Daily Digest

Daily Digest - May 17

Sunday, May 17, 2009, 10:37 AM
  • US prices fall most since 1955
  • Awesome interactive map of job losses (H/T CM)
  • Not So Shovel-Ready Projects?
  • Road Work and ASPHALT
  • Construction Today, Asphalt and Oil
  • EWI Dollar Video
  • The Bailout Bubble - The Bubble To End All Bubbles…
  • Green Shoots, Google Trend, Chart
  • Zillow: High Percentage of Homeowners Waiting for a Market Turnaround
  • Foreclosures(H/T CM)
  • Shelters in NY charge homeless families, pay or get out!
  • TARP USA Interactive Map
  • NY Times Economics Reporter: "My Personal Credit Crisis"
  • Steve's economic forum (H/T KemoSavvy)
  • "The Worst Is Yet to Come": If You're Not Petrified, You're Not Paying Attention (Video on page, Repost, H/T CM)
  •  A few A(H1N1) Links Dr. Henry Niman's Map 6,031 U.S. Cases as of this wrtitng, A(H1N1) Current Timeline, CDC Cases 

Economy

US prices fall most since 1955 

But core prices, which exclude food and energy and are the measure by which economists judge the risk of general deflation, rose by 0.3 per cent from March and were 1.9 per cent higher than in April 2008. More than 40 per cent of the monthly increase, however, was due to a 9.3 per cent jump in the price of tobacco which has been driven by a government tax that recently took effect.

Awesome interactive map of job losses (H/T CM)

The economic crisis, which has claimed more than 5 million jobs since the recession began, did not strike the entire country at once. A map of employment gains or losses by county tells the story of how those job losses first struck in the most vulnerable regions and then spread rapidly to the rest of the country. As early as August 2007, for example—several months before the recession officially began—jobs were already on the decline in southwest Florida; Orange County, Calif.; much of New Jersey; and Detroit, while other areas of the country remained on the uptick.

Not So Shovel-Ready Projects? 

Reader John L tells us that, at least in Vermont, shovel-ready projects aren't as ready to go as the very nature of the term would suggest. The Wall Street Journal described some reasons for delay back in March:

It turns out, though, that shovel-readiness is in the eye of the beholder. Soon after his visit, Mr. Biden found out that his model stimulus project wouldn't see a shovel for almost four more months, possibly longer, knowing how such timetables slip....

States are quickly assembling their construction wish lists. But it takes time to advertise for contractors, collect bids, check the numbers, pick a winner and get work underway. A typical paving project -- easy roadwork -- takes close to three months from the time the money is approved to the arrival of work boots on the ground, according to the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials. "It is not an instant process," says a spokesman.

However, an additional complicating appears to be the vagaries of the bidding process. John L describes the local situation:

I was talking with a construction firm that was supposed to oversee a large ($9 million) civil project in VT.

The bids on the project came in and there were 2 that were below $7 million. The $9 million was the engineers estimate. Take 20% off that, and that is roughly the cost of the work for the contractor, or $7.2 million. So the bids came it below what the costs for the project were likely to be.

This situation is very bad. The municipality does not want to let the work out if the contractor is going to go broke during the project, even with bonding it is a royal mess to have a contractor go bust in the middle, and to get someone else to go in and finish it is even harder. At the same time, getting rid of low bidders on government projects is very difficult. Lots of lawyers and obscure bidding laws, but it is possible to not let the job to the lowest bidder. It depends on law mostly, but smaller municipalities will usually throw out the entire bidding process, and start over in a few months. This is a simplification of the process, obviously. Lots of law behind the scenes that I only have seen in practice.

I have hear this is happening a lot, all of the "shovel ready" projects are not going anywhere because of bidding problems. This particular project was in a small town in VT, dig up main st and replace all of the water, sewer and gas line, and then re-do the entire road and drainage, as well as sidewalks. Very good work for a stimulus, lots of labor, as compared to say a new road.

The construction season is relatively short in the Northeast. If it doesn't get started soon, it will have to wait till next year.

I wonder if this is a sign of how desperate some contractors are, that they will put a bid that is bare minimum because they really need the work, and are too optimistic about what it will take to get it done (ie, they implicitly assume everything will go right, which never happens). This may just be a local fluke, but John L suggests it is broader based. I'd be curious if any readers have insights into this, or the more general question of whether these projects are moving forward as fast as hoped.

Road Work and ASPHALT

On average, about 5,500 barrels of liquid asphalt are needed per mile of paving...[emphasis added, mine]

Construction Today, Asphalt and Oil

Generally speaking, asphalt requires about 8,981 gallons per mile (GPM) for production and 1,737 GPM for hauling and placement. [enphasis added, mine]

EWI Dollar Video

The Bailout Bubble - The Bubble To End All Bubbles…  

"All of this terminology is econo-jargon," said Celente. "It's like calling torture 'enhanced interrogation techniques.' Washington is inflating the biggest bubble ever: the 'Bailout Bubble.' "This is much bigger than the Dot-com and Real Estate bubbles which hit speculators, investors and financiers the hardest. However destructive the effects of these busts on employment, savings and productivity, the Free Market Capitalist framework was left intact. But when the 'Bailout Bubble' explodes, the system goes with it."

Green Shoots, Google Trend, Chart

Zillow: High Percentage of Homeowners Waiting for a Market Turnaround (Chart on page) 

Press Release: Homeowner Confidence Shrinks; Most Americans Now Believe Their Home's Value Has Declined (ht broward, Jonathan)

The following table gives an idea of the number of homeowners waiting for a market turnaround to sell. Since about 6% of owner occupied properties turnover per year, this is a substantial shadow inventory.

On shadow inventory:

As for selling activity, it's clear a significant number of potential sellers are holding back due to the current market. When asked about future plans to sell, 31 percent of homeowners said they would be at least "somewhat likely" to put their homes on the market in the next 12 months if they saw signs of a real estate market turnaround.

"Also interesting is the information we have for the first time this quarter on the levels of 'shadow inventory' - homes that people would like to sell but that aren't currently on the market, and thus aren't captured in the official number of homes on the market. With almost a third of homeowners poised to jump into the market at the first sign of stabilization, this could create a steady stream of new inventory adding to already record-high inventory levels, thus keeping downward pressure on home prices." [said Dr. Stan Humphries, Zillow's vice president of data and analytics].

Foreclosures(H/T CM) 

Lenders receiving U.S. government stimulus money are required to offer distressed homeowners reasonable loan workouts to prevent more foreclosures. But critics say that’s often not happening.

Claiming lenders aren’t working with borrowers, Weston attorney Jonathan Kline is in state court trying to block the first of dozens of foreclosure cases.

Kline has asked judges to dismiss or delay about 10 cases. He argued the lenders — including Bank of America, which now owns Countrywide; Wells Fargo, which owns Wachovia; and Washington Mutual, now owned by JP Morgan Chase — are not complying with the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, the bailout bill that originally authorized the Treasury Secretary to spend $700 billion to purchase distressed assets of the largest U.S. banks.

“In many of these cases the bank is not responding to modification requests or they are saying something like, ‘send us two payments and we will consider a loan modification,’ and when it comes time to modify the loan they lower the payment by $100,” Kline said.

“Some of these banks are offering Band-Aids where surgery is required,” he added.

Shelters in NY charge homeless families, pay or get out! 

The Bloomberg administration has quietly begun charging rent to homeless families who live in publicly run shelters. A flier posted in one shelter last week warned residents in bold, underlined type, “Failure to make the required contributions could result in the loss of your family’s temporary housing.”

City officials said the new rent requirement had been in the works since a 2007 state audit that forced them to pay back $2.4 million in state housing aid that should have been covered by homeless families with income. They argued that homeless people with income should be expected to pay for a portion of their shelter costs, a model that echoes the federal Section 8 housing voucher program.

“They are taking money from them that could otherwise be used to help themselves get out of the shelter system,” agreed Arnold S. Cohen, the president and chief executive of the Partnership for the Homeless. “We’re dealing with the poorest people, the people who are the most in need, and we’re asking them to pay for a shelter of last resort.

“Families have been told to pay up or get out,” said Steven Banks, the attorney in chief for the Legal Aid Society. “The policy is poorly conceived, but even more alarmingly, it’s being poorly executed. What is happening is that we have seen cases of families being unilaterally told, without any notice of how the rent was calculated, that they must pay certain amounts of rent or leave the shelter..

Source: New York Times

TARP USA Interactive Map

NY Times Economics Reporter: "My Personal Credit Crisis"

From Edmund Andrews at the NY Times: My Personal Credit Crisis

If there was anybody who should have avoided the mortgage catastrophe, it was I. As an economics reporter for The New York Times, I have been the paper’s chief eyes and ears on the Federal Reserve for the past six years. I watched Alan Greenspan and his successor, Ben S. Bernanke, at close range. I wrote several early-warning articles in 2004 about the spike in go-go mortgages. Before that, I had a hand in covering the Asian financial crisis of 1997, the Russia meltdown in 1998 and the dot-com collapse in 2000. I know a lot about the curveballs that the economy can throw at us.

Both Tanta and I linked to articles by Andrews over the years, and I'm amazed by this story ...
But in 2004, I joined millions of otherwise-sane Americans in what we now know was a catastrophic binge on overpriced real estate and reckless mortgages. Nobody duped or hypnotized me. Like so many others — borrowers, lenders and the Wall Street dealmakers behind them — I just thought I could beat the odds.

Patty [his new wife] discovered a small but stately brick home in a leafy, kid-filled neighborhood in Silver Spring, Md. We sent in an offer of $460,000 and one day later got our answer: the sellers accepted.

The only problem was money. Having separated from my wife of 21 years, who had physical custody of our sons, I was handing over $4,000 a month in alimony and child-support payments. That left me with take-home pay of $2,777, barely enough to make ends meet in a one-bedroom rental apartment. Patty had yet to even look for a job. At any other time in history, the idea of someone like me borrowing more than $400,000 would have seemed insane.

But this was unlike any other time in history. I won't spoil the story, but it should be obvious the numbers don't work...

Steve's economic forum (H/T KemoSavvy) 

Davos, I should probably forward along the "Two Beers With Steve" shows once we get them edited but I always forget. Anyway, here is the RSS feeds http://twobeerswithsteve.libsyn.com/

There are three shows worth checking out:

1. The Lowesville Seminar recap with members of the site who went.

2. The first BioDiesel episode with expert Graydon Blair (the macroeconomics of BioDiesel)

3. The second BioDiesel episode with expert Graydon Blair (the microeconomics of Biodiesel)

The Biodiesel episodes are loaded with great info and worth a listen. We are taping another episode this Sunday on Biochar with Steve Brick and possibly Johannes Lehman (the worlds leading researcher on BioChar) if he can make it.

Add this to your post anyway in which you like,

Steve

 A few A(H1N1) Links Dr. Henry Niman's Map 6,031 U.S. Cases as of this wrtitng, A(H1N1) Current TimelineCDC Cases

25 Comments

Davos's picture
Davos
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Re: Daily Digest - May 17

 The road portion of the stimulus made the news, well the blog news or what I call smart news/real news. Strangely it made it in a way I did not for-see. Contractors bidding below cost was the thrust of the article.

I expected to see and I expect we will soon see the ethanol aspect of this stimulus, i.e. they picked ehtonal to reduce our oil reliance and amazingly it turns out that it uses more fuel than it makes. Now they pick road paving to get the economy going.

8,981 gallons per mile...The only thing with worse mileage than a Hummer!

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truenorth
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Re: Daily Digest - May 17

I loved the story about the asphalt.  Our decendents will eventually dig up a lot of the roads in an attempt to recover the oil. 

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kolcan900
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Contractors underbidding

I, too am a General Contractor and have found many companies underbidding jobs for the sake of keeping the company "machine" running(i.e. payroll,taxes,avoid layoffs)  I recently bid a federal job.  It's a burn zone on BLM land. It simply was to cut the remaining trees standing that had been burned by fire.  It totaled 750 acres. (approx 2 square miles)  I put together a bid and submitted it.  I bid $478,000.  Most other bids were similar with a few quite low(below 100k) But the winner was $23,000!  WOW!  I couldn't buy the fuel for that!  And that is just one example. My friend who is an engineer working for a large corp. bids all day long on private and Gov't projects and rarely gets a job anymore and he bids right near or at cost!  This process of underbidding is going to do major damage in the long run IMHO.

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kolcan900
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Re: Daily Digest - May 17

I laughed when I read this and the real irony is that its probably true!

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VeganDB12
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Re: Daily Digest - May 17

Re: NYC charging the working homeless for shelter space-I am disappointed in the Mayor to say the least that he is enforcing this law.  Not a total surprise, as there are also efforts underway to regulate the drop in centers in New York in such a way that they have to close (some requirement related to keeping them open all day or some other nonsense).  I have worked with homeless patients for years in the city.  A drop in center is simply a place with a chair where a person can come in out of the cold at night and sleep upright. 

For several hundred dollars a month the homeless city person can rent a tiny home outside of NYC, which is the administration's real intent I fear.  Anything to keep real estate values up....JMHO

Thanks again Davos

Denise

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Re: Daily Digest - May 17

The Bailout Bubble - The Bubble To End All Bubbles…   - Celente describing Washington as inflating the biggest bubble ever, and which could be followed by "a major war" when it inevitably deflates. This rings true, unfortunately.

On his website, Celente does a good job of promoting himself and the soundness of his track record in making predictions. Does anybody know if he has ever been spectacularly wrong?

"A major war" - against who? Does that include the possibiility of civil war, I wonder.

 

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Re: Daily Digest - May 17

 http://vimeo.com/3722293

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Tapani
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Re: Daily Digest - May 17
firefly wrote:

The Bailout Bubble - The Bubble To End All Bubbles…   - Celente describing Washington as inflating the biggest bubble ever, and which could be followed by "a major war" when it inevitably deflates. This rings true, unfortunately.

On his website, Celente does a good job of promoting himself and the soundness of his track record in making predictions. Does anybody know if he has ever been spectacularly wrong?

"A major war" - against who? Does that include the possibiility of civil war, I wonder.

Someone over here calls Celente a fraud. But TBH, if that's the hardest criticism against Celente's predictions... then I think we should listen to what he has to say!

Potential enemies could be Iran or Venezuela for oil... even China over Taiwan independence if you want it big.

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Next Crisis on the Way

 http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/wn_20090516_3269.php

  • TOOLS SPONSOR:
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WEALTH OF NATIONS
The Next Crisis Is On The Way
SOONER RATHER THAN LATER, THE WHITE HOUSE WILL HAVE TO START TALKING ABOUT SERIOUS SPENDING CUTS, SERIOUS TAX INCREASES, OR BOTH.


 

The good news is that the world economy may be turning the corner. The bad news is that a lot is still wrong with American banks, and U.S. government borrowing seems to be sliding even further out of control. The first development points to a slow recovery at home, the second to a whole new crisis not far down the road.

At a meeting this week of central bankers in Basel, Switzerland, Jean-Claude Trichet, head of the European Central Bank, said that the world economy had probably bottomed out. This was notable coming from Trichet, not one of nature's optimists. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development -- the Paris-based club of rich-economy governments -- also said it saw signs of global recovery. At the very least, the pace of decline is slowing. Financial markets have gotten the message. The free-fall scenarios that seemed all too possible several months ago are no longer taken seriously.

Output has even picked up slightly in countries such as France and China -- but not yet in the United States. Whatever happens, U.S. unemployment is likely to keep rising for months. Still, the slower rate of economic decline and the prospect that recovery will begin before the end of the year have revived Wall Street in recent weeks. What matters now, as I argued in this space a month ago, is how strong a recovery we will get -- and whether the coming expansion will steer the economy directly into a new crisis. (See "Obama, Bernanke Duck Specifics," NJ, 4/18/09.)

A brisk recovery is unlikely without healthy banks. Since that previous column, the Treasury Department has announced the results of its "stress tests," an exercise to show how much capital the banks still need to support their lending. The findings, on their face, were reassuring: The tests found banks to be basically solvent, and determined that their capital, after a little refreshment here and there, was broadly adequate. But one needs to be skeptical.

The idea of a stress test is to make pessimistic assumptions -- assumptions with no more than a 15 percent chance of coming true, according to the tests' designers -- and then work through the implications. The assumptions have to be pessimistic, otherwise there is no stress. The problem is, the exercise carried out by the Federal Reserve Board and by Treasury did not consider a seriously bad case. The tests imagine unemployment rising to 10.3 percent in 2010, for instance, compared with 8.9 percent in the base case. But unemployment is already at 8.9 percent and headed higher. In an improbable but entirely possible bad case, unemployment could go well over 10.3 percent next year.

Treasury's scenario barely qualifies as a mildly pessimistic case. It is difficult to take seriously as a rigorous stress test.

The 19 banks examined were deemed to face possible loan losses of $600 billion this year and next taken together. Nouriel Roubini of New York University, a noted pessimist who has been more right than wrong, reckons that loan losses of $900 billion are likely. Treasury's stress tests, in other words, are more optimistic on loan losses than is Roubini's central forecast. The government also expects the banks to generate profits (which can be used to replenish capital) of nearly $400 billion over the two years. Roubini's estimate is half that. All in all, Treasury's scenario barely qualifies as a mildly pessimistic case. It is difficult to take seriously as a rigorous stress test.

The suspicion that the exercise worked backward from political constraints is irresistible. The key thing is the reluctance of Congress, reflecting public opinion, to put any more taxpayer money into helping the banks. To avoid that, the tests had to call for additional capital at a level the banks could hope to raise by themselves, either by issuing new shares, selling assets, or converting preference shares into common equity. And that is exactly what the tests did.

This approach could work, as long as the worst-case scenario that the exercise flinched from examining does not actually come to pass.

But Roubini is right to call it muddling through. Yes, depending on the alternatives, none of them very appealing in this case, muddling through might be the best that Treasury can do. The lack of a more decisive resolution, however, leaves the banks' willingness to lend in doubt.

Under the government's assumptions, banks will need the capital they have, and more, to even support their current levels of lending. In almost any scenario, their capacity to expand their lending is constrained. So nobody should count on a vigorous growth of credit -- or a strong credit-fueled recovery in the wider economy.

If economic growth, once it resumes, is slow, the outlook for public borrowing is correspondingly worse. Pressure on public spending will be higher and tax receipts lower than the White House has planned. Its plans, of course, already include heavy medium- and long-term borrowing, even with the administration's rosy economic assumptions.

On this front, the past few days have seen several disturbing developments. The White House released new deficit projections, significantly worse than the ones in its budget of just weeks ago. The fiscal 2009 deficit is now forecast at $1.84 trillion, 5 percent worse than before, and the deficit in 2010 at $1.26 trillion, 7 percent worse than earlier. Peter Orszag, the administration's budget chief, called these technical revisions: They do not reflect new tax or spending proposals. But if the recovery is slow, more such revisions will come. Technical or otherwise, they push the same way.

Fears about long-term fiscal viability may already be coming to the fore, and the recovery has not even started yet.

No sooner had the administration released this bad news than the Social Security and Medicare trustees issued their annual report. Again because of revenue shortfalls, both programs are running down their assets faster than expected. According to the new projections, Social Security's trust fund will be gone by 2037, four years sooner than in the previous report, and Medicare's by 2017, two years sooner than projected. Admittedly, the trust-fund structure of these programs is a bookkeeping fiction.

In economic terms, Social Security and Medicare are really just enormous pay-as-you-go programs, financed out of current taxation. The disappearance of the funds has no economic significance. The point is simply that at present levels of payments and receipts, they are adding faster than before to projected fiscal deficits.

President Obama's budget projected a long-term deficit of more than 3 percent of gross domestic product, despite strong sustained growth, and despite taking credit for spending cuts and tax increases that likely will not happen. Take carbon cap-and-trade, for instance. Obama penciled in the sale of permits to emit greenhouse gases to raise nearly $80 billion a year, with the proceeds earmarked to the administration's "making work pay" tax cut (intended to offset the impact of cap-and-trade on utility bills for lower-paid workers) and subsidies for renewable energy.

During the election campaign, Obama promised that all such permits would be auctioned. This week, Congress was debating how many of them to give away -- half, or more, was how the discussion seemed to be going. If cap-and-trade passes in any form, by no means certain, given bipartisan opposition in the Senate, it will raise much less money than hoped. The administration says that, if so, it will roll back its tax cut proportionately, leaving the deficit unaffected. We will see whether Congress goes along with that. In any event, cap-and-trade represents another big revenue shortfall.

Obama pushed back against these unhelpful fiscal developments first by calling, with quite some fanfare, for his Cabinet chiefs to cut $100 million from their departments' budgets. Hard to say why this announcement was not saved for use with all the other jokes at the recent White House Correspondents' Dinner. With a projected deficit approaching $2 trillion, savings of $100 million are offered as "a signal that we are serious about changing how government operates"? Good one.

Later, announcing the fleshed-out version of his budget for 2010, Obama called for new spending cuts of $17 billion -- a not-quite-as-comical number, but still less than 0.5 percent of the projected $3.5 trillion in spending. The president also announced an agreement with health care providers on voluntary efforts to contain costs, which would curb some Medicare outlays. That was encouraging in one way -- it showed that the health care industry does not expect to be able stop Obama's reform efforts in their tracks. At the same time, voluntary cost control has been promised countless times before, never to materialize.

The task is not to bring the 2010 deficit down. Next year, a strongly expansionary budget is still needed to prop the economy. The danger lies in high projected deficits in the years beyond, a prospect baked into the administration's long-term budget planning.

Last week, the bond market hesitated when it was asked to absorb a new tranche of government debt. Fears about long-term fiscal viability may already be coming to the fore, and the recovery has not even started yet. Sooner rather than later, the White House will have to start talking about serious spending cuts, serious tax increases, or both.

 
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Re:Biochar Soil Technology

Hi Davos,

The interview with  Brick of the BI sounds very exceiting, if you want a quick brief on the current efforts in this field please read bellow.

Thanks for your interest

Erich J. Knight

Biochar Soil Technology.....Husbandry of whole new orders of life

Biotic Carbon, the carbon transformed by life, should never be combusted, oxidized and destroyed. It deserves more respect, reverence even, and understanding to use it back to the soil where 2/3 of excess atmospheric carbon originally came from.

We all know we are carbon-centered life, we seldom think about the complex web of recycled bio-carbon which is the true center of life. A cradle to cradle, mutually co-evolved biosphere reaching into every crack and crevice on Earth.

It's hard for most to revere microbes and fungus, but from our toes to our gums (onward), their balanced ecology is our health. The greater earth and soils are just as dependent, at much longer time scales. Our farming for over 10,000 years has been responsible for 2/3rds of our excess greenhouse gases. This soil carbon, converted to carbon dioxide, Methane & Nitrous oxide began a slow stable warming that now accelerates with burning of fossil fuel.

Wise Land management; Organic farming and afforestation can build back our soil carbon,

Biochar allows the soil food web to build much more recalcitrant organic carbon, ( living biomass & Glomalins) in addition to the carbon in the biochar.

Biochar, the modern version of an ancient Amazonian agricultural practice called Terra Preta (black earth, TP), is gaining widespread credibility as a way to address world hunger, climate change, rural poverty, deforestation, and energy shortages… SIMULTANEOUSLY!
Modern Pyrolysis of biomass is a process for Carbon Negative Bio fuels, massive Carbon sequestration,10X Lower Methane & N2O soil emissions, and 3X Fertility Too.
Every 1 ton of Biomass yields 1/3 ton Charcoal for soil Sequestration, Bio-Gas & Bio-oil fuels, so is a totally virtuous, carbon negative energy cycle.

Biochar viewed as soil Infrastructure; The old saw;
"Feed the Soil Not the Plants" becomes;
"Feed, Cloth and House the Soil, utilities included !".
Free Carbon Condominiums with carboxyl group fats in the pantry and hydroxyl alcohol in the mini bar.
Build it and the Wee-Beasties will come.
As one microbiologist said on the Biochar list; "Microbes like to sit down when they eat".
By setting this table we expand husbandry to whole new orders of life.

This is what I try to get across to Farmers, as to how I feel about the act of returning carbon to the soil. An act of pertinence and thankfulness for the civilization we have created. Farmers are the Soil Sink Bankers, once carbon has a price, they will be laughing all the way to it.

One aspect of Biochar systems are Cheap, clean biomass stoves that produce biochar and no respiratory disease. At scale, the health benefits are greater than ending Malaria.
A great example;
http://www.unccd.int/publicinfo/poznanclimatetalks/docs/Natural%20Draft%20Stove.pdf

The biochar Fund is also doing amazing work in the developing world;
http://terrapretapot.org/

Also , I would like Rebut the BioFuelWatch folk's recent criticisms with the petition of 1500 Cameroon Farmers;
The Biochar Fund
http://biocharfund.org/
and to explain their program;
http://biocharfund.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=26&Itemid=46

The USDA-ARS have dozens of studies happening now to ferret out the reasons for char affinity with MYC fungi and microbes, but this synergy is solidly shown by the Japanese work, literally showing 1+1=3

Senator / Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar has done the most to nurse this biofuels system in his Biochar provisions in the 07 & 08 farm bill,
http://www.biochar-international.org/newinformationevents/newlegislation.html

Charles Mann ("1491") in the Sept. National Geographic has a wonderful soils article which places Terra Preta / Biochar soils center stage.
http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/09/soil/mann-text

Biochar data base; TP-REPP
http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/?q=node

NASA's Dr. James Hansen Global warming solutions paper and letter to the G-8 conference, placing Biochar / Land management the central technology for carbon negative energy systems.
http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0804/0804.1126.pdf

The many new university programs & field studies, in temperate soils; Cornell, ISU, U of H, U of GA, Virginia Tech, JMU, New Zealand and Australia.

Glomalin's role in soil tilth, fertility & basis for the soil food web in Terra Preta soils.

UNCCD Submission to Climate Change/UNFCCC AWG-LCA 5
"Account carbon contained in soils and the importance of biochar (charcoal) in replenishing soil carbon pools, restoring soil fertility and enhancing the sequestration of CO2."
http://www.unccd.int/publicinfo/AWGLCA5/menu.php

This new Congressional Research Service report (by analyst Kelsi Bracmort) is the best short summary I have seen so far - both technical and policy oriented.
http://assets.opencrs.com/rpts/R40186_20090203.pdf .

Given the current "Crisis" atmosphere concerning energy, soil sustainability, food vs. Biofuels, and Climate Change what other subject addresses them all?

This is a Nano technology for the soil that represents the most comprehensive, low cost, and productive approach to long term stewardship and sustainability.

Carbon to the Soil, the only ubiquitous and economic place to put it.
Cheers,
Erich J. Knight
Shenandoah Gardens
540 289 9750


Biochar Studies at ACS Huston meeting;

Most all this work corroborates char soil dynamics we have seen so far . The soil GHG emissions work showing increased CO2 , also speculates that this CO2 has to get through the hungry plants above before becoming a GHG.
The SOM, MYC& Microbes, N2O (soil structure), CH4 , nutrient holding , Nitrogen shock, humic compound conditioning, absorbing of herbicides all pretty much what we expected to hear.

578-I: http://a-c-s.confex.com/crops/2008am/webprogram/Session4231.html

579-II http://a-c-s.confex.com/crops/2008am/webprogram/Session4496.html

665 - III. http://a-c-s.confex.com/crops/2008am/webprogram/Session4497.html

666-IV http://a-c-s.confex.com/crops/2008am/webprogram/Session4498.html

Company News & EU Certification

Below is an important hurtle that 3R AGROCARBON has overcome in certification in the EU. Given that their standards are set much higher than even organic certification in the US, this work should smooth any bureaucratic hurtles we may face.

EU Permit Authority - 4 years tests
Subject: Fwd: [biochar] Re: GOOD NEWS: EU Permit Authority - 4 years tests successfully completed

Doses: 400 kg / ha – 1000 kg / ha at different horticultural cultivars

Plant height Increase 141 % versus control
Picking yield Increase 630 % versus control
Picking fruit Increase 650 % versus control
Total yield Increase 202 % versus control
Total piece of fruit Increase 171 % versus control
Fruit weight Increase 118 % versus control

HOMEPAGE 3R AGROCARBON: http://www.3ragrocarbon.com

Also:

EcoTechnologies is planning for many collaborations ; NC State, U. of Leeds, Cardiff U. Rice U. ,JMU, U.of H. and at USDA with Dr.Jeffrey Novak who is coordinating ARS Biochar research. This Coordinated effort will speed implementation by avoiding unneeded repetition and building established work in a wide variety of soils and climates.
http://www.EcoTechnologies.com

Hopefully all the Biochar companies will coordinate with Dr. Jeff Novak's soils work at ARS;  http://www.ars.usda.gov/pandp/people/people.htm?personid=24434

I spoke with Jon Nilsson of the CarbonChar Group, in their third year of field trials ;
An idea whose time has come | Carbon Char Group
He said the 2008 trials at Virginia Tech showed a 46% increase in yield of tomato transplants grown with just 2 - 5 cups (2 - 5%) "Biochar+" per cubic foot of growing medium. http://www.carbonchar.com/plant-performance

 Most recent studies out;

Imperial College test
,
 this work in temperate soils gives data from which one can calculate savings on fertilizer use, which is expected to be ongoing with no additional soil amending.

http://www.iop.org/EJ/article/1755-1315/6/37/372052/ees9_6_372052.pdf?request-id=22fb1902-1c23-4db8-8801-2be7e2f3ce1b


The
BlueLeaf Inc. and Dynamotive study are exciting results given how far north the site is,and the low application rates. I suspect, as we saw with the Imperial College test, the yield benefits seem to decrease the cooler the climate.
The study showed infiltration rates for moisture are almost double. The lower leaf temperatures puzzles me however, I thought around 21C was optimum for photosynthesis.

BlueLeaf Inc. and Dynamotive Announce Biochar Test Results CQuest(TM) Biochar Enriched Plots Yield Crop Increase Ranging From Six to Seventeen Percent vs. Control Plots  
http://www.usetdas.com/TDAS/NewsArticle.aspx?NewsID=13603

The full study at Dynomotives site;
http://www.dynamotive.com/wp-content/themes/dynamotive/pdf/BlueLeaf_Biochar_Field_Trial_2008.pdf

Low Tech Clean Biochar;
http://holon.se/folke/carbon/simplechar/simplechar.shtml

 

 

 

Dogs_In_A_Pile's picture
Dogs_In_A_Pile
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Re:Biochar Soil Technology
erich wrote:

Hi Davos,

The interview with  Brick of the BI sounds very exceiting, if you want a quick brief on the current efforts in this field please read bellow.

Erich -

Tonight's session with Steve Brick was very interesting.  I was hoping for a little more on the chemistry side of things - composition, carbon utilization, the mechanism behind the low O2 combustion, synthetic gas possibilities and biochar oil by-products.  Any possibility you could cull down your list of links and save me some work? 

Very interesting stuff that biochar.

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pir8don
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Re: Daily Digest - May 17

Erich Scuse my friend. Welcome to the site.

That is incredibly interesting. Looks like science is getting itself down and dirty with good results. Just love it when science says what most of us intuit.

Don

_____________________________________________________

I have an excellent memory. I can't remember when I was last wrong.

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tx_floods
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Re: Daily Digest - May 17

I looked for the podcast on biochar, but couldn't find it ~ I went to http://twobeerswithsteve.libsyn.com/ but  episode 4 was the last show listed.

Please help. I read an article in Mother Earth News about biochar and can't wait to make my own. Imagine, standing around a campfire, drinking beer, all for the good of the garden!

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Re: Daily Digest - May 17

I am unable to predict the future. However I do agree that war is a remote possibility.

Credit crisis: money is required by both the public and businesses. As credit begins to disappear, people buy less and companies expansion plans are delayed. If the credit crisis becomes too severe it leads to;

Economic crisis: businesses begin to shed employees and unemployment numbers being to increase. This starts a vicious cycle where the unemployed have reduced purchasing power thus magnifying the problem. If the economic crisis becomes too severe it leads to;

Social crisis: too many unemployed people results in increased problems such as theft, drugs, etc. Desperate people will resort to whatever they can in order to survive. If the social crisis becomes too severe it leads to;

Political crisis: the break down of law and order leads to a country ceasing to function properly. Services taken for granted may no longer be readily available. People being to rebel against the 'establishment'. If the social crisis becomes too severe it leads to;

War: People turn against each other and all hell breaks loose.

It is a very simplistic summary of what are complex situations. I believe the US in in the second stage. I hope it does not go too far beyond here.

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Davos
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Re: Daily Digest - May 17

 Hello Erich:

Thanks, I will read up on this....take care

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Re: Daily Digest - May 17

Tapani: Just to further Celente's point on war:

Resources are not the only "reason" we could have to go to war. A disillusioned, restive American public that see massive tax increases, entitlement cuts, or hyperinflation is truly a domestic "threat" to be reckoned with. As near as I can tell, history demonstrates that war is often a political option simply for restoring a sense of order and purpose in the homeland. Stirring up a wasps' nest overseas and blaming others for our own problems could easily be viewed as a political solution to our problems. Further, the confusion, loss of liberties, and circumstances of war generally coincide with a sovereign default. This might fall into the "pessimism porn" camp, but I find it difficult to see an orderly and completely peaceful transition to fiscal responsibility in this country. The longer we wait for real leadership, the less likely a peaceful transition is. At the same time, our "leaders" have shown us that they either A) don't understand the root problems / solutions in this country or B) don't have the backbone to champion these underlying issues. All of this is resting on a foundation of culture based on entertainment, consumption and good news, thanks in part to our corporate media outlets.

I get the sense that both the public and the politicians have a level of subconscious understanding that Rome is on fire. But instead of an organized and cohesive effort to address the real issue at hand, many seem to desire to get what they can while the getting is good. Such is human nature.

My belief is that a passive and disinterested public has allowed private and government interests to neglect this country for many years. As a result, I think it is highly unlikely that a simple election can break the vicious cycle we're in. It is clear that thousands of entangled interests have huge sway over the direction of the nation. Most of these individuals are not elected. Therefore, the only solution will come from a movement of public awareness. That is why this site's message is so important. Problems and potential solution details aside, step 1 is for people in this nation to start talking and start caring. I do what I can to foster this amongst my contacts, but I'm not holding my breath either. I am at least grateful that life will remain interesting for some time to come.

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Re: Daily Digest - May 17

The Worst is Yet to Come

"There are few things from my childhood that I remember more vividly than grandmother's comments regarding this false recovery. "If we knew what was coming, we would have killed ourselves." This from as strong a person as I have ever encountered, with a faith that would break rocks. The Great Depression left an indelible mark, or more accurately scar, on her entire family, and my father's as well."

http://jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com/2009/05/worst-is-yet-to-come.html

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Tapani
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Re: Daily Digest - May 17

Mike Pilat: Yes, I am aware that resources is seldom the only reason, and I know that a war 'unites' the people behind the current leaders. But in order for this to work, the public needs to perceive that they are threatened -- and that's where China comes in. Big enough to be a perceived as a real threat to the US, and lowish-tech enough to be a winnable (but costly) war. 

Mike Pilat wrote:

... our "leaders" have shown us that they either A) don't understand the root problems / solutions in this country or B) don't have the backbone to champion these underlying issues. All of this is resting on a foundation of culture based on entertainment, consumption and good news, thanks in part to our corporate media outlets.

It appears to me there is a third possibility: C) The leaders don't have, or perceive that they don't have, the power to solve the problems.

I mean, for me as a Swede the obvious would have been for the goverment to take over the "too big to fail" banks, and maybe make them start lending money again. Or you could split them up into smaller banks, each small enough to fail.

The IMF-guy, whatshisnameagain, said he could tell from the body language of US politicians and bankers who really is in charge.

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idoctor
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Re: Daily Digest - May 17

I get the sense that both the public and the politicians have a level of subconscious understanding that Rome is on fire. But instead of an organized and cohesive effort to address the real issue at hand, many seem to desire to get what they can while the getting is good. Such is human nature.

My belief is that a passive and disinterested public has allowed private and government interests to neglect this country for many years. As a result, I think it is highly unlikely that a simple election can break the vicious cycle we're in. It is clear that thousands of entangled interests have huge sway over the direction of the nation. Most of these individuals are not elected. Therefore, the only solution will come from a movement of public awareness. That is why this site's message is so important. Problems and potential solution details aside, step 1 is for people in this nation to start talking and start caring. I do what I can to foster this amongst my contacts, but I'm not holding my breath either. I am at least grateful that life will remain interesting for some time to come.

Mike I couldn't agree more with your thoughts here. The wheel is big & going to roll over most of us. There really doesn't appear to be any place to hide that is totally safe. Most people I feel will only come around & educate themselves when the power is cut & Opra is turned off.

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Mike Pilat
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Re: Daily Digest - May 17
Tapani wrote:

The IMF-guy, whatshisnameagain, said he could tell from the body language of US politicians and bankers who really is in charge.

This is a good point, though not exactly proveable. Watching the arrogant confidence of Paulson, Geithner, and Bernanke throughout much of this makes "the way things are" abundantly clear to me. Not to defend FDR, but when he jumped in the Presidency, as I understand it, there were HUGE changes in the first 100 days, seeming to indicate that he was actually acting as a leader and taking charge of a situation. Obama largely seems along for the ride.I really don't see evidence of him doing anything to shake up the power establishment in corporate America...He sure is a great public speaker, though.

The situation with the bankers getting bailed out and the public getting stuck with the bill in a manner that privatizes gains and socializes losses has been compared to ticks dining on a dog. The way in which the public listens to words instead of observing actions never ceases to amaze me. Lying and obfuscation are apparently one of the most profitable techniques around. As Chris has pointed out repeatedly, trusting yourself is likely to be one of the primary means of personal protection.

Mike

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Re: Daily Digest - May 17

I don't want to discourage people from taking a look at biochar but the boostering of biochar right now looks somewhat like the corn biofuel boostering of a couple of years ago.  These are early days in terms of biochar research and analysis.  I work in the field of soil microbiology.  The research in this area on biochar and its effects on soil microbiology show that there are various positive and negative effects on soil biology and health in general.  In some cases biochar does indeed "amp-up" bacterial and fungi life in the soil, but it depends on the original soil type and microbiological configuration.  In other cases biochar can have a negative impact on soil biology, particularly the essential mychrorizal fungi (this is bad).  A key observation in the soil science and microbiological research is that there are many different types of biochars.  The materials you start with and the temps you burn with and the amount of oxygen you allow into the burn zone all impact the type of finished biochar.  Different biochars, the research shows, impact the soil differently.  There are a few potential "big players" in the biochar world who want biochar to be an input for big ag.  Like the biofuel hype, they often simplify and put the best picture forward in order to further commercial interests.  In reality, things are often more complex.  I'm not saying biochar is a no-go.  I am saying its early days in terms of understanding how to consistently create positive soil microbiology results from using biochar.

Dogs_In_A_Pile's picture
Dogs_In_A_Pile
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Re: Daily Digest - May 17
tx_floods wrote:

I looked for the podcast on biochar, but couldn't find it ~ I went to http://twobeerswithsteve.libsyn.com/ but  episode 4 was the last show listed.

Please help. I read an article in Mother Earth News about biochar and can't wait to make my own. Imagine, standing around a campfire, drinking beer, all for the good of the garden!

tx -

The podcast was recorded last night and should be up in a few days.  You should try and make the next podcast Skype session.  we typically devote about an hour to the podcast then we turn of the mike and have a free for all session for an hour or two.  think of thread posting in real time.

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erich
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Posts: 5
Re:Biochar Soil Technology

This Data base is searchable for any particular aspect of Biocha;

http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/?q=node

I'm sort of the cub reporter of the list, search under my name for breaking news on all aspects of biochar , most all other questions can be searched for here;

Nice category tabs, (also,archive of first years list posts) ie  ;

Organizations;     http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/organizations

Companies;        http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/company

Country;     http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/country

Products;   http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/materials

 

Cheers

Erich

Current Discussion  Biochar List is at Yahoo;  
http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/biochar/?yguid=122501696

Another good forum;
Terra Preta - Science Forums
http://hypography.com/forums/terra-preta/

 

Dogs_In_A_Pile's picture
Dogs_In_A_Pile
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
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Posts: 2606
Re: Daily Digest - May 17

Erich -

Thanks for the info.  Looking forward to going through the material.  The concept of biochar is intriguing - and I hope the science substantiates it.  I'm guardedly optimistic, along with the dose of healthy skepticism dweatherbee alludes to in his post above (#21).

Welcome to the site.  Looking forward to more of your posts.

 

erich's picture
erich
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Posts: 5
Re: Daily Digest - May 17

Dweatherbe,

I hope to answer some of  the MYC / Char affinity questions in a field trial this year in corn.

Dr. Mike Amaranthus will supply his corn MYC inoculent in one of my treatment groups and lab support for harvest root analysis.   http://www.mycorrhizae.com/
.  Below, some of the relevent research ;

Mycorrhizal responses to biochar in soil – concepts
and mechanisms
Daniel D. Warnock & Johannes Lehmann &
Thomas W. Kuyper & Matthias C. Rillig
http://www.css.cornell.edu/faculty/lehmann/publ/PlantSoil%20300,%209-20,%202007,%20Warnock.pdf


 
Proliferation of Microorganisms in Compost by Addition of Bamboo Charcoals (Shuji Yoshizawa, Michio Ohata, Satoko Tanaka)


SEM photograph of microorganism in bamboo charcoal.

In Japan, charcoal and compost of biomass waste have been used for a long time as soil improvers in farms. Wood and bamboo charcoals have pores of several microns or several ten microns which are suitable for microorganisms grown for composting the biomass waste.
  It was observed as shown in the photograph (left) taken by scanning electron micrograph (SEM) technique that the microorganisms proliferated on the charcoal powder and in the pores of the charcoal.
http://acer.meisei-u.ac.jp/doc/acernews2/index_en.html

 

My trials are with Dr. Paul Hepperly at the Rodale Institute and James Madison University.

Dr. Kris Nicoles, who works at USDA-ARS with glomalins will also be assisting with testing.

Cheers,

Erich

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