Company takes carbon fight to the ocean

Planting trees is not just for Boy Scouts anymore. Corporations, such as Peninsula-based Planktos, are now entering into the business of planting trees and other carbon-dioxide-absorbing life-forms to prevent global warming and tap into the carbon-credit market.

Recently, Planktos sent out its research vessel, Weatherbird II, in a first commercial venture to dump iron into the Pacific Ocean in order to fertilize phytoplankton, tiny organisms that consume carbon dioxide.

Iron fertilization is not a new idea. Planktos’ experiment follows 11 expeditions conducted by scientists starting in 1993. The amount of phytoplankton in the oceans has decreased by 12 percent since 1980, according to NASA. In 1993, oceanographer John Martin discovered that phytoplankton can be grown artificially by adding iron to the ocean.

However, it has been difficult to determine how much carbon dioxide is reduced due to plankton growth. That’s what Weatherbird II is supposed to figure out in order to sell carbon credits.

“Our intention is to do a series of pilot projects that represents a scale-up of other experiments that have been done in the world,” said Russ George, founder of the publicly traded Planktos.

svasilyuk@examiner.com

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