Year 4, Month 3, Day 15: The Doctor Has No Face

The Washington Post covers some of the problems with natural gas:

Two guys in a black Pontiac Vibe cruise the streets of Washington’s residential neighborhoods. The only sign of what they are up to is a gray plastic tube hanging out of the trunk. And the fact that they get out of the car frequently to place a black box on manhole covers and study its readings.

Measuring how much methane gas is leaking from pipes under the District could help answer a key policy question. As natural gas production expands in the United States, do its benefits for the climate far outweigh its dangers?

Methane, the main component of natural gas, is about 25 times more powerful as a heat-trapping gas than carbon dioxide, the largest human contributor to climate change; the atmospheric concentration of methane has doubled since the start of the Industrial Revolution. While it largely dissipates in a few decades and there is far less of it in the atmosphere than CO2, it continues to drive global warming. Depending on how much leaks out in the journey from wellhead to homes and factories, some experts say, it could be enough to offset the advantages natural gas has over coal.

More fun with heroin. March 6:

Natural gas advocates tout it as a “climate-friendly” substitute for dirty fossil fuels, and at first blush this seems a valid assertion. But energy and environmental policy shouldn’t be based on first impressions; more careful studies of natural gas reveal multiple mutually-reinforcing problems with the ostensibly clean energy source.

Leaks are inevitable, and — given that methane is an exponentially more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2 — not easily dismissed. And the extraction technique of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) turns out to have devastating local and regional effects on water supplies, agriculture, and environmental quality.

In late 19th century America, morphine addiction was a serious problem, until the fortunate introduction of a “non-addictive” cure for the condition: diacetylmorphine — marketed under the trade name, “Heroin.” To substitute one fossil fuel for another is at best a stopgap strategy to avoid a cold-turkey withdrawal from our civilization’s oil and coal addiction.

Warren Senders

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *