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overlandsailor


If you smelled something funny lately, I apologize, but I have been doing alot of thinking. cool.gif

In other topics the use of bio fuels has been discussed as an attractive alternative to oil.

Though they are attractive they become unrealistic when one considers the massive amount of real estate needed the produce enough raw material to provide fuel for the entire nation. The estimates on this I have seen come in at around 51% of the total land mass of the United States. That is what would be needed to grow enough to produce that level of fuel, this of course does not take into account the additional amount of land needed to continue to provide of food supply.

But is it really out of reach?

When I was a kid, people were talking about feeding the world by farming the sea. I don't know whatever happened to this line of thinking, but IMHO it would definitely be worth the research dollars.

Looking to the sea to produce food crops is one thing, and something we should seriously try to work out. But the sea could possibly be a key to making bio fuels a reality.

With the land available underwater, it would be seem to be possible to grow enough raw material to produce all the bio fuel we need, probably even enough to be able to export it.

Of course this would hinge on working out a formula for bio diesel and ethanol that the crops produced underwater would match up with, ensuring that this does not create environmental issues that make the environmental gains meaningless, and of course working out just how we would do the farming in the first place.


Questions for debate:

Is undersea farming a possibility? If not, why not?

If yes, then is it possible to create bio fuels from the crops that can be produced under the oceans? If Not, why not?

If yes, how would we best fund the start up of these projects, with and eye on promoting private business ventures over government ones?

Would public support be enough to counter the political opposition from Oil companies and the like?

What negative environmental implications could there be with undersea farming? Assuming there would be some, would the negatives in this case outweigh the potential benefits?
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SWM28WDC
Is undersea farming a possibility? If not, why not?
Yes, but we have to stop dumping mercury, et al into it. Also, we'd have to determine who has the right to cultivate where - should we sell the plots outright and 'own' a piece of the sea bottom, or should we (the nation) just rent them to those who wish to farm there.


If yes, then is it possible to create bio fuels from the crops that can be produced under the oceans? If Not, why not?
Yes. Algae has a very high yield for biodiesel. But why bother with the ocean, when we can do it, in much better controlled environments, on land. Link Apparently we can replace the gas and diesel used for transport in this country by building algae ponds on 15,000 square miles of land (0.5% of the Continental US's land area).

If yes, how would we best fund the start up of these projects, with and eye on promoting private business ventures over government ones?
By having the US Gov't lease plots of seabed to private ventures. Additionally, a carbon tax on nonrenewable carbon-based fuels would make such a venture more economically attractive. To maintain a healthy economy (and demand for energy) the total revenue from the tax should be paid as a dividend to all US Citizen's -- Trickle UP economics.

Would public support be enough to counter the political opposition from Oil companies and the like?
I'm not sure anything can counter political opposition from Oil Companies for the next 3 years.

What negative environmental implications could there be with undersea farming? Assuming there would be some, would the negatives in this case outweigh the potential benefits?
There's always negatives. I *Think* that it might lead to a push for higher environmental protections - as you need a healthy environment to grow things, even underwater.
Erasmussimo
Is undersea farming a possibility? If not, why not?
Yes, but it wouldn't be undersea, it would be on the surface. We're really just harvesting sunlight. Right now the food chain in the ocean starts with the plankton and other single-celled plant life, which uses sunlight to build up biomass. They are eaten by tiny animals, which get eaten, which get eaten, and so on up to killer whales and killer humans. There are some tricky issues to consider. If we harvest all the plankton for ourselves, then everybody else in the food chain starves. So we don't harvest all of it. Our best bet is to expand the overall productivity of sunlight utilization by introducing better types of plankton and various fertilizers. However, this is extremely tricky business. There's a phenomenon in subtropical oceans called "red bloom", in which algal populations explode, the water is covered with red algae, which consume all the oxygen in the water, which kills all the fish. (I have probably gotten some detail of this wrong, but the basic concept that the system can go way out of whack is sound.) We could end up doing much the same thing. However, I think it would be interesting and useful to experiment with something like this in a localized environment. So yes, there's lots of promise here.

Oh, one other tiny detail: if you harvest more sunlight, you change ocean surface temperatures and hence the weather. Sort of like El Nino. Oops.

If yes, then is it possible to create bio fuels from the crops that can be produced under the oceans? If Not, why not?

Yes, this is certainly possible and might be the best use of such cropping. Algae-burgers don't sound too apetizing to me.

If yes, how would we best fund the start up of these projects, with and eye on promoting private business ventures over government ones?
Most basic research has to be done at the government level. I suspect that the early theoretical work will have to be done by academics. The big obstacle that companies will face will be liability problems for environmental issues. Some government action here providing protection to the public through regulation coupled with liability protection for the companies might be the way to handle it.

Would public support be enough to counter the political opposition from Oil companies and the like?
For all we know, the oil companies might be the ones doing the research.

What negative environmental implications could there be with undersea farming? Assuming there would be some, would the negatives in this case outweigh the potential benefits?
Other than weather changes and the possible destruction of all marine life, I don't see any problems. whistling.gif Seriously, there are some real dangers here, but most of them are matters of scale. If we manage to muck up an estuary, that won't be a catastrophe. If we build some sort of genetically modified plankton that gets away from us and carpets the ocean surface, there will be a lot of angry people banging on our doors.
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