Monday, April 04, 2005

Catastrophic riches

The oceans may hold more energy in the form of methane hydrates--essentially, natural gas locked in ice--than all the energy in all other types of fossil fuel including conventional natural gas. As several countries race to figure out how to safely mine the stuff--it tends to explode--the worry is twofold: 1) Finding a fabulous new cache of hydrocarbon energy will only encourage faster global economic growth and result in huge additional releases of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and 2) accidentally venting vast amounts of unburned methane into the atmosphere, a greenhouse gas with 20 times the potency of carbon dioxide, will surely lead us down the road to catastrophic global warming. (For more on the methane/global warming link, click here.)

Even this so-called "clean-burning" fuel has carbon in it, enough to make things much worse. On the other hand, intelligent planning could make it the promised "bridge fuel" to a future of renewable energy.

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