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Fuel is Cheap, Life is Not

October 4, 2009

Using photosynthesis is the only way to a sustainable future. This process is almost as old as the earth and makes products that we  can eat (direct or via food chain). Or we can burn it.  So what should we do?


With increasing attention to the need for alternative energy supplies, photosynthesis  by phytoplankton (aka algae), or by terrestrial plants is increasingly considered to provide the organic material that can be converted into energy (using the plant lipids directly as bio-diesel; or using the overall biomass, mostly at the oxidation state of sugar, as input in an anaerobic process called methanogenesis, to make natural gas, methane (CH4).

There are many interesting links between phytoplankton, climate and fuel.

Think about it, just to pick up one link, most of our mineral oil comes from phytoplankton, now ‘harvested’ with a delay of some 300 million years after they fixed the carbon dioxide from the air. And the re-introduction of that carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere takes place in a time frame of barely 200 years. That’s why we potentially have a climate problem. There are different types of plants that photosynthesize, those that live on land, and those that live in the ocean. The land plants are big, use fresh water, and grow slowly. Those in the sea do not compete for fresh water, grow fast, and are very small. They are called phytoplankton, and once they are understood as a new resource, many global problems will be mitigated, even solved.

But, in my view, of the many severe and contemporary global problems….the smallest problem being the supply of energy. Have a look at the price of a litre of fuel. Water is more expensive. Even in Northern Europe. On a mass basis, the price for animal feed is about the same as pure diesel oil.

There are alternative options available for tackling a potential bottleneck in the global supply of energy. Many people gave eliciting talks about it, the most logical arguments being based on improving energy efficiency; from a resource perspective (oil and coal) there is enough to supply energy for another 600 years – I say this whole fully aware of the fact that it will kill the earth due to the concomitant heating effect on our climate, if we do not capture the CO2 – only to stress that there is plenty of energy.

But there is not plenty of feed and food. Even efficiency measures will not decrease the amount of freshwater consumption which is needed to create a sustainable world. And we cannot transport freshwater to those regions where it is needed. It is the lack of water, feed and food, which currently puts close to a billion people at misery. It is the lack of proper work, lack of education, lack of access to some kind of manufacturing technology and produce of products that are not under some subvention control by more powerful market players.

It is the lack of any chance to live a dignified life, to be enabled to have a fair chance at the competitive adventure called life.

[picapp src=”8/a/4/1/Living_from_waste_dc88.jpg?adImageId=5490380&imageId=5231031″ width=”234″ height=”354″ /]

There could be plenty of feed and food; there could be plenty of freshwater.  The factor that will turn the ‘could’ into ‘will be’, is called seawater: we need to base agriculture on sea water. Without polluting the oceans, a sea water based agricultural industry, available worldwide without disturbance by subvention policies, will give the earth its productive potential to support the life of each individual on this earth.

I called this activity Marine Agriculture, you may read more about it in this blog.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. graju24p permalink
    October 18, 2010 6:15 PM

    I apologise, but, in my opinion, you are mistaken. Let’s discuss it. Write to me in PM, we will communicate.

    • Bernd Kroon permalink
      October 23, 2010 10:40 AM

      No need to apologize. I would like to learn what you think my mistake is. Just post your viewpoint, and I’ll be happy to respond.

  2. Shaunsphillips permalink
    September 19, 2010 6:59 PM

    Awesome site, I had not noticed earlier in my searches!
    Continue the great work!

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