Thursday, May 10, 2001

Hawaii ocean
carbon tests OK’d

The tests will pump carbon
dioxide into the sea as a
way to fight global warming

By Rod Thompson
Big Island correspondent

KAILUA-KONA >> The U.S. Department of Energy has determined that a controversial carbon dioxide experiment in Hawaii waters will not have a significant environmental impact.

The finding gives a green light to tests linked to learning whether global warming from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can be slowed by pumping the gas into the ocean.

The "finding of no significant impact" comes with certain requirements to reduce the effects of the experiment, said Lloyd Lorenzi, the Department of Energy officer in charge of ensuring that projects comply with federal environmental laws.

The Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority earlier withdrew permission for the experiment in waters it controls north of Kailua-Kona.

One public complaint was that the experiment could disturb fishing areas, although experiment officials denied that.

Lorenzi said federal approval requires the experiment to be located "away from prime fishing grounds."

The federal approval suggests a site 8.5 nautical miles off Barbers Point or 12 nautical miles off an unspecified area of the Big Island.

Over a two-week period, the international experiment seeks to pump up to 7.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide a half-mile deep into the ocean during two-hour periods. The purpose is to test computer predictions about how the liquefied gas will behave.

Because of the enormous pressure a half-mile below the surface of the ocean, the gas will not bubble to the surface, officials say.

If this and additional experiments prove successful, the process of locking up carbon dioxide in the ocean could be used by power plants producing the gas.

One of the opponents is Isaac Harp, president of the Coalition Against CO2 Dumping.

"This potentially jeopardizes the oceans of the world," Harp said. "The only purpose is to move on to a larger scale. This is a potential time bomb for the future."

An environmental assessment of the experiment says the world already has a problem from burning fossil fuels, and the sheer magnitude of reliance on such fuels will not end during this century.

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