The Scientific Activist

This week’s installment of Fantastical Fridays discusses a not-so-impressive finding reported in the media in January 2006. From the archives:

(30 January 2006) To all of those who worried about the United States’ dependence on Middle Eastern oil, who tried to raise awareness about dwindling global oil reserves, or who fought for decent fuel economy standards, you can all go home now. We found the answer: methane… methane hydrate. Boy were we misguided, thinking that renewable or clean energy sources might be a part of the solution. USA TODAY reports on humanity’s newfound salvation:

Scientists have discovered an undersea deposit of frozen methane just off the Southern California coast, but whether it can be harnessed as a potential energy source is unknown.

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in tapping methane hydrates, ice-like crystals that form at low temperatures and high pressure in seabeds and in Arctic permafrost.

Scientists estimate that the methane trapped in previously known frozen reservoirs around the globe could power the world for centuries. But finding the technology to mine such deposits has proved elusive….

In additional to technical problems standing in the way of mining methane hydrates, Hein said mining this deposit probably would be difficult because of its proximity to shipping lanes from Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Oh, and then of course there was the other issue, but it’s not very important–just a minor detail:

Some scientists also worry about the environmental effects of such large-scale gas deposits. Hydrates are estimated to contain about three times as much methane as is currently in the atmosphere, and some scientists say releasing it could lead to global warming and change the world’s climate.

Some scientists” say it “could lead to global warming”? I’d like to meet the one credible scientist who says mining methane won’t influence climate change. Methane is a global warming double whammy: not only does burning it release the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, but methane itself is a greenhouse gas, one that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide!

I like this idea about as much as the “Jump to Conclusions mat” from the movie Office Space:

Tom Smykowski: It’s a “Jump to Conclusions mat”. You see, you have this mat, with different conclusions written on it that you could jump to.

Michael Bolton: That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard in my life, Tom.

Samir Nagheenanajar: Yes, this is horrible, this idea.