Has CA ranch found cheap route to carbon containment? Maybe

Has CA ranch found cheap route to carbon containment? Maybe

compostIf a recent San Francisco Chronicle story is right, the problem posed by carbon and other greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere — which most scientists think will play havoc with the climate — might just have a cheap, low-tech solution.

A compost experiment that began seven years ago on a Marin County ranch has uncovered a disarmingly simple and benign way to remove carbon dioxide from the air, holding the potential to turn the vast rangeland of California and the world into a weapon against climate change.

The concept grew out of a unique Bay Area alignment of a biotech fortune, a world-class research institution and progressive-minded Marin ranchers. It has captured the attention of the White House, the Brown administration, the city of San Francisco, officials in Brazil and China, and even House Republicans, who may not believe in climate change but like the idea that “carbon farming” could mean profits for ranchers.

Experiments on grazing lands in Marin County and the Sierra foothills of Yuba County by UC Berkeley bio-geochemist Whendee Silver showed that a one-time dusting of compost substantially boosted the soil’s carbon storage. The effect has persisted over six years, and Silver believes the carbon will remain stored for at least several decades.

The experiments were instigated by John Wick and his wife, Peggy, heiress to the Amgen biotech fortune, on a 540-acre ranch they bought in Nicasio. …

The research showed that if compost from green waste — everything from household food scraps to dairy manure — were applied over just 5 percent of the state’s grazing lands, the soil could capture a year’s worth of greenhouse gas emissions from California’s farm and forestry industries.

Project recognized by White House

This sounds almost too good to be true, but the article emphasizes the project’s bona fides and notes that it has already been recognized by the White House, among many other signs that it is legit. And there’s still more good news.

Unlike high-tech geo-engineering schemes to pull excess carbon dioxide from the air and stick it in old coal mines or under the ocean, applying compost is a simple way of creating what scientists call a positive feedback loop.

Plants pull carbon dioxide from the air through photosynthesis and transfer a portion of the carbon to the soil through their roots. Soil microorganisms then turn the carbon into a stable form commonly known as humus.

This not only sequesters the carbon but improves the soil’s fertility, boosting plant growth and capturing more carbon while also improving the soil’s ability to absorb and retain water. …

Rattan Lal, director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center at Ohio State University … considers it essential to restore carbon to the world’s soils, regardless of whether it combats climate change. “The other reasons are much more pressing,” he said. “Food security, water quality, biodiversity, other environmental issues are related to soil. And in addition to all that, it does also offset some of the carbon emitted by fossil fuel combustion.”

Will greens obstruct promising technology?

What’s interesting here is how greens will react if this approach is remotely as promising as it looks.

If they really are driven just by a goal of protecting the natural environment, they will embrace this as an obvious, easy way to contain the problems posed by greenhouse gas emissions.

But if they are the greens who sometimes seem to see environmentalism as akin to a religion in which fossil fuels are the devil, they won’t like this at all — because it will take away their key arguments against fossil fuels.

And if it really does work, between compost spreading and fracking, the 21st century will be as defined by fossil fuels as the 21st century.


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  1. Bill Gore
    Bill Gore 22 October, 2014, 09:15

    Family farms: thinking outside the corporate box, feeding humanity and saving the world…

    Reply this comment
  2. T Ted E-- Mind of your Godhead Ted
    T Ted E-- Mind of your Godhead Ted 22 October, 2014, 09:29

    Well said Bill…

    the fedral guvment is hoaxing us regarding this green house gassy thing. How come the guvment never admitted to having the alien bodies from Roswell? And how come they de-molished building 7 at the WTC???

    Think about it!

    Reply this comment
  3. Mike Richards
    Mike Richards 22 October, 2014, 10:54

    This solution, which appears to be a low cost solution, would totally gut the California “Cap and Trade” tax industry. There would be a complete collapse of the environmental lobby and its money to legislators in Sacramento. Not to mention millions of dollars to lawyers. Every person should ask their electred official to embrace this idea, reverse the Cap and Trade, and put the money saved in lowering taxes and eliminating all those stupid regulations which has held back California from becoming the leader in business, education, and leisure.

    Reply this comment
  4. Vashti Bell
    Vashti Bell 22 October, 2014, 23:11

    To author Chris Reed: Regarding your reference to “House Republicans, who may not believe in climate change but like the idea that “carbon farming” could mean profits for ranchers.” This is silly and useless except for making Republicans look bad for an unjustified reason.
    It is not that Republicans do not “believe” in climate change. Most Republicans readily agree that we are and always have undergone climate change. Where they disagree with the radical Gore-type greenies is whether climate change is caused by human activity. There is no conclusive evidence that this is so. Radical climate change has occurred for millions of years, the most extreme periods caused by major volcanic eruptions. As to recent temperatures, the greenies insistence that the average world temperate has increased in recent years is false, but the mainstream media tend not to report that, so the public remains somewhat ignorant on this subject. Reputable climate records, on which many academic greenies quietly agree, indicate that the average world temperate has not increased in 15-20 years. Moreover, reliable uniform records have not been kept long enough to draw accurate long-term conclusions. There are good reasons to be disappointed in Congressional Republicans, but regarding climate change, you will forward the goal of enhancing public knowledge by resisting the media chorus of Republican demonizers. Thank you.

    Reply this comment
    • Chris Reed
      Chris Reed Author 25 October, 2014, 15:21

      That wasn’t my reference. That was from the San Francisco Chronicle article.

      Reply this comment
      • Vashti Bell
        Vashti Bell 25 October, 2014, 15:41

        Thank you,Chris. Perhaps you could have deleted that phrase, which was not relevant to the point of the article anyway. Publication editors, at least when I was in that profession, do have the prerogative to shorten, etc. material borrowed from other sources.
        The liberal media so relentlessly beat up on conservatives and Republicans that I hate to see a quality website as such as Cal Watchdog.com repeat even gentle jabs.
        You folks do a great job on the whole, and those of us who want trustworthy, balanced information are grateful.

        Reply this comment
  5. ricky65
    ricky65 23 October, 2014, 09:24

    I think by now even the dimmest bulb (except for maybe Ted) can conclude global warming is not happening. It was, and is a gigantic hoax designed to empower government and extort more funds and control over its hapless citizens.
    The one fact that cannot be disputed since it is easily measured is the Co2 ppm in the atmosphere. It is now measured around 350 ppm and increasing slightly. Since it is such a small proportion of total atmospheric gases (about 0.3%, I believe) it seems to have little direct effect on MMGW as the enviro-crazies would have us believe. We can now see the proof as the last twenty years average temps have decreased.
    I think the reason for this is because of the issue like the one in this article. Plants and trees love Co2 and are now growing like crazy. They will consume the excess Co2 and will eventually balance the atmosphere in the process.
    It’s strange we don’t have some imperical evidence to prove this but I don’t think scientists want to know more about this as it it might cut off the government gravy train.
    It should be easy to compare tree rings from the last 20-30 years to historical tree samples and prove my theory.
    I can only tell say from my own evidence it is true. I have a few acres here in the Sierras and care take a large ranch nearby in return for hunting and woodcutting privileges. One of the things I have done to earn my keep for the last 25 years is clear the roads annually of encroaching trees and brush.
    Years ago I could do it in a couple days once a year in late spring. Now it takes several days at least twice year to keeps the roads clear. I think its because the extra Co2 is causing rapid growth. You can also see it in the nearby National forests as trees and brush crowd out the terrain at an ever growing pace. It could be a partial reason for the devastating fires. (along with the ridiculous 80% reduction in logging efforts, of course).
    Sometimes these so-called experts need to get out of the lab and spend a little time with Mother Nature. It could be an educational experience.

    Reply this comment
  6. T Ted E-- Mind of your Godhead Ted
    T Ted E-- Mind of your Godhead Ted 23 October, 2014, 10:02

    There is NO evidence of global warming?

    Except for 97% of the planets Phd level climate scientists!

    Reply this comment
    • ricky65
      ricky65 23 October, 2014, 14:17

      Red Ted-
      You really need to read more widely and not rely on your daily E-blast talking points from Dema-Rat and the Progbot propaganda sites.
      The myth about the 97% agreement has been widely debunked all over the media including an article on this website by John Seilor a while back. I could not find it in the clunky archive site CWD but here’s a link from the Wall Street Journal.
      Read and learn. Don’t just parrot old propaganda by corrupt pols and their crony capitalist rent seeking sycophants.

      Reply this comment
      • Yes yes ted talk
        Yes yes ted talk 28 October, 2014, 13:43

        Red ted?
        U sound like a certain senator from Wisconsin
        Before your time
        I have killed more communists
        Than u will ever meet little buddy

        Reply this comment
        • ricky65
          ricky65 28 October, 2014, 20:29

          Had no idea you were such a fierce warrior.
          Yet somewhere down the line you must have been captured in battle and tortured as it appears you now suffer from ‘Stockholm syndrome’.
          Oh Yes…mighty Red Ted -the Walter Mitty of the Calwatchdog world!

          Reply this comment
    • Donkey
      Donkey 25 October, 2014, 06:04

      Any article that crawls out of Salon is going to side with the weather doomers and any story that pokes holes in the Al Gore story of weather control will bring out the RAGWUS feeders to defend the idea that taxation will change the weather. The feeders are all just lying crooks. 🙂

      Reply this comment
      • S Moderation Douglas
        S Moderation Douglas 25 October, 2014, 08:23

        I think by now even the dimmest bulb (except for maybe Ted)
        ……and Salon,
        ……and 97% of the planets Phd level climate scientists!
        ……and The National Academy of Sciences

        ……can conclude global warming is not happening.

        Who am I to believe?

        National Academy of Sciences, or the guy who cuts back the brush in the Sierras???

        Reply this comment
        • ricky65
          ricky65 25 October, 2014, 12:05

          Jeez, I dunno. Guess I could be like you a nodding liberal lemming who gets most of his information from Salon.Seriously?… I suppose MSNBC and Huff Po are your backup fact checking source also.
          The so-called scientific community which has been politicized in the last fifty years. I give witness in groups like the Union of Concerned (Communist) Scientists and MMGW stallwarts like Phil (hide the decline) Jones and Michael (I sue if you disagree with my cherry picked data) Mann and others. These folks have pursued anything but scientific discourse on the merits of their totally discredited computer modeling.
          Instead they have hounded, sued,vilified, shouted down and tried to get fired anyone who disagrees with them. Its eerily reminiscent of the persecution of Galileo in the seventeenth century by the Catholic church. Real scientist should welcome alternative theories as a way to advance science and the truth but not this bunch of hacks using science as a stalking horse.
          Therefore in the spirit of true scientific progress, I offer the “Ricky65 theory of brush growth” based on actual work conducted in the field and not just cherry picking statistics in a laboratory!
          BTW- You should come on up a try your hand at brush cutting and tree felling. It might be tough on your manicured nails and soft hands but I’m pretty you will gain insight on how the real world works.

          Reply this comment
  7. Yes yes ted talk
    Yes yes ted talk 28 October, 2014, 13:36

    And NOAA
    And Nasa

    Reply this comment

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