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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.”

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