Policy support for biochar: Review and recommendations

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Significant evidence has accumulated demonstrating that soil biochar amendment has many environmental benefits; however, adoption has been slow. This raises the question of how to align the environmental benefits with commercial motivations to drive more widespread implementation. Here, we examine the role that government policy can play in accelerating production and use at commercial scale. We identify three types of programs that can support biochar production: commercial financial incentives, nonfinancial policy support, and research and development funding. We also describe how these programs are currently used to support biochar production. For example, financial incentives can motivate immediate changes in business practices while nonfinancial policies can be important mechanisms to educate consumers and expand market demand. Research and development support can provide the necessary funding for early‐stage innovations that may one day become commercially viable options, even without other types of policy support. There are different risk– reward profiles for each policy mechanism, and these must be considered when evaluating a policy direction. Finally, we offer broad recommendations to the development of policy that maximizes the net benefits of biochar adoption. Key recommendations include improving policies that allow for the monetization of environmental benefits and avoided costs, recognizing soil as a resource through national preservation policy, and developing a broadly accepted set of product standards for biochar.


Ghasideh Pourhashem1,2,3 , Shih Yu Hung2 , Kenneth B. Medlock2 and Caroline A. Masiello2,3,4,5

1 Department of Coatings and Polymeric Materials, North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota

2 Center for Energy Studies, Baker Institute for Public Policy, Rice University, Houston, Texas

3 Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Science, Rice University, Houston, Texas

4 Department of Biosciences, Rice University, Houston, Texas

5 Department of Chemistry, Rice University, Houston, Texas

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