News Stories

Invisible Methane Leaks

Major cause of global warming - Infrared cameras have revealed major methane leaks in gas wells in eastern Texas. In the October 15th editions of the New York Times, Andrew C. Revkin and Clifford Krauss quote environmentalist Terry Gosney, who took the infrared photos, as saying, "Holy smoke, it's blowing like mad. It does look nasty." The same thing is going on with gas wells all over the world. Methane may cause as much as one-third of the human contribution to global warming. However, unlike carbon dioxide, which can remain in the atmosphere for 100 years, methane stays in the air for about 10 years, so capping these wells is a short-term solution, while we invest in longer-term fixes.

Can we USE this methane by turning it into fuel? Researchers are trying to convert methane gas to a liquid in order to do this. Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is plentiful and is an attractive fuel and raw material for chemicals because it is more efficient than oil, produces less pollution when burned and could serve as a practical substitute for petroleum-based fuels until renewable fuels are widely useable and available. However, methane is difficult and costly to transport because it remains a gas at temperatures and pressures typical on the Earth's surface.

In a provocative new study, a scientist argues that rising greenhouse gas emissions, which are the major cause of global warming, cannot be stabilized unless the world's economy collapses or society builds the equivalent of one new nuclear power plant each day.

Atmospheric scientist Tim Garrett says, "It looks unlikely that there will be any substantial near-term departure from recently observed acceleration in carbon dioxide emission rates." He says that energy conservation or efficiency doesn

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