Planktos Is Back, and This Time It's Got Science!

Some of you might remember the beleaguered company Planktos, which was looking to fertilize the world’s oceans with iron in an attempt to stimulate phytoplankton blooms and reduce carbon emissions. Come on, you remember — its dreams went dead in the water back in February due to what it called a wave of “anti-offset crusaders” that waged a “highly effective disinformation campaign.” Critics on the other hand said the company flopped because of its lack of scientific practices. Well, like a bad horror movie sequel, it’s baaack. And it’s brought along a shiny new friend: “science.”

The newly named Planktos Science is based in San Francisco and consists of the original company’s science team and its founder, Russ George. According to its web site, Planktos Science has no business affiliation with the original Planktos Corp., which was publicly traded, nor its partner, Solar Energy (hat tip GreenCarCongress).

The launch post says that George was allowed to recover rights to the technology and use of the Planktos name, and that the company can now proceed with its work of seeding the oceans with iron. Planktos repeatedly describes that goal with the pleasant-sounding term “ecorestoration.” We’re not sure what the “new” Planktos will do to reassure investors and the science community that it will proceed differently, but likely stamping its moniker and web site with “science” won’t do the trick.

We appreciate the fact that ocean seeding has enough potential to merit scientific study. Startup Climos is pursuing the same objective — to investigate this technology’s potential — and has managed to convince high profile investors Elon Musk and Braemer Energy Ventures to invest in its plan. But as to whether or not ocean seeding is effective in reducing global warming, the jury’s still out.

It’s the job of these companies to both base their actions on science and assure the public (and the media) that their actions are based on sound science. Because poor PR can ruin any plan, regardless of its merits. Of this Planktos Science is still guilty. Check out this wild description they put on their web site pointing fingers at “environmentalists” and the media that they say are fighting them:

They have chosen to engage in a classical ‘strawman attack’ demonizing their opposition through the publication and spreading of ‘spin doctored’ press releases replete with obvious lies and propaganda suggesting that there is no scientific basis and that there are no laws governing this field. It is all, in their words, like some sort of “wild west” arena. Nothing could be farther from the truth but in this age of instant Internet blogging, gossip mongering, and mudslinging, truth is something that takes a little time and effort to learn. Sadly there is always some media outlet looking for a quick story conforming to media’s central editorial premise – “if it bleeds, it leads.’ This provides fertile ground for these attacking organizations to harvest funds via their fear mongering “campaigns” but it comes at the expense of our dying oceans.

If Planktos Science wants to be a serious company, they should get some serious PR help.

We asked the CEO of Planktos’ competitor Climos, Dan Whaley, what he thought about Planktos’ relaunch. Whaley didn’t seem too impressed by the new science spin:

New web site, same questions: Who are the credible oceanographers that are associated with this effort? Where are the studies, and the modeling for the projects he has proposed? Who will lead the cruise–Russ? Where is the funding and what is the business model? Russ George seems to be a curiosity– a distraction to the real science involved.

Also check out Popular Sciences’ slam of Planktos (here).