Author Archives: Robert Parkhurst

The New Fall Crop for Rice Farmers: Carbon Offsets

rp_robert-200x300.jpgThis September, a new crop will be made available to rice producers: carbon offsets.

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) took another important step forward last week when it published the latest draft standard for the development of carbon offsets. The standard lays out the steps a producer needs to take in order to sell his new crop. Once it is approved, producers will be able grow and sell it as a new revenue stream.

So how does this work?

Rice fields are flooded as a part of growing this worldwide staple. It’s necessary for its growth. However, when water comes in contact with organic matter, the organic matter decomposes, generating methane – a strong greenhouse gas. By reducing the amount of methane generated through rice cultivation, a farmer can generate a carbon credit that can be sold to companies to offset their carbon emissions.

What are the practices that produce credits? Read More »

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Fertilizer-Efficiency Credits Seed the Market for Agricultural Offsets

Robert ParkhurstFertilizer use is key to increasing the productivity necessary for farms to feed rising populations.  However, not using the right amount in the right place at the right time is one of the biggest threats to a stable climate. Nitrogen fertilizer not used by crops emits nitrous oxide, a heat-trapping gas 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. It also contaminates water supplies, causes algae blooms downstream and erodes soil health.

So, it was welcome news last week when the first greenhouse gas credits for fertilizer efficiency made their debut in the North American carbon market.

The American Carbon Registry issued the credits to Myron Ortner, a central Michigan farmer who voluntarily reduced nitrous oxide emissions from his crops by modifying his fertilizer use. Working closely with researchers at Michigan State University, Ortner tested fertilizer inputs on a 40-acre plot where he grows corn and soybeans in rotation. In an interview with Scientific American, he said he’s down to using 135 pounds of fertilizer per acre, less than the average 200.

"I found out we can use less nitrogen and get away with it through those studies," Ortner told the publication. "I want a few more years on it before I'm going to commit all my acres to it, but I don't think I've lost any yield by doing what we're doing." Read More »

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Spreading Good News About the Compost Protocol

robertThere’s a growing excitement around spreading compost on rangelands to help fight climate change. Over the past four years we have learned that grazed rangelands are really good at pulling carbon out of the air and sequestering it in the soil below. And if you add compost just one time, you can capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for more than seven years. Plus, you’ll  increase  both the quality of the grasses and the ability of the soils to hold water. If we scaled this to just 5 % of California’s rangelands, we could capture approximately 28 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, which is about the same as the annual emissions from all the homes in California.

To measure the capture of CO2, we collaborated with Terra Global Capital to create a protocol to calculate the amount of CO2 and enable ranchers to generate carbon offsets which they can sell on the voluntary carbon market. Right now we’re  in the middle of a public comment period for this protocol –  Emissions Reductions from Compost Additions to Grazed Grasslands. After public comment is over the protocol will go through a peer review period, and then be approved and published by the American Carbon Registry.  A copy of the protocol and instructions for providing comments is available here.

This protocol quantifies the emission reductions from diverting organic materials from landfills and spreading it on rangeland to spur carbon capturing grass growth. Recent waste studies estimate that approximately 72% of the waste stream going to landfills is organic (6% wood, 7% textiles/leather, 13% yard debris, 12% food scraps, 34% paper). By accurately measuring how much we divert and sequester, we can also correctly reward landowners for their good work. With our partners, University of California at Berkeley and the Marin Carbon Project, we’ve already seen the beneficial impacts through pilot projects on rangeland in Marin, Sonoma, and Yuba counties. Read More »

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Spring Cultivates Rice Offsets

rp_robert-200x300.jpgThe arrival of Spring can’t come soon enough for some, though it came early for the California offset market.  Three significant events will spur the development of carbon offsets from rice cultivation.  First, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) launched a rulemaking to adopt a compliance offset protocol for rice cultivation projects.  The American Carbon Registry (ACR) also approved a rice protocol for the Mid-South (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas).

And at EDF we announced the listing of the first California rice offset project with ACR.

As a part of ARB’s rulemaking, they released a discussion draft of a compliance offset protocol.  This protocol contained three different activities that growers can take to reduce the generation of methane associated with rice cultivation – dry seeding, early drainage, and alternate wetting and drying of fields.  All of these practices have been developed using the latest science and have been shown to reduce methane generation without impacting yield.  Methane is the second largest anthropogenic source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, accounting for 9% of all U.S. GHG emissions from human activities.  Methane is also important because it is more than 20 times more potent a GHG than carbon dioxide.  At the meeting, the ARB stated that they intend to propose the protocol for consideration at the September 2014 Board meeting. Read More »

Posted in Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Offsets, Sustainable Agriculture| Tagged , , | Comments closed

611,622 Offsets and Counting!

Yesterday the California Air Resources Board (CARB) delivered a total of 611,622 offsets to four offset project operators.  These offsets can now be used by California compliance entities to meet their obligations under the cap-and-trade requirements of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32).

This is an historic accomplishment for California.  Not only are these the first compliance offsets to be generated for the state’s landmark cap-and-trade program, but it sends a strong signal to compliance entities that there is supply.  It also creates a win-win for developers, like U.S. farmers and ranchers, giving them  the opportunity to generate a new revenue stream for their operations while helping California fight pollution in the process.

EDF looks forward to the further offset issuance from CARB.  There are 62 Early Action Projects under review and we expect those credits to be issued in the upcoming weeks.  In addition to Early Action Projects, offset project operators can develop projects under one of the four CARB compliance offset protocols – Forest, Urban Forest, Livestock, and ODS.  This is an exciting time for the cap-and-trade program.  Offsets are valuable, high quality reductions that have already been achieved.  As Board Chair Nichols said “These offsets have undergone the most rigorous verification of any existing program. They achieve real greenhouse gas reductions under ARB-approved protocols, and deliver a range of additional environmental benefits."

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Offset Market Alive and Well in California

Offset Issuance
Congratulations to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) as they announced plans to issue the first CARB Offset Credits or ARBOCs.  These 600,000 metric tons of offsets helps the state move closer towards our emissions reductions goals.  Compliance entities, such as utility and oil and gas companies, can use these offsets to meet up to 8% of their compliance obligation.

As I said before, this is the first of many offset milestones we expect this year.  The CARB has listed 62 Early Action offset projects and 66% of them are in the forest and agriculture sectors – 15 forest projects and 26 livestock manure management projects.  This is important because, as the largest uncapped sector under the cap-and-trade program, agriculture represents a major potential to reduce near-term greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. has more than 442 million acres of cropland.  EDF is working to identify opportunities for producers to generate revenue from their environmental stewardship on these lands.  This is why we support the CARB’s development of protocols like the Rice Cultivation Protocol.

These Early Action projects have generated approximately 12 million metric tons of offsets, most of which is anticipated to be approved for use in the cap-and-trade market.  These Early Action projects are expected to generate Registry Offset Credits (ROCs) later this year and, as required in the regulations, these ROCs will then be reviewed by CARB and converted into ARBOCs within 45 days of issuance.

Anaerobic Digestion, Compost, and Rangeland Opportunities
In addition to issuing offsets, the CARB, in coordination with CalRecycle, held a public workshop this afternoon to discuss updates to the draft Waste Management Sector Plan.”  This plan is an integral part of the Scoping Plan update which will be completed by the end of this year.  Two opportunities of the Waste Sector Plan are of particular interest.  Both relate to further developing Composting and Anaerobic Digestion programs to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from organic waste streams. The Plan estimates that 4.54 to 5.62 million metric tons (MMT) of GHG reductions can be generated by diversion of organic waste from landfills. About half of these reductions (2.06 MMT) can be handled by anaerobic digesters which can convert farm and food waste into both offsets and energy.  California is one of the few states in the country that have incentives in place to generate both these benefits.

The other half of the reductions are forecasted to come from the composting of organic waste.  The Plan states that composting infrastructure has not grown over the past ten years and one of the reasons is a lack of demand for compost.  As a part of a USDA grant, EDF is developing a protocol for the application of compost to rangeland.  Our research has shown that applying one-half inch of compost (made from diverted landfill waste) to grazed rangelands can generate GHG emission reductions of 1.3 to 3.2 MT CO2e per hectare per year.  With approximately 23 million hectares of rangeland in California, there is an enormous potential market to purchase the increase in compost generated.

California policymakers are continuing to create markets for farmers and ranchers to generate revenue from their environmental stewardship.  I look forward to seeing this market continue to develop and expand.

Posted in Cap and trade, Climate, Ecosystem Services, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Offsets, Sustainable Agriculture| Comments closed
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