Day: January 28, 2013

Biochar 101

Read the full post at Resilience.

Charcoal retains the carbon cell structure of plants from which it is made and, when buried, the carbon can stay in the ground for hundreds or thousands of years. Most fertile soil contains charcoal from ancient or recent forest fires and, until the introduction of synthetic fertilisers, charcoal was widely used by cultivators for enhancing the soil. The most remarkable example of soil modified by charcoal is the deep ‘terra preta’ from a previous civilisation in the Amazon that transformed infertile earth into rich loam.

‘Biochar’ is a new term applied to charcoal that is specifically produced for agricultural purposes. It differs from the familiar charcoal used for barbecues or cooking, which is made from wood in relatively large chunks and retains volatiles that increase flammability. Biochar, on the other hand, can be produced from any biological material and the producer should ensure that it is free of volatiles: wood vinegar, for example, is a valuable by-product as a pesticide and if retained in the biochar would hardly help microbial life! Volatiles and ash could also block the entrance to cavities and make them unavailable to moisture, microbes, fungi and mycorrhizae.

Debunking Five Myths about Alternative Fuels

Read the full story at AOL Energy.

Few innovations hold more promise than alternative fuels. The prospect of driving our cars on clean, renewable fuel has tremendous appeal. Yet few technologies have had more hype and disappointment than biofuels. And given all the fits and starts in the renewable fuel category it’s easy to be skeptical about the future of biofuel. Today, there is reason to renew hope. The breakthrough innovations we have all been waiting for to make clean, renewable fuel are finally becoming reality. Here is a look at five myths surrounding biofuels that can now be debunked based on new thinking and new technological advancements.

Revisiting Building Portfolio Energy Strategy

Read the full post from the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Commercial buildings consume 46 percent of all building energy in the United States. Most of those buildings—potentially as many as 70–80 percent—are owned as part of a larger portfolio of buildings and are managed by a central entity. This portfolio demographic provides a powerful lever for achieving dramatic energy use reduction in buildings, and RMI is counting on that lever to drive the U.S. toward reducing building energy consumption by 50 percent.

Until recently, most building portfolio managers saw and treated their holdings as a collection of individual buildings, cream-skimming energy measures opportunistically. Now, industry leaders are realizing that the entire portfolio is the asset and can be optimized more intelligently and more broadly to achieve deeper energy savings. The U.S. General Services Administration and the State of California are both modeling such portfolio approaches to energy management. Yet, guidance on this type of approach remains elusive … which is where RMI comes in.

RMI has developed a working approach to improving building portfolio energy management, which we are testing through our Portfolio Energy RetroFit Challenge. Engaged with AT&T and the Exchange, we have shaped our initial hypotheses into a viable methodology.

EPA Announces Call for Proposals for 2013 EPA Community Involvement Training Conference

The 2013 EPA Community Involvement Training Conference:  The Next Generation of Community Involvement will be held July 30 – August 1, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts.  This dynamic conference seeks to both inform and train EPA staff as well as Agency stakeholders and partners in best practices to enhance community involvement.  In 2011, the conference brought together more than 450 community involvement practitioners.

The three-day conference features plenary sessions with guest speakers, topical discussions, multiple 90-minute information sessions, and dozens of engaging and interactive training sessions.  Additionally, there will be field trips demonstrating effective community involvement and cooperative conservation efforts in the Boston area, a poster session, exhibits, a technology demonstration area showcasing new tools, technology, and software, and a variety of networking opportunities.  Presentation and training proposals for the conference are being accepted through February 22, 2013.

For more information, visit:

Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation

Download the document.

The 2013 Late lessons from early warnings report is the second of its type produced by the European Environment Agency (EEA) in collaboration with a broad range of external authors and peer reviewers. The case studies across both volumes of Late lessons from early warnings cover a diverse range of chemical and technological innovations, and highlight a number of systemic problems. The ‘Late Lessons Project’ illustrates how damaging and costly the misuse or neglect of the precautionary principle can be, using case studies and a synthesis of the lessons to be learned and applied to maximising innovations whilst minimising harms.

Webinar: Governing Climate Change: Shifting Priorities in Urban Decision Making

Thursday, January 31, 2013, 1:15-2:45 PM EST
Register at

Rapid urbanization is happening across the world and many key urban issues are not fully explored.  The Security and Sustainability Forum’s Urbanization in a Growing World series has been looking at challenges and opportunities cities are facing.  Policy choices made now will determine whether the unprecedented rise in urban population in the coming decades results in sustainable development or business as usual. The ramifications of climate disruptions and shifting population dynamics are felt at the municipal level, making cities catalysts for change.  Urban planning is being rethought and re-engineered to include risk assessment and resiliency measures with respect to climate change implications and increasingly diverse populations.

This upcoming session on urban governance will explore international challenges to conventional climate adaptation methods, national accomplishments, and innovations in state and local planning, and community collaborative decision making.  It will explore trends of shifting priorities in decision making and community engagement that are emerging in light of challenges posed by climate change and urbanization.