Thursday, April 19, 2001

Feds delay carbon
dioxide test near Kona

Scientists wanted to drop carbon
dioxide deep within the ocean

By Rod Thompson

KAILUA-KONA >> The U.S. Department of Energy has released a final environmental assessment for a carbon dioxide experiment in Kona waters but has delayed a statement on whether it approves the document.

An international group of scientists proposes to release liquid carbon dioxide about a half-mile below the surface of the sea to test computer studies which have shown the release would be safe.

The scientists say pumping carbon dioxide into the ocean, especially from coastal power plants, could eventually be one means of slowing global warming caused by the gas.

Opponents have said there are too many unknowns to carry out the experiment.

Responding to testimony from both sides, the state House of Representatives has replaced a resolution which originally opposed the experiment with one which urges the federal government to do more to prevent greenhouse gases from being created.

The new wording in House Resolution 64, House Draft 1, says, "President Bush's recent decision to not regulate carbon dioxide emissions further deviates from policies that address the problem of climate change."

The new wording also calls for the experiment to abide by the National Environmental Policy Act.

Project scientist Gerard Nihous responded that the project is already doing that.

Nihous said Department of Energy approval usually comes with a final environmental assessment but is sometimes delayed, as in the present case.

Project scientists, who planned the experiment offshore from the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii near Kailua-Kona, until authorities withdrew a permit, are now looking for a similar location, Nihous said.

The new site must be enough like the original one that the environmental assessment will still apply, he said.

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