Calculations of Possible Carbon Sequestration in Soil
What could you do with that much carbon? We have developed a way to use the carbon during the production of hydrogen to make an highly enriched nitrogen fertilizer. If this were used in the USDA Conservation Reserve Program as a soil amendment/conditioner, it would help these land sequester even more carbon than their currently production. Additionally, it would assist in the capture of farm chemicals in water runoff. To get an idea of the amount of carbon humans are adding to the atmosphere each year (that is not adsorbed or utilized by the biosphere), this would equal a layer1.6 centimeters or 5/8 inch thick over an area as large as the state of Iowa.
However that is the amount that the entire world is generating. If we took the percentage generated by the United States (roughly 25%) we create a layer 0.4 cm thick Still quite a bit. However if we seek to reduce the total by amounts needed for the Kyoto treaty, it would be 0.08 centimeters or 1/32 inch thick. Now if this were used by 30% of our farmers, and applied only on prime cropland at 1/64 of an inch thick or 0.04 centimeters. If we then included the Conservation Reserve Program lands this would drop to 0.03 centimeters or about 800/lbs per acre.
This is more fertilizer than farmers use now but returning carbon to the soil adds many valuable attributes and as a slow release agent and nutrient reservoir, it allows sequestering carbon to multiply its impact with greater crop production. These calculations show it is possible even for the United States to make a reduction. Ultimately we need many solutions including developing a robust alternative energy program, substantial increases in efficiency and a large healthy market in products made from sequestered carbons.