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Precis of Post-Petroleum Energetics Including Seawater Agriculture. Dennis Bushnell Chief Scientist NASA Langley Research Center. The (Economic) Ages of Humankind. Hunter/Killer groups (~1 Million - ~5K BC) Agriculture (~5K BC - ~1850 AD) Industrial (~1850 AD - ~1950 AD)

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precis of post petroleum energetics including seawater agriculture

Precis of Post-Petroleum Energetics Including Seawater Agriculture

Dennis Bushnell

Chief Scientist

NASA Langley Research Center


The (Economic) Ages of Humankind

  • Hunter/Killer groups (~1 Million - ~5K BC)
  • Agriculture (~5K BC - ~1850 AD)
  • Industrial (~1850 AD - ~1950 AD)
  • Information/BIO/NANO(~1950 AD - ~2030 AD)
  • Virtual (~2030 - ?)

Hunter-Gatherer - “Nature Provided”

  • Agriculture - Controlled Nature (Plants/Animals)
  • Industrial - Mechanized Agriculture
  • [1800-97% Farmers,Now-2%]
  • IT/BIO/Nano - Automating Industry/Agriculture
  • Virtual - Robotization of IT/Bio/Nano/Industry/Agriculture

Technology MATTERS - For Both Good and ill………


Humans Have “Taken Over” and Vastly Shortened “Evolution”[Human Engendered~E7 times “Natural”]

  • Of the Planet
    • Global Warming/Pollution/Deforestation
    • Huge “Public Works” (e.g. 3 Gorges Dam)
  • Of the Human Species
    • Genomic Design and Repair
    • “Mind Children” (Moravec)
  • Products/Life Forms
    • Cross Species Molecular Breeding
    • “Directed Evolution” (Maxygen etc.)

Human Environment changing from

“Natural” [before],

to “Manmade” [Now]

To VIRTUAL [Evolving Future]


- CO2 levels are NOW greater than at any time in the last 650,000 Years………- Tundra Melting,Releasing huge amounts of Methane…….- European Gulf Stream Heating reduced by 30% [overlying fresh water from melting glaciers?]…….


“Prevention of collapse of the Ecosystem has now become the overwhelming issue”

European Commission on Key Technologies for Europe,2005


Rational[s] for “Going Green”

  • Escalating Price of Petroleum
  • “Warming” [ Including Acidic Oceans]
  • National Security/Geo-Politics
  • Economics/ Balance of Payments
  • Personal Economics/ “Independence”

THE KEY TECHNOLOGIES(highly synergistic / at the frontiers of the small / in a “feeding frenzy” off each other)

  • IT (comms/computing/sensors/electronics/machine intelligence)
  • Bio (genomics/molecular biology/designer life forms)
  • Nano (coatings/barriers/computers/sensors/materials/“assemblers”)
  • Energetics (HEDM (various)/revol. solar/biomass/explosives/propellants/storage)
  • Quantum [crypto/computing/sensors/optics/Electronics]
  • Societal Technological Systems (motivational asynchronous “distance learning,” immersive/virtual presence, “tele-everything,” “robotic everything,” digital earth/digital airspace)
the major societal problems
The [Major] Societal Problems
  • Warming [Anthropogenic CO2-Induced,Attendant Arctic and Ocean Methane Release]
  • Consequent “Green Energy” Requirement,Simultaneous Demise of “Cheap Oil”
  • Shortages of Water & Arable Land
  • An Increasing Food Shortage
current worldwide energy usage
Current Worldwide Energy Usage
  • Petroleum - 140 Exojoules
  • Natural Gas - 85
  • Coal - 90
  • Biomass - 55 [ Potential to 4,000+ ]
  • Nuclear Fission - 28
  • Hydroelectric - 9
  • Geothermal - 2 [ potential to 5,000 ]
  • Solar - .2 [ Potential to 1,600+ ]
  • Others [Wind, etc.] - ~7
petroleum transportation fuel outlook
Petroleum [Transportation Fuel] Outlook
  • In General,”Cheap Oil” Production is peaking or has peaked.Residual supplies will have greater production costs.Increasing Petroleum demand,particularly from the developing world ,will ensure ever increasing oil prices and shifts,from purely economic drivers, to “Alternatives” [H2,Biomass]
  • Demand Example - U.S. has 745 vehicles per 1,000 population.China,the second largest oil importer, has 3 vehicles per 1,000 population.If China goes to 5 Vehicles per 1,000 Population they will have to DOUBLE their Oil Imports to 10 Million Barrels/Day
energy and warming
Energy and Warming
  • 75% of Energy Usage is releasing climate-changing amounts of Fossil Carbon as CO2
  • This Fossil CO2 warming is releasing Fossil Methane from the Tundra and seabeds,Methane some 22X more of a warming gas than CO2,A Warming “Accelerant”
  • Of the “Renewables”,only Solar [via Biomass and “Other Approaches] has the potential to provide the requisite “Capacity” [Wind,Hydro,Conv. Nuc cannot….]
  • Biomass Produces Liquid Fuels and is less expensive than “other Solar”
direct solar energy utilization spectrum
[Direct] Solar Energy Utilization Spectrum
  • Biomass
  • PV [emerging Plastic/Nano PV,1/10th the cost…., to 70% efficiency?]
  • H2 from Photosynthesis [Genomic Biologics and artificial Photosynthesis]
  • Photo-Catalytic Disassociation of Water
  • Solar Furnaces/Concentrators/Direct Heating [including Zn production for H2 “Storage”/ Generation..]
biomass benefits
Biomass Benefits
  • Renewable
  • Nearly “CO2-Neutral”
  • No New H2 infrastructure Required
  • Minimal Sulfur
  • Relatively Inexpensive
  • Energy costs of biomass production/Processing up to an order of magnitude less than Energy “Yields”

- Capacity/Tonnage Currently limited by “sweet” water and arable land


Bio Mass Potential

Biomass grown on some 6% of the U.S. Land mass could replace current U.S. oil and natural gas consumption

bio refineries
  • Bio-Chemical,Enzymatic Hydrolysis/Fermentation of Biomass into Sugars,Lignin,alcohol and Methane
  • Thermochemical,Pyrolysis/gasification,Conversion to gas/liquid/solid mix,catalysis producing Biopolymers and Liquid or Gaseous Fuels
  • Chemical,Biomass Oil conversion to “BioDiesel” etc. fuels

- Due to costs of Biomass transportation,Bio-refineries should be “Distributed”/”Scalable”,Products largely delivered/deliverable via Pipelines

sampling biomass utilization archipelago
Sampling - Biomass Utilization Archipelago
  • Transportation/Liquid Fuels [Distill/Refine it]
  • Direct Heat Generation [Burn it]
  • Direct Electricity Generation [Bio Fuel Cells]
  • Food [via Genomics]
  • “Petro-Chemical Feed-Stock [Plastics etc.]
  • Direct H2 Production [e.g. Fermentation/Algae feeding]
  • On Site Micro-Power/Co-[electricity] Generation

“Water Scarcity is now the single greatest threat to Human Health,The Environment and the Global Food Supply”

the emerging desert mantra some 44 of land worldwide is wasteland
The Emerging Desert Mantra[Some 44% of land worldwide is “Wasteland”]
  • Desert Area Characteristics

- Sunlight

- Brackish/Saline Ground Water

- Many near/on seacoasts

  • Utilize these “Resources” For:

- Nano-Plastic PV

- Saline-Seawater Agriculture for Biomass/Energy and Food


Conventional/Historical “Wisdom” - Seawater/Saline incursions/occurance Detrimental-to-Disasterous for Agriculture

Unconventional - Saline/Salt water Agriculture a Viable-to-Desirable Alternative to Conventional Agriculture

saline seawater agriculture
Saline/Seawater Agriculture
  • Quasi-Conventional:

- For Food & Fodder

- “Reclaim”/Desalinate land via Biologics

  • Unconventional

- For Land,Water,Energy,Warming,Minerals,Food and Terra-Forming/enhanced Rainfall i.e. STRATEGIC Not Tactical, to Contribute to ALL the Major Problems,not just food

advantages of seawater ag
Advantages of Seawater AG
  • 97% of all water is seawater,will not “Run Out”
  • Seawater Contains:

- wide variety of important minerals

- ~ 80% of Nutrients required for Agriculture [need to add Nitrogen,Phosphorus and Iron]

  • In proximity to a number of Dry/Desert Areas
mineral extraction from seawater
Mineral Extraction from Seawater

- “[Conventional] mining is one of the most environmentally damaging activities carried out by Humans”

  • Seawater AG puts “missing/trace Minerals” back into Food Supply
  • Current Seawater Mineral Extraction - Magnesium,Bromide,Salts,Phosphorites,Metallic Sulfides,
  • “Seawater and Brines appear destined to replace Mineral Ores as the main source of Light Metals”
  • Nascent [low cost/energy] Bio/Algae Extraction Approaches….
alternative seawater ag employment approaches
Alternative Seawater AG Employment Approaches
  • Desalinization [in General,too expensive for Agriculture]
  • Cold/deeper Ocean water to [via heat exchangers] precipitate moisture from the atmosphere
  • Seawater Greenhouses [involve vaporization/re-precipitation]
  • Direct Plant Seawater Irrigation
some numbers
Some Numbers
  • Sahara some 2E9 Acres
  • 1.2 Acre Meters Required for Agriculture/Irrigation [per year]
  • Average Sahara Elevation some 450 Meters
  • ~ cost to pump 1.2 acre meters of Seawater to 450 Meters altitude [vertical lift only] some $1200/Acre
  • 1 Acre produces 10-to-40 tons of dry Biomass per year
  • I Ton of dry Biomass provides 16E6 BTU’s = 2.75 Barrels of Oil
  • @ $60/Barrel of oil,1 ton of Biomass worth [after “refining”] ~ $165 [other estimates,which include Addit. Goodness factors [e.g. countering warming] are as high as $300-$700/ton]
  • @ 20 Tons/Acre and $165/ton Value of an Acre of Biomass = $~3300
irrigation influences upon rainfall
Irrigation Influences Upon Rainfall
  • “Irrigation can Represent an Enormous Perturbation of the Regional Atmospheric Water and Heat Balance”
  • Cool,Wet Surface increases low level Atmospheric Instabilities,incites “Storms”
  • Various Studies Indicate -

- 18%-25% precipitation Increase [from only .4 acre meter Irrigation]

- Irrigation increased Rainfall by 91%

- Irrigation and Vegetation changes are clear dominating factors with direct influence upon atmospheric water content

halophyte salt plant utilization per yensen
Halophyte [Salt-Plant] Utilization [Per Yensen]
  • Patents issued for Halophyte Crop[s] [Genetics,Genomics]
  • 10,000+ “Natural” Halophyte Plants,250 of these are potential “Staple” crops
  • Research ongoing on/for Halophilic [Salt-LOVING] Halophytes,The more salt the faster the growth…
  • Huge areas worldwide are already salt-affected [1 B Hectares] and another Billion Hectares overlie Saline Aquifers.
  • Over 100 halophyte plants now in “trials” for “Commercial” applications
sample countries with saline ag projects









- Current Status,Prototype Farms/Experiments for FOOD





Saudi Arabia






[Sample] Countries with Saline AG projects
chinese seawater ag reporting
Chinese Seawater AG Reporting
  • Genetically Modified [grown on “Beaches” using Seawater]:

- Tomato

- Eggplant

- Pepper

- Wheat

- Rice

- Rapeseed


The Potential[s] for enhanced [Halophyte] Plant Growth via Nano/Bio Technology thought to be Large,60% improvements thus far,”Only Beginning” - An Example Requisite Capability - Nitrogen Fixation [utilization/extraction from the air]

on going research areas
On-going Research Areas
  • Enhanced Plant growth rates and enhanced “Salt-Loving”
  • Reduced water/nutrient Requirements
  • Irrigation Efficiency Improvements
  • Plant /Lifeform tailoring for specific Bio-Conversion/Refining Processes
  • ‘Safe”/’Contained” Saline/Seawater Irrigation Practices,Avoid-to-Obviate Fresh Aquifer Contamination
suggested seawater ag biomass solution mix
Suggested Seawater Ag Biomass “Solution” Mix
  • Seawater Irrigation near “dry” and flattish Coastal areas
  • Saline irrigation where Saline Aquifers are available at Reasonable Pumping Depths
  • Seawater Irrigation inland where Economics appear feasible
  • Enhanced rainfall induced by Irrigation [the “Terraforming” aspect[s]]
terraforming 1
TerraForming -1
  • Altering a Planetary Surface to make it suitable for Terrestrial life
  • Seawater AG for Biomass Energy can be of sufficient magnitude to qualify as Terra-Forming
  • Humans have long practiced “Anti-Terraforming” with neither plan nor prediction
  • It appears timely/necessary to attempt terraforming but with both Plan and Prediction…
terraforming 2 raddatz and knom
TerraForming -2 [Raddatz and Knom]
  • The Biosphere/Surface vegetation plays a dominant role on climate
  • Vegetation can affect continent-scale atmospheric motion[s]. The interaction between Atmosphere and land cover can be HIGHLY NON-LINEAR…..
obvious terraforming modeling computation requirements inputs
[Obvious] Terraforming Modeling/Computation Requirements/Inputs
  • Irrigated Land Area
  • Type of Vegetation/Evaporation Rate
  • Vegetation Coverage
  • Atmospheric Particulate details [allow cloud formation at .1% super-saturation]
  • Utilization of both “Boundary Layer Meteorology and Global Circulation/Earth System Models
  • ETC……
bottom line enablers pull saline seawater biomass irrigation
Bottom Line Enablers/”Pull” - Saline/Seawater Biomass Irrigation
  • Oil Prices now high enough [and going higher] to make the economics worth looking into [again]
  • H2 Infrastructure Costs & Storage issues
  • Potential Halophyte Genomic improvements
  • Global Warming,Green Energy Requirements
  • Increasing shortages of Sweet water/”Arable Land”

- Requires SERIOUS Forecasting……


Advantages of Shallow Sea/Desert Production of Biomass (Via Seawater Irrigation - energy, warming, food,land, water])

  • Closed CO2 Cycle (Obviates Global Warming)
  • Food
  • Petro-chemical feedstock [plastics etc.]
  • Terraforming, alter desertification etc.
  • Preservation/Production of Fresh Water
  • Rich Mineral source (Seawater)
  • Utilization of “Wastelands” (Sahara, etc.)
  • Seawater has 85% of plant nutrients

Frontier Energetics(Production/Storage)

  • Biomass via saltwater agriculture
  • Solar H2 production
    • efficient visible light (vs. just ultraviolet) photocatalytic electrolysis of water
  • CNT H2 storage, Zeolite H2 storage
  • Direct plant and bacteria H2 production
  • SMES/CNT magnets
    • 2 to 20 X energy density of O2- H2 fuel (in a battery)
  • Efficient direct conversion (thermal to electric), “thermal diodes (~24%),Nano-Voids [~30%]
  • Advanced Geothermal

Frontier Energetics(Production/Storage)

  • LENRS and “nano-fusion” (ala G. Miley, DOE/NAVY),Muon-Catalyzed Fusion
  • CNT Flywheels
  • Isomers/Quantum nucleonics
    • Several, ~105 X HE
  • Offshore methane hydrate
    • 106 greater than known natural gas reserves
  • Hydrogen/Boron-11 Fusion - charged particle/Direct conversion,”Dense Plasma Focus fusion”
  • Z-Pinch Fusion

Aneutronic H-B11 Fusion

Inertial Electrostatic Confinement Fusion [QED,IEC,IEF]

  • Produces Protons,Direct MHD Electricity Generation vice [Neutron] Thermalization
  • Reduced Radiation Hazard[s]/Weight
  • High Thrust-to-weight AND High Isp [via reduced shielding,magnetics,High Power Drivers]
  • For SSTO,Payload Mass Fraction is ~ 14%,Launch Cost Estimate ~ $100/lb

Frontier Energetics(Production/Storage)

  • Femto-second laser/other production of anti-matter/positrons
  • Bose-Einstein condensate/Positronium storage of Positrons
  • HEDM (MIC, SBER, nano-powders, cold silicon, solid H2, atomic C/B/H, cubanes, metastable He,Etc…)
  • Bacteria-based fuel cells
  • Plastic Nano PV,factor of 10 cost reduction,2X Efficiency [Nanocrystals]
  • Piezo-Electric Energy Extraction [M-E]
  • ZPE
  • Deep Earth Prod.-Non-Bio Hydrocarbons

Antimatter Fuels/Propulsion Approaches

  • Positrons - Stored as Positronium?,Gamma emission used for heating,also - via direct conversion could yield Electrical Energy for 2000 Sec. Isp High Thrust MHD Acceleration, negligible fuel fraction…
  • Trigger Fission at 100% [vice < 5%] for fission “nuc” Propulsion
  • Antihydrogen - Stored as Bose-Einstein Condensate,”Harvest” from Van Allen Belts

Energetics in the “Post-Petroleum” Age

  • BioMass via Seawater Agriculture on Wastelands[Land,water,,warming]
  • Plastic Nano PV
  • Advanced Geothermal
  • Tidal Currents
  • Genomic Bacteria H2 Production
  • Artificial Photo-Synthesis H2 Production
  • Photo-Catalytic Electrolysis of H2O
  • P-B11 Fusion,LENR’s
  • Wildcard - ZPE
  • Conservation via “Light Diodes”,Thermal Diodes,CNT Computing,”Tele-Everything”, Fuel Cells,CNT-enabled weight reductions

Worldwide IT Revolution

  • Comms/Computing/Sensors/Electronics
  • Factor of E07 since ’59 [Moores’ Law]
  • Factor of E08 to E12 further improvement [Silicon,Molecular/CNT, Quantum, Bio, Optical]
  • Beyond Human Machine Intelligence?
  • Automatics/Robotics “in the large”
  • Immersive multi-sensory VR/”Holodecks”
  • Ubiquitous multi physics/hyperspectral sensors [land/sea/air/space]


  • Work (at home telecommuting, reduced local/corporal travel)
  • Shopping (at home web based, (robotic?) delivery)
  • Entertainment/leisure (at home immersive 3-D interactive/multi-sensory via VR/holographic projection)
  • Travel (3-D/interactive/multi-sensory tele-travel)
  • Education (at home low cost asynchronous, web based on-demand, highly motivational, life-long distance learning, .edu)
  • Health (at home interactive tele-medicine)
  • Politics (increased real-time virtual involvement of the body politic)
  • Commerce (tele-commerce already ubiquitous)
  • Tele-Socialization, Tele -[onsite] Manufacturing


  • Quantum computing initially available in 5 years
  • 15% of all power today is used by computers, will reach 60% by 2020?
  • Wearable/implantable (on-person) electronics--comms, computing, sensory augmentation, health monitoring, brain stimulation

Global Warming “Solutions”

  • Green Energy
  • Conservation
  • Genomic Biologics w/greatly increased CO2 Uptake
  • Trigger/Engineer Calderas [Nascent Volcanoes],Put massive amounts of dust in the Atmosphere
  • Nano-Particulates spread on the monolayer of surfactant on the Oceans’ Surface to alter Albedo
  • Gigantic reflective films/membranes in orbit
  • Seed Oceans with iron to provoke/enable Phytoplankton Blooms

Nominal Power Densities

  • ZPE……………………..E108 X Chemical
  • Anti-Matter/Positrons….. E10 X Chemical
  • Fission/Fusion………….. E6 X Chemical
  • Isomers…………………. E5 X Chemical
  • SBER…………………… E2 X Chemical
  • Hydrogen……………..……..38 KWH/Kg
  • HC…………………………..14 “
  • Advanced Flywheels………. .9 - 20? “
  • Batteries………….. ………. .04 - 10? “
  • SMES……………………… .0015 - ~100? “
  • Super/ultra Capacitors……… .0007 -8? “

Energetics “Wild Cards” Being Worked

  • Solitons for Low Divergence Power Beaming
  • Positron Storage as Positronium
  • High Efficiency Plastic Nano PV
  • 30%+ Thermo-Electrics
  • High Efficiency [KW/KG] Fuel Cells
  • “On-Site” H2 Generation vice Storage [Zinc,….]
  • Room Temperature S-C, IECF P-B11
  • Tapping ZPE, Higher Yield LENR’s
  • Controlled Nuclear Isomer Release
  • SMES with CNT Magnets
  • Lithium Tantalate Crystals

Soliton Energy Transfer…..

  • Solitons are waves in non-linear systems which are non-dispersive,”maintain amplitude”
  • Utilized in optical communications [information transfer],up to 1,000,000 Km thus far
  • Physics evidently allows utilization for Energy Transfer,Not yet accomplished

- Would change Energetics MUCH [DE weaponry, SPSats, Beamed Energy Propulsion,……]


First-Order Impacts of Nano upon Energetics[Improved Performance/Cost & Requirement Reductions]

  • Fuel Cells
  • Photovoltaics
  • H2 Storage [Casimir Forces?]
  • Supercapacitors
  • Batteries
  • Structural dry weight reductions [1/3rd-1/8th]

Hydrogen Sources

  • Genomic Bio Photosynthesis
  • “Artificial” Photosynthesis
  • Electrolysis:

- Direct visible light Photo-Catalysis

- Plastic Nano PV Energy

- Bio Mass [Incl.Seawater Agric.] Energy

- Ocean Thermal,Wind Energy

- “Usual” Energy Sources [Hydro,Nuc,….]

  • Reformation [JP,Methane,Ammonia….]
  • Coal Gasification[w/H20]
  • Sulfur-iodine Thermo-chemical Cycle [w/H2O]

Hydrogen Storage

  • Cryo [incl. Slush, Solid]
  • CNT’s/Zeolites [Casimir Force Optimization,Doping]] , CNT Structure
  • CNT Pressure Vessels,
  • Lithium Nitride,Graphite Nanofibers
  • Ammonia,Ammonia Borane [PNNL]
  • Methane,Gas Hydrates
  • Porous Magnesium Alloys
  • Titanium doped Hydrides
  • Glass/Polymer Microspheres
  • Metal/Organic Frameworks
an outlook for h2
[An] Outlook for H2
  • Biologic H2 sources could provide a “Green” H2 Supply
  • H2 Infrastructure would take too long to put in place [ compared to warming/petroleum problem[s] time scales] and is exceedingly expensive
  • Hydrogen Storage is still nascent, Nano Tech including Casimir Force Engineering could “help”

- Bottom Line[s]……Biofuel[s] [ using existing infrastructures] are/will be the Green transportation fuel of choice.

suggested green energy best bets ways forward
Suggested Green Energy Best Bets/“Ways Forward”
  • Seawater Ag, Aquaculture - Biofuels
  • Nano Plastic PV
  • Advanced Geothermal, Tidal Currents
  • 20%-30% Efficient Thermoelectrics [ “Harvesting”, cycle efficiency ]
  • SMES w/CNT Magnets [ 10X Chem storage?]
  • Positron storage as Positronium,IECF P-B11

BTW - “Conventional Nuc Fission Fuel Cycle Waste a Serious ”Problem” [near term waste storage approach is casks on an open parking lot at an Indian Reservation……]

physics outlook issues
Physics Outlook/Issues
  • Quantum and Relativity do not “Merge”
  • They do not explain “Dark Energy”
  • They do not explain “Dark Matter”
  • They do not provide an “understanding” of “Non-Locality”
  • Where did the Anti-Matter Go?……
  • Many other “Unsolved Problems”…..
the great unsolved problems in physics smolin
The Great Unsolved Problems in Physics [ Smolin]
  • Combine Relativity and Quantum into a single, complete theory
  • Resolve the problems in the foundations of Quantum
  • Explain Dark Matter and Energy
  • Explain the values of the some 20 constants in the Standard Model
  • Unification of the Particles and Forces [ including gravity]
extant explanation approaches samples additional degrees of freedom experimental verification tbd
Extant “Explanation” Approaches [Samples,Additional Degrees of Freedom, Experimental Verification TBD..]
  • Time Reversals/Retrocausation
  • Extra [Spatial] Dimensions

- Many Worlds/Multiverses

- String/M/Brane Theories [ to 11 Dim.]

- 5 Dim. Larger Universe/ “The Bulk”

  • “Larger Constructs”

- Bohm Quantum Potential

- Holographic Universe

- Puthoff ZPAether

- The “Bulk”


What is Sought are “Explanations” for Dark Matter/Energy and Non-Locality Etc. which satisfy Occam’s Razor. Once Found/Determined the Ensuing/Enabled Technologies should be Seriously Revolutionary,including wrt Energy, Stay Tuned…….