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Instead, what's now turning heads in Minnesota is the so-called "terrestrial sequestration" in plants, wetlands and soils. It wouldn't be as long-lasting as the geologic version but could play several roles, said Rep. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, who sponsored a bill authorizing $475,000 to study terrestrial sequestration and $90,000 for geological sequestration.
Carbon storage in the landscape, which would in large part require a return of cropland into grasslands and wetlands and deforested lands back into forest, would have its own environmental benefits, Eken said. But it could also have strong economic value if and when policy-makers attach a price to carbon emissions; then carbon-holding lands could be bought and traded or used as credits by big CO2 emitters.
At the same time, crops such as grasses might be harvested and used for energy while their roots remain to hold carbon in the soil. Studies have shown that up to 60 percent of the carbon-holding material in the soils of the Great Plains has been lost to plowing.
Indeed, researchers agree that carbon storage, while helping meet carbon dioxide emissions reduction goals, is also a way to buy time -- time for low-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels to emerge in a significant way. Fossil fuels now account for about 85 percent of the world's energy sources, Harju said. Finding a storage place for carbon will have to happen faster, Grant noted.
"Climate scientists say we need to achieve 70 to 80 percent reduction in CO2 release into the atmosphere by, say, the middle of the century," Grant noted. "That's an extremely ambitious time frame."
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