Thursday, March 31, 2016

What Time Is It? Time for Restorative Energy

14 foot tall Biochar Okra
Amazing growth is reported by many folks in these parts who combine biochar into their other best growing practices.  Search "David Yarrow + Carbon Smart" for in depth information.  David is a frequent contributor to Acres magazine and long time soil restoration advocate.  Two images that say a lot regarding biochar - from his touring slideshow:

Biochar has immediate benefits, and long term restorative improvement that is not available from any other soil amendments.

Source: Dr. Johannes Lehman, Cornell University

Using energy from biochar production closes the loop on the only energy strategy that actively reduces atmospheric carbon.  Note that it is also zero waste, and enhances biomass production for next season, so is a self-reinforcing positive loop.

Dr. David Laird, USDA-ARS National Soil Tilth Lab Iowa State University wrote an article highlighting the restorative potential of converting local biomass to energy. The title says a lot.

"The Charcoal Vision: A Win–Win–Win Scenario for Simultaneously Producing Bioenergy, Permanently Sequestering Carbon, while Improving Soil and Water Quality."

In this article Dr. Laird describes the benefits of widespread use of small scale biomass gasification systems to overcome the transportation and distribution cost inefficiencies of transporting low value ag wastes. - Agronomy Journal • Volume 100, Issue 1 • 2008

Restorative energy models are available and not particularly difficult to implement on a local scale.

"And he gave it for his opnion, that whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together."  -- Jonathan Swift - Gulliver's Travels 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What Time Is It? Time to Try Obtainable Energy

Waste biomass is the low hanging fruit of alt-energy.

Stems, stalks and woody debris classified as "waste" can be converted to clean energy and biochar  OR landfilled OR burned out in the open air.  Conversion happens on-demand, exactly when the energy is needed.
"It is obvious that the sun keeps our earth warm with its radiant energy. It is perhaps not so obvious that all living and once living matter on this planet is a form of solar battery, storing the suns energy in chemical bonds.."  - Larry Dobson

On-demand availability makes biomass a fail-safe back up that can reduce physical plant requirements for wind and solar systems during times of high demand.  The technology is already, all ready.  Conversion equipment is easily scaled to the requirement, down to the level of a single home, home generator or vehicle.

Oak Ridge National Laboratories - Agricultural Waste to Energy, 2003

One quad = one quadrillion btu, = 180 million barrels of oil equivalent.  3.73 quads is about 670 million barrels of oil equivalent energy.

Every place water, photosynthesis and soil turn seeds into plant growth, biomass is obtainable.  Every place excess biomass is burned, or wood is landfilled, the potential for clean energy, plus biochar is wasted.  Much effort and expense is often expended to speed up the waste cycle.

Lied Lodge, the hospitality showcase for Arbor Days Farm implemented a wood energy system over twenty years ago.  The Arbor Days folks give tours of the system for guests.

Lied Lodge - Nebraska City, NE
The original plan was to use SRIC, Short Rotation Intensive Cropping, of fast growing wood species, 3-6 tons per year per acre, for energy.  Shortly after installation, local wood waste became the primary source and has been abundant since.  Lied Lodge saves 60-80 percent on energy costs versus similar sized hospitality enterprises by using locally provided urban wood waste.

Beyond Waste - Land and Forest Improvement

Dr. Karl Frogner reports in "Estimated Low Tech Biochar Production by Small Scale Diversified Farmers" 2 tons of excess biomass per acre on small (less than 10 acre) plots in Thailand with rice, maize, and agroforestry cropped in equal proportions.  That is 320 million btu per plot of excess energy, equivalent to about 280 gallons of gasoline per acre, while improving soil, water, and economic conditions.

REAP Canada reports that switchgrass planted on marginal lands in Ontario produces 60 million more btu per acre per year than the energy required to plant and harvest it.  That is equivalent to about 525 gallons of gasoline per acre, per year, beyond the energy required to plant and harvest.

Switchgrass was the native species in the "Great Plains" prior to the dust bowl days.  The deep roots hold soil and water, create excellent habitat for wildlife, excellent forage for herbivores.
"American demand for wood continues to rise, yet the nation's forests are growing faster than they're being harvested." - Biomass Energy - State of the Technology, US Dept of Energy -1993
Timber stand improvement includes thinning.  Decaying wood on the ground produces methane, an even more potent greenhouse gas than the carbon dioxide produced while burning.  The number for the amount of wood that needs to "be gone" varies widely, but over 1 ton per acre seems to be a rule of thumb average.

Slashing and charring one ton per acre in advanced clean kiln designs would produce about 11 million btu of energy plus 500 pounds of biochar, per acre per year.  That is the energy equivalent of almost 100 gallons of gasoline PER ACRE, PER YEAR USING THINNINGS THAT IMPROVE FOREST QUALITY WHEN GONE!

Invasive species management, wildfire prevention, etc, etc.  There is a whole lot of energy right where it needs to be.  It is ready to use, obtainable with very little effort, on a small local scale.

"one moment can change a day,
one day can change a life,
one life can change the world"
Gautama Buddha

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

What Time Is It? Time for Clean Energy

"Wood Burns Cleaner Than Oil.

A prototype residential cook stove developed by Northern Light R.&D. (named "Helen") was officially tested by OMNI Environmental Laboratories for the U.S. Department of Energy/Bonneville Power in 1986, burning green sawdust of 44% moisture content, with no catalytic afterburner or stack cleanup of any kind.

Its particulate emissions were 65 times cleaner than the average state-of-the-art woodstove, several times cleaner than the best pellet burner, and considerably cleaner than the average oil furnace.

Carbon Monoxide emissions in the stack gases were 1/7500th of the Federal Auto Emissions standard, 1/100th of the gas industry's standard for "CO-free combustion", and 1/2 of the EPA's standard for acceptable 24 hour indoor air quality."  -- Larry Dobson, "Biomass Energy - State of the Technology" - 1993

Wood Powered Truck - Less Emission than All Electric Vehicle

Wayne Keith accepts award from EPA
It was estimated that Wayne's truck, powered by wood, produced less net emissions than an all electric vehicle powered by the Alabama grid (primarily coal based).

The latest micro-gasification designs such as Wayne's set new standards for clean energy while creating a value added co-product, biochar.  Carbon smart vehicle power is not only possible, it is being practiced today by early adopters.

Cleanest Known Single Meal CookStove Saves Biochar

Source - GA Tech Presentation by Hugh McLaughlin, Phd, PE and Paul Anderson, Phd (DrTLUD) October 2010

The cleanest known biomass cooking technology is a Top Lit Up Draft Pyrolytic Gasifier saving the charcoal (biochar).  The obvious feature when witnessed is that a lit cigarette in the room makes more noticeable smoke than this cookstove boiling more than a gallon of water.   

Equally important, perhaps more important economically speaking, is the creation of a high value product (biochar) from the low value waste biomass that went into the stove.

The magic is made possible by loading, lighting, and leaving it alone.  After operational temperature is achieve, no additional fire tending is needed.

We are powerfully imprisoned in these Dark Ages simply by the terms in which we have been conditioned to think.” – Buckminster Fuller

Monday, March 28, 2016

What Time Is It? Time for Safe Energy

Direct solid wood to gas conversion creates a large percentage of hydrogen as a flammable gas.  Hydrogen is a boon for clean combustion.  Hydrogen energy is kind of a holy grail in energy circles. 

1966 Hydrogen Vehicle Prototype

But when hydrogen is mentioned, it brings up an often asked question - Is this safe?

Any gas with enough power to pop in a combustion chamber, drive a piston, and power a vehicle at highway speeds is obviously explosive.  Gasoline and diesel do their job well because they explode well.  Folks are good with the inherent dangers of this robust explosive power stored in tanks onboard the vehicle.

A wood powered engine operates on "producer gas".  That is gas that is produced just moments before it is consumed.  The suction of the engine powers the process, so if the engine dies, the process stops.  A 120 pound hopper of wood contains about a million potential btu.  Wood requires continuous processing, the engine running, to make useful gas.  A 20 gallon tank of gasoline contains over 2 million potential btu ready to blow up with the right mixture of heat and oxygen.

Relatively speaking, producer gas is far safer than fossil fuels onboard a vehicle in terms of immediate explosive capability.

Safe for Eons vs?

In eons of biomass energy use, there were never any huge scale problems.  Current energy paradigms are potentially unsafe at massive scale.

BP Horizon Blowout Covers the Gulf of Mexico in Oil

Fukushima Nuclear Energy Disaster - Still in Process

Kuwait Oil Field Fire as Nations Fight to control "Cheap" Oil

Wildfires - vast potential energy wasted

Extreme Weather

Fracking is basically the art of pumping clean water from above ground mixed with proprietary chemical concoctions into the earth to create fissures and pressure to drive out "natural" gas.   Fresh water is removed from the above ground cycle, contaminated, then circulates everywhere below ground that water flows.  Next problem, clean water.

So overall big picture, biomass energy is the safest known energy resource.  It operates completely within the existing carbon cycle, powered by the daily passage of the sun overhead.  Done wisely, saving the biochar for use in the soil, biomass reverses the recent global environment change wrought by pump and dump fossil fuel technologies.  Biochar also improves soils, creating more biomass growth, and purifies water.

"If our recently devised economic system puts at risk the air, water, land and biodiversity that we rely on for our health and very survival, we must come up with something better." - David Suzuki

Saturday, March 26, 2016

What Time Is It? - Time to Recap

A TLUD  - makes Carbon Smart Energy - building a better world within the boundaries of the physical law of conservation of matter-and does not use well over half it's energy getting to where it needs to be.

If a barrel of oil contains 10 years worth of human labor, a cord of wood contains 47 years of human labor using the same calculation.

Joining together in community spirit is fun, enlightening, and a big part of who we are as humans.  Hope to see you April 2 at Lutie School in Theodosia, MO as we join in community spirit.

When everything we need is somewhere else, we are at least at risk of supply disruption and may be overlooking ancient wisdom bordering on common sense.

We are at an unprecedented time in human history.  I a great big world, empires grew to discover the farthest reaches.  Todays billions of people know that we live in a finite world.  Cooperation is a succession strategy in the  transition from empire into the planetary era, There are more folks in existence with more choices, than at any time in human history.  How food and energy are produced, distributed and consumed has always driven the direction of change.

"I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses."  - Johannes Kepler

Friday, March 25, 2016

What Time Is It? - Time for Terminology - TLUD

TLUD is an acronym for "Top Lit Up Draft".  Still confused?  That is OK, you are not alone, you are in the majority.

Fire seeking fuel and oxygen is the simple physics of a TLUD, more on that later.

Wildfire VS Controlled Burn

In a wildfire, flames travel with the wind, as fire spreads everywhere it can find the right mix of heat, fuel, and oxygen.  Some areas in the burn zone may be completely skipped as the fire rages past.

In a controlled burn, the fire is lit across the face of the downwind side.  Instead of the wind quickly blowing the fire out as some would think, the fire slowly marches into the wind as it seeks and finds fuel and oxygen.  Usually this gives a much more complete burn of an area than an uncontrolled wildfire.

A camp fire lit underneath that spreads to the top is an uncontrolled burn.  Lighting a camp fire in the middle on top is more difficult, but better controls combustion rate, and maximizes open air charcoal production.

Dog Simple TLUD

Thank you Adam Bacon for pointing out the fallacy of assuming that anyone can figure out what a TLUD is in even a one hour talk.  The "simple physics" happen to be totally counter-intuitive to what was learned through experience.  Fires are lit on the bottom so the flame grows to the top.  That is just the way it works.  People do not quickly unlearn what has been intuitively established by repetition and experience.

All you have to know about this bicycle, is that steering is reversed, so whatever you would normally do to steer, do the opposite.  Simple? Not as simple as it sounds..

It only took me personally one full week with some of the leading biomass energy and small cook stove experts in the world to get a handle on this, so if you don't "get it" from this post, don't feel bad.  But please start experimenting.

Adam's contribution to understanding, what he calls a "dog simple TLUD" is a single wall flue pipe filled with brush, on top of a pile of brush.

Adam Bacon's Dog Simple TLUD

The holes in the side of the tube are for illustration only.  In practice this is a solid tube.

A fire is started on the top of the pile in the tube.  The hot air rising begins pulling air up through the tube.  The atmosphere above the flame in the tube has no oxygen because all oxygen has been consumed.  A flame roars out the top as the hot flammable gas finds oxygen above the upper rim.

The primary fire seeks DOWNWARD, toward more fuel and oxygen, even as the secondary fire roars on top where the hot gas (smoke) finds a fresh supply of oxygen.

This is the essence of solid fuel "gasification".  By adding ever more physical parts (more complexity) engine grade fuel can be made from wood.  Understanding and experimenting with the basics is critical to success with more complex and advanced designs.

Nobody has it all figured out until we are all driving on natures finest instead of fossil fuels.  If you would like to join in a shared educational experience please send email to

Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of the events, and then the total — all of these acts — will be written in the history of this generation. - RFK
Durable Biochar Producing TLUD Campstove on Instructables..

Thursday, March 24, 2016

What Time Is It? - Time for Carbon Smart Energy

Wood with Re-growth is the ONLY carbon zero energy strategy - 1993 Department of Energy Report

Wood is better than nuclear, wind, PV solar, and even large scale hydro for lowest net carbon emissions.  1 Million Btu (1 MBtu) = 293 kW = 120 lb dry wood  = 7 gal. Diesel Oil = 1000 cu.ft. (10 Therms) Natural Gas

"It is obvious that the sun keeps our earth warm with its radiant energy. It is perhaps not so obvious that all living and once living matter on this planet is a form of solar battery..
..When we burn a plant we release the stored water, carbon dioxide and ash along with heat. If we do it right, that's all we get - no pollution."  -- Larry Dobson

Back then they were doing biomass energy the hard way, burning the resource completely to ash.   Volatilizing only the lighter components (smoke) for heat, saving the harder carbon chains as charcoal (biochar) makes nearly perfect combustion easier.  

By interring biochar in soil, biomass energy becomes the only energy strategy that actively reduces concentrations of atmospheric carbon.  Some are already doing it, many more are taking notice.

The technology for smoke burning appliances, even smoke burning internal combustion engines for generators and vehicles is already, all ready. (Hat tip Albert Bates for the already, all ready saying).

In an interesting twist of fate, wood to motive power legend Wayne Keith traveled 232 miles on one million btu of wood, in a truck that travels only 169 miles on a million btu of gasoline at 21 mpg.  That is more than 30% efficiency improvement for an engine that was designed to operate on "smoke from the pit".

Larry Dobson's stove design, burning wood to ash, "a residential cookstove designed by Northern Light R&D burned wood 65 times cleaner than the average woodstove and cleaner than most oil and gas fueled residential furnaces" - Larry Dobson  

With biochar saving stove designs, the cleanliness and efficiency of stoves gets better and easier.  The economic value is that a higher value product is produced than what went into the stove. Wayne Keith's motive power design includes "ash dumps" for periodic clean out of beautiful high sheen biochar slipped through the grate to improve fuel quality and reliability over wide operating ranges typical while driving on the highway.

Using above ground energy is carbon smart if it stopped at zero.  Char saving designs go beyond zero to net atmospheric carbon reduction.  The benefits don't stop there.   

Interring biochar in soil improves soil microbiota and plant growth.  Biochar improves local water quality, similar to an under sink water filter.  Neighbors helping neighbors build char saving biomass energy designs tailored to locally available biomass improves local economies.

Biochar energy solutions are a win-win-win, improved energy, environment and economy.  Localizing energy is a carbon smart 21st century energy paradigm that is not hard to do, only difficult to conceptualize for those who have never seen it.

“To truth only a brief celebration of victory is allowed between the two long periods during which it is condemned as paradoxical, or disparaged as trivial.”  - Arthur Schopenhauer 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What Time Is It? - Time to revoke the law of conservation of matter.

When a million barrels of "crude" per day are pumped from below ground into the air, where does it go?

A kindergarten kid might tell you that it goes everywhere the wind blows.  Advanced physicists will say the same thing in a different way.  It is fundamental law of classical physics that matter is neither created or destroyed in an isolated system like spaceship earth.  It remains "somewhere" in the system.

Anthropogenic (human caused) environmental change is not even a question based upon what advanced science knows, what a child understands, and what is measured.

Atmospheric carbon is measurable and is measured.  The results agree with intuition and physics. 

Humans using  "smoke from the pit" for energy have predictably and measurably caused an environmental change to the tune of a 40% increase in atmospheric carbon from 1960 to the present day.  While the effects may be questioned (warming, cooling, changed weather patterns), the results are only disputable in small degree.  

If "advanced" societies used salt for energy and increased salinity in the oceans as a result, to the tune of 40% increase in ocean salinity, the denial patter would likely be the same.

Some would say nature is beyond human control, salt levels are a natural balance.  Some would say it is a good thing because the oceans might otherwise some day run out of salt.  Etc.

But an increase of 40% would raise ocean salinity from 3.5% which has sustained diverse life for eons, to almost 5% which is not survivable for many species.

Wake the folk up.  Lobby your elected representatives.  Tell them it is well past time to revoke the law of conservation of matter.  Their actions could make all the difference, and our actions need not change.

"Buckminster Fuller said that spaceship earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no need for seatbelts, lots of room in coach, and really good food—but all that is changing."  Paul Hawken

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What Time Is It - Time to Ponder Efficiency

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory energy use charts for the USA.


58% rejected/wasted

58% rejected/wasted

60% rejected/wasted


Short version of the truth, the USA wastes more energy than it uses.  The greatest waste is petroleum as transportation fuel, 75-80% wasted.

Is the ability to survive while wasting greatly, the sign of a great civilization?  Or does it signal a human caused problem when everything we need is somewhere else?

Localization in food, energy and economies is a real simple way to reduce a whole lot of wasted energy.

The eco-village makes sense environmentally, AND economically.  People easily get more done when they waste less energy doing it.  Eco-villages are not a retreat to the "stone age".  They are the forward path to a zero waste culture that creates more than it consumes.

"There are no environmental problems. There are only environmental symptoms of human problems" -Robert Gilman,

More discussion by treehugger Lloyd Alter

Monday, March 21, 2016

What Time Is It? - Time To Check Out BTU

Simplifications help in understanding the energy big picture.

BTU, British Thermal Unit, is the amount of WORK required to raise one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit.

BTU is a measure of work, so can be related to all other forms of work measurement.

1 BTU = 252 calories = 1055 joules = 1055 watt second

Energy sources, like oil and wood are rated in btu, with that number being potential btu.  How efficiently the resource is used has no bearing on that number.

Using these type of calculations, it has been said that a barrel of oil is the equivalent of more than 10 years of human labor.  That makes oil a very valuable and necessary resource for powering today's lifestyles.  Oil is well worth fighting over.

Using those same calculations, purely work potential, a cord of wood holds the equivalent of about 47 years of human labor.  Mostly we look for ways to quickly be rid of the excess, like piling it up and burning it out in the open.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

What Time Is It - Time to Join Together

Dave Haenke speaks Succession Forestry at O.N.E

The Ozarks Neighborly Exchange, O.N.E. is a group of neighbors joined together in actions to thoughtfully improve their local area, build community, and nurture the environment.

Bonzo visited a few years back to listen to the thoughts of succession forest strategist David Haenke.  David's expertise and lifelong commitment was immediately apparent as he shared more enlightenment in half hour than gleaned from months of online research.

Other speakers that day were equally fascinating.  Topics included biochar, permaculture, year round indoor growing in Missouri, crops selection, and community building.

Positive energy and good will flow all day long.  Very encouraging to see the results when a community joins together to build a whole greater than the sum of the parts.

  • What:  O.N.E. Congress
  • When: Saturday, April 2, 2016, 7:30 AM to 5:30 PM
  • Where:  Lutie High School, Theodosia, MO

Who includes David Yarrow, world renowned "carbon smart" biochar advocate and regular Acres magazine contributor.  Plus many more speakers for a full day of talks on living well on our earth.

Bonzo will be there with biochar kilns including the JAKE in operation.

Jim Corbett of reports on community solution to modern problems.  "A spirit of sharing"

O.N.E. 2014 Community Building

Saturday, March 19, 2016

What Time Is It - Getting There

1817 Draisine - Wikipedia - History of the bicycle

How do we Get from "Here" to "There"?

In tribal times the question probably seemed strange.  We are here, what is this "there" of which you speak?

As agrarian society rooted and grew, human and animal power sufficed for daily over land transport even as large cities formed.  For at least the first few thousand years of agrarian civilization, mechanical transport on land was not even considered a possibility?  Possibly it had just never been necessary.
"Drais' interest in finding an alternative to the horse was the starvation and death of horses caused by crop failure in 1816" - wikipedia
The draisine allowed mechanical transport at the rate of about 8 miles per hour for one person and a light load.  Despite being prohibited by some authorities at various times early on, human powered machines continued to evolve - officially termed "bicycle" in 1860.

After shown to be possible, personal mechanical transport over land has evolved to the point that speeds of a mile per minute are "normal" less than 200 years later.

Application of mechanical concepts to flying machines, climaxed with the SR-71Blackbird, top speed approaching 4000 feet per second.  It actually was faster than speeding bullets of it's era.  Introduced in 1966, the Blackbird is no longer in production.

Our current ability to compress space-time with mechanical equipment and energy, were god-like powers in the not far distant past.  But just because something can be done, does not necessarily mean it should be done.

Today the tribal situation is reversed.  We are "here" and almost everything we need is "there".  It may be time to reflect beyond a fascination with what is possible, and ask "why would anyone want to do that?"

Compressing time-space at high rates with mechanical equipment and high energy inputs is fascinating no doubt.  But when what was formerly fascinating becomes a requirement for human existence, was something gained?

How we get from "here" to "there", makes a difference.

"Rather than asking how the earth’s surface can be preserved for people, they ask how reservations necessary for the survival of people can be established on an earth that has been reshaped for the sake of industrial outputs." - Ivan Illich, Energy and Equity - The Radical Monopoly of Industry

"There are no environmental problems. There are only environmental symptoms of human problems" -Robert Gilman  

Friday, March 18, 2016

What Time Is It?

Type that phrase into a search engine and check the response.

Voila, a highly accurate, practical response to the question based upon machine understanding is the top result.  But notice also that in this case, over five million additional possible answers.

We live in a time of a unprecedented choice.  Choices of which questions to ask, which answers are relevant, choices of how to use our allotted "time" on this earth.

With over seven billion people, the collective results of human interaction during their time on earth could make a huge impact, or little difference, depending upon the choices they each make.

Food and Energy Are Historically Important 

Throughout the long history of man, food and energy are the primary drivers of human economy.  A human economy that transitioned from tribal to empire, is now transitioning from empire to the planetary era.  This is a time of many dangers, but also great hope for the future.  From ..
Rough paraphrase of the hundreds of hours of information on is that we truly are at an unprecedented time in human history.  The Age of Empire is ending, the transition to the Planetary Era beginning.  The end of empire is characterized by resource contention among great "empires'.  The beginning of the planetary era is characterized by people learning to cooperate in practically real time across nation-state boundaries.

"Nobody told me there'd be days like these...strange days indeed...most peculiar, mama" - John Lennon