>Russ George & William G. Coleman
>Ocean Restoration

>Russ George is CEO and chief scientist of Planktos, an organization ramping
>up to become a major commercial player in the carbon offset field by developing
>innovative carbon credit products for deployment and marketing worldwide.  
>Russ has worked in science, especially environmental and energy science, for
>the past 30 years, specializing in technology transfer of academic discoveries
>into practical applications.
>Russ has managed projects such as large scale reforestation and land
>reclamation in the forestry and mining industry, and development of ocean
>fisheries enhancement and aquaculture. He has worked as a scientist in
>frontier energy physics and as a visiting scientist in National Laboratories in
>the United States and Japan. He is often interviewed by the media on the
>future of energy and environment, and has given invited speeches to such
>organizations as the US Department of Defense (SecNav), NASA,
>Department of Energy, Electric Power Research Institute, as well as
>similar organizations in Japan and Europe.
>Russ is also an award winning producer, writer, and director of films and
>television especially focusing on environmental topics in both the United
>States and Canada. He is an avid ocean sailor, explorer, naturalist, and
>long ago stood night watch for a time at the wheel of the late Rainbow Warrior.
>Russ will give an overview of why ocean restoration is necessary, and how
>Planktos' launch of significant ocean iron fertilization projects will sequester
>vast amounts of carbon and help buy us time to make the needed political
>and policy changes to address global warming.
William G. Coleman began the talk by explaining Planktos is a Half Moon Bay Company founded by people that have been deeply involved with ocean protection work for a long time. The company gets its financial reason for being from the Kyoto Protocol, which went into effect earlier this year. The greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation credits make it economically feasible to make money by pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere. Then he introduced Russ George, the companies CEO and Chief Scientist, who went from there.

Russ began by explaining that one of the consequences of higher CO2 levels in the atmosphere is a slight change in the pH levels of the oceans, meaning they are becoming slightly more acidic. This is a problem for phytoplankton, because the chemical mechanisms they use to build their shells require a neutral pH environment to work. This effect has already cut into the food supply at the base of the ocean food chain by enough of a percentage that it could be one of the reasons that the big fisheries (along with overfishing) have collapsed. He sees this as yet another reason we need to sequester as much of the carbon we have put in the atmosphere as possible.

Then Russ explained that the limiting reagent in ocean plankton growth is iron. He showed us pictures of dust storms that blew dust (3% iron) from the Gobi desert to the Pacific and Indian Oceans that were followed by large plankton blooms. He explained that he was able to create the same effect by dropping a very thin solution of finely ground hematite (half micron size 70% iron dust particles) in salt water off the back end of Neil Young's yacht. He showed us satellite pictures of that type of bloom, a small bright blob (about 30 miles square) compared to the natural bloom, which was much bigger (thousands of miles across) and much more diffuse. Russ explained that for every ton of hematite that is carefully spread on the ocean, about 300,000 tons of CO2 are pulled out of the atmosphere by plankton, making this an extremely cost effective way to remediate climate change.

Planktos expects to make money by selling carbon sequestration credits to companies that need them to offset their GHG emissions. Such credits are already for sale on a number of commodity markets like the one in Chicago. The company hopes to accomplish mitigation of global warming, normalization of ocean temps., rebalancing of ocean pH, revitalization of ocean fertility, and restoration of healthy food chains through their work. At the moment they are looking for investors and speaking opportunities to spread the word about their work.

During Q&A a number of interesting points came up:

The Gulf Stream, the Atlantic current that feeds the upper oceans has slowed down 30% indirectly because of global warming. What happened was that the warming caused ice melting, which resulted in more water at higher latitudes, which reduced the gradient that had caused the current to flow.

Aeolian (dust storm) deposition of iron in the Pacific has been on the decline because of soil conservation programs in China & Mongolia.

It used to be that the only Countries opposed to Kyoto were USA, Monaco, Liechtenstein, and Australia. However, Australia has recently changed its mind, so now the only opposition comes from the USA, Monaco and Liechtenstein.

Ocean plankton long ago evolved to bloom in the presence of higher iron levels. It does no harm to the oceans to cause these blooms.

It is only a few days after the ocean is fertilized that the smell of fresh mowed grass comes up as a plankton bloom develops. A bloom can last a few months, but some of the carbon sequestered will stay out of the atmosphere for hundreds of years.

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To request a speaker, please contact bill (at) planktos (dot) com.

Tian Harter