Rising Fuel Costs Hurt Marine Research

oilgraph.jpgNature News reports:

“Many of the research projects launched as part of the International Polar Year (IPY), which runs from March 2007 to March 2009, are under threat because of the steep rise in marine-fuel costs. Hundreds of Arctic and Antarctic scientists face uncertainty as polar science programmes worldwide are curtailed, postponed or cancelled.

The price of a barrel of oil has more than doubled since March 2007, from US$60 to $140 now. High energy costs are a problem for research in most fields, but logistically complicated research operations in remote polar regions are more affected than, say, big physics experiments.

“We have reached a point where the collapse of some of our activities is looming on the horizon,” says Karin Lochte, director of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) in Bremerhaven, Germany, which operates the research icebreaker Polarstern, Europe’s largest scientific vessel.

Icebreakers are usually fuelled by marine diesel oil (MDO), a cleaner and more expensive fuel than the heavy oil used by normal cargo ships. The average price for MDO has increased fivefold since 2003, from $250 to $1,300 per metric tonne (equivalent to around 1,200 litres of diesel). Since January, the price has increased by almost $550 per tonne (see graph).”

Dr. M (1729 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, a National Science Foundation supported initiative. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web. His forthcoming book, Science of the South (http://www.scienceofthesouth.com/), connects cultural icons of South such as pecan pie with the science behind them.

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4 comments on “Rising Fuel Costs Hurt Marine Research
  1. This issue should get much more attention than it has — it’s also affecting our domestic NOAA-based research, where ships like the R/V Gordon Gunter are said to be tied to the dock for the rest of the fiscal year due to fuel costs. And, of course, ship time is something that all of us marine folks have to factor in to our grant proposal budgets, so as fuel costs rise, so do the costs of our research. Perhaps its time to switch our research vessel fleets over to biodiesel!

  2. As much as I hate to say it, because I absolutely love going to see and being absorbed by it for weeks, this might be an even greater argument to increase out efforts with benthic and midwater (via buoys) ocean observing networks. Of course there are somethings that you just need to be out there for, but I am guessing much of what we do can done from the shore or via remotely operated vehicles and autonomous underwater vehicles.

  3. One of our penguin biologists had a grant to study rockhoppers off Chile, but boat fuel has thrown the whole expedition into question. The locals say operating costs have nearly tripled. The sad thing is the purpose of the expedition was to catalog species in order to create a protected area for the birds.

  4. FishguyDave, biodiesel is more expensive than regular diesel, so that’s certainly no solution. Expensive marine diesel fuel is going to be a fixture for all vessel operators, so get used to it.

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