Tag Archives: Natural gas

Climate Sense: Concerns rise over methane and auto-emission rules

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, capable of trapping far more heat than the same amount carbon dioxide, at least in the short term. This week, I point you to some new studies regarding the release of methane and news about a potential showdown between state and federal governments over fuel-economy standards.

Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is not well understood by many people. Methane can absorb more than 100 times as much energy as an equal weight of carbon dioxide, experts say, but methane breaks down in the atmosphere over time, so the effect of releasing a ton of methane actually decreases as time goes on.

Graphic: Environmental Protection Agency

Methane’s “global warming potential,” or GWP, is said to be 28-36 times higher than CO2 when considering the effects over 100 years — so methane is regarded as a major contributor to climate change. Check out the explanation of GWP by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Sources of methane are widespread — from vegetation naturally decomposing in wetlands to incidental releases during natural gas production and transport. Figuring out the amount of methane coming from various sources has been a puzzle for climate scientists.

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Amusing Monday: Fracking has its lighter side

While the scientific and policy debate rages on about methods of extracting natural gas from underground shale deposits, I’ve experienced a few amusing moments regarding this topic of hydraulic fracturing — “fracking.”

Comedian Stephen Colbert is a huge supporter of fracking, as you can see in the video at right.

“My only worry,” he says, “is that we will become too dependent on ourselves and end up invading Pennsylvania. That place is a quagmire full of religious extremists (photo of two Amish men) and fanatics (photo of Philadelphia Phillies mascot Phillie Phanatic).

In the music realm, check out “My Water’s On Fire Tonight” (“The Fracking
Song”), a collaboration of Studio 20 at New York University and Pro Publica.

Comedian Jon Stewart conducts a semi-serious conversation about natural gas development with T. Boone Pickens, the business financier who is heavily invested in natural gas resources. Stewart never seems to get around to asking about industry changes the past few years or about the potential environmental consequences of fracking.

A more balanced examination of the issue was written by Steven Mufson of The Washington Post, carried a couple days ago on the Seattle Times website. I’m offering that link for information, not amusement.

Finally, Ann McElhinney, an Irish filmmaker, believes that fracking is an important element in this nation’s effort to develop new energy supplies. (Check out this YouTube video.) She argues that the environmental risks have been greatly overblown and is planning to make a film about the issue. It will be called “FrackNation,” a counterpoint to Josh Fox’s “Gasland.” I think you’ll find her talk amusing, though it may stir up some other emotions as well.