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Friday, January 9, 2015

SIMPLE SOLUTIONS FOR HUMANITY'S MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEMS: #6 The Blue Revolution

As one of the greatest simple solutions, the Blue Revolution (BR) is rather picayune, for the others deal with the ultimates, from energy to the environment and death itself.  However, the BR is symbolic of just one of the myriad supplementations absolutely necessary to complement the supreme solutions.  While geoengineering of Planet Earth will remain controversial until it becomes necessary, one of the additional benefits of BR could well be to both reduce hurricanes and the Greenhouse Effect.

There was the Green Revolution, which "merely" provided better and more grains, but did, indeed, revolutionize farming.  Norman Borlaug won a Nobel Prize for that development.  So Hawaii State Senator Richard Matsuura, a PhD agriculturist, who had worked for Borlaug, and I, thought we had something potentially more monumental, a cornucopia of sustainable natural products from the ocean, and  presented the first talk on the BR in 1991 to the First Very Large Floating Structures Conference held in Honolulu.  Senator Dan Inouye and I (as ghost writer) in 1992 published in Sea Technology:  The American Blue Revolution.

The power to run the BR is ocean thermal energy conversion, or OTEC.  While not as historical as Jules Verne, who in 1870 introduced the concept (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea)...

     I get everything from the ocean. It produces electricity, and electricity 
     supplies the Nautilus with light – in a word, with life.


...and Jacques-Arsene d'Arsonval, who in 1881 proposed the science behind this technology, I nevertheless place myself right up there in the politics to initiate the effort, for I helped draft the original legislation when in 1979 I toiled in the U.S. Senate.  The OTEC R&D Act was spearheaded by Spark Matsunaga and signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on 18 July 1980.

So what is the Blue Revolution?  At 1000 meter depths, the ocean is at 4 degrees Celsius, with minerals such as phosphates and nitrates, all at the exact Redfield ratio ideal for marine growth, at very high concentrations (relative to the surface).  Thus, if you compare with land farming, we have an ideal ecosystem of free irrigation and fertilizer in space no one owns where products can be brought to market without needing to build roads.  Cargo by ship is the most efficient mode of bringing products to the marketplace.  If the surface temperature is  warm enough, then the temperature differential can be used to generate electricity (the redder, the hotter):


Note that the best site for OTEC is where all those terrible typhoons are generated, just east of the Philippines.  One of the benefits of bringing this deep cold water to the surface is a slight cooling so that it would be inevitable that the formation of typhoons would be retarded.  Realistically, though, the first few commercial grazing plantships will be located at the equator, for that is where the average surface temperature is universally the warmest, AND NO HURRICANE HAS EVER PASSED ACROSS THE EQUATOR.   In addition, there are suggestions that the chemical balance of BR operations could remediate climate warming.  That was a co-written paper I presented in Singapore in 1997.  If you clicked on that link, you would have also read that Stanley Dunn of Florida Atlantic University and I in 1993 co-chaired a hurricane prevention meeting:

The U.S. Department of Commerce on May 24 of 1993 hosted a gathering at its headquarters on 14th Street in Washington, D.C., ostensibly to talk about OTEC plant-ships as a major defense conversion or National Institute of Science and Technology advanced technology program initiative. It might be indicated that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA), a component of the Commerce Department, has historically been sensitive about hurricanes because of past debacles. Representatives from General Dynamics, Lockheed, various Washington, D.C.-based consulting firms, the University of Hawaii, Florida Atlantic University, Johns Hopkins University, and NOAA surmised that a national program to explore the potential of preventing or ameliorating hurricanes was sensible. Groups were formed to identify realistic mechanisms for hurricane prevention, develop computer models to optimize at-sea experiments, recommend a financing plan to implement the program design, build and operate up to 500 floating plantships, and recommend a financing plan to implement the program. The next two sections touch on the team assigned the basic modeling program.

Thus, rather than outer space, the BR is clearly the next frontier for economic development, a wide-ranging effort to develop sustainable products from the ocean, while enhancing the marine and global environments.  There is promising potential for grazing platforms, powered by OTEC, to host next generation fisheries (read my Huffington Post article on The Ultimate Ocean Ranch), marine biomass plantations, and a variety of renewable energy systems to produce hydrogen, biofuels and freshwater.  The logical evolution would be floating industrial parks and marine cities.  The Pacific International Ocean Station has been proposed by Blue Revolution Hawaii to serve as the first at-sea facility to develop the above.

My feeling is that nations and companies are just not ready to support a $1.5 billion ocean adventure. Thus, the future of funding for the Blue Revolution will need to come from billionaires and their friends.  iBlueRevolution is a blog site focused on seeking support from the super rich.  I have actually made my commitment, by endowing my apartment now on sale to the University of Hawaii to initiate a Blue Revolution program.

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