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Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Algae Ventures claims to have a method of lowering the cost for harvesting, dewatering, and drying algae by Over 99.75% to 1.2 cents a gallon.

The best news is that it isn't the only company making amazing progress in this area.

As a general rule in engineering if you only have one theoretical way of doing something you will have unforeseen problems - when you have several methods it is going to work. This is a corollary of Murphy's law. Algae production of oil at commercial levels is going to work & fairly soon too. In due course it will very seriously undercut present sources. It would take quite hard work to remain in recession in such circumstances (though I have no doubt the eco-fascists will come up with reasons for doing that work).

I blogged previously about the Aquarius project of a floating city in equatorial waters using the temperature differential between surface water & deep ocean water to generate power & as a side effect allow this deep water, which is rich in nutrients (being heavier than water such elements sink) to grow algae in surrounding containment ponds covering square miles. This seasteading programme now looks to me to be very feasible indeed. The great attraction to ideological seasteaders is that it gets them out from under conventional governments. The attraction for the non-ideological is equatorial sun & the happy chance that on the equator there are no Coriolis forces & thus no hurricanes. The attraction for scientists & bankers is no regulation. If seasteading gets going it will provide a major alternative to present government & laboratory conditions for small unit government systems. We may well find conventional governments trying to strangle this even when there is no possible benefit to them eg

"The only reaction he got was from the Kingdom of Tonga, Minerva’s closest neighbor. A box of supplies was dropped on the new land which said “supplied and maintained by the government of Tonga”, an action said to be supported by other nations in the area. His Majesty then ventured to Minerva with a gang of convicts and a four-member band. They planted the Tongan flag, played the Tongan national anthem, and claimed the sandy patch for Tonga. After they left, the forces of nature did their work, and the sand of Minerva returned slowly to the ocean from whence it had sprung"

International waters at the equator come to 14,000 miles. If an island itself is meant to have a radius of 2.75 miles which means the 1 mile floating ponds beyond it would cover 20.4 square miles. That could produce 30 million barrels worth. That would allow 2,700 such islands on the equator & the same again 5 miles to the north or south.

Thanks to Al Fin & Next Big Future for 1st reporting this.

Anybody who has read Heinlein's Friday (I regard Heinlein as a political philosopher who could run rings round Rand) will have seen that a subplot, of this incredibly densely plotted book, is that the company that invented a battery that can hold far more energy than conventional batteries effectively runs the world. Well guess what - - oil does that, scalable unlimited producible oil does it better.

If simple largely unmodified algae can do this then in due course "Simple organisms can be genetically re-engineered to produce vaccines or octane-based fuels as waste, according to Venter." There seems to be few material needs which could not thus be satisfied.

If one of these seasteads could gain international recognition then it could claim a legal jurisdiction of 12 miles and an exclusive economic zone of 200 miles.

Or maybe it is nautical miles, I could be wrong.
I hope nobody is foolish & greedy enough to try for that. There is more than enough money to be made from biofuel & low regulation & indeed all the ways we landlubbers make a living for there to be no need for such a grab. That would also give the conventional states an excuse to interfere.
So you want a colony without a government? Or maybe a government that is not part of the international system?
I think a certain amount of government is inescapable. A government which didn't take part in the Great Game of seeing what other countries one can bully would be attractive & hasn't harmed the Swiss.

In Marshall Savage's book Colonising The Galaxy in 8 Easy Steps the Aquarius settlement doesn't spend any time deciding who should rule South Ossetia being more interested in the rest of the Galaxy.
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