Total Pageviews

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I was asked by David Karl, the organizer of the Enhanced Ocean Upwelling workshop being held on the Manoa Campus, to provide an end of the day presentation on anything visionary and entertaining.  If you've ever been to one of these all day intensive sessions that begins at 8:30AM, continues through lunch, and extends until 5PM, immediately followed by a wine/beer reception, you might be able to appreciate the difficulty of that assignment.  Well, as I indicated in my blog yesterday, I was actually surprised that, walking to the podium, just about every participant was still present and no one was visibly sleeping (actually, a colleague of mine sitting close to me who I shall not name was dozing off now and then).

I mostly talked about my personal history with OTEC and explained why the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research prevailed with open cycle OTEC development.  However, I ended with a little vision, the foundational project of Blue Revolution Hawaii (BRH):  the Pacific International Ocean Station (PIOS):
The above concept was drawn by a former staff/student at the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute twenty years ago.  Sorry, but I forgot her name.  (It seems, though, that some of you won't be able to view the rendering because of the digital form, or whatever.)   If you can see it, note the torus (or donut) shape, with two portals for entry/exit, as the inside of the platform would remain relatively calm.  This would be my suggestion to the BRH Board as a design to consider for PIOS.

As the International Space Station (ISS), which could well be abandoned soon, supposedly cost $150 billion, but did nothing much for commerce, I suggested that for a mere 10% of this sum, we could build in the Hawaiian EEZ the Pacific International Ocean Station to provide a sustainable marine pathway for humanity.  Maybe we might even be able to show the way for only 1% the cost of ISS.  Surely, out there somewhere must be that mythical billionaire just waiting for this opportunity.  I indicated there was no hope that our Federal government or corporate American would take on this monumental mission, although in time they hopefully will become partners.  After all, the whole point is to also help companies make profits.

Two important factors brought up at the workshop (you can read the details in my blog of yesterday) make the above all the more sensible, and, maybe even necessary:

  1.  Peak Phosphorus is approaching.  To quote:

In 2007, at the current rate of consumption, the supply of phosphorus was estimated to run out in 345 years. However, some scientists now believe that a "Peak phosphorus" will occur in 30 years and that "At current rates, reserves will be depleted in the next 50 to 100 years."

Amazingly enough, deep ocean water could well provide the answer.

Yes, the above graph is almost impossible to read, but take it from me:  there is a much higher concentration of phosphorus at 1000 meters (1 km, the depth at which the cold water for OTEC will be taken) than at the surface of the ocean.  In any case, it is probable that conventional terrestrial farming will, thus, in time decline because of phosphorus depletion.  Something like PIOS, in addition to energy, could well provide the solution to the future of food.
  2.  OTEC has the potential to provide up to 25 terawatts of power.  The world currently is using around 15 TW.  I've more and more come to the conclusion that intermittent power from our winds and sun will not be sufficient to maintain our current lifestyles as oil supply becomes a problem, global warming eliminates coal and other fossil fuels from consideration and nuclear fission never recovers from Fukushima.  Terrestrial biomass is also not an answer, and now even less promising, if this phosphorus crisis is real.  Long ago I thought fusion was the answer, and in the 1970's I spent some time at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory to work on this option.  My thought was, if our Sun provides energy from fusion, well, here must be the ultimate answer.  Turns out, unless Chuck/Hal Helsley and Bob Burke can work out a miracle, commercial fusion looks to be far into our future.  Thus, OTEC and PIOS could well be the optimal solutions to the sustainable needs of Humanity.  THIS IS WORTH REPEATING:  OTEC COULD BE THE ONLY SUSTAINABLE OPTION IN THIS CENTURY TO PROVIDE ENERGY AND RESOURCES FOR THE WORLD AND PIOS CAN BE THE CATALYST TO MAKE ALL THIS HAPPEN!

I am appending this statement because several comments came via e-mail suggesting that the answer was not to meet the needs of our growing population, but to somehow find a way to decrease it.  The world is now up to 7 billion and I agree that we have reached a stage of limited resources, and the best solution is to find a way to lower demand through fewer people, lower lifestyles and conservation.  I myself predicted a population check in one of my HuffPo's:  The World Population in the 2050 Could Well Be 7 Million. I got the feeling, though, that these responders were thinking about something drastically lower.  But is there a way to accomplish this "need" without cruel anguish or gross immorality?

The Dow Jones Industrials shot up 490 to 12,044 (plus 4%), while the European market also jumped around 4% and those in the Orient dropped a bit.  Gold rose $28/toz to $1748, while the WTI crude settled at $100/barrel and the Brent Spot at $111/barrel. 

I might add that billionaire Leon Cooperman today sent a scathing letter to President Obama.  This was the standard Republican rant, but I nevertheless sort of liked (not all nine, but most of) his 9 point presidential plan for the economy he announced in August:

No. 1 on his list: Get all troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. He then would give every returning soldier a free four-year education at a college or trade school of his or her choice.
No. 2: He would use some of the savings from leaving those two wars to create a Works Progress Administration, similar to the one established by Roosevelt during the Great Depression, to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. 

No. 3: Cooperman also wants to unleash the domestic energy industry to develop supplies and reserves, with the goal of ending dependency on foreign oil.
No. 4: In his fourth point, he asserts that government spending should be limited to a growth rate of at least 1 percent below the level of nominal GDP growth.
No. 5: Freeze entitlements and raise the Social Security retirement age to 70. However, he would exclude those who work at hard-labor jobs such as coal mining.
No. 6: Cooperman would also levy a 10 percent surtax for three years on individuals earning more than $500,000 per year.
No. 7: He would then institute a 5 percent value-added tax similar to the European model to rein in the underground economy and help reduce the deficit.
No. 8: Tackle health care in a serious way. He offers no specific recommendations, though.
No. 9: Last, he would ban or curtail high-frequency trading and limit the trading of credit default swaps to those that own the underlying bonds. “The high-frequency traders are turning the best capital market in the world into a casino and scaring the public,” he told his clients. “This is not in the public interest.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


David Karl, founder of the Center for Microbial Oceanography (C-MORE, co-sponsor), with Dean (of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology) Brian Taylor and Ginger Armbrust (on the board of the EarthFree Institute--co-sponsor), welcomed the conferees to the science, technology, engineering and modeling of  Enhanced Ocean Upwelling gathering today at the East-West Center.

According to Professor Karl, the ocean is warming, becoming more acidic and losing biodiversity.  Our climate is changing and largely getting worse.   Of course, most of us, especially if you're not a Republican, know all this, but the larger question is, what can we do about it?

For example, are you aware that there is no current conceptual understanding of the sea?  Only recently did the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) include the ocean as relevant to global climate change.  Ocean upwelling = marine life = 50% of primary production = the pulse of Planet Earth.  With upwelling, large phytoplankton, or diatoms, increase in concentration, which are consumed by copepods, then fish.  Can this life cycle be engineered to reverse global warming?
Or, phosphates are absolutely required for agriculture, and we are reaching Peak Phosphorus again (first time occurred in the 1800's).  Our deep ocean waters might be a future source, but more importantly, upwelling can provide the nutrients (including phosphates) for next generation ocean farms to produce food, biofuels and green chemicals, a more sensible proposition.

Luis Vega, director of the Hawaii National Marine Renewable Energy Center, provided some history, engineering, regulatory and economic aspects of ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC).  He has been working in this field for more than a quarter century.  One of the remarkable facets of this topic is the number of individuals I know continuing to have faith in this sustainable pathway, even though OTEC currently generates zero MW of electricity.

Frederic Berg of Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning summarized their commercial project.  Average temperature of ocean water is 39 F, while their inlet temperature at 1,741 feet is 44 F.  For Honolulu, saves 77 million kWh/year (178,000 barrels/year) and reduces carbon dioxide emissions the equivalent of 15,000 cars.  The cost will be in the range of $250 million.

Lissa Morgenthaler-Jones, CEO of Live Fuels, and also on the Board of the EarthFree Institute, shared the truth about algae, biofuels and the future of food, particularly about the dirty dozen of algae growth problems.  Just the pumping of water at a land-based algae facility costs the equivalent of $50/bbl of petroleum.  There were eleven more.

In comparison with terrestrial biomass, a billion tons grown on land to replace a third of the petroleum we use would mean a 5.5 times higher use of fertilizer.  She thus also talked about Peak Phosphorus and the potential provided by the ocean.  Unfortunately, though, in this transition, 99% of algae companies could well fail.  No question that higher value co-products will drive the field at this early phase.

There were nine other speakers in shorter afternoon presentations dealing with the full range of science, technology and applications, including my day-ending talk on the Pacific International Ocean Station.  A few highlights:

While Gerard Nihous of the University of Hawaii was careful to underscore that this number did not have much credibility, it represents an attempt to venture on the maximum possible number of 100 MW OTEC powerplants capable of being supported by our oceans.  The answer?  The high end potential is half a million...which would mean up to 25 terawatts of power.  Our society today uses around 15 terawatts.  Thus, he doubled my hope by providing a complement to fusion, for I don't think intermittent wind and solar energies can adequately support our current society of 7 billion and more.

William Munslow of Lockheed Martin Corporation mentioned that the desired 100 MW OTEC system will need a pipe with a diameter of 10 meters (size of D.C. Metro tunnel), to give you an appreciation of scale.  But their current focused project will be a 5-10 MW pilot plant on a floating platform (left).  The U.S. Navy and LM have each contributed around $14 million to the effort so far, with some added funds from the U.S. Department of Energy.  Lockheed, of course, was the first to attain net positive energy with Mini-OTEC off the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority in 1979.

Charity Deluca of LiveFuels provided a short history of algae companies since 2006.  You can't afford to dry algae, so what about a bio-solution:  FISH.  One of their pathways is to grow algae, which is consumed by small fish, from which oil is extracted for fuel, but, for now, mostly higher value products.

I found it astonishing that towards the end of the day, all the participants were still here, and no one was sleeping.

The workshop continues on Wednesday.

The Dow Jones Industrials went up 33 to 11,556, with world markets also mostly up.  Gold increased $4/toz to $1713, while the WTI price of oil is just under $100/barrel and the Brent Spot at $111/barrel.


Monday, November 28, 2011


Can you believe it was nearly 14 years ago that the Kyoto Protocol for remediating global warming was adopted, with the USA leading the way?  Well, the U.S. Senate never ratified the "treaty," and there has been a subsequent series of failures along the way, especially the embarrassment in Copenhagen almost two years ago, where President Barack (you must click on this link to view the irony of this all) actually showed up and was dumb enough to give a speech.

Now, the same dedicated bunch, rest their souls, is meeting in Durban, South Africa, and, while they surely will have gotten smart enough to place a proper kind of spin on proceedings this time, take it from me, nothing important will happen.  The problem is that no one is dying from any sort of warming and only marginal entities are being impacted by sea level rise.

Mind you, while the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), rest their souls, keeps telling us this crisis is real and man-made, the disinformation specialists, very adequately funded by the fossil industry, are winning the media war.  That was six years ago.  Here, a more recent compilation.  And, if you need additional ammo, even more.

Look, I hate to sound gender-challenged or whatever, but the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change gathering in Durban is being led by Christiana Figueres and Maite Nikoana-Mashabane.  Anyone know them?  

Yes, Al Gore is nowhere in sight, and he personally showed that "important people" don't matter.  But do you have any confidence in this current gathering? 190 nations will meet for two weeks.  Let me show another photo from Durban. Tell me what is that symbolic protest?

DON'T LOOK!!  Okay, sea level rise.

Mind you, those developed countries that actually accepted the Protocol by 2009 dropped 6.4% below their 1990 level.  The bad news is that 6.5% came since the 2008 recession.  Aha...a clue.  A greater depression should monumentally reduce emissions.  Here is a nice tally:

CO2 emission levels, 1990-2009

These are the changes in CO2 emission levels between 1990 and 2009 for a selection of countries and regions:
  • World overall change: +38%
  • China +206%
  • Middle East +171%
  • Latin America +63%
  • Spain +38%
  • Canada +20%
  • U.S. +6.7%
  • Germany -21%
  • East Europe Kyoto participants -36%
  • Latvia -64%
(Source: International Energy Agency, CO2 emissions from fuel combustion report.)

The key figure is that the world increased by 38% during the period of the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of 2012.  

After Durban (above)?  No site has been selected, but Qatar or South Korea will be the likely host in 2012.  No matter, as countries take years to ratify anything, save for the USA, which has so many treaties, protocols and matters of life or death importance pending, that they rarely approve anything anyway.  Something tells me that President Obama will not venture forth to Durban this year. 

The Dow Jones Industrials jumped 291 to 11,523, recovering from the worst Thanksgiving week since 1932, with world markets also up.   Gold jumped $29/toz to $1711, while the WTI oil increased to $98/barrel and the Brent Spot to $109/barrel.


Sunday, November 27, 2011


Welcome Country #193:  Martinique.  I wonder how many more are left, as the United Nations has a total membership of 193.

Martinique is a French overseas department, like Reunion, and therefore uses the Euro.  It is one island, larger than Molokai, but smaller than Kauai, with a population of 400,000.  Christopher Columbus was the first European to chart then land on the island, but France claimed it in 1635.

Most of the people are descendants of African slaves, but there is an increasing Chinese community, like in Reunion.

The movie, To Have and Have Not with Humphrey Bogart and the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair with Pierce Brosnan were filmed here.  The island is mentioned in the Beach Boys' Kokomo.

I would not be surprised, as in Louisiana and Reunion, that creole food is prominent.  As a step one, you can stay at an EPCOT Center Disney Resort with a Martinique theme.  While violent crime is rare, watch out for pickpockets.  Welcome to Martinique.



I went to see two totally different movies today:  Descendants and My Week with Marilyn.  Click on each to read what those movies are all about.

Rotten Tomatoes reported that 85% of the audience liked Descendants, but I might have had the most to identify with the movie than anyone else seeing the film.  Having lived on Oahu and Kauai most of my life, every scene had meaning.  While the particulars are hardly similar, Clooney's (Academy Award nomination?) wife being removed from life support only reminded me of what I went through.  Finally, the background Hawaiian music is a CD I will need to purchase.  Maybe my favorite movie of the year.

The first time author of the book, Kaui Hart Johnston Hemmings, is a local girl who went to Punahou, Sarah Lawrence and was a Stegner fellow at Stanford.  Her stepfather is state Senator Fred Hemmings, Jr. and, in the movie, had a bit part as secretary to Matt King (Clooney).  Her mother, daughter (made $100) and husband also were extras.  By the way, the Outrigger Canoe Club scenes were shot next door at the Elks Club.

RT gave My Week with Marilyn, a re-creation of The Prince and the Showgirl movie set through the eyes of a rich go-fer, a score of 86%.  You got to wonder, though, if there was some exaggeration  of the real relationship between this likable twit (Eddie Redmayne) and Marilyn.  The cast was wonderful, and Kenneth Branagh actually looks like Sir Lawrence Olivier in 1957.  Michelle Williams had her Marilyn moments, but Scarlett Johansson would have given the role a closer reality.  She turned down the part.


Saturday, November 26, 2011


Welcome country #192:  Grenada.


«  Previous Country | Next Country  »   Back to Flag Counter Overview
Carib Indians inhabited Grenada when COLUMBUS discovered the island in 1498, but it remained uncolonized for more than a century. The French settled Grenada in the 17th century, established sugar estates, and imported large numbers of African slaves. Britain took the island in 1762 and vigorously expanded sugar production. In the 19th century, cacao eventually surpassed sugar as the main export crop; in the 20th century, nutmeg became the leading export. In 1967, Britain gave Grenada autonomy over its internal affairs. Full independence was attained in 1974 making Grenada one of the smallest independent countries in the Western Hemisphere. Grenada was seized by a Marxist military council on 19 October 1983. Six days later the island was invaded by US forces and those of six other Caribbean nations, which quickly captured the ringleaders and their hundreds of Cuban advisers. Free elections were reinstituted the following year and have continued since that time. Hurricane Ivan struck Grenada in September of 2004 causing severe damage.

Map data ©2011 MapLink, Tele Atlas - Terms of Use

By the way, this Grenada is not in Mississippi.  You must instead surely remember our invasion of Grenada, the country in the Caribbean, nearly three decades ago.  We sent 1200 American troops and enjoyed   a victory at last (after Vietnam, we needed something positive), killing 59 Cubans and 45 Grenadian soldiers.  Eventually, 7,000 Americans occupied the country.  The date of the attack, 25October1983, is now a national holiday and is called Thanksgiving.

Why did President Ronald Reagan authorize the attack?  Well, we had a few medical students studying there and he was worried about their safety.  Okay, there might have been other reasons, as democracy was restored, but we were condemned by the United Nations, Canada and the UK for a flagrant violation of international law.  In Grenada today, opinions remain mixed.

Hmm...the population was about 100,000 in 1983 and is only 104,000 today (although the above shows 90,739--which must be an underestimate).  There are 41 hotels.

The day was particularly successful on television, as LSU, Stanford and the University of Hawaii all won.  The football watching was especially enjoyable because of the presence of Dillon, Carl, Rhonda, Evan, Laverne and Curtis: