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30 Fairmont Park Lane S
Lethbridge, AB
T1K 7H7
Phone: (403) 328-1804
Sunday, November 30, 2008
The Editor
The Lethbridge Herald
P.O. Box 670
Lethbridge, AB, T1J 3Z7
Dear Editor, 

Greg Weadick’s column of November 28th reminds us that our government plans to go ahead with its carbon capture and storage research project. 

Alberta has committed some $2 billion to this. It is one of many climate change “geo-engineering” initiatives which have been postulated and studied over the years. This one keeps carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere. It would likely work - and it would undoubtedly be a major cost to our economy. The only apparent side benefit would be that some of the carbon dioxide injected underground would also help recover more oil. Albertans should be asking if this research is an over-reaction to the pressure on Alberta to fight allegedly dramatic global warming that might be brought about by carbon dioxide emissions. 

The climate change cabal has devoted most of its attention to reducing carbon dioxide emissions to date. There are other possibilities. For example, engineered systems could be developed to actually remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. One of these techniques comes from seeking to emulate the way nature has stored vast quantities of carbon in the soil. Growing plants absorb far more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than human activities place there. Plants use it to produce food, wood, straw, roots and other carbon bearing materials. During the life and death cycle of plants some of the carbon in these materials ends up trapped in soil. Huge stores of soil carbon have resulted over the millennia. 

Is it possible that human intervention could enhance these processes to ensure more is diverted to soil enhancement? There is archaeological evidence humans did this centuries ago. Amazonian agricultural techniques produced charcoal which was mixed into soil and stayed there. The soil is apparently much richer and more productive than usual tropical soils.  We can thus envisage a technique for carbon sequestration that has the added benefit of increasing the planet’s productivity. 

My website has devoted several letters, articles and papers to this idea in an attempt to foster interest in it. My latest effort resulted in an article published in “Alberta Oil” which suggested research in conjunction with land reclamation to complete oil sands projects.  It is posted on my website at www.computare.org/publications under the title “Soil from oil: Is biochar ….”. 

Articles have also appeared in popular science magazines such as Nature, Science and Scientific American recently. There is an excellent article on soil by Charles Mann in the September issue of National Geographic, and on their website, which includes discussion of this. Researchers, some in Alberta, are also becoming interested. 

In summary I’d like to urge our government to “hedge our bets” on climate change, and on developing technology to manage it. Surely, at this time of continuing climate change and economic uncertainty, technology which could have broad benefits should be our first research and development priority. 

Yours truly,  

Duane Pendergast


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