The results are in for the contest to see just what the hell Houston should do with the millions of cubic yards of Ike debris, and the big winner is Rice University.
A team from Rice will get $10,000 for its plan to convert all the fallen limbs, brush and other wood crap into something called "biochar."
Doing it will "get rid of the debris, reduce greenhouse gases and turn a potential profit," says Rice spokesman David Ruth. (We're not sure how you "turn a potential profit," but then we're not scientists. Or accountants.)
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The biochar, which is the result of doing lots of scientific stuff to the wood, can be used as fertilizer.
"That's when this becomes a 'carbon negative' proposition," said team meber Bill Hockaday. "In effect, the charcoal in the soil acts like a sponge, soaking up organic matter, water
and nutrients. Plants grow faster in the amended soil, drawing down more carbon from the atmosphere to create a positive feedback loop. It's a win-win for the environment."
The students say their plan would be the equivalent of taking 240,000 cars off the road for a year.
-- Richard Connelly