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Corn used in eco-fuel gets the blame for ocean's spreading 'dead

zones'

5:00AM Tuesday August 07, 2007

By Jeff Franks

- Reuters

Researchers have found 24,990sq km of "dead zones", or oxygen-

depleted water, in the Gulf of Mexico this summer, the biggest area

since tracking of the annual phenomenon began.

They say humans are mostly to blame for the dead waters, and that

increased planting of corn to make ethanol is adding to the problem.

Ethanol is a motor fuel distilled from corn and promoted as a more

environmentally friendly alternative to petrol.

The dead zones, which have been appearing each summer since at least

1970, threaten marine life and have altered the gulf's ecology,

scientists say.

Researchers have been checking them each year since 1985.

Usually, they find only one large zone each year, just off the

Louisiana coast where the Mississippi River empties into the gulf.

But this summer, a separate zone has developed off Texas.

Recent measurements show the Louisiana dead zone covered about

20,461sq km, and the Texas zone was 4532sq km - a total of 24,990sq

km.

The previous largest amount was 22,002sq km found in 2002, Nancy

Rabalais, chief scientist for the Louisiana Universities Marine

Consortium, said on Friday.

The Louisiana dead zone is caused mostly by nitrogen-based

fertilisers carried by the Mississippi from America's farm belt into

the Gulf, she said.

The nitrogen feeds the growth of algae, which depletes oxygen from

the water. The US Department of Agriculture said in March that corn

planting would rise 15 per cent this year because of increased demand

for ethanol.

Corn needs more fertiliser than other crops, which is probably why

tests have found more nitrogen in the Mississippi this year, Dr

Rabalais said.

She said only the Baltic Sea had a larger "man-made" dead zone than

the Gulf, but it was about four times bigger.

The Texas dead zone was caused by heavy rains that filled the Gulf

with fresh water, said Texas A&M University oceanographer Steve

DiMarco.

The fresh water sat on top of salt water "like oil and water" and

prevented it being oxygenated by air.

Water in the dead zones could not support most life, Mr DiMarco said,

and problems were appearing on the Texas coast - "I'm getting reports

of some fish kills".

Dr Rabalais said dead zones reduce the amount and variety of marine

life and, as a result, had changed the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem,

possibly permanently.

The dead zones formed in the calm summer waters and broke up when

summer doldrums ended or a hurricane churned through the gulf, she

said.

Edited by Guest
me fail english? that's unpossible.
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I knew there had to be some reason I didn't reach for the ethanol pump at the station the other day....

It's one of those, "enjoy what time we've got, fishies, before you're left gasping for breath on the bank of the river" kind of moments, I'd think.

Some organism will make do with the chemical composition we can't, at least. Apparently that was the story 3 billion years ago.

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Our only hope is that someone can invent a hydrogen producing electrolysis machine, that would be efficient enough to power a fuel cell in a car.

Huh? Do you mean a machine that can be installed in a car, electrolyze water, and then feed the resulting hydrogen + oxygen into a fuel cell? Why not just use the machine itself to (electrically) power the car and leave out the fuel cell?

Aloha,

Brad

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VW is rolling out a new Jetta in 2010 that will feature two revolutions:

1) Running on diesel fuel more cleanly that current regular gas cars

2) 10x as efficient as current diesel engines

Do you have a link to an article on this? I wonder about the "10x as efficient" part.

Aloha,

Brad

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Our only hope is that someone can invent a hydrogen producing electrolysis machine' date=' that would be efficient enough to power a fuel cell in a car.[/quote']

Huh? Do you mean a machine that can be installed in a car, electrolyze water, and then feed the resulting hydrogen + oxygen into a fuel cell? Why not just use the machine itself to (electrically) power the car and leave out the fuel cell?

Aloha,

Brad

there IS such a machine. sort of.

my wifes uncle, my uncle in law, has already installed one in his suburban, which now runs on either gasoline or water.

if you google browns gas, or run your car on water, youll find the links. HERE are some plans to convert your car over.

what it basically is, you install some new gauges, a new combustion chamber, all stuff you can do yourself, or have a handy buddy do for you.

you pour in water, the electrodes seperate the hydrogen from the oxygen, sends the hydrogen vapour to the engine where its burned instead of gasoline vapour, and the oxygen goes out the tailpipe, so not only are you running on water, not gas, but you are putting oxygen back into the air.

beatiful concepts, its a shame that big oil wont let it out. i guess the first 2 or 3 ppl that came up with this in bigtime production were both "mysteriously" killed.

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you pour in water, the electrodes seperate the hydrogen from the oxygen

What powers the electrodes?

sends the hydrogen vapour to the engine where its burned instead of gasoline vapour, and the oxygen goes out the tailpipe so not only are you running on water, not gas, but you are putting oxygen back into the air.

If you separate water into hydrogen and oxygen, then burn the hydrogen, what you get is water*, which goes out the tailpipe. If you release the oxygen that came from the separated water, the hydrogen will burn using the oxygen in the air, and use exactly as much as was separated from the water, so the net gain in free oxygen is zero.

Aloha,

Brad

* Burning is a (rapid) form of oxidation. Hydrogen's oxide form is water. Similarly, pure carbon, when burned, oxidizes to form carbon (di)oxide.

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