April 10th, 2007
Last week I wrote about an incredible energy conference hosted by the Foundation for the Future. As one of a select few invited to observe and participate in the conference, I had the incredible experience to listen to and meet with 15 of the top thinkers and scientists in the world today on the subject of the future of energy. The brilliance of both the participants and the level of discussion were so great that I decided that it must be shared with the readership of this blog. A number of the participants agreed to share their views and research with me. This then is the first of several columns that will give you insight into our energy future, as seen through the eyes, minds and research of some of the most well known, most accomplished energy experts alive today.
Russ George is a man who is doing what he can to save the planet, literally. In addition, he is an entrepreneur who hopes that by helping us to help him save the planet, his company can make money. [As regular readers of this blog know, I am fully in support of this, as there is a need to counterbalance the status quo of the energy business with new ways to make money that provide help to the planet and develop a future of sustainable and renewable energy.] Russ is Founder and CEO of Planktos, a company that â€œRestores Ecosystems and Slows Climate Changeâ€. Planktos is the leading ecorestoration firm in the world that generates carbon offsets in two ways: by restoring plankton populations in the worldâ€™s oceans, and by planting new â€˜climate forest parksâ€™.
Plankton and trees absorb great amounts of CO2, carbon dioxide, which is put into the atmosphere by humanity, particularly through the use of fossil fuels. Cultivating great plankton beds in the ocean and forests of trees on land therefore, consume, and offset the CO2 waste product we are putting into the biosphere. Hence the term â€˜carbon offsetâ€™ whereby anyone can spend money to help cultivate plankton beds and tree forests, thereby offsetting the CO2 they have generated.
Evolutionshift: Russ, how much CO2 would a reader of this blog generate per year?
George: â€œAn average adult has a carbon footprint of about 5 tons per person per year in average homes. Travel footprints for a car are about 6 tons per year, though large SUVs are at least double that figure. A typical family of four in the U.S. has a carbon footprint of about 20 tons per year, which includes one car.â€ [Note to readers: even the Toyota Prius generates 3.4 tons of carbon per year. DH]
Evolutionshit: â€œSo what can this family do to offset their CO2 waste? How does Planktos help?
George: â€œPlanktos, profitably employ green plants in our trees and seas projects and remove CO2, and sell that work to people at $5/ton. This means that a family of four with a gentle living style can totally erase their carbon footprint for $100/year. If any of your readers want to become carbon neutral, they can visit the Planktos Web Store at www.planktos.com/store . They will receive a wall certificate and a car sticker that can be put on the inside of a window showing the car is carbon neutral for the year.
Evolutionshift: How do you create the growth of ocean plankton?
George: â€œStated simply, we put iron dust into the ocean. That needs an explanation. Iron is used by plants to greatly enhance photosynthesis. Plants on land or near land always have more than adequate supplies of iron. Plants in the distant ocean, the pelagic ocean, only get iron from dust that travels thousands of miles via the wind. Due to several changes in the biosphere, there is less iron being blown from the land to the ocean.
We grind up iron into extremely small particulates and then seed the oceans. This is a dirt cheap solution we call eco-judo, turning bad into good. CO2 in the air and ocean is bad unless you happen to be a growing green plant, in which case you see it as plant food. By seeding plankton blooms with iron, we provide the essential nutrient that will allow these blooms to grow, flourish and consume ever greater amounts of CO2.
Evolutionshift: So you could be called the â€˜Johnny Appleseed of planktonâ€™. Right?
George: â€œIf you say so.â€
Evolutionshift: What about the trees you plant?
George: â€œThe trees are in new forests in the national parks of the European Union. Our subsidiary KlimaFa (Climate Tree in Hungarian) is working with the Hungarian government to have trees planted by unemployed workers who are trained and earn a new living being ecoforest workers. We begin to plant 25,000 acres in a few weeks. We have an additional 200,000 acres lined up in Hungary and many times that amount in other countries in the EU. This is a â€˜darlingâ€™ project of the EU with support and interest of major international institutions and development banks. These forests will remove millions of tons of CO2 from the air.â€
Evolutionshift: Russ, please tell the triage metaphor you used at the conference regarding Global Warming.
George: â€œOK, imagine we are traveling down the highway and we come across a poor victim lying on the road; someone who has sustained severe injuries. The first things we would do is to check breathing, stop the bleeding, get the patient stable, look for the cause of the injury and then get medical help for the victim. Well, if we think of the victim as Planet Earth, that is what we should be doing, yet here we are arguing about whether the victim is injured or not, what or who was to blame, whether we should do anything or just wait and see what happens.â€
Evolutionshift: Please also tell the operating system metaphor for Planet Earth
George: â€œWell first of all, since 72% of the surface of the planet is water, it should really be called Planet Ocean. Anyway, think of the human race and itsâ€™ use of fossil fuel as a very misbehaving software application on our planetary ecosystem of life. That aberrant software application is firing so many errors back to the root operating system â€” the oceans in particular â€” that the operating system is beginning to malfunction. Like any good operating system, ours in robust and self correcting, but if you keep pounding in application errors the application is likely to crash, upsetting the operating system. If the operating system cannot self correct, it will have no choice but to reboot. In this case the operating system called Planet Ocean will reboot and reset itself back millions of years.â€
Evolutionshift: What is the possibility of that happening?
George: â€œWell, the ocean acidification from CO2 is so serious, and way over the tipping point, that if we donâ€™t help to correct it, and fast, it is possible that by the latter part of this century, the most important ocean green plants will literally dissolve in the acid oceans. It is the simple first principal chemical reaction H2O + CO2 = H2CO3, or carbonic acid. This is why it is so important to not only cut back on emissions, but to grow vast new plankton blooms in the oceans and trees on land to combat the billions of tons of CO2 we are putting into the atmosphere every year.â€
Evolutionshift: We have run out of space, thank you!
George: â€œThank you. I urge your readers to go to the web site and buy the appropriate amount of carbon offsets so they are living carbon neutralâ€
Now that is something that everyone should do. I did