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Saturday, August 30, 2008

PROS AND CONS OF GLOBAL WARMING (Part 6)

The following is excerpted from Chapter 5 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth.
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At 2PM on July 25, 2005, I typed “global climate warming” in Google and saw:

o Three Views on Global Climate Warming: (National Public Radio, Morning edition)

---§ Richard Alley (Penn State University Glaciologist): Ice cores show that global climate warming is real. “In a way we were scared silly because I think we knew this said the world is not as easy, not as predictable, as we hoped that it is.”

---§ John Christy (University of Alabama Climatologist): Global climate warming isn’t a problem worth worrying about. “If dealing with [climate change] causes wealthy countries to lose wealth because of higher costs for energy, then the Third World would find itself in worse shape.”

---§ Wallace Broecker (Columbia University Oceanographer): Advocates a far-out scheme to slow global climate warming: “We’re playing with the whole planet, dammit, just to get energy for a hundred years.”

o Ice ages linked to galactic position, as for example, when our solar system passes through a spiral arm, cosmic rays fall to Earth, forming large droplets of water vapor, thus, cooling the atmosphere.

o Kyoto Pact—Much Ado About Nothing: In a Philadelphia Church of God publication, the title says it all, and further that the treaty is unworkable.

o Methane’s Effect On Climate Change May Be Twice Previous Estimates: The concentration of methane in the atmosphere can be misleading as it is a reactive gas, and, unlike carbon dioxide, which is unreactive, has a much greater effect on global climate than would be expected by after the fact measurements.

o RTD info bores into polar research ice cores show that global climate warming most definitely is occurring

o Newsmaker interview with Fred Singer, aka the godfather of global warming denial: Global climate warming is not occurring and that the sea level has been rising for 18,000 years by about 400 feet and is continuing to increase at a uniform rate of 8 inches per century.

o Global warming – Time to act on climate change is now: U.S. President George W. Bush takes his cue from industry and refuses to admit mankind is entering a new and dangerous era as global temperature is fuelled by man-made greenhouse gasses. Yet, the impacts are already being felt, and it would be foolish of the Irish Government to ignore the advice of its own marine experts.

To tally: one against global climate change, two for; our climate is cooling; the Kyoto pact is a waste of time; methane could be more serious than we thought; yes, it is occurring; nope, it is not occurring; and yes, and we need to act now. So in the mid-summer of 2006, 2007 and 2008 I typed the same into Google box and got all—twenty out of twenty each year—concerned about the seriousness of global warming. What a dramatic change in so short a period! In Part 7 we will go back in time to illuminate what has happened only recently regarding public attitudes toward global climate warming.
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Hurricane Gustav tore through Cuba, causing considerable damage, weakened, but still at 140 MPH, now in the Gulf of Mexico, should strengthen to 155 MPH (a hurricane reaches Category 5 at 156 MPH) or so, then slightly weaken before most probably challenging New Orleans around noon on Labor Day. Here's hoping that the Army Corps did their job. However, the protective system supposedly can withstand storms only up to Category 3 (111-130 MPH). Hurricane Katrina was only a Category 3, and fortunately hit east of New Orleans, veering further east. This means that the winds will come from the exact opposite direction. First, Katrina brought only minor wind damage. Gustav's will be much stronger and will most affect those levees south and east of New Orleans. Gustav will most probably reach landfall slightly west of New Orleans, so, further, the city will face the full brunt of the storm surge. Oh my! However, there is a chance that the eye will pass sufficiently west that the city could be spared, further aiding Baton Rouge, where many escapees are staying with family and friends. Two scary dimensions, though, are that the diameter of Gustav is about 440 miles and growing, and the latest prognostication is the eye hitting Louisiana 70 miles west of New Orleans, and second, these storms generally turn slightly east near the coastline. WHILE STILL BEING DEBATED BY SCIENTISTS, I'M AFRAID GLOBAL CLIMATE WARMING WILL ONLY MEAN MORE FEROCIOUS STORMS.
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Oh, Tropical Storm Hanna is still loitering on the Atlantic side of Florida. At 50 MPH, Hanna is expected to move north up the Florida coast (although one model has the storm hitting Cuba) and within five days attaining almost hurricane status. Then what next? Not sure.
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Friday, August 29, 2008

WHAT HARM IS GLOBAL WARMING? (Part 5)

The following is largely excerpted from Chapter 5 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth.

Seven environmental groups (Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, World Resources Institute and World Wildlife Fund) prepared a map on global warming, showing early warning signs (climatehotmap.org), and among the highlights:

o Adelie penguin populations have declined 25% because the Atlantic ice where they live is shrinking.

o In the Andes, mosquitoes that can carry dengue and yellow fever, once limited to altitudes no higher than 3,300 feet (1000 meters) have now appeared at altitudes of 7,200 feet (2,195 m).

o In England, 31% of 65 bird species studied in 1995 laid their eggs 8.8 days earlier than in 1971.

o The length of time Mirror Lake (New Hampshire) is covered with ice has declined about half a day per year during the past 30 years.

o Indicating a rising ocean, in Bermuda, saltwater inundation from the intruding ocean is killing coastal mangrove forests.

o In India, the Ganagotri Glacier is retreating 98 feet (30 M) per year.

o The Qori Kalis glacier in the Andes Mountains is receding about 100 feet (30.5 m) per year, a sevenfold increase in rate now compared to the 60s and 70s.

o In Barrow, Alaska, the average number of snowless days in summer has increased from fewer than 80 in the 1950s to more than 100 in the 1990s.

More, bird populations in the North Sea collapsed in 2004 after the sand eels on which they fed left the area. Already, the United Kingdom’s Royal Society has warned that the rising level of acidity in the world’s oceans from increased GHGs is threatening irreversible damage to the marine environment. Marine scientists are surveying a food-chain collapse along the Pacific Coast as an effect of this warming. For example, as a result of unusually weak winds in 2005, near shore waters are 5 to 7 degrees higher along the Oregon coast, resulting in a 75% drop in phytoplankton production, thus working up the food chain, juvenile salmon is down by 20-30% and rockfish catches have faded away.

Then in 2006, Science featured an article blaming global warming as dooming amphibians to extinction. Species have disappeared across the entire taxonomic group in nearly all parts of the world.

Lakes from Mendota (Wisconsin) to Baikal (Russia), compared to a century and a half ago, are freezing later and thawing earlier, nearly forty total days for the former and 23 days for the latter. Frost days in Switzerland dropped from the high seventies a century ago to less than half that number today. The flycatcher bird from Africa to the Netherlands arrives on time, but the caterpillar they feed to nestlings now goes through a peak two weeks earlier, and this mismatch causes survival problems. The polar bear and monarch butterfly are more and more getting out of sync with the environment. These are typical examples of the inability of species to adapt.

Siberia is thawing for the first time since its formation 11,000 years ago. The situation is an “ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climate warming,” said Sergei Kirpotin of Tomsk State University, Russia.

Then, there is the matter of sea level rise. Certain islands appear to be in serious jeopardy. During the past century, the increase has been between 15-20 centimeters (6 to 8 inches), with perhaps half from melting glaciers and the other half from thermal expansion of the ocean. What about the Arctic? Well, there is no underlying continent. What freezes in the wintertime melts back into the ocean. Alaska? Put it under “all other,” which is very small. But places like the Arctic are heating up at twice the global average, so, as we shall see later, there should be concern about another gas called methane.

More seriously, recent reports indicate that ice is more and more melting, and the Antarctic coast is 2.5 °C (4.5 °F) warmer than 60 years ago. What is the worst case scenario? If all the glaciers melt, Antarctica will add 68 meters (223 feet), Greenland 7.4 meters (24 feet) and all other glaciers 0.5 meters (1.6 feet), or a total of about 92.5 meters (250 feet), but this will take a very long, long time. THIS IS WORTH REPEATING: SEA LEVEL RISE CAUSED BY ALL THE MELTING OF ICE WILL BE ABOUT 250 FEET. To this needs to be added thermal expansion rise. Under these 70 meter hike conditions, maps produced by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory show Florida completely disappearing and most of the Eastern Seaboard under water. This same map is a good indicator of what would happen if a 70 meter (230 feet) tsunami struck the East Coast (see the next chapter on mega-tsunamis).

How long will it take for the seas to rise? A Science paper in 2007 speculated on a sea-level rise in 2100 of 0.5 to 1.4 meters (1.64 to 4.59 feet) from the 1990 level. So, the reality is not catastrophic in your lifetime, unless you happen to live on a Pacific atoll. Why such a range? There are huge uncertainties yet to be better understood.

There are also now reports that the increasing carbon dioxide is lowering the pH level of the seas. While the drop has only been 0.1 of a pH unit since 1800, the expectation is another 0.3 reduction by 2100. What then will happen is that more coral reefs will die out and plankton growth will be affected. In any case, the ocean is getting more and more acidic.

There is then the fear that the melting of Greenland and Arctic ice could shut down the Gulf Stream, or the Atlantic thermohaline circulation. Ironically, were this to occur, and the odds are now pegged at 50:50 in this century, areas such as the UK would actually get colder and the Thames would freeze during winter.

Both William Gray and Max Mayfield, icons in hurricane prediction and observation, have said that there is no link between global warming and hurricanes. However, Environmental Science and Technology reports on two studies in Science and Nature which have found hurricanes growing fiercer. Peter Webster and Judith Curry believe that there is an unambiguous connection between warmer ocean surface temperatures and increase in hurricane intensity. Curry, chair of Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, was asked why Gray and Mayfield feel the way they do, and her response was, “these are hurricane scientists who don’t know a lot about global climate warming.” Kerry Emmanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has reported that over the past 30 years hurricanes have become more powerful, where both wind speed and duration have increased by 50%. The blame was squarely placed on global warming. These storms trigger twisters and floods, so the effect multiplies.

Hawaii is in the path of hurricanes. I have not experienced one yet in my life, but during the writing of this section, Daniel was approaching our state as a Category 5 hurricane. Thankfully, it dissipated, but further east, Typhoon Saomai slammed into China in August of 2006 as the strongest storm in 50 years. It was only a Category 4 typhoon (hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones are the same, and the name depends on where they impact, with the southern hemisphere ones circulating clockwise and northern, counter-clockwise, caused by the rotation of the plane—sort of like how your bathtub water drains), but 1.6 million were evacuated, 50,000 homes were wrecked, and nearly 500 were killed. What was particularly ominous about the 2006 season was that two hurricanes FORMED just south of Hawaii, but thankfully, drifted West, and one of them, Ioke, became a Category 5 hurricane, and the strongest to ever be recorded in the Central Pacific. Maybe time to move to Kansas or the Equator, because—something called the Coriolis force being too weak to induce air to rotate around low pressure cells—hurricanes don’t start nor go there. Delete Kansas. They have twisters there that should also gain in ferocity.

Then, in June of 2007, Cyclone Gonu hit Oman and Iran. This was the strongest storm since record-keeping began in 1945. Even though oil fields were spared, the price of petroleum jumped past $71/barrel. Any excuse works for oil, but, the point is that something is happening to our weather.

Moving on to a different stage of reality, the Pentagon commissioned a “secret” study on the potential global impacts of an abrupt and severe change in the world’s climate, with worst-case scenarios. From all reports, it was completed in 2003, but was surreptitiously made public in early 2004. “The Sky is Falling! Say Hollywood and, Yes, the Pentagon,” blared the New York Times on February 20, 2004. The report said:

o Slow warming of the planet would melt ice and disrupt the ocean currents, and occurred 11,500 and 8,200 years ago.

o Abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies.

o European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a “Siberian” climate by 2020.

The British newspaper, The Observer, was bit more specific, and proclaimed: “The Pentagon tells Bush: climate change will destroy us. Secret report warns of rioting and nuclear war.” Hey, it was only a $100,000 grant, which does not provide much these days, and was intentionally extreme to force military strategists to “imagine the unthinkable,” said Peter Schwartz, one of the consultants. Schwarz wrote The Long Boom, which painted a rosy picture of the world’s future economy, was a CIA consultant and head of planning for Royal Dutch/Shell Group. Bob Watson, chief scientist of the World Bank and former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was quoted to say, “There are two groups the Bush Administration tends to listen to, the oil lobby and the Pentagon,” alluding to the difficulty that the President will have that “climate change is a threat to national security and the economy.”

But, of course, there are the detractors. So as not to be totally negative about all this, there are several positive effects:

o Ecosystem production could improve. Satellite data shows that the productivity of the Northern Hemisphere has increased since 1982.

o Plants need carbon dioxide. Our atmosphere is nowhere near the upper limit for flora growth.

o Melting ice should open up the Northwest Passage in summer: In fact, the North Pole has been reported to be a mile-wide patch of ocean in the summer.

There are more, but, the negatives dominate.
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Tropical Storm Gustav is still scheduled to slam into New Orleans late on Labor Day. While at this moment only at 65 MPH, after passing over Jamaica, the cyclonic pattern is strengthening, and Gustav is expected to rapidly increase to a Category that could well be frightening, hitting Cuba in about a day and a half, slightly weakening, then re-gaining strength in the Gulf of Mexico for landfall in three days. In the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Hanna, at 50 MPH, appears to be zigzagging and could well veer south of Florida.
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With all the consternation about Gustav, crude oil dropped today to $115.60/barrel, something to with the industry better prepared for such storms and a prognostication by Nordea Bank of Sweden that prices should drop below $100/barrel next year. The DJI dropped 171 to 11,544.
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Thursday, August 28, 2008

HISTORY OF GLOBAL WARMING (Part 4)

The following is largely excerpted from Chapter 5 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth.
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The global average temperature actually showed a small, but nearly constant diminution, from 1000 to 1900, save for a slight warming period around 1100 when a 0.2°C rise was experienced and one little ice age in circa 1600 when the temperature dropped about 0.6°C. But the planet operates in geologic time, and there is a direct correlation between high CO2 concentrations and warmer climates.

There was a warm period 120,000 years ago when CO2 rose from 190 parts per million by volume (ppmv) to 290 ppmv, at a time when the sea level was about 20 feet higher (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, http://www.whoi.edu/institutes/occe). The same condition occurred 220,000 years, 310,000 years and 400,000 years ago. But all this might have been induced by an astronomical rhythm, the wobble of the Earth, which occurs at approximately 100,000 year cycles. But, could the carbon dioxide/methane hyperactivity have actually caused the gyration, which deviated the orbital path of the planet? Global temperatures during this half a million year cycle almost coincided with equivalent changes in carbon dioxide and methane. Which gas was really the problem? Maybe it was methane.

Today, the CO2 concentration is in the range of 380 ppmv, under continuous monitoring since 1958 on Mauna Loa, Big Island of Hawaii. South Pole records show similar data. Early correlations are obtained from chemical information collected from shells of organisms preserved in the deep sea. It’s frightening to confirm that our present level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the highest in the past 650,000 years…six hundred and fifty thousand years…way before Homo Sapiens came into being. We began as a species all of 100,000 to 250,000 years ago.

To gain a sense of proportion, our atmosphere is 78.08% nitrogen, 20.9% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.038% (380 parts per million) carbon dioxide and smaller amounts of other gases. The pre-1750 concentration of CO2 was 280 ppm. However, methane was 0.7 ppm then and is now about 1.8 ppm. That is, methane has more than doubled, while carbon dioxide has “only” increased by about a third. Mars and Venus have carbon dioxide concentrations slightly greater than 95%. The Moon has zero percent carbon dioxide because it has no atmosphere. While there have been straight line increases of CO2 and nitrous oxide since 1960, over the past decade or two, chlorofluorocarbons have not only leveled off, but are showing signs of dropping, and the rate change of methane increase has decreased, which is somewhat bewildering, considering that 80% of methane comes biogenically (living things, like us, but, really, from anaerobic bacteria, the germs that don’t need much oxygen, like in our bowels and through agricultural practices) and we are increasing, but, growing and decaying plants might well be the greater factor, and something might be affecting that source.

Another way of looking at all this is to consider the existing carbon content:

o Oceans -----------------------40,000 gigatons
o Mineral soils -----------------1,500 GT
o Atmosphere-------------------- 730 GT
o Growing vegetation----------- 650 GT
o Burning fossil fuel/year------- 6.5 GT

Then, this part is controversial, but the authors who reported on the above figures state that the permafrost/tundra house something on the order of 900 GT. They don’t quite say what percent of this is carbon gas is methane, but they do state that the whole system is thawing, and it is ten to thirty times more concentrated in these greenhouse gases than mineral soils. A particularly scary determination is from John Atcheson, who reported in 2004 that that there are 3000 times more methane in these Arctic clathrates (hydrates) than currently exist in the atmosphere. Further, there is a lot more methane as hydrates in the ocean. If you were concerned about your gas guzzler emitting too much carbon dioxide, wait until you get to the section on methane, something you best know as natural gas.

Scientists have continued to model and refine their models. James Hanson and his colleagues in “Earth’s Energy Imbalance: Confirmation and Implication” from Science, the most prestigious of journals, report that their climate model calculates that our Earth is now absorbing 0.85 watts per square meter more energy from the Sun than it is emitting to space, and mostly from anthropogenic (man-made) greenhouse gases and aerosols. All texts show that 341 watts/square meter of insolation impact Earth, with 235 w/m2 being emitted as longwave radiation and 107 w/m2 as reflected solar radiation. Thus, 0.85 w/m2 is very serious stuff. James Hanson, who brought this issue to the forefront through his 1988 congressional testimony, and his co-researchers, are convinced something bad is happening and that society is responsible for this change, and actually go on to provide an exact figure for how much heat is being retained. His team reported that the average temperature in 2005 was 58.3°F, the hottest year on record, and the last time this happened was something on the order of 10,000 years ago.

Thus, the consensus of climate change scientists is that the carbon dioxide produced when fossil fuels are burned is warming the Earth through something called the Greenhouse Effect. The effect might be exacerbated when forests are cleared, because the carbon dioxide taken up by all flora is reduced. These Green House Gases (GHG), especially carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and chlorofluorocarbons, act like the glass in a standard greenhouse that allows sunlight to enter the greenhouse, but, after the light is absorbed by the plants and ground, some of it is converted to heat, which cannot escape the house. An automobile on a hot day is a good example of a greenhouse.

How serious is this warming? During the past century, the atmosphere has increased by one Fahrenheit degree. The eight warmest years have occurred over the past decade.

The top ten hottest years have occurred during the past fifteen years. There is, thus, evidence of accelerated warming. The worst case scenario from the National Center for Atmospheric Research is that during the next century the temperature could increase by 6.3°F (3.5°C) and the sea could rise by 12 inches (30 centimeters). But this is an extreme proposition, from a generally realistic NCAR. There are more radical prognostications, from others.

There is one more matter that deserves some attention—global dimming. In 1985, Atsumu Ohmura at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology suggested that the solar radiation level on the surface of our planet had declined 10% in 30 years. This was just about the time when scientists were beginning to worry about global climate warming, so Ohmura’s contention was ignored, partly because less sunlight should have meant global cooling. Recent records now show that over the past 5 decades the drop has been about 15%. Gerry Stanhill, an English scientist working in Israel, compared sunlight records from the 1950’s with today and found a 22% drop of insolation. Other researchers were noting that evaporation was also declining, in about the same rate as the dimming. PBS aired the NOVA documentary “Dimming the Sun” on April 18, 2006, showing that air pollution not only reflects sunlight back into space, but the particulates also make clouds more reflective, and that the next few decades will see a drop in particulates but an increase in carbon dioxide. Thus, the masking effect of global dimming needs to be factored into global climate models. Other scientists contend that they have, indeed, included aerosols in their prediction, but that the overall effects are very complex. In any case, a 5°C (9°F) temperature increase could well now be possible by 2050, not 2100.

So in summary, a one degree temperature change over decades and centuries does not sound like much, but it is in the exponential impact, the cascade effect, in specific situations, that life and the environment can be affected. Tellingly, the number of scientific papers recording changes in the ecosystem from global warming increased from 14 to more than a thousand in five years.
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Tropical Storm Gustav is at 70 MPH, with a long-term track still in the direction of New Orleans, showing every indication that Gustav would become a hurricane in a few days. Estimated time of landfall is late Labor Day into early Tuesday morning, September 2. And here comes Tropical Storm Hanna forming just north of South American, at 40 MPH, with a projected track towards Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. Ike's next.
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Crude oil dropped to $116/barrel and the Dow Jones Industrials leaped 213 to 11,715.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

BUT ARE WE RESPONSIBLE FOR GLOBAL WARMING? (Part 3)

The following is largely excerpted from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS FOR PLANET EARTH.
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The National Academies of Science in a 2006 report affirmed global warming and placed the blame on humans. The NAS takes forever to do anything, so this is, indeed, monumental and meaningful. Around the same time, a Bush Administration study (there are 21 such study groups, this is the first to announce findings) reported that warming is occurring at the surface and throughout the atmosphere, but typically, Michele St. Martin, spokeslady for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, responded that greenhouse gas emissions can be brought down through better use of energy while the understanding of climate science continues to improve.

The IPCC reported that the average global temperature has risen by about 0.6°C (1.1°F) over the past century, most of the warming attributable to human activities and carbon dioxide being the primary problem. Because of some cooling—that is, a few years when the planet dropped in temperature—much of this warming actually occurred over the past three decades, for NASA reports that the increase has been 1.08 °F just during that period. “One degree” does not strike much fear in your heart, but consider that the effective extra heat to create this change was the equivalent of 272 billion 1500 watt space heaters (about the capacity of the most powerful hair dryer you can find). That is, everyone living 30 years ago turning on 66 hair dryers, leaving them on at the maximum heat value….and forgetting to turn it off.

The IPCC further speculates that an additional increase of from 1.4°C to 5.8°C can be expected over the next century. The National Center for Atmospheric Research says there is a 90% chance that the temperatures will rise 3°F (1.7°C) to 9°F (5°C) by 2100 (solcomhouse.com/ucar.htm). Furthermore, it was reported that drifting satellites and math error led to “low” and faulty data in the tropics, and the corrections now removed a good portion of the doubts expressed by climate change doubters such as the George C. Marshall Institute, financed by the petroleum industry. While this temperature change is bad enough, it is in the potential effects, as the greater problem will come from heat waves, agriculture yield reductions, biological extinctions and other difficulties, as perhaps, mega-hurricanes.

All this scientific speculation and fear-mongering, though, is apparently not compelling for the general populace. In the summer of 2003 I took two trips to Europe. It was very uncomfortable in Paris and the U.K. hit 100°F (37.8°C) for the first time in recorded history. Then in 2006, London’s Underground, which has no air-conditioning, reached temperatures of 117°F (47.2°C). On that day I was sitting in comfort watching a baseball game on TV in my brother’s home with the temperature outside at 115°F. Of course, this was Las Vegas, Nevada. However, it occurred to me that some terrorist organization certainly must be planning to sabotage the electrical grid during a heat wave, for if such an incident were to happen throughout the world, millions would perish, and, ironically, serious decisions will only then be made to reduce the Greenhouse Effect. At that moment of these thoughts, a brownout hit this portion of Las Vegas. The consequences could have been fearful, but we just drove to a casino, which has backup power.
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Tropical Storm Gustav weakened passing over Haiti, but should strengthen on a pathway to the Gulf of Mexico, and according to the National Hurricane Center (Miami), could well on Labor Day be over New Orleans, and, along the way, attain a strength of 110 MPH, just under Category 3. However, any five day forecast can be off track by 300 miles and have an intensity error of 25 MPH. However, petroleum prices have increased and oil companies are already evacuating personnel off production platforms.
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Crude rose to $119/barrel and the DJI increased 90 to 11, 503.
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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

IS GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE REAL? (Part 2)

The following is largely excerpted from Chapter 5 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth.
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When I started this chapter I asked Jeeves, what is the definition of global climate change? Jeeves responded by citing the Nature Conservancy:

Global climate change simply refers to an increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere. Scientists believe that several greenhouse gases are causing this increase. The primary one is carbon dioxide.”

Change meant increase, and carbon dioxide was the only gas mentioned. Turns out that water vapor is said to be 65% the cause of the Greenhouse Effect, with CO2 only 33% responsible. Methane is hardly ever addressed. It should be understood, of course, that greenhouse gases are necessary. Without them, the average temperature on our globe would be roughly minus 20°C (or 4°F, remembering that ice freezes at 32°F).

However, today, Jeeves has retired. One of the financial partners of Kona Blue Water Farms, Garrett Greuner, helped found and sold Jeeves, ran for Governor of California and went on to Yoga Works. Ask (www.ask.com) has replaced Jeeves.

There are two dominant global climate warming organizations:

o In 1988 the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as endorsed by the national science academies of the G8 nations. The IPCC does not actually do any research, it only monitors, assesses and organizes the work.

o As we, the United States, contribute more than our fair share of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, Congress in 1990, created a parallel, but cooperative, program involving 13 federal agencies. Since 2002, called the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (USCCSP), a sum of $20 billion has been spent over the past decade and a half on global climate change.

Many other centers, institutes and universities do the actual research, but they all feed into the above two.

There is some annoying byplay between the IPCC and the USCCSP, as in 2006, the latter displayed online the draft of the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report to gain world comments without previously informing the IPCC. The reason, so it is said, had something to do with the Bush White House being critical of the workings of this world organization, particularly its conclusions. One specific issue was that the report would be indicating that if carbon dioxide doubles, the global temperature will rise exactly 3 °C (5.4 F°). A U.S. government scientist speculated that this tactic by his employer now allows lobby groups to hijack the whole thing. Obviously, into 2007, the most powerful country in the world still had philosophical doubts about the significance of global warming.

If you simply ask me whether global climate warming is occurring, my answer a year or two ago might have been, hmmm, I’m not sure, yet, but probably. Today, my reply would be YES, absolutely! In the early 1990’s The National Academy of Sciences, American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society could not support the reality of this change. Even Thomas Karl, director of the National Climate Change Center (NCCC), was uncertain. Today, all four, with Karl still director of NCCC, are now stoutly of the opinion that the world is warming.
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Tropical Storm Gustav, now at 70 MPH, is passing through western Haiti and should skirt westward, just south of Cuba. It is possible that Gustav could attain Category 5 hurricane status in a few days when it enters the Gulf of Mexico. The current predicted track is towards Louisiana, meaning that all those oil platforms (which represent 25% of domestic production) could be threatened. Tropical Depression Julio is at 30 MPH and should dissipate in the southwest region of the U.S., dumping a good amount of rain.
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Reflecting concern about Gustav, oil prices went up to $116.75. The DJI edged up 27 to 11,413.
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Monday, August 25, 2008

THE VENUS SYNDROME (Part 1)

Over the next week or so I will touch on global warming, covered in Chapter 5 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth. I begin with an overview.
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If you've been keeping score, since last month:

1. Oil experienced the biggest one day price increase, ever, and on July 11 reached $147/barrel. G8 oil ministers kicking off their summit in Japan begged OPEC to increase production. (It worked, as prices have since dropped.)

2. Our monthly unemployment rate saw the largest jump in 22 years.

3. The International Energy Agency reported that a sum of $45 trillion (not billion, but trillion) was needed to combat global warming. If you add the total cost of the Manhattan Project, the Marshall Plan and the Apollo Project, and bring those expenses up to 2008 dollars, combined, this total is only about 0.25 trillion dollars.

4. The U.S. Senate killed the global warming mitigation bill.

5. The Copenhagen Consensus Center, involving a blue-ribbon panel of economists, including five Nobel Laureates, listed global warming as #30, and last, of 30 world priorities.

Let's see now, on the one hand, the feared dual hammer of Peak Oil and Global Warming is already showing evidence of affecting our lives. Yet, our decision-makers are continuing to do nothing, and, worse, learned organizations are saying, why worry.

Actually, as would be expected, things are a bit more complicated than that. For example, the congressional legislation was passed on to next year because Democrats felt that the current bill was not good enough, and that Scandinavian organization was founded by the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, who has become famous for panning climate change.

Irregardless, from all indications, global warming has become almost believable... yet not compelling enough for decision-makers to take any truly preventative steps. Most would say that the problem is the ole USA, with China and India comfortable in being excluded from the Kyoto Protocol, for why should they be concerned when we--the largest carbon dioxide polluter--do not wish to be cooperative?

Clearly, President George W. Bush and VP Dick Cheney are a prime reason why our nation is so recalcitrant, although industry barons generally also feel that coal, our dominant energy resource, surely can't be as bad as the liberal environmentalists make it out to be. I don't think that the need to maximize profits is a major reason why corporate boards are generally lukewarm on global warming and opposed to something like the carbon tax. The primary reason is that this group, while some do show concern, likes to think that there is no cause for alarm at this time.

Charles Krauthammer, an avowed agnostic on the Greenhouse Effect, is typical of this currently ruling group. His National Review Online article of May 30, 2008 paints the problem as a liberal conspiracy. He could well be right, but maybe this is not being orchestrated, for I am part of this kind of group, and I don't recall being in a meeting when we planned for this, leaving me with the opinion that something must be done now or it could become too late.

I've tried in sundry ways. I participated in forty years of sustainable energy and environmental R&D, and remain quasi-active in an effort on biological hydrogen production. But I needed to try other mechanisms, so last year I applied the "Einstein writing to FDR to build the atomic bomb" model by enlisting a few media colleagues in an attempt to get President Bush to take this problem more seriously, and, hopefully, surprise the world by taking a leadership role in the then upcoming G8 summit scheduled for Germany by proposing a post-Kyoto strategy for climate change. First, we couldn't find an Einstein, so we thought a message from top corporate officials would suffice. Well, we started with General Motors and got nowhere. What could you expect from a company that has a global vice president like Bob Lutz on staff? He has been quoted to say that climate warming is a crock of sh*t, or something similar. Scratch this strategy.

Well, pure logic was not working, so I tried something even more offbeat--FEAR! I wrote a book entitled SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth, with Chapter 5 on The Venus Syndrome. What are some strategies?

What about sea level increase as a scare tactic? If all the ice melts, the oceans will rise by about 250 feet. Wow, that should strike terror into decision-makers. Yeah, but this could take milennia to actually happen. Yes, it could be up to a meter by the end of this century, but that's an extreme high, and the more probable tenth of an inch every few years can safely be ignored. We will feel sorry for those poor souls living on threatened atolls, but will not get too excited about something so infinitesimal at our coastline. Anyway, our authorities will more probably build walls around coastal cities rather than cut out fossil fuels, something known as the Iron Lung Syndrome... which is to treat the symptom, but avoid the root of the problem.

Ah, but it turns out that there is another greenhouse gas, methane, that shows promise for becoming the doomsday gas. Methane is the simplest hydrocarbon and is most of natural gas. Cows burp and flatulate this gas, while biomass generally also produce some in the decay process.

We have all been schooled to plant trees. When you plant trees, what happens? They eventually die, and, yes, the carbon dioxide is returned into the atmosphere, but, worse, the decomposition process also produces some methane. There was even a recent German study that seemed to hint that growing trees produced more methane than we thought, so the greening of lands might well actually hurt our environment. Stay tuned!

So what's the big deal? Well, one molecule of methane is from 20 to 60 times worse than one molecule of carbon dioxide in causing global warming. This miniscule amount of methane in our atmosphere already has half the potency of carbon dioxide in warming our globe.

Let's take the case of our planetary neighbor. Venus is mostly carbon dioxide at a surface temperature of almost 900 degrees Fahrenheit. Could you imagine a scenario where sufficient methane contaminates our atmosphere to really cause trouble? Methane tends to oxidize into carbon dioxide over time. Ergo... the potential for an atmosphere and surface temperature on Earth like Venus.

We tend to ignore the ocean in our scientific analyses. Did you know that there is more combined mass in the bacteria, viruses and archaea in the ocean than in all the larger life forms (fish, trees, you) in the ocean and on land? You probably never even ever heard of archaea. The scary thing is that marine microorganisms at the surface expire, drop to the bottom of the ocean, and in an absence of oxygen, are converted into methane and other compounds, which, because of the pressure and temperature at depth, generally become trapped in ice as marine methane hydrates. It is said that there might be twice the energy in this methane at the seabed than all the known coal, oil and natural gas. Let me repeat: TWICE AS MUCH ENERGY IN METHANE IN METASTABLE EQUILIBRIUM AT THE BOTTOM OF THE OCEAN THAN ALL THE KNOWN COAL, OIL AND NATURAL GAS DEPOSITS, WHICH ARE RATHER SAFELY RESTING DEEP UNDERGROUND.

Over our geologic history, every few tens of million years, our planet naturally heats up. This is accompanied by heightened carbon dioxide and methane levels, or more probably, these gases caused the temperature rise...just like today. Some scientists have speculated that the primary cause might well have been a rather sudden release of marine methane hydrates into the atmosphere.

Tomorrow, I provide some background about the Greenhouse Effect, leading to THE VENUS SYNDROME, finally providing a tale from the future on what might happen to Planet Earth if methane goes haywire, now being converted into a novel with that title.
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Well, just when Fay finally begins to dissipate over the South, here comes Tropical Storm Gustav, which just popped up south of Cuba, has winds already at 60 MPH, and seems destined to take the very same path as Fay. The only consoling virtue is that Gustav appears to be a bit disorganized, and could weaken. But don't necessarily count on it. The stock market and oil brokers are certainly not writing Gustav off.
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In the Pacific, Tropical Storm Julio passed through the Baja Peninsula, is in the Gulf of California, and should become a remnant in a couple days.
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In case you were wondering what happened to Typhoon Nuri, it slammed into Hong Kong on August 22 , but only as a tropical storm at 47 MPH. The city was back to normal by the weekend.
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Oil slightly rose to $115/barrel today, on the mild concern that Gustav could end up in the Gulf of Mexico. As expected, the DJI sunk 242 to 11, 386.
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Sunday, August 24, 2008

GLOBAL WARMING AND THE AFTERLIFE

Tomorrow I begin a series on global warming. I thought I'd start today with an article I posted in The Huffington Post (http://HuffingtonPost.com) where you can read comments from their readers. The presentation integrates thoughts from Chapter 5 from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth with Chapter 5 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity.
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Planet Earth reports on global warming, and points out the greater peril of THE VENUS SYNDROME, with methane, not carbon dioxide, as the threat. The chapter from Humanity is a different take on religion, and wonders why 90% of Americans believe in the afterlife, while this figure is below 25% in most of Europe, Israel and Japan. The following synthesizes those two chapters, and anyone desiring details can go to those books, for 731 full references are provided.
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Decision-makers are influenced by their constituency. If the public does not care that much about a problem, these leaders tend to ignore the significance of the issue. Conversely, if an overwhelming percentage of, say, voters, believe in something, then potential candidates take heed.
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For example, most polls taken over the past few decades seem to indicate that around 90% of Americans believe in some afterlife and a God. It would thus behoove political candidates to be religious. The odds are, of course, that most of them actually believe themselves. At the national level, only Congressman Pete Stark is on record as not believing in God. However, he does not plan to run for office again. The fact of the matter is that something on the order of 90% or more of Americans would consider a black person or woman, but less than half would vote for an atheist.
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As an interesting sidebar, only 5% of biological scientists in the National Academy of Sciences believe in the afterlife. Is there something this elite group knows that we don't? Well, no. There are certain things that might not ever be known, while there are some other things that should be scientifically provable. Let's take global warming as an example. Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists believe that the global average temperatures have increased over the past 50 years, and 84% say that the cause is human-induced. Only 13% believe that there is relatively little danger to Planet Earth and us. Only 1% of them believe that the TV/cable media are very reliable and 3% rate local newspapers as very reliable. You can make your own conclusions on what these numbers mean.

We all know that polls can be skewed by how you ask the question and who you solicit. So take the following any way you wish, but most recent surveys show that the American public is split about the environment being given priority over the economy and vice versa. In 2000, 67% favored the environment. Today, this percentage has slipped to 49%.

Last year 56% thought that cars and industry at large are mostly to blame, but the fault dropped to 54% this year. Slightly more feel that government should fine or tax company emissions, but only 52% to 45%. We tend to be concerned about water and air pollution, but only 37% worry about global warming.

Yet, Al Gore and others like him might be having an effect, as in 1997 only 25% said that global warming would pose a threat to their way of life (with 69% saying no), and this year the apprehension shifted to 40% yes and 58% no. All in all, though, climate change is not a huge concern to our populace.

I might add that a World Public Opinion poll reported this year that 43% of Americans felt that carbon dioxide was a pressing problem, while the returns from the world showed: Australia at 69%, Argentina 63%, Israel 54%, China 42%, Russia 32% and India 19%. Interestingly enough, 71% of those in the United Kingdom believed that this was all a natural occurrence and not a result of this gas. The recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report by more than 2,500 scientists found a 90% chance that people were the main cause and drastic action was needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

How then is global warming related to the afterlife? No, nothing to do with afterlife being hell, although that might make for a entertaining movie. Simply, for both, logic seems almost irrelevant. We tend to believe what we want, heavily influenced by our upbringing. Science is not welcomed in religion, for can you imagine the fate of a political candidate who might foolishly state: the greatest immorality of religion is that there is no proof of an afterlife. It's particularly worrisome that science is failing to have much effect on public opinion. There is no simple solution, but I'm trying, with Chapter 3 on education and Chapter 5 on religion in SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity.
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Tropical Depression Fay, now at 35 MPH, seems to bee moving a path north of west, and should slowly slide through Mississippi and turn north when the center approaches Louisiana. Except for more rain, there should mostly be some weakening over the next few days.
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In the Pacific, Tropical Storm Julio popped up south of Baja, is at 45 MPH, and will move through the peninsula over the next couple of days.
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Friday, August 22, 2008

THE SIMPLE SOLUTION FOR THE BLUE REVOLUTION (Part 10)

This is the final posting of the series on the Blue Revolution, mostly excerpted from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth.
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Like most grand endeavors, the Blue Revolution will not just happen overnight. There has already been some success on land, as the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority is doing very well with deep ocean potable water (through reverse osmosis). Japan has ten such deep ocean fluid facilities and products are blossoming.

But what of the future in the deep ocean? It can be projected that The Blue Revolution will occur, but maybe more slowly than earlier anticipated. Japan and Korea, the two largest shipbuilders can justify using their shipyards because they have very little natural resources and the open ocean is available at no political cost. Japan, for example, has ten times more space in their Exclusive Economic Zone than on land, and Okinawa, like Hawaii, is marginally situated, but available, as an OTEC development site.

Japan is showing a bit more pioneering spirit than most, as the Mitsubishi Research Institute, Tokyo University and Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology in 2005 reported that they will be placing 100 nets, controlled by a Global Positioning System, to produce 270,000 tons of seaweed/year to combat global warming. They hope to also produce methanol from the marine biomass. This has been termed the Apollo project, which is energy focused, relative to the Sunshine project, led by Toshitsugu Sakou, which spotlights ocean technology.

European seafaring nations might again consider colonization, this time the open ocean, where there are no obvious downsides, such as the sociological problems that came with the era after Columbus. One cannot guess what Greenpeace might do, but there are no native populations, not even whales, as permanent residents in the middle of the ocean around the equator.

Yes, if the Blue Revolution shows any kind of movement, there is no doubt that society will probably feel compelled to invoke another Law of the Sea marathon, this next one to adjudicate over who can use the open ocean. But one could say this is one way human systems progress. If these discussions dominate, then we might as well look towards the Blue Evolution. To the more enterprising, you thus only have a few years of freedom before some bureaucracy could get in your way.

Nonetheless, in time there will no doubt be a wide range of floating cities, marine amusement parks and grazing plantships for energy, environment and habitats. Then consider several hundred, no thousands, of these productive platforms. Current international law dictates that each, under certain circumstances, can legally become a nation. Imagine the United Nations in the 22nd Century.

Hawaii is particularly well positioned to take a leading role, one, because we thought up the whole thing. When President Ronald Reagan in 1983 proclaimed the national exclusive economic zone (EEZ), he doubled the jurisdictional area of the country, making Hawaii, in combined land-sea domain, the second largest state in the Union, twice as large as Texas, with its EEZ. Secondly, 80% of the American EEZ is located in the Pacific Ocean. Finally, the scope of the total project will be very large, and can most effectively be conducted as an international partnership. Where better to do this than in Hawaii.

After having hosted most of the conferences and workshops on the subject, an important initiative was taken in 2006 combining next generation fisheries with marine biofuels, linking the two through the recycle of wastes from the energy portion being fed to the fisheries loop as nutrients. The upwelled fluids from the OTEC process are much more concentrated in minerals than surface waters, but still insufficient to support higher trophic level feeders such as tuna. The program was led by the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research with national and international partners. Even Greenpeace and the Nature Conservancy were contacted for their participation, as the whole point to all this was to enhance the marine environment as well as develop sustainable products for humanity.

A simple solution for this movement is to find a benefactor. The Georgia Aquarium started with a gift of $250 million from Bernie Marcus, founder of The Home Depot, to the city of Atlanta. But this was only the leverage to entice BellSouth, Georgia-Pacific and a host other corporations, including from Coca-Cola, which donated the land. From first dollar to operation took all of four years.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute would not have happened had it not been for David Packard. An engineering graduate of Stanford University, he and classmate Bill Hewlett, started Hewlett-Packard in 1939, and went public in 1957, the year before I happened to be on the same floor with David Packard, Jr., who asked his Stanford freshmen dorm-mates to invest in his father’s company. If I had only done so I would today have been able to provide the funds for the Blue Revolution, as HP is now the largest technology vendor in the world, even bigger than IBM. It is reported that David Packard’s interest in the ocean can be traced to 1969 when as Deputy Secretary of Defense, he had oversight over the Glomar Explorer, which under the pretense of seabed mining, cloaked the secret recovery of a sunken Russian submarine in the Pacific, with Howard Hughes as a behind the scenes player. I came in on the tail end of that tale when I served as the Senate staff director of the Hard Minerals Act, a decade later.

As I would like the Blue Revolution to take hold in Hawaii, we need to first find this benefactor to finance the building of the Aquarium of the Pacific on a floating platform dynamically positioned off Honolulu, far enough offshore so that visual pollution detractors could only provide a weak argument, but close enough so tourists can be shuttled to the attraction. On the platform would be a resort-casino-complex and the headquarters for the Blue Revolution Institute to pioneer R&D in ocean resources, next generation fisheries and sustainable energy. I recall once discussing a floating casino for Hawaii with someone who said he represented Kirk Kerkorian, who now at the age of 92 is worth $15 billion. Only a billion dollars would be nice. The Blue Revolution legacy would be his.
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I guess there is no Russia/Georgia concern today, as oil slipped to $115/barrel. This was the largest one day drop ($6.59/barrel) since January 17, 1991 ($10.56/barrel), when President George Bush (the father) withdrew oil from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve, just before he initiated the Gulf War. Of course this free-fall occurred when oil sold for $32/barrel, representing a 33% drop. What is lulling the buying public, too, is that yesterday was the second LARGEST jump ($5.62/barrel) ever, and no one noticed. As would be expected, the DJI jumped 189 to 11,427.
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Tropical Storm Fay at 45 MPH is slowly heading westward straight for the Florida panhandle, and should weaken over the next couple of days...IF it remains on land. A slight southward excursion could become a real problem. Flooding continues.
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Hurricane Nuri is now Tropical Cyclone Nuri, for the wind speed dropped below hurricane strength. From all reports, both Hong Kong and Taiwan will be spared, as Nuri is splitting the distance between those two sites.
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Thursday, August 21, 2008

RAINBOW PEARLS, INTERNATIONAL (Part 2)

The second venture has become a series of epicurean treats. This all started around the time of the below (August 20) hunt when Paul Yuen and I discussed with former Hawaii Governor George Ariyoshi the desirability of growing pearl oysters at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii, a legacy of George. He agreed, and was able to obtain funds from Japan to initiate the program. I traveled to Sydney, Australia to recruit to Hawaii Neil Sims, who had a good reputation in this field. Over a bottle of Wolf Blass Black Label Cabernet/Shiraz, I convinced Neil, and his wife Kate, to come to Paradise.

The experiments went well, and we learned that not only could we control the growth conditions on land, but that the pearls grew at twice the rate of the traditionally cultivated version. The Governor was able to gain additional funding until the Orient market crashed, so the project was abandoned. But the attraction of growing a product that could be sold for $10 or $100/oyster, as opposed to $0.25 for just the eating type, remained in my memory. Neil went on to found a mariculture company growing and marketing Kona Kampachi, a desirable sashimi delicacy. He deserves a more complete blog posting, and someday, I'll do this.

Anyway, it occurred to me that, as we could regulate the growth conditions, why not try to produce colored pearls. Not only white and black, but what about Chinese Red and Kelly Green? Someday, perhaps, the Royal Hawaiian Rainbow Pearl Necklace could reach the marketplace.

I thus formed an international team of marine biotechnologists and marketers. Grant Burgess of Heriot-Watt University, associate editor of the Journal of Marine Biotechnology (JMB), began searching for marine algae which could provide the range of colors. Next to his office was the Scotch Professor of the country and on the other side was a biologist who held membership in the Royal and Ancient Club, which supervised over the Saint Andrews golf course structure. We usually held annual meetings in late August (the only period when the weather is halfway tolerable there) when the world’s largest arts festival is held in Edinburg. Unfortunately, Grant, who grew up in Edinburg, just moved to Newcastle, where they are allowed to do human cloning, not an interest of his, but, nevertheless intriguing with respect to Chapter 2 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity. Aside from coal, what else is there in Newcastle?

In usual attendance was Tadashi Matsunaga, former editor of the JMB, and a vice-president at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, who spent a sabbatical at the University of Hawaii as the first International Professor for the Blue Revolution. We also needed to use some genetic engineering to obtain the right colored pearl. Plus, Professor Matsunaga has some ideas on how to artificially grow pearls.

A few years ago, Takeo Kondo, a colleague from Nihon University, who was advising the mayor of the city of Ago in Japan, Chihiro Takeuchi, arranged for me to give a talk on colored pearls to his community. The situation was ideal, for Kokichi Mikimoto, nearly a century earlier, had experimented on cultured pearls in the waters next to the hotel in Ago where I stayed. I learned that while this region was at one time the largest pearl producer, growth conditions were declining and the current owners were beginning to abandon the field. My recommendation was to bring deep ocean waters into their estuaries and initiate a new product, colored pearls.

It just so happened that several towns were consolidating into one city, Shima, so Mayor Takeuchi ran against the other mayors, and had on his campaign platform a new industry in colored pearls. He barely won, it is said because he had the only new idea. My first dinner with him was an incredible French meal, the second, a classical Japanese kaiseki, the third, a teppan yaki of lobster, steak, and foie gras over bottles of bourdeaux and, on my latest visit, barbecued Matsusaka beef, said to be better (and more expensive) than Kobe beef. Matsusaka, also spelled Matsuzaka, is adjacent to Shima City. I'm trying to sell the concept to Ago/Shima, but, because of honor and territorial cultural imperative, perhaps, Mayor Takeuchi always picked up the tab. He'll love Zippy's in Hawaii, and so will Chisako, wife, communicator (she teaches English), inspiration and balance to the Mayor.

If you someday see pearls of intense hue in your jewelers, chances are that this team had something to do with the introduction. The question is whether we will be doing this using the traditional oyster farm or just a laboratory growth chamber.
Friends regularly ask me, "Pat, how's the colored pearl project developing?" My standard response is that some things take time. If anyone reading this has deep pockets and wants to become richer and more famous as the Mikimoto of next generation rainbow pearls, your legacy is a mere agreement away. Just contact me.
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Tropical Storm Fay is at 60 MPH, and has made a suddent (but expected) left turn back towards Florida. Earlier projections saw the cyclone moving west northwest in the general direction of northern Louisiana. Latest prognostications wonder if Fay might instead slowly--and this storm seems unsure of where she wants to go, meaning two and three foot accumulations and tornadoes will continue to be threats--move west, ending up back in the Gulf of Mexico and re-strengthen. If Fay then becomes a hurricane and continues to go west, watch the price of oil jump up, and woe be New Orleans if there is a right turn at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The scientific projections, though, point towards Fay remaining terrestrial, weakening over the next week and waffling along a wide path through the deep South.
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Tropical Storm Nuri will smash into Hong Kong Friday, but this city is immune to these storms. A few hours after any hurricane, the metropolis is virtually back to normal, with a few broken tree limbs. Send FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers here to find out how they do it. That was unfair, for HK suffers through several of these inconveniences every year, and has worked out a compromise with nature, while NO is below river/sea level and has a totally different problem.
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For nebulous reasons, oil jumped to $122/barrel today and the DJI eased up 13 to 11,430.
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

OCEAN VENTURES (Part 1)

The following is also from Chapter 4 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth.
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A Couple of Ocean Ventures

There are two fanciful marine free enterprise adventures worthy of note. I’ve mostly been involved with research and development, and early in my career, a link to a private venture operation was deemed in academia to be unwise. Private universities long ago appreciated the value of partnerships with industry. Stanford University with its Silicon Valley, MIT’s University Park and the Research Triangle Park of North Carolina are such successful pursuits. In many ways, PICHTR was created to initiate something similar. Several activities were spun off, and the Manoa Innovation Park could have expanded into a more elaborate support center. However, the critical mass of high tech activity was absent in Hawaii.

This ivory tower attitude of state universities has crumbled over the past few years, but as early as the mid’80’s, I tailored the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute to work as closely as possible with companies, and founded the Fellows in Renewable Energy Engineering Program with funds from ARCO, Hawaiian Electric Company and a wide variety of industrial contributors. Now, campuses are the keys to economic development. Thus, it was well within my general philosophy to develop new enterprises, where some of the profits would go towards research.
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The Great Treasure Hunt

The first enterprise occurred in the early to mid 1990’s when contacts in the Soviet Union suggested the use of their deep ocean capabilities to search for treasures. Their advantage was extremely low cost for the most advanced of ocean technology. I prepared a white paper entitled, “The Great Treasure Hunt,” inspired by Robert Ballard’s success with the Titanic.

The concept made eminent sense. I even went to Seville, Spain to search for documents hinting about most likely targets of opportunity. Well, actually, 1992 happened to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus discovering America, and a world Expo was held in this city. I love going to expos, although I should underscore that the trip was paid for by European interests of things blue. I might mention that the week I spent there was a period when, it is said, half the sherry wine is drunk in Spain. This festival is the alcoholic equivalent of a Mardi Gras Sherry is like normal wine, except it is fortified with brandy, and is thus from 15% to 22% ethanol. There is something special about a hangover associated with this type of liquid. Wine generally has an alcohol content around 13% and beer is in the range of 5%.

The treasure hunt never went anywhere, possibly because I learned from a close colleague that a typical drinking session on a Russian ship was vodka and what must be lard, something very close to Crisco, a Proctor and Gamble product consisting of pure animal fat. However, these same marine capabilities still remain for anyone wishing to pursue this type of escapade.
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Tomorrow I report on colored pearl culture.
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Tropical Storm Fay appears to have stalled just off the coast of Central Florida, and is expected to turn west or northwest, and should weaken if it takes a terrestrial path back through Florida and on to Mississippi. However, there is a small chance that Fay could end up back in the Gulf of Mexico and intensify. In any case, movement will be slow, so flooding and tornadoes will continue to be serious hazards.
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Hurricane Nuri moved through the northern part of the Philippines and should strengthen from 100 MPH to 120 MPH and squeeze between Hong Kong and Taiwan to landfall in China.
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Crude oil edged upwards to $116.50/barrel, while the DJI increased 69 to 11,417.
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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

THE BLUE REVOLUTION AND THE IRON LUNG SYNDROME

The Story of the Blue Revolution continues from Chapter 4 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth.

The other edge of the environmental sword is global climate warming. Can the Blue Revolution remediate both hurricanes and the Greenhouse Effect at the same time?

In 1993 I was the lead author of a paper published in the Journal of Marine Biotechnology (referenced in the mentioned book) suggesting this prospect. While this outcome is especially questioned by scientists, it certainly seemed to me that as we absorbed all the upwelled carbon dioxide through marine biomass plantations, we should be able to add a combination of minerals, including iron and nitrogen compounds, to also take up this gas from the atmosphere, as shown in the Martin experiment. Mind you, environmentalists detest this form of water pollution. But the Audubon Society is against windmills (at least they were so in my active days), so society needs to take a stand for the good of the community.

This leads me to the Iron Lung Syndrome, something I’ve been contending with all my life. The whole point of this matter is that we should not just react to the symptom, but, instead, solve or cure the underlying problem. Philip Drinker and Louis Shaw of the Harvard Medical School invented the iron lung in 1928 to treat victims of poliomyelitis. Engineers then built bigger, better and more expensive iron lungs over time. Yes, lives were being saved, but the simple solution was to cure polio. Thus, in 1952, along came Jonas Salk, who developed a vaccine to prevent this ailment. The oral version came about in 1958, thanks to Albert Sabin. Anyway, polio was cured, the problem was solved and the iron lung has largely become obsolete.

But society keeps adhering to the iron lung syndrome. Hurricanes are a good example. Huge amounts of money are being spent on strengthening homes, levees, harbors, whatever, in anticipation of the next big one. We are again reacting to the symptom and not curing the problem. We are building more expensive equivalents of the iron lung when our focus should be to cure the problem, the hurricane itself.

Take sea level rise as yet another example. Conferences, time, money and confusion have accumulated to discuss how to counteract this symptom of global climate warming. Walls around cities are being considered and whole populations are scheduled to be moved, especially in places like Bangladesh or atolls in the Pacific. Again, why build that more elaborate iron lungs when you can find a vaccine for the problem, which is to remediate climate warming.

The beauty of the Blue Revolution is that there is a distinct possibility that, while producing sustainable next generation marine products, providing exciting new habitats and bedeviling the United Nations with ten thousand countries, hurricanes can be prevented and, maybe, sea level rise can be obviated by controlling global climate warming. Why has this simple solution become the crawl better called the Blue Evolution? Well, the price of oil and re-interest in any renewable energy option are again providing hope.
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Tropical Storm Fay eased into southwest Florida at 65 MPH and is slowly sliding northwest, dropping a lot of rain. Accumulations exceeding a foot are expected. Tornados are a huge danger. The current programs predict Fay entering the Atlantic off north Florida, then, after some strengthening, re-entering land through Georgia. The path is curiously sinusoidal. Typhoon Nuri is hitting the very northern part of the Philippines at 100 MPH, could strengthen to 120 MPH, and either head southernly towards Hong Kong, straight on into China, or northernly to Taiwan.
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The price of crude oil dropped below $112/barrel, then skipped up towards $115/barrel at this writing. The DJI dropped 130.
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Monday, August 18, 2008

CAN THE BLUE REVOLUTION PREVENT THE FORMATION OF HURRICANES?

The following is excerpted from Chapter 4 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth.
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First of all, I should mention that hurricanes/typhoons are actually desired in certain localities, and may well be necessary in the natural ecology of life. These storms do generate upwelling of nutrient-rich water to spark blooms of phytoplankton to start the cycle leading to more seafood. Typhoon Kai-Tak is known to have changed water surface temperatures by 9 °C (16 °F) as it was churning over the South China Sea and increased ocean chlorophyll 300-fold four days after passage. Thus while civilizations are inconvenienced, marine life can be enhanced.
I gave a Blue Revolution talk in Taipei a few years ago. One concerned individual from the audience stated that most of the freshwater needed for Taiwan comes from rainfall brought by typhoons. If I were to prevent the formation of these storms, their island economy would be jeopardized. My response was to adjust the climate system so that winds would be below a Category 1 typhoon, reducing damage, while still bringing water. I might have been flippant with this rejoinder, but, as I think about it, while we will someday prevent hurricanes, we should also be able to allow for milder conditions to bring rainfall to land.

But, global warming is heating the ocean, and any kind of common sense will tell you that more frequent and larger hurricanes will be produced. In 1970 a cyclone (also known as hurricane or typhoon, depending on which part of which ocean) slammed into the Bay of Bengal and killed up to half a million and at least 300,000 people in Bangladesh. Then there is Katrina in 2005, responsible for 1500 deaths and causing up to a trillion dollars of damage and reconstruction, hopefully so that the next time the city will be able to withstand a Category 5 (higher than 155 MPH or 67 meters/second or 241 kilometers per hour) storm. Don't hold your breath for government to make New Orleans completely safe.
Kerry Emanuel reported in Nature in 2005 that hurricanes, indeed, had grown more intense over the past 30 years because of global warming. Peter Webster, et al, followed in Science that Category 4 (131 to 155 MPH) and 5 hurricanes worldwide had nearly doubled over the past 35 years. All this, with an ocean surface temperature increase of only 0.3 °C (0.5 °F) to 0.6° (1 °F). Interestingly enough, the Webster study showed that there were fewer hurricanes in this period. A possible explanation is that major storms kick-up the ocean, bringing the colder deep fluids to the surface. Yet, since 1995, North Atlantic hurricanes are becoming more numerous and longer-lasting.

There remains, though, a reluctance to necessarily blame Man for this change, and skeptics abound, including Patrick Michael, who argues that sea temperatures have no effect on hurricanes when wind speeds of 116 MPH (50 meters/second) are attained. I would offer Katrina as an obvious exception. Philip Klotzbach of Colorado State University writes that the data used by Emanuel and Webster prior to the mid-80s were patchy. The science of future hurricanes is again mentioned in the next chapter on global warming.

Anticipating worst case scenarios, on May 24, 1993, Stanley Dunn, who was at that time chairman of the Ocean Engineering Department at Florida Atlantic University, and I co-chaired an exploratory discussion at the Department of Commerce in D.C. on the potential of forming a team to prepare a feasibility plan for the design, construction and operation of a fleet of OTEC-powered plant ships as a major defense conversion or National Institute of Science and Technology Advanced Technology Program initiative to retard the formation of hurricanes. There also were representatives from industry and government. The group was ambitious. We drew up a plan for 500 floating plant ships over the next 20 years to manufacture marine products, of course, but also to prevent the formation of hurricanes. In 1992 hurricanes had caused more than $20 billion of damage in the U.S. We surmised that global warming would only mean stronger hurricanes. As these storms do not form when the surface temperature is below 26.8 °C (80 °F), what are the prospects of placing these revenue generating platforms at susceptible sites to eliminate these environmental monsters?

A writing team was assigned to seek $875,000 in Phase One to:

o Identify realistic mechanisms for hurricane prevention.
o Develop preliminary computer models to optimize at-sea experiments.
o Form the industrial team capable of building and operating up to 500 floating platforms
over the next two decades to accomplish this task.
o Recommend a financing mechanism to implement the program.

Upon completion, Phase Two, to cost $8 million over a two year period, would:

o Develop an engineering design of the plant ship.
o Produce an implementation plan.
o Gain the involvement of user and insurance industries.

Phase Three would be devoted to selecting up to three grazing systems for fabrication at a 50 MW scale, estimated to cost in those days $250 million each, but should be self-supporting through the production of seafood, biofuels, etc. Phase Four would extend over a decade to deploy 500 250 MW plant ships. Here I went again with another billion dollar scheme. I never learn.

In retrospect, half of these systems would have been in place by 2005. Could Hurricane Katrina have been diffused? As the expectation is that Katrina will eventually cost something on the order of $500 billion and perhaps double that to protect New Orleans, the expenses for these plant ships, which, again, would all be revenue-generating and Greenhouse Effect remediative, would have been in the ball park of those coming expenses. Needless to say, Phase One was not funded.

But there are budding heroes out there. A particularly dedicated savior is Richard LaRosa. He has a web site (http://sealevelcontrol.com), and is devoting his retirement years to, first, slowing sea level rise, and now, preventing the formation of hurricanes. His theory regarding the latter is that artificial upwelling can be utilized through ocean thermal energy conversion to cool surface waters where hurricanes are generated or pass to suppress these storms. The problem is that he is only focusing on the science and engineering fundamentals to build a strong case for his concept. First, his mobile hurricane terminator (my naming) will be built only for this task alone. No co-products. Second, he has no idea who will fund it, nor how much anything will cost. We have been communicating for a year or so, and my advice to him includes:

o Completing those calculations as soon as possible and begin focusing on the reality of
politics and funding support.
o As I don’t think he will secure funding only to suppress hurricanes, find a way to generate
some revenues while awaiting hurricanes.
o However, as Katrina could well cost a trillion dollars, if he can build a movable system to
stop hurricanes for $10 billion, he might find some takers soon after a Category 5 storm
decimates another metropolitan area. Remember, Katrina was only a 3, and veered
East before hitting New Orleans.
o Find a younger person as dedicated as he is to be a close colleague, for Dr. LaRosa, I think,
is old (anyone older than me is old, although we’ve never met).
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Oil dropped below $113/barrel, but ended up at $113.15/barrel. This the lowest petroleum has been for three and a half months, nearly a 25% decrease from $147/barrel. The Dow Jones Industrials dropped 200 to 11,460.
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Tropical Storm Fay, probably to barely attain hurricane status when the center crosses the southwest coast of Florida on Tuesday, is slow moving, meaning that floods could pose a serious problem. Fay is likely to eventually go north through Florida and either head towards Atlanta or enter the Atlantic. No potential hurricanes are currently near Hawaii, as Iselle is now a remnant. Typhoon Nuri is at 75 MPH and should skirt the Northern Phillipines and pass south of Taiwan.
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Saturday, August 16, 2008

ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS OF THE BLUE REVOLUTIONS (Part 9)

The Blue Revolution continues from Chapter 4 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth.
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The problem with energy and resource development is that most forms damage the environment in some way. We know about fossil fuels and global climate warming. Nuclear power brings storage problems and terrorism nightmares. I’ve had my fill of problems with geothermal energy and surfers once complained about wave power devices taking up their favorite spot. Hydroelectric power is pretty much coming to a standstill, first, because most of the usable sites have been exploited, but also because blocking rivers is bad and creating artificial lakes means taking up land space. Even solar energy means you need to manufacture silicon wafers and wind machines, and of the latter, the Audubon Society complained at a hearing that these turbines would kill birds. Hawaiian Electric Company proposed a modest wind farm at their Kahe site in Honolulu and the community responded no because they felt they were being used again (the solid waste disposal location is nearby) and wind farms are ugly, anyway. I remember as a staff member in the Senate reading complaints from Hawaii about biomass (sugar) factories and field burning spewing out particulates. You almost can’t do anything these days without irritating someone. A simple solution is to be as considerate as you can, but find a way to prevail anyway.

However, OTEC and the Blue Revolution might actually offer environmental enhancement. I do worry about Greenpeace, and the delay they can cause if they are convinced this technology is evil, but part of the effort will be devoted to resurrecting threatened species and augmenting depleted stocks. I’ve heard from environmentalists who worry about affecting the thermohaline circulation, cloudying up of the ocean with algae and dangerous red tides. I remain convinced, though, that the overall affect on Planet Earth and society will be very positive. Can global warming be remediated by treating the deep ocean water to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere? Maybe. Certainly, the production of marine biomass to be converted into a biofuel will reduce consumption of fossil fuels. Will a large number of grazing plantships someday plying the waters where hurricanes form reduce the severity, and, perhaps, eliminate, the formation of hurricanes? Tomorrow, some history and future of this potential.
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Tropical Storm Fay will soon go right through Cuba and head for the western coastline of Florida. There is a chance Fay will become a hurricane, a lot depending on how long she can avoid land and remain in warm waters. Tropical Depression Iselle continues to head for Hawaii, but is weakening, and should not pose a threat. Tropical Storm Vongfong at 45 MPH is located 200 miles south southwest of Tokyo, but should also begin to dissipate.
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Friday, August 15, 2008

THE BLUE REVOLUTION IN HAWAII (Part 8)

The story of the Blue Revolution continues from Chapter 4 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth.
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The notion of a blue revolution can be traced back to John Craven and his floating city concept. For the 1976 bicentennial, John had Kiyonori Kikutake, that same architect of Aquapolis fame, design a floating city, a mile wide water lilyish looking structure expected to cost $200 million. We know now how difficult it is to find that kind of money, so Craven located $80,000 and convinced 130 volunteers to build a scale model weighing all of 150 tons. But, oops, she sank, and still sits, rusting, in Kaneohe Bay. Disaster? Yes. Embarrassing? Yes. But, at least he did something. Ask me what I ever built in the ocean.

John Pina Craven has a PhD in Mechanics and Hydraulics, plus a law degree. At a very young age he found himself chief scientist of the U.S. Navy’s Special Projects Office, which, among its duties, ran the Polaris (nuclear arming of submarines) Program, as detailed in his book on The Silent War. He serves as a hero in Blind Man’s Bluff, a book by Sherry Sontag, Christopher Drew and Annette Lawrence Drew. Governor John Burns recruited John to Hawaii in the early seventies as dean of marine programs. One problem was that he had no real faculty, nor much space to operate. A second was that those with marine authority automatically looked upon his presence as a threat. However, he did found the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii and served as head of the Law of the Seas Institute. John now is chief scientist for the Common Heritage Corporation, is involved with cold water agriculture and freshwater from the sea, plus he golfs with me on occasion. I was there when he scored under 100 for the very first time. That was in the 1990s. I even arranged for a ceremony with plaque honoring this achievement. It is possible that he attained double digits only that one time in his life, but he keeps telling me that his game is improving.

At least 25 major ocean conferences, workshops and significant gatherings have occurred in Hawaii beginning in the eighties and into this new millennium. Yes, people like to visit Hawaii, but if there is to be international cooperation to do anything monumental in the open ocean, you might as well be headquartered in the middle of the Pacific. Much of this was reported in the section on the History of the Blue Revolution, so let us skip to December of 1998 when Hawaii hosted the International Ocean Alliance Summit. Through an appropriation of $50,000 from the Hawaii State Legislature, 100 delegates from throughout the world met to craft a plan to build a floating platform powered by OTEC. I had already decided to soon retire, so I prevailed on Stephen Masutani, an individual a decade earlier who I hired to work for PICHTR on OTEC, and now a researcher with HNEI, to lead the future of the Blue Revolution by chairing the gathering.

Roughly one-third of the participants, in fact, were students and teachers from the public schools. Early on in my directorship I went out of my way to involve the Hawaii Department of Education, many times securing legislative funding, to have students and teachers interact on an equal basis with the conferees. The future of this, and other, sustainable technologies, depends on the next generation, and it is never too early to begin the training process. No one expressed any negativity towards having all those students around, and I think this is an important part of the process, but, to be honest, I wonder how much so, as in another major international ocean gathering, an elaborate process was established to select a student and teacher from every high school, so about a hundred joined the thousand conferees. Before the first session of the conference I convened these school representatives and noted that, in the morning paper, Hawaii pupils were rated dead last in the nation in standardized tests. I challenged them to show the world that they were better than that, and, sometime in the future, especially if they entered the marine field, to send me a note bringing me up to date on what they were doing. It has been fifteen years and no one has responded.

This sort of reminds me of a convocation speech I gave to about 150 engineering graduates several years ago on making a difference. I gave them three faculty names, people who could help them with ideas and contacts, and asked them to let me know later in life how they made a difference. First, not one student talked to any of the professors, plus, again, no reply. I must wonder if I have any inspirational skills at all, but, then, this all reminds me of my experience in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) from Book 2: there seems to be no sign of intelligent life out there.

But back to the 1998 conference, recommended was the development of a multi-use floating base, a retrofitted oil platform that would have as its center a commercial, oil-based power plant with a minimum size of 150 MW. Associated would be an international research component to allow for a small OTEC plant to provide upwelled fluids for next generation fisheries and marine biomass R&D, hydrogen and biofuels production, tourism opportunities and defense and environmental research. The capital cost would be a quarter billion dollars, “only” half the cost of the ocean platform of 1992 mentioned above. Well, first, the local utility, behind the scenes, complained that this was not on their planning timetable, then, potential funders got scared away by the large investment sum with minimal profit potential. Maybe most importantly, a local architect, Dennis Toyomura, the sparkplug who got the legislated funds for the University of Hawaii, passed away. People do make a difference, and I would bet that Dennis would have been able to bulldog a floating platform by now.

In 1998 Stephen Masutani and I wrote an article, published in the Journal of the Marine Technology Society, on the details of the previous paragraph. Yes, about all we do is write papers. About a year later, in the November 1999 Sea Technology issue, there was an editorial entitled, “The Blue Revolution…Again.” Editor David Graham reported that in 1992 Senator Inouye hinted of an exciting future where war riches could be leveraged for civilian applications in an American Blue Revolution. However, the Peace Dividend never materialized, as the Gulf War occurred and the military-industrial complex kept making and selling instruments of war. However, the Clinton Administration had just published Turning to the Sea: America’s Ocean Future, that mirrored the Blue Revolution. Graham went further to say that Japan had Mega-Float, awaiting the first landing of an airplane in the Year 2000, and, thus, the revolution had already started there. Well, he was wrong.

In reality, very little developed, as $100 million projects just scare off potential financial supporters. Faced with this wall of reality, I selected one element of the Blue Revolution, Next Generation Fisheries, and gambled that this wedge could catalyze the full program, as all fisheries were in some jeopardy and fish prices were climbing in a time when nutritional trends indicated a shift from red meat to seafood.

A university is not the ideal place to develop a major international effort, for there is no way that the academic budget process could justify spending millions on an economic development need. Universities are of course, part of the team, as extolled by administrators and the governor, but mostly by educating students and, now and then, producing a faculty member who had some research success transferable to the marketplace. At one time patents were discouraged in academia, but over the past decade or so, there has been virtually a 180 degree (meaning bad to good) shift in attitude. That is one plus, but the reality is that universities are impotent on comprehensive international partnerships with an annual expenditure of $5 million or more focused on a societal need. This is why the Pacific International Center for High Technology was created.

It so turned out that the concept had appealed to the PICHTR administration some years prior, for in April of 1997, an informal meeting was called to discuss interest in this concept during the “Open Ocean Aquaculture” conference held on Maui. In August of 1997, PICHTR then convened a workshop of key researchers, mostly from Hawaii and Japan in a planning meeting on “Next Generation Fisheries,” spearheaded by James Szyper of the University of Hawaii at Hilo. The group envisioned a coordinated international, multidisciplinary task force enhancing biological productivity through artificial upwelling of nutrient-rich subsurface seawater into the photic zone to produce seafood, energy and other products by the integrated management of a grazing, floating platform powered by OTEC. To gauge international interest, in December of 1998, we then hosted “The International Ocean Alliance Floating Platform Summit,” funded by the Hawaii State Legislature, as reported earlier.

In August of 1999, the chairman of the PICHTR board, Fujio Matsuda, served as primary author of a pioneering paper on “The Ultimate Ocean Ranch,” published in Sea Technology, which I also co-authored with James Szyper and Joseph Vadus of NSF/NOAA. Later that year the team, adding Toshitsugu Sakou of Tokai University and Masayuki Mac Takahashi of Tokyo University, presented a report to the United States – Japan Natural Resources Marine Facilities Panel entitled, “U.S.-Japan Advances in the Development of Open-Ocean Ranching.” A couple of years later Mac Takahashi of our group published a paper called, “Ocean Fertilization Using Deep Ocean Water,” and wrote a book on the subject.

A potentially significant gathering I chaired occurred in October 7, 2004, when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo, was the setting for a PICHTR hosted Next Generation Fisheries Summit, also attended by Norway. One of the invaluable organizers for this meeting was Mitsuro Donowaki, who in the 80’s had served as the Japanese Counsel General in Honolulu, later on became Japan’s ambassador to Nigeria and Mexico, and who now serves on the PICHTR Board. His Gaimusho (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) colleague, Koichiro Matsuura in the 2000’s became director-general of UNESCO, the host for my Blue Revolution talk in Paris.

There was universal agreement that the three countries should work together and a follow-up meeting was planned for Norway. Stephen Masutani of the U.S., Lars Golmen of Norway and Kazuyuki Ouchi of Japan were tasked to write a paper on this session and present a report to an upcoming ocean conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Golmen and Masutani then in November of 2005 co-chaired NGF Summit #2 in Bergen. Chile was added to the partnership. The conferees agreed to The Bergen Declaration, in effect, pledging to work together on NGF and agreeing to next meet in Hawaii in 2008.

Finally, in June of 2006, signs of life from other quarters suddenly appeared at the Hawaii Aquaculture Conference. First, Michael Rubino, NOAA’s Manager of Aquaculture Program, as the kick-off speaker, waxed euphorically on the benefits of marine aquaculture. He, furthermore, indicated that he was taking signals from the Secretary of the Department of Commerce (NOAA reports to Commerce), Carlos Gutierrez, who supported the expansion of activities in this area. This was the very first time that any combination of government officials spoke in public for next generation fisheries. The keynote speaker, John Forster of the State of Washington, and a long-time salmon company entrepreneur, then essentially reported on the Blue Revolution. This was my first encounter with him, and I was both flabbergasted and enthralled. Both Rubino and Forster agreed to interact closely with the PICHTR NGF group. The fact that Hawaii Senator Dan Inouye subsequently became chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which had authorization authority over the Department of Commerce, one would think, will become useful.

Finally, in 2007, three separate 100 MW OTEC projects were floated for Honolulu. The first group was Sea Solar Power International (SSPI), headed by Bob Nicholson and represented in Hawaii by Mel Chiogioji, a former USDOE official, who originally came from Hawaii, attained an admiral’s rank in the Navy Reserve and went on to form a successful consulting company. SSPI was originally founded by Hilbert Anderson, as earlier mentioned, and every decade or so, Bob returns with the promise of financial support. This time the Abell and Weinberg Foundations out of Baltimore were to provide funds, guaranteed by AON Risk Insurance Company, for the first 100 MW demonstration / commercial OTEC plant. The Weinberg Foundation, actually, was created by Harry Weinberg, a Hawaii businessman. Negotiations are supposedly being carried out with the Hawaiian Electric Company and Honolulu Board of Water Supply. On September 13, 2006, HECO had a full page ad in The Honolulu Advertiser entitled, “Working together, let’s capture the ocean’s power in our energy mix.” I have hopes that Bob will make it this time.

The leading OTEC office since the early days of research out of the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research (PICHTR) has morphed into Luis Vega, one of their engineers. Dr. Vega was one of my very first hires when I first co-founded PICHTR in the early 1980’s. His 100 MW facility, on a floating platform stationed about 6 miles offshore, would also provide at least 32 million gallon / day of desalinated water. The installed cost would be $790 million using state-of-the-art components. I should have warned him about projects with a price tag of nearly a billion dollars. The annual cost for operations and maintenance was estimated at $16 million. For a 15 year loan at 8% annual interest and 3% average annual inflation, electricity could be produced for 0.14 $/kWh. He would then seek a power purchase agreement from the utility of 0.17 $/kWh. At $2 per thousand gallons sale price of the potable water, the annual revenue would be at least $23 million. This revenue is equivalent to a reduction of 0.03 $/kWh in the cost of electricity production, providing an overall effective cost of 0.11/kWh. The average price of electricity in Hawaii is approaching $0.20/kWh (up to $0.30/kWh in 2008), so maybe the time has come. Luis has been in communication with Drs. C.B. Panchal of Argonne National Laboratory and D. Bharathan of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to utilize their compact brazed aluminum heat exchanger. All he needs is funding.

Joining the fray was Lockheed Martin, which in 1979, under the leadership of James Wenzel, built and tested Mini-OTEC, the very first OTEC power plant to produce net-positive electricity. The Lockheed team, now commanded by Ted Johnson out of D.C., has also proposed a 100 MW system. The significance of their entry is that a major aerospace firm has designs to become a player in the development of this technology. It is easy to predict that the future of OTEC will depend on Lockheed Martin.

Thus, while nothing much has happened regarding the total Blue Revolution, elements of the concept are beginning to gain lives of their own. It is now only a matter of time when these parts agglomerate into a system, for the cost-effectiveness of each can be enhanced by association with the whole.
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The price of crude oil edged down to $113.77/barrel, and the DJI went up 44 to 11,660.
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Just...now...Tropical Storm Fay at 45 MPH formed off the coast of the Dominican Republic. There will be 4-8 inches of rainfall associated with this cyclone, and it is expected to skirt Cuba and move north towards Florida. There is a 30% chance Fay could become a hurricane. We can ignore Kika and Hernan, but Tropical Storm Iselle at 40 MPH seems to have stalled. In time, this cyclone will had towards Hawaii, but should weaken in a few days.
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