach six, and possibly seven, courses this semester.

Input welcome.

Leave a comment


  1. Alex Morgan

     /  January 1, 2007

    Aha, now I understand. Very interesting, and as I think about it one really does need to understand exactly what chemical structure the biochar in Terra Preta really is.

    Combust something too far and you’ll deplete much of the carbon content, or worse, convert most of it into polyaromatichydrocarbons (PAHs) which are suspect (note I say suspect) carcinogens. Combust it too little and it could have a very high acidic content, which will push the pH of the soil on the wrong direction.

    Also one must consider an entire life cycle analysis in this picture. If it takes energy to convert the biomass to Terra Preta, how is that energy generated? If it is generated by natural gas or other carbon-fuel combustion, then you’re generating CO2 to try and sequester CO2. Doing it via electrically heated furnaces powered by wind/solar on the other hand.

    It’s a big idea, and not a bad one either. Worth pitching to USDA and/or NSF, maybe even DoE. Given your workload you are really going to have to partner on this one, but if you spend enough time at it, you could convert all of your time to salary, but I think you would need to get a job at UT-Dallas rather than a community college for it to really fly.

    Coincidently I finished my proposal writing guide. Let me know where you would like me to email it to.

  2. Erich J. Knight

     /  January 1, 2007

    Pass these comerical efforts past your city council:



  3. Yeah, I’m definitely a schmoe at this level, and my only historical “in” is the degree to which a primitive setup with a smoldering fire in a damp environment produces sufficient biochar to add notably to soil carbon.

    Proposal-writing guide can be emailed here: I’ll even put it online if that’s good. Otherwise, I’ll backdoor it to folks.

  4. Alex

     /  January 2, 2007

    Forgive my ignorance of the new electronic age. How exactly do I email it to you? I don’t have your email address, nor do I see a link that would work.

  5. Sorry: used to have the link on the blog. russ n anna at yayyyyyyyhew


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