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Monday, August 1, 2011

OUR NEXT FRONTIER: THE OCEAN--My Personal Impressions

This is Part 4 of my series on "Our Next Frontier:  the Ocean."

I've had a variety of experiences with the ocean around me.  As a child I fished for sayori in Kewalo Basin, caught a giant Samoan Crab from the Ala Moana Boulevard bridge over the Ala Wai Canal (no, that's not me, but my crab was almost as big), and body surfed at Point Panic.  Only when I went away from Honolulu did I begin to realize that the ocean was the solution for the Hawaiian economy, and much later, that, too, for the World.

At the University of Hawaii I tried everything I could to stimulate interest in ocean development.  However, as essentially the campus ecologist in the 70's, someone who interacted with Tony Hodges and Sophie Ann Aoki of Life of the Land, and taught a course I created called "Technology and Society," which regularly drew 100 students each semester from across the campus, I always balanced concern for the environment in my endeavors.

Three years in the U.S. Senate beginning in 1979 working for Senator Spark Matsunaga further allowed me to focus on marine affairs, as I was the staff lead for the Hard Minerals Act (seabed minerals) and Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC).  I also helped Tom Gray (left, House staffer--who was less hirsute and 30 years younger then) get the Wind Energy Act through Congress.  Offshore windpower could be a particularly attractive future for Hawaii, as our best regimes are located between our islands, and these winds are not turbulent.  But, in addition to electricity, freshwater and hydrogen, it is the cornucopia of potential bioproducts from upwelled OTEC plantships that show especial promise.


Upon my return to the Manoa Campus, I mostly wore two hats, director of the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute and vice president of development for the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research.  The OTEC team I hired for PICHTR [Luis Vega (left), Steve Masutani (above), and Gerard Nihous (right)] succeeded in building a 103 kW (net) open cycle system at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority.  Andy Trenka led the team, but, sorry, Andy, I could not find a photo of you.  At the University of Hawaii, HNEI became the national lead for marine minerals technology (Department of Interior, led by Harry Olson, Mike Cruickshank and Charles Morgan), marine bioproducts engineering (National Science Foundation, Oskar Zaborsky, Charles Kinoshita, Michael Cooney and Jian Yu) and hydrogen (Department of Energy, Rick Rocheleau, et al).

The next step, then was to integrate these elements into a cohesive package, and that was the Blue Revolution.  There were two important political steps.  With the staff of Senator Dan Inouye, we built the foundation for funding, while State Senator Richard Matsuura and I in 1991 were the first to present a paper on the subject.  Senator Matsuura unfortunately passed on prematurely, and today gained a distinguished Western legislator award posthumously.  Who knows where the Blue Revolution would be today if he were still active, for he had worked for Norman Bourlag on the Green Revolution and had a PhD in ag technology.

To quote from the original Blue Revolution Hawaii blogsite:



To recap, then, in 1979, the legislation I helped draft on ocean thermal energy conversion convinced me that this was a very special technology. Not necessarily for electricity, as the small temperature differential between the surface and deep waters meant that the realistic efficiency could only be around 3%, one-tenth that of conventional power plants. However, between the 20 degree North and South Latitude bands around the equator is this enormous hot/cold water resource. The Sun heats the surface and the thermohaline circulation brings cold fluids from the Arctic and Antarctic. Just pull up this fluid from 1000 meter depths and you can pass it through what would amount to a perpetual motion machine, the effluent which can also provide free fertilizer to stimulate new growth. Marine biomass plantations and next generation fisheries should thrive. Green chemicals / materials and biofuels can be manufactured from the biomass and hydrogen can also be produced. The plant ships could well become industrial parks, then, floating cities. Perhaps you might also cool the surface to prevent the formation of hurricanes. Plus, who knows, if you can be clever about the chemical balance, possibly also suck up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to reduce climate warming. This is the BLUE REVOLUTION.

All the above, and much more, set the stage. Six other events were particularly significant. First, in 1988 ……

Second, the Berlin Wall…..

Third, the paper trail of the Blue Revolution originally began in April of 1991 with a presentation Hawaii State Senator Richard Matsuura and I made to the First International Workshop on Very Large Floating Structures……

Fourth, Phyliss Min, Mark Foreman and Margaret Cummisky, staff members of U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye…..

Fifth, and frivolously, two longtime-colleagues and co-authors of many things ocean, Joseph Vadus, Chief Ocean Technologist of NOAA, Takeo Kondo, now chairman of the Ocean Engineering and Architecture Department at Nihon University (Japan), and I were taken out to a fugu restaurant in Kita-Kyushu by an industrial representative….

More seriously, sixth, in 1992, I was the principal investigator for a study commissioned by the National Science Foundation and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), called “U.S. Ocean Resources 2000,” to serve as a blueprint for ocean commercialization. Paul Yuen and John Carey of NOAA were the co-chairmen. At a complementary gathering that year, Joseph Vadus and I linked a workshop to the Kailua-Kona Pacific Congress on Marine Science and Technology, where the participants projected that a 100,000 square foot ocean resource incubator platform could be built and operated in the year 2000 for $500 million. It was argued that in view of the $2.4 billion cost of each B-2 bomber, this was an opportunity that could not be wasted. However, regarding item 2 above, no peace dividend appeared after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the opportunity, indeed, passed by. It was then that I realized the Blue Revolution was not going to be spearheaded by the United States, for, first, we just did not have the will to take charge, and second, American ocean industry was transfixed on defense products. I thus undertook a personal mission to seek assistance from other countries.

That was two decades ago.  The above is, of course, from Chapter 4 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth.  An engineering journal article linking the above can be found in the Journal of Energy Engineering.

To be continued.

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The Dow Jones Industrials, down by 145 at one point, recovered to only lose 11 at 12,132.  You would have thought that "the deal" would cause skyrockets, but France and Germany dropped by more than 2%, while the Orient rose a bit.  Gold fell $7/toz to $1620 and so did oil, the NYMEX at $95/barrel and the Brent Spot at $117/barrel.

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In the east Pacific, Hurricane Eugene should drop back to being a tropical storm soon, but curiously enough, is projected to regain hurricane status in a couple of days, and who knows what, but all signs point to turning a bit more northwards and weakening from cooler waters.


However, Typhoon Muifa, now dropping to a Category 3 at 125 MPH, is expected to strengthen again to a 4, but weaken to a 3 when landfall is expected around Naha at 3PM on Thursday.  Projections show Muifa down to a Category 2 off Shanghai, when expected is a more northern pathway towards South Korea, probably sparing Zhoushan, too, and China.

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