iron and the ocean

The press has been drumming up a little interest in the idea of fertilizing the ocean surface with powered hematite (iron oxide). It was discovered some years ago that this enabled the ocean affected to bloom prodigiously. And of course, everyone asks how can we use this to help manage the earth's ecosystem.

The first obvious objection to the claims made by the enthusists who want to use this as a method of sequestering carbon is simply that this is as ephemeral as growing a crop of potatoes. In other words, it is not likely to be much use unless we can figure out how to make the effect sustainable. yet this may not be that tall an order.

The first problem we must face before we try to be clever, is the issue of ownership. Today, the ocean is a huge lawless commons with all the reckless exploitation that goes with that. Mandated management is necessary and inevitable. It needs to be regulated and taxed and successfully managed. Right now we do not know who to pay taxes to. If the UN had any true credibility as a global management entity, it could perhaps take on this role. At the present, It lacks global political credibility, that is not going to change until it finds a way to establish some form of representative body to oversee its management. Right now, there is no will to establish such a system.

If ownnership becomes possible, then the commercial enhancement of large swaths on the ocean becomes practical. That will entail working with hundred of square miles of ocean, a daunting proposition.

The large scale is a derivative of the dynamic nature of the growing environment. It is moving at the rate of perhaps a hundred miles a day and will be thousand miles away next week. A little planning is required to ever hope to exploit such a protocol.

We are putting ground rock into the sea. If we want it to stay suspended, we must grind it extremely fine at the least. This is costly unless it is coming as a byproduct of mining. It may also be possible to bind it into a light porous matrix which will let it linger in the surface. Again this is costly.

If it has to done continously, which seems reasonable, then we are looking at a massive overhead. The question then, is what are we producing that justifies the investment? We do not eat plankton. Therefore, we are relying on the derivative fishery and it would have to be huge.

Of course, the current enthusiasts are talking about carbon credits. Perhaps converting hundreds of square miles of barren ocean into a fertile biorich medium that sustains a rich fishery is economically possible. I personally find it difficult to credit, but it would be nice to see someone do a workup on the proposition and commission the necessary additional research.

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