Methane Our Next Great Fuel and Power Source

Massive volumes of methane frozen in the earth’s soils are a “time-bomb ticking under our feet. Twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide, methane is an asphyxiate, an explosive, a contributor towards global warming and a catalyst for natural disasters. It is sort of a double fold for our human existence, we can either use the natural gas as a much needed fuel source or we can continue down this course to oblivion. So far we have idly let our government officials and big businesses alike manipulate environmental decisions. Our US Senators with their own special interest continue to support negligent business practices. Instead of supporting the interest of the people, our government officials blindsided its people. While we are at work each day ensuring our futures our government officials sold us out to the oil companies to ensure their futures with lots of money. To put the whole truth outward, our waste creates pollution, pollution creates global warming, global warming creates natural disasters and all these natural disasters could lead towards our destruction. The time is now to decide whether we continue down this self destructing path or will we begin to stand up to heal the one thing that we all need to survive, the Earth.

By 2010, the methane concentration within the world’s atmosphere had reached unprecedentedly three times higher levels than at any other time in the past 400,000 years. Historically, methane concentrations in the world’s atmosphere have ranged between 300 to 400 moles during our glacial periods commonly known as the ice ages and have reached as high as 600 to 700 moles during our warm interglacial periods. Now the methane concentration within the world’s atmosphere is at 1850 moles continuing the warming effects from the greenhouse gas within the Earth’s ozone layer.
Twenty-five percent of all land surfaces in the Northern Hemisphere contains a staggering 2000 to 4000 Gigatonnes of methane held within its permafrost. Permafrost currently stores more than double the amount of all carbon in the atmosphere. No matter where researchers now drill under the sea, they find methane, often in the form of a hydrate. Methane hydrates have been formed over millions of years on the floor of our oceans and seas from decaying organic matter. The problem is when the frozen hydrates melt; 170 times the volume of methane gas comes bubbling out. The pressure only stays locked up if the pressure of the sea floor remains high and the temperature stays low. If this balance changes, the methane will quickly escape. It is estimated that methane hydrates on our ocean floors hold an alarming rate of 250 trillion cubic meters of methane gas. There is more than twice as much of methane than of all the world’s reserves of conventional gas, oil and coal deposits all combined together.

Global reserves of methane hydrates are estimated at 100 times greater than conventional natural gas resources. In the US alone, the Department of Energy (DOE) report that if just one percent of domestic hydrate reserves were recoverable, it would more than double the nation’s remaining natural gas supplies. Unfortunately, methane hydrate deposits are inherently unstable. Warming seawater could melt them, leading to rapid global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a partnership between the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program, says that climate change during the 21st century has the potential to lead to future large-scale and possibly irreversible changes in Earth systems resulting in impacts at continental and global scales. One of the proposed mechanisms of climate change is the melting of methane hydrates.

Fifty-five million years ago spontaneous releases of carbon took global temperatures to a level perhaps 15 degrees higher than human beings have ever experienced. However we are choosing to repeat the same past. What took Fifty-five million years to occur is happening now within the last 200 years. Not in the future but today, the Arctic methane hydrate deposits are destabilizing, and if not re-stabilized will release in vast amounts of methane into the atmosphere.

Gregory Ryskin a bio-chemical engineer at Northwestern University has theorized that oceans periodically produce massive eruptions of explosive methane gases. He has documented the scientific evidence that such an event was directly responsible for the mass extinctions that occurred 55 million years ago with the demise of the dinosaurs. To help you understand the implications take into account the dangers of stagnant water that continuously leaks methane gas into our atmosphere. We already know that certain volcanic lakes can burst forth in clouds of choking gas as was the case with Monoun and Nyos lakes in the central African nation of Cameroon. Many lakes in the tropics are stagnant and over the years the bottom waters of Nyos and Monoun grow supercharged with gas. In 1984 Monoun erupted like a champagne bottle uncorked and brought forth a thick froth of carbon dioxide. The dense gas flowed over the crater wall and down the mountainside, suffocating 37 people. In 1986 Nyos did the same, killing some 1700 people. The warning signs of an impending planetary catastrophe are on the horizon.

Yet our contribution to our own demise is to walk our trash to the street curb, flush our toilets with little concern and recycle what we can. We never think twice as to what has become of the waste. Take for instance the effects of land fills which contributes to twenty-one percent of our atmospheric methane. The EPA acknowledged in 1996 in its “FINAL AIR REGULATIONS FOR MUNICIPAL SOLID WASTE LANDFILLS,” that as the waste in a landfill decomposes, it breaks down to form landfill gases, such as methane, smog-causing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and air toxics, pollutants known or suspected of causing cancer and other serious health effects. We can only predicted how much damage methane will do to the world we live in today but all the same as these chemicals mix and decay in our land fills, they seep into our atmosphere causing greenhouse gasses. Methane also leaks into our underground water caverns causing an even deadlier destruction. All methane needs to ignite an explosion is air, not forgetting that deep within much of our land surface is permafrost ridden with methane. To triple that fact is that scientists have deduced that nearly one third of all the life on this planet is the multitude of microbes that live under the seafloor where there is absolutely no light or oxygen. These masses of microbes create enough methane gas that seepage to the warm surface waters directly results in underground earthquakes and huge tsunamis, inevitable global warming and even mass extinctions of many species. But yet we flush our toilets never thinking of the consequences that the sewage sludge is headed to some unforeseen ocean. Methane is one of several volatile gases found in sewers. Volatile gases can be ignited by a small spark, causing violent explosions. .
Tangelia Wagner Reed May 2 /11

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