Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Planktos to Defy World Maritime Body? And Where is the Weatherbird II?

From the National Post:

Plan to Alter Ocean Chemistry Hits Rough Seas

...The firm launched its two-year "Voyage of Recovery" program in March, mustering its supplies and launching a public relations campaign in Washington, D.C., to promote its "green message of hope."

But in May, the EPA warned the firm it may need a permit under the U.S. Ocean Dumping Act if it uses its U.S.-registered vessel, the Weatherbird II.

Planktos CEO Russ George says U.S. regulations should apply only when a firm dumps levels of a substance that are one per cent or more above the level considered toxic.

His firm's plan would fall "roughly a billion times below regulatory limit," he said.

If the EPA stands in his way, he says he will use a flag-of-convenience ship.

"There are 42,000 large vessels on the ocean in world today. We have shipping agents in Central America working for us lining up vessels that might be able to assist."

...In particular, the U.S. cites the possibility that the project would lead to toxic algae blooms, and that the decomposing plankton masses would release other greenhouse gases or choke off the oxygen supply in the deep ocean.

Nonsense, says Mr. George.

"The world has spent the last 20 years and more than $100-million" developing the science behind the plan, he says.

"These questions have all been addressed," he says, blaming the EPA's reservations on "fearmongering" by environmental groups, such as the Ottawa-based ETC Group, which discovered the U.S. government document this week.

He adds that the plan would not only draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, but by restoring dwindling plankton levels, it would help reverse the ongoing acidification of the ocean - a climate-change-related process that is killing the planet's coral reefs.

That claim is disputed by Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology, who says that the absorption of increasing amounts of carbon dioxide is the main cause of ocean acidification in the first place.