Saturday, September 08, 2007

PLANKTOS: OFFSETS REAL & IMAGINED

[In Blogger, to hear the show, click the title above.]

When we purchase carbon offsets, or companies claim to be "carbon neutral" - are we kidding ourselves?

In the first of a two-part radio series, we look at one of the best-known "green" carbon offset companies, Planktos Corp. I spend the whole show interviewing the CEO, Russell George.

You can always learn a lot about the workings of the ocean, from Russ George. He tells us plankton, the very basis of the food chain, is greatly reduced since 1980. That means less food all the way up to fish, which are also declining severely.

George explains that just as water rising from the ocean creates the rain that feeds the land - so dust from the land has been feeding phyto-plankton, (also called algae) for millenia. But now George thinks that the extra CO2 tossed into the atmosphere has allowed groundcover, like grass, to stay greener into the summer. That means less dust, and less micronutrients like iron, reaches the ocean.

Plankton are thought by many scientists to have been (a) the source of all of our oxygen, and (b) a regulating factor (possibly) leading to ice ages. They are a huge engine that, when blooming, can suck incredible amounts of CO2 out of the air. Are they a big solution to climate change? Can they buy us time, while we install alternatives to fossil fuels?

Planktos Corp is planning to create new, permanent forests in Hungary, and then in the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Guai) of British Columbia. They will sell these carbon credits, mainly to hungry, would-be-green institutions and companies in Europe. The new carbon markets are already worth billions.

Russ George also has a dream to take rock dust, from natural iron ores, out to the Pacific, to "feed" the algae, and stimulate new blooms.

About a dozen government-funded expeditions have tested this idea. They found that new plankton did occur, but the impacts on the ecosystem, and the real carbon that gets stored, is difficult to predict. Major environment groups, including Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund have strongly opposed Planktos' proposed "Voyage of Discovery" to the Pacific. Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shephard Society, has threated direct action to stop the project. He has been known to ram ships at sea.

Meanwhile, Planktos Corp purchased a former U.S. Research ship, the Weatherbird II. Already months late, it's in Florida, loading equipment for the voyage, allegedly with a former Greenpeace captain signed on.

We asked Russ George about his critics, and about his business prospects - which are always right on the edge, as a start up company that could make billions, or go bust.

This is important radio, about the future of our oceans, and whether climate capitalists can act independently there. I urge you to download the one hour program and listen.

Next week, in part two, we'll hear more from Russ George, from the Chicago Green Festival, but I'll also interview his critics, including stock watcher David Baines, and Pat Mooney from the environmental ETC Group.

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NEW: You can also find the full text transcript of our interview with Russell George of Planktos.

Alex Smith
host
Radio Ecoshock
www.ecoshock.org

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