Most trees are natural carbon sinks, at least for the span of their growing lifetime. If the wood is harvested and used for furniture, home building etc., the carbon within the wood is sequestered for the lifetime of its use. In a time of excess carbon in our atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels that have been stored for millions of years and are being depleted in hundreds of years, ways to offset carbon are in high demand. While trees are a good source of short term carbon sequestration, eventually they decompose or burn and contribute to carbon into the atmosphere. One possible solution in extending the sequestration period being researched and experimented by many entrepreneurs and Universities, including the University of Georgia, is biochar. Biochar is created through pyrolysis of biomass (e.g. woodchips), which entails burning biomass at high temperatures in furnaces with very little oxygen, locking the carbon into biochar, a charcoal like appearing product. In biochar the carbon is locked in for thousands of years and can be used in agriculture where carbon has been proven to be a very effective soil amendment. You can imagine the potential in the South, where 2 of every 5 acres is devoted to forestry and much of the remaining land can be used for agriculture. In essence, excess biomass from forestry can be used to create energy as biofuel in creating biochar which in turn can be used to make healthier soils and store carbon. As typical in sweeping new biotechnologies there are potential problems. For one, the use of pyrolysis is not as efficient in energy production as traditional burning of biomass, creating an opportunity cost. Also, extraction of wood biomass using destructive practices could out weigh the benefits. Moreover, using biomass for biochar production ultimately deprives the land from an important source of soil hummus and all the associated benefits of such hummus. While not the end-all answer and if not taken to extremes, biochar has the potential of being one more tool to reduce carbon in the atmosphere and create energy in the forest rich south. Given the resources University of Georgia has spent on it, I am guessing they think it is worthy of looking into. To see the biochar process first hand, view; Can biochar save the planet?