“If we’re going to entertain such massive measures, they need to be informed by scientific fact and experimentation, and less by opinion and profit motivations,”

A rare (these days) environmental story – a weird one (interesting piece of trivia, Australians: when you call things “weird”, here, Americans will think, quite often, that you said “weed” – even if that interpretation renders your statement utterly non-sensical).

Via Wired magazine:

An Australian company is injecting urea into the ocean, hoping to sequester greenhouse-gas pollution and cash in on carbon credits.

If all goes according to plan, oceanic plankton will thrive on the nitrogen-rich urea broth and absorb carbon dioxide. When the plankton die, they’ll sink to the bottom of the sea taking the carbon dioxide with them. The business plan: Companies licensing the technology can sell carbon offsets.

But some scientists worry the technique hasn’t been rigorously studied. The nitrogen injections, they say, could feed toxic algae, disrupt poorly understood ecosystems and ultimately release more carbon dioxide than is deep-sixed.

“If we’re going to entertain such massive measures, they need to be informed by scientific fact and experimentation, and less by opinion and profit motivations,” said ocean fertilization researcher Kenneth Coale, director of the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in California.

People think up crazy shit, these days. I rank this one up with the big mirrors in space. Here is quite an interesting detail:

To produce urea, the company would need to build natural-gas-burning factories. Whether plankton blooms would offset the carbon dioxide released by those factories is unknown. Ocean Nourishment factors urea production into its carbon equations, but commercial pressures threaten the integrity of companies pursuing climate modification, Coale said.

He said that people pursuing climate-engineering projects for profit need to be separated from those who decide whether the projects are a good idea. “Right now, they’re the same.”

If we’re going to pretend we learned anything at all from Iran-Contra, the K-Street project, Enron/WorldCom/Arthur Andersen, Sub-prime and CDOs… we’re going to need to separate the people deciding that a project is profitable from those deciding whether it makes any other kind of sense. Same for, on that score, tar sands and oil shale. The fact that it makes financial sense, with oil heading to the magic USD100 a barrel, doesn’t make it a good idea: the return on the energy expended to get the energy from the oil found should be the guiding criterion – and no, the fact that oil can go into our cars most easily is not supposed to be a factor in that decision.

It seems that this plan will suffer from any accounting oversight anyway: I sense a consensus that actually measuring the carbon sequestered thus is difficult to impossible – not considered a ‘plus’ for something with investment vehicles still to be attached.

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