Trials of a carbon sequestration project which involves seeding the ocean with iron particles are to take place later this month. Planktos are attempting to create a carbon offset product based on stimulating plankton growth. By adding iron to certain areas of the sea, the company can promote growth which they hope will absorb large amounts of carbon. This will then sink to the ocean floor, mostly in the form of feaces, where it will remain for several centuries. It's not a new concept, and has been trialed before. However, whilst many studies have had success promoting plankton growth, few have seen an increase in the amount of carbon transported to the sea bed.
Daniel M. Kammen, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, says, "The cost of offsetting carbon through these technologies is less than the cost of building solar panels or windmills." This is precisely what many people see as the problem with the technology. If the project works, then it may tie up carbon, but it will also give people a licence to pollute. With all carbon offset programs comes the same problem; people can fly all they want, drive all they want, consume all they want and simply offset it all with a few hundred dollars a year.
As natural iron levels have gone down in recent years, Planktos could be seen to be simply re-adjusting the balance to allow a natural process to occur. Calling this "engineering" may be misleading, perhaps it is more appropriate to think of it as treating a patient, albeit a very large one, similar to putting a saline IV into a severely stressed patient. However, we won't be able to offer a prognosis until the research is published. :: ETC Group