In Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, winter is a serious season. Rural residents commonly burn wood for household heat—often also for cooking. In Green Mountain communities, woodcutting and stacking are a shared seasonal ritual—fall and summer.
When I met Jock Gill at the start of the first North American Biochar conference Aug. 8 in Boulder CO, I recognized a man of reason, intelligence, vision, and verbal dignity who sees our impending climate and energy crisis as opportunity to press for earth-sensible, sustainable lifestyles and technologies. I also realized his graceful charm is a change agent in Green Mountain state social networks. But not for a year did I discover Jock is a curious tinkerer and ingenious inventor who loves to take direct action DIY = Do-It-Yourself.
Jock's assessment of VT's energy security suggested a swift shift to carbon-neutral forms of biomass—primarily wood from local sources—for heating, cooking, perhaps electric power. This mission landed Jock in an alliance with pellet stove manufacturers advancing wood pellets as a convenient, efficient, ecolocal home heat system. Jock avidly advocated Pellergy Energy systems as a regional renewable energy resource.
Then, at the New England Biomass Convention, a NH farmer told Jock about a more advanced, carbon-negative strategy to cope with peak oil, food security and climate change. A brief session of web research convinced Jock that the next evolution in combustion technology is capturing carbon as charcoal to put in soil and renew the carbon cycle. In a word, "biochar."
Jock's web lesson in carbon-negative strategy convinced him to attend the first North American Biochar conference in August. Which is where we met and agreed to collaborate to spread biochar awareness and action in VT.
2-can Stove Designs
At the January BNE Board retreat on Cape Cod, Dr. Hugh McLaughlin introduced his 1G Toucan TLUD to Jock, who took one back to VT and began showing off his single burner biochar cooker. Jock also experimented with cooking on this simple char-making burner, and this generated a small but steady supply of biochar for soil test plots.
Enchanted by the utter simplicity of these 2-can stoves, Jock began experimenting with cans collected in his own kitchen. Jock dveloped his own designs, built his own burners, ran performance tests, explored aero-dynamics of mixing streams of gas and air into perfect combustible blends. The heart of his stoves remains a TLUD burner, but Jock discovered ways to harness chimney up-draft to suck air and spin the gas.
Jock is captivated by the utter simplity, no-cost, universal potential of these high efficiency stoves made from recycled cans. Simple instructions deployed worldwide could make a significant difference in human future, and the daily quality of human life.
One practical reward of Jock's experimental diligence is a consistently high combustion temperature—well beyond 1000 degrees. Another benefit is steady smokeless operation—invisible signature of optimum combustion efficiency. An unexpected gift were photos of blue flames emitted by the burners—visible signature of high temperature.