The Tidal Irrigation and Electrical System

renewable energy, carbon dioxide sink, biodiesel, and food from the ocean

Iron: The Bad Seed

Posted by on Monday, June 30th, 2008

One method of lowering atmospheric carbon dioxide through the growing of algae in the ocean is by adding powdered iron to the surface. The iron acts as a fertilizer and the algae that blooms absorbs the carbon dioxide in the building of its tissues. However, the consequences of sudden jolts of nutrients due to fertilizer being washed out of the soil are severe. In the Gulf of Mexico these conditions lead to dead zones and red tides, which kill off millions of fish. Because of this I have always been skeptical about the uncontained release of nutrients into the open ocean. This is due to the fact that anaerobic conditions don’t switch on – they build up. Meanwhile masses of methane is produced. Classic OTEC designs at least are releasing DOW which is in perfect balance for producing normal healthy algae. The iron seeding programs seemed very counter-intuitive to me. Normal, healthy plants need more than one nutrient and they would have sudden jolts of biomass growth followed by nearly complete die-offs.

The New Scientist reports in its June 12th 2008 issue that it now seems the UN Convention on Biological Diversity also has deep concerns about the process and has banned it until more research has been done. At the same time Mary Silver of the University of California, Santa Cruz has presented her findings to the American Geophysical Union in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She has results that indicate that iron encourages the growth of particular algal populations that produce domoic acid – a potent neurotoxin. Domoic acid can sicken or kill animals and people who eat contaminated shellfish.

Hopefully this will encourage those who see the potential in marine algal growth schemes to look more closely at the full life cycle of what they produce and to instead consider the TIE System. The TIE System uses DOW, which is the ideal fertilizer for algae, and it contains the biomass so the open ocean isn’t shocked and methane pollution can be limited.

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