There is so much fracking going on in the US right now that shale mines are burning off enough gas to power all the homes in Chicago and Washington combined, with a method that is freeing us from dependence on foreign oil but is causing growing concern about damage to the environment. Are some of the "booms" we’re hearing caused by this process? (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this show).
North Dakota is leading the fracking revolution, and the amount of unwanted gas being flared off mines in that state rode 50% last year–to the extent that this burning gas can be seen from space! While it may not keep astronauts on the ISS awake, these flaring blue lights are likely to disturb nearby neighbors on Earth.
In the January 28th edition of the Financial Times, Ajay Makan and Ed Crooks report that the problem has gotten so big that the North Dakota legislature is considering a bill to encourage flaring reduction through tax breaks. The state is also pushing producers to use gas to power drilling rigs.
Maybe we should get our power from green slime instead. Algae–that green stuff that causes fish-killing "dead zones" in our oceans and lakes when too much nitrogen-rich fertilizer floods into them–may become one our main foods in the future. We may also use it to power our cars.
Chemical engineer Phil Savage says, "We’re trying to mimic the process in nature that forms crude oil with marine organisms." Except that instead of taking millions of years, scientists can "pressure cook" algae for as little as a minute to transform it into biofuel.
Once producing biofuel from algae becomes economical, researchers estimate that an area the size of New Mexico could provide enough oil to match current US petroleum consumption. And, unlike corn produced for ethanol–which already accounts for half that area–the algae won’t need to occupy good farmland, thriving in brackish ponds instead.
Meanwhile, what about the corn we EAT–is genetically-modified corn evil? The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has released the scientific information it used to clear allegations against a Monsanto GM corn variety which French researcher Gilles-Eric Seralini linked to cancer in laboratory rats The agency says that now "any member of the public or scientific community will now be able to examine and utilize the full data sets used in this risk assessment."