Saltwater Farming and an End to Rising Seas

One man claims an idea that will deter damages of rising seawater influenced by climate change and produce biofuels capable of powering your vehicle without one drop of freshwater. Sound to good to be true? You be the judge.

Atmospheric scientist Carl Hodges of the Seawater Foundation has two novel ideas: absorb rising seawater through recharge of defunct aquifers with seawater and saltwater farming of Salicornia bigelovii for biofuel production. When speaking of farming of salicornia during a public radio interview on MarketPlace:

They pack as much high-quality vegetable oil as soybeans, making salicornia an ideal biofuel crop — and a highly profitable one. Especially if the fertile effluent from those shrimp farms we saw from the air is used as the irrigation source.

– Carl Hodges

Listen to the full interview entitled Seeing opportunity in rising oceans here:

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Comments

  1. I am unsure that Hodges has the science to back up his claims. Surely, he sounds like he has the biology down. The hydrology and engineering? Those are other matters.

    Let’s do some calculations. The world’s oceans cover 361,000,000 square km. Let’s be conservative and assume a 0.33 m (approximately one foot) sea level rise. That produces 120,000 km3 of sea water to be stored in aquifers. When you consider that the total amount of ground water pumped in the USA during the entire 20th century was about 700-800 km3 (see Konikow and Kendy, 2005, Hydrogeology Journal, 13(1):317-320) you have a lot of water to store.

    Also to be considered is the difficulty of putting water into the ground – the adverse chemical reactions, air binding, aquifer plugging, etc.

    And remember that I assumed a relatively conservative sea-level rise – just 0.33 m.

    Hodges’ approach might work on a small-scale, case-by-case basis. It is worth investigating in such instances.

  2. Thanks for your HG perspective, Michael.

    Initially, I also thought aquifer recharge as a way to deter sea-level rise sounded a little too good to be true. Yes, possibly on a small-scale level, but would it be economically feasible, among other questions. Additionally, what about the possibility of aquifer contamination?

    One thing that intrigued me, however, was the idea of farming with seawater, especially as a source for bio-fuels. I like this cartoon on corn-ethanol production:

    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/04/yet_another_rea_1.php

    But, all in all, I enjoyed the radio-piece because it is refreshing to hear of new ideas (workable or not) that confront the coming water crisis. Humans can, at times, have a great amount of ingenuity, and regarding water, we must start to think ourselves out of coming dilemma.

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