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Friday, June 1, 2012

THE SEASTEADING CONFERENCE: Day One

The Seasteading Conference at the Le Meridien in San Francisco began with a free continental breakfast, where I joined Myron Nordquist (left), a collegue from my Senate days, someone I hadn't seen for decades.  The first talk came from James O'Neill of the Theil Foundation. He articulated on the promise and challenges.

Patri Friedman, co-founder of the Seasteading Institute, gave us a vision for the Big Picture. He said, Let a Thousand Hong Kongs Bloom, similar to my 10,000 ocean countries concept.  He indicated that the largest industry in the world, by far, was government.  We need a more efficient paradigm.  Communism failed.  Democracy as presently practiced, does not work.  What about Dynamic Democracy?  Our Oceans and the Evolution of Societies was a second theme.  We need a new place to try new rules...new government options, and the seas offer this opportunity.  In a way, the ocean could well be the new America, where an open frontier is again available for progress.  Evolution without revolution.  Two recent developments:

  -  Seasteading:  How Ocean Cities Will Change the World
     New book by Patri Friedman and Joe Quirk

  -  $8 million, 275 foot vessel, will be the first Seasteading Institute at sea.

William Riedy (left, with Randy Hencken and Patri in the background) of the Maritime Alliance (San Diego, new frontiers for blue tech and blue jobs) gave a presentation on the Economic Viability of Large Floating Structures.  Ninety nine percent of our ecosphere is in the ocean.  The Exclusive Economic Zone doubled the size of our nation.  150 countries border the ocean.  The Portunus Project (of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), an offshore Port Concept for security and efficiency, was discussed.  U.S. imported nearly $15 billion of fish and shellfish in 2010, but we have no meaningful industry.   We today import 50% of our needs and this will increase to 67% by 2030 unless we do something about it.  Desalination is already a $10 billion industry, and will grow to $30 billion in 2030.

George Petrie (Seasteading Institute director of engineering) provided an overview of Where We've Been, Where We Are, and Where We Are Going.  Seasteading will adopt what might work, not develop new technology.  Club-Stead resort/casino and flotels could be early profit centers.  Economic feasibility studies have been completed.  Where should the Seasteading headquarters be placed?  (Maybe one of their branch outlets might be on the Pacific International Ocean Station someday.).  An initial study of shipstead aggregation locates it in the nearshore, but the grand vision, the metropolisstead, is in the open ocean.  Barges will not work well under difficult sea conditions, while semi-submersible should (no, the Yellow Submarine was not the solution, but it is pictured in a Seasteading page).  Seasteading has minimal staffing at this time, and depends on interns, volunteers, linkages and relationships.

Melissa Roth gave a comparison of the energy options, beginning with a diesel generator ($.46/kWh), and into OTEC ($.75 - $1.00--but Bob Nicholson said they are negotiating at $.19/kWh), solar photovoltaics ($1.10) and windpower (best, but untested).

Guillaume Ardoise, Seasteading Institute Engineering Board Advisor, focused on wind and wave energy.  Wave energy density is 5000 kWh/square meter, which compares with solar PV at 100-200.  Or 200 barrels of oil/square meter/year.  


I was the next speaker, and provided the first Powerpoint presentation of the Pacific International Ocean Station, largely put together by Guy Toyama, now posted on the Blue Revolution Hawaii website.

Bob Nicholson, President of OTEC International, waxed on the potential and reality of OTEC.  They hope to sign a power purchase agreement with Hawaiian Electric Company in July for a 100 MW OTEC facility at 19 cents/kWh.  As electricity costs run from 33 cents and higher in Hawaii, there is profit to be made.

LUNCH.

Ben Harmon talked on Seastead Security.  These floating structures need to install screening mechanisms and guard against piracy, etc.  How do you do all this without operating like a police state?  Certainly items worth considering and implementing.  A company such as Bowline Defense provides offshore platform security.







Then followed a two man panel on ocean law of Myron Nordquist (first photo above) and John Briscoe (University of Virginia and Cal-Berkeley, respectively).  The Law of the Sea might finally be ratified by the U.S. Senate this year.  He referred to the Wall Street Journal plead yesterday from the living Republican Secretaries of State (Henry Kissinger, Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, George Schultz, James Baker) to pass that damn legislation.  The Republicans, you see, are opposing passage. By the way, Democrats have long been in the affirmative.  The motivation was that the developing Group of 77 felt that the developed nations should share the ocean with the rest of the world.  Much of this initially had to do with seabed minerals.  The matter is not unlike religion.  It's all in what you believe. And the views all contradict.  Thus, lobbyists fighting ratification, they fund Republicans, go back to 1983 when President Ronald Reagan promulgated (meaning edicted), that the USA has an EEZ and it's ours.  We basically don't wish to share our rights and technology.  My guess?  The LOS treaty will not be ratified, this year, nor anytime soon.

Myron Nordquist shared more anecdotes, including that true tale about the Glomar Explorer and the Russian K-129 submarine with nuclear weapons, at 18,000 feet northwest of Oahu, partially salvaged by the ship in secret.  While the various stories were funny, the reality had everything to do with what Seasteading would be faced with in terms of maritime law.  For example, it was exactly 50 years ago when the Republic of Minerva attempted to form a nation on a reef in the Pacific.  The Tongan government got concerned and the rest is history, although recent highlights include Fiji fencing with Tonga about that same reef  and utopia.  That's a Minerva coin to the right above.

The day ended with lightning rounds:

  John Trepl (Marine Hydroelectric Company):  a simple wavepower system, really.
  Mike Doty (Delishus Fishes):  poly fish culture
  Michelle and Thrond Toftely (Res Judicata):  a better way to handle government services
  Gabriell Rothblass (Terasem):   intelligent design and pharming for Seasteading
  Tim Potter (Bamboo:  (Nature's Aluminum Poles):  he talked about the decline of bamboo
  Henry Mariano (Harvest Energy):  power generation by force, like on roads and through mooring
  Lissa Morgenthaler-Jones (Live Fuel):  fuels from algae (phosphorus is important and the sea is the solution (above)                                  
  Neil Sims (IMAGn Project):  geoengineering of the ocean through mariculture


Neil deserves a full photo because he closed the program for the day, although Jonathan Cain, President of the Thiel Foundation, provided the final word:


Jonathan is important because he provides funds for this type of thing.

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