Plan to Dump Iron in Ocean as Climate Fix Attracts Debate

July 25, 2007

Global warming is heating up opportunities for companies that can find ways to pull carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere and sell "carbon credits" on emerging markets.

But one company's attempt to dip its toes into free-market climate solutions appears to be headed for a high-seas standoff.

In the coming days to weeks, Planktos, a small California-based "ecorestoration" company, will use a 115-foot (35-meter) research ship to dump a hundred tons of iron dust into international waters some 200 miles (322 kilometers) west of the Galápagos Islands.

Iron—a nutrient naturally carried into the ocean by wind—encourages plankton growth, which can absorb atmospheric CO2, a greenhouse gas.

Planktos ultimately wants to fertilize plankton blooms, measure the carbon they capture, and sell the corresponding credits (related: "Extreme Global Warming Fix Proposed: Fill the Skies With Sulfur" [August 4, 2006]).

Companies that emit greenhouse gases can buy these credits to offset their contributions to global emissions.

Russ George, Planktos' CEO, testified last week about the project before a U.S. congressional committee. He says nearly a dozen scientific studies are conceptually on his side.

The 57-year-old, who describes himself as a classical ecologist and businessman, says he is simply mimicking Mother Nature by giving greenhouse gas-sucking seas and trees a leg up.

But several environmental groups and marine scientists are raising red flags, while U.S. regulators are asking questions about accountability.

And at least one opponent to the plan isn't waiting for official regulatory action.

Greenpeace co-founder Paul Watson told National Geographic News that his group the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society plans to send a ship to intercept Planktos' vessel in open waters.

Carbon Solution or Marine Pollution?

Continued on Next Page >>


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