Energy from “flammable ice” raises hopes and fears

“Flammable ice”–a burning methane hydrate chunk. Photo: US Geological Survey

The search for energy resources continues hot and heavy. Because – like it or not – those who live in the developed world enjoy consuming hefty amounts of energy, from whatever source is handy. And billions in the developing world would like more of that good life too.

Enter “Flammable ice”, which is more properly called methane hydrate.

I’d never heard of it until maybe a year ago, when a relative spoke about the idea as something new on the horizon. It’s in the news this past week, with reports of a favorable exploratory experiment/expedition in Japan.

As reported in BBC news 3/12/13:  ”Japan says it has successfully extracted natural gas from frozen methane hydrate off its central coast, in a world first”. This New York Times article explains what the fuss focused on:

Methane hydrate is a sherbet-like substance that can form when methane gas is trapped in ice below the seabed or underground. Though it looks like ice, it burns when it is heated.

Experts say there are abundant deposits of gas hydrates in the seabed and in some Arctic regions. Japan, together with Canada, has already succeeded in extracting gas from methane hydrate trapped in permafrost soil. U.S. researchers are carrying out similar test projects on the North Slope of Alaska.

Methane hydrate chunk on seafloor with dissociating methane gas. Photo: US Geological Survey

Japan’s keen interest in this potential energy resource is spurred by that country’s profound dependance on imported fossil fuel. The Wall Street Journal reports the discovery boosted stock prices for Japanese off-shore drilling companies, even though this energy extraction is still in the experimental stage.

And what of it? Does this count as good news? Not for those concerned about carbon’s effect on climate change.

An organization called Oil Change International ran this headline: “The Madness of Exploiting Methane Hydrates” which went on to say:

But others are following Japan’s lead: Canada, the US and China are all looking into ways of exploiting methane hydrate deposits.

The US is currently funding 14 different research projects into methane hydrates after a successful test on Alaska’s North Slope. Reserves are said to be anything from 10,000 trillion cubic feet to more than 100,000 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Although an unknown quantity could never be exploited, these vastly outweigh US shale reserves which are estimated to contain 827 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The exploitation of methane hydrates may make fracking and the tar sands look like a walk in the park.

Back in 2008, a CBC Technology and Science article called the resource “the world’s most promising and perilous energy resource“. Why? Because extraction could cause undersea landslides, which could cause unexpected releases of the substance, which has been linked to previous examples of world climate change. According to the CBC article:

More than 50 million years ago, undersea landslides resulted in the release of methane gas from methane hydrate, which contributed to global warming that lasted tens of thousands of years.

“Methane hydrate was a key cause of the global warming that led to one of the largest extinctions in the earth’s history,” Ryo Matsumoto, a professor at the University of Tokyo who has spent 20 years researching the subject…

NPR’s Christopher Joyce just examined this topic on Friday’s Morning Edition. Joyce reports other scientists say we can’t be sure about how this may play out:

Geologist Timothy Collett with the U.S. Geological Survey says it’s still too early to either bet on a bonanza or worry about the climate. “Anyone who gives you a definitive answer — including me — about the potential of it being either a climate issue or hazard [versus] being a resource, has got a 50-50 shot of being accurate. We don’t know enough,” he says.

So, an important development in the realm of science and energy extraction meets existing lines of fierce opposition.

Not sure where this may be heading, but it seems like a new development worth knowing about.

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49 Comments on “Energy from “flammable ice” raises hopes and fears”

  1. Two Cents says:

    if it helps me heat my house for 200 a year and makes my electric 5 cents a kilowatt hr, then i’m loving it.
    if it just something else, controlled by another cartel, that i’ll be overcharged for, or cant really afford, well then I have plenty of those options already.
    if Cuomo lets nys frack, then we could freeze some of our own flammable ground water right here in ole ny.

  2. Mervel says:

    So much for Peak Oil.

    I mean if this is potentially that much more than our current Shale Gas/Oil boom which is totally changing the world energy situation; it would be crazy.

    We will see this will be very interesting.

  3. Mervel says:

    It just shows the craziness of trying to predict the future when it comes to energy and technology in general.

  4. Michael Greer says:

    Heck if there’s only a 50-50 chance of destroying the planet, I say let’s go for it, right?

  5. Michael Greer says:

    Quick! Somebody do the calculations of the effect of burning 100,000 trillion cubic ft of gas. With any luck we could have this place looking like Mars by 2050. Someday a rover will land here, and they’ll wonder “What happened?”

  6. The Original Larry says:

    Yeah, way to go! Condemn it before anyone even understands it.

  7. Walker says:

    Larry, in terms of the effect on Global Warming, it’s already well understood– it will increase atmospheric CO2.

  8. Paul says:

    “Someday a rover will land here, and they’ll wonder “What happened?”" Of course that is true even if we were never here. Many species that were here in the past are gone now. Some of them, like us, even had a part in their demise.


  9. Walker says:

    One might hope, though, that unlike the dinosaurs, we will prove to have had enough intelligence to modify our behavior so as to avoid making the earth uninhabitable.

  10. The Original Larry says:

    Says who? I read this above:

    “Geologist Timothy Collett with the U.S. Geological Survey says it’s still too early to either bet on a bonanza or worry about the climate. “Anyone who gives you a definitive answer — including me — about the potential of it being either a climate issue or hazard [versus] being a resource, has got a 50-50 shot of being accurate. We don’t know enough,” he says.”

    Sounds inconclusive to me. Would you prefer to jump right to your conclusion and not investigate?

  11. Paul says:

    Walker, I agree. I think that the best we can hope for is that we can modify our behavior long enough to allow us to live here until we cannot. Eventually the planet will become uninhabitable by humans even if we were not modifying the environment ourselves.

    For the dinosaurs it looks like population control was their only option the same could be true for humans. But again that cannot prevent the inevitable, only slow it down.

  12. Paul says:

    “Larry, in terms of the effect on Global Warming, it’s already well understood– it will increase atmospheric CO2.”

    When you look at any “alternative” energy source you have to look at the big picture. It is not just whether it emits carbon. Using solar technology emits carbon. Lithium mining emits carbon. Rare earth element mining emits carbon.

    It seems to me that sequestration is the key. We are always going to be emitting some level of carbon and we need to slow that to a point where it can be naturally sequestered. Sequestration also allows you to use sources that we eventually need to get rid of but need in the near term. It allows us to use them without wrecking the planet while we are working on a longer term solution. Perhaps one that uses nuclear waste as a fuel and has no carbon emission.

    My Friday investment pick of the week is Transatomic Power!

  13. Walker says:

    “Using solar technology emits carbon. Lithium mining emits carbon. Rare earth element mining emits carbon.”

    Well, yeah, but only once when you dig it up. After that, it’s carbon-free.

    As for the molten-salt reactor, it sounds promising. You might want to look at the Disadvantages section at the bottom of the Wikipedia article on Molten salt reactors though. And some of the comments on the article you link to suggest that this doesn’t appear to be a very serious development effort.

    Still, if it works out, it might help reduce our use of fossil fuels some. And it sounds like it generates considerably safer waste.

  14. Paul says:

    Walker,please, try and be a little more optimistic, look at least it is Friday!!!

    Have a good weekend.

  15. Paul says:

    “And some of the comments on the article you link to suggest that this doesn’t appear to be a very serious development effort. ”

    Yes, that is why it is my investment pick of the day. Send them some money they need it! It could make you or your heirs rich. As I understand it the guy who started Microsoft with Bill Gates is a big investor.

  16. Mervel says:

    Well its impact will be interesting. It sounds as if it is still a far way’s off . Is it better than coal is the question? Its not like we are burning clean stuff now. Natural Gas is still far cleaner than coal, if we could expand natural gas and get China to stop burning so much coal you would have an immediate positive impact on emissions. The cheapest energy will always win.

  17. Michael Greer says:

    The sun shines for free…every day.

  18. Michael Greer says:

    “Timothy Collett above” did not address the topic of atmospheric carbon from burning at all. His comment dealt with the possibility of a catastrophic landslide event only.

  19. Walker says:

    Michael, the paragraph after the one that mentions catastrophic landslide events starts “Methane hydrate was a key cause of the global warming that led to one of the largest extinctions in the earth’s history…”

    “Methane Hydrate” is not some new kind of fuel– it is just natural gas trapped in ice. Burning it will produce carbon dioxide, same as burning any other fossil fuel (only cleaner than most).

    Unless Paul is right, and carbon sequestration can be made to work economically on a large scale (a far from certain proposition) we already have more fossil fuel than we can afford to burn, given the consequences for the atmosphere (and for life on earth).

  20. mervel says:

    “The sun shines for free…every day.”

    Give me break Micheal, Solar panels to heat my home would be very very expensive and I have a small home.

    When Solar power is cheaper than Natural Gas to produce it will have a chance. I mean its nice for rich folks but your average person cannot afford solar. I think some people can do it; but the average person is a long way off from being involved in solar power. If power companies could make solar for less then they could make natural gas power plants they would do it. They don’t care about natural gas in particular; nor do they care about the environment, they care about what works for them to sell and make the most money. Right now solar does not work.

  21. Walker says:

    “Solar panels to heat my home would be very very expensive…”

    How do you calculate the cost of a livable planet for your children?

  22. oa says:

    It may not be ideal for heating, but for the rest of your energy needs…

  23. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Oh brother. Why do we always need increasingly complex solutions to simple problems? Liquid salt reactors, what could go wrong?

    The problem is that we keep using too much energy. I don’t know much about Japan but I know this country could save huge amounts of energy in the very short term if we didn’t think and act like morons.

    The good news is that we have reduced our oil consumption to about the level we used in 1995; the bad news is that much of that drop is probably because of the recession. But we can change. There is no reason for us to glorify excessive consumption. it is a conservative principle to save, to be thrifty, to not use more than you need. Let’s get back to conservative principles.

  24. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Solar hot water is a proven and very simple technology. China is installing these systems at a phenomenal rate. They provide hot water with almost zero greenhouse gas emissions and the payback on a system around here is about a decade depending on your cost of energy, location, and the cost of the system you install. Certainly there are locations where these systems wont make sense, like if you live in a home that gets very little direct sunlight.

    Lots of info here:

  25. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Imagine the benefit to our economy if we had a national effort to install enough solar thermal systems to cover half of our residential and industrial/commercial hot water needs. We would directly create thousands of jobs and indirectly create or save many more. Our economy would be more stable because people would be lowering their long term cost of living, and it would drastically lower our carbon footprint too.

  26. The Original Larry says:

    “…if we didn’t think and act like morons.”

    The default liberal position.

  27. Walker says:

    Larry, what an insightful and useful contribution to an important discussion! Congratulations! You’ve outdone yourself!

  28. Lucy Martin says:

    Comment forums certainly do present a strong temptation to go for jabs and counter-jabs.

    And there’s nothing wrong with agreeing to disagree.

    But I’m not a big fan of ad hominem stuff.

    With respect, I’m hoping the conversation can address the topic, or introduce related issues.

  29. mervel says:

    oa, thanks for the link.

    That is what I have been looking for from the solar energy industry. It sounds from the article closer than I had thought!

    Once you see those costs becoming competitive with Natural gas there will be no need to spend a lot of R&D money trying to get gas trapped in this ice.

  30. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I certainly didn’t intend a personal attack on anyone by using the word “morons” but let’s face it, we as a country have done a lot of things that are just plain stupid and we continue to do them. Our auto industry fought CAFE standards for a very long time until they all almost went bankrupt and foreign competitors took away lots ot their market share. I don’t know what else to call that but stupid. Reveling in being wasteful – and many people do it – stupid!

    Funny that Larry who chooses to call us as a nation effete would object to the “if WE (emphasis) didn’t think and act like morons.” As a liberal I believe we can do better. We have a choice to do stupid things or not. If you choose be wasteful when people show you another way; if you choose to ignore science that is telling you your actions are hurting the environment, poisoning the air and water, destroying habitat for countless species…what do you call that besides acting like morons?

    And, of course I include myself in the word WE because when future generations look back they aren’t going to separate us out. They are going to look at what we have done in our lifetime and say “wow! what a bunch of selfish morons they were.”

  31. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Furthermore, it seems ridiculous to me that people would be offended by the truth that at one time or other we all act like a moron. Sometimes it is fun to act like a moron. Show me someone who has never said “hey, watch this…” and I’ll allow they may never act like a moron. For the rest of you…well, deal with it.

  32. Ken Hall says:

    Paul says: “For the dinosaurs it looks like population control was their only option the same could be true for humans.”

    Paul is absolutely correct that population control for humans is the only “sane” option; yet, it is the option very very few of us have opted for and most view as a sign of “insanity” preferring to “believe” that an individual’s right to procreate is “sacrosanct”.

    The current understanding of the living arrangements the dinosaurs had with the Earth suggests that their individual survival likely depended upon the same few factors from their initial climb up the evolutionary ladder out of the primordial ooze until evolution modified them to an extent that humans assumed they had exited left off of the stage of life. These factors were food and habitat with a wild card split for predator or prey with damn few in the predator crowd who were not prey to some other predator as well. In as much as it is highly unlikely that the dinosaurs had sufficient brain power to analyze and modify their food and habitat as the shifting temperature changes of the Earth adversely impacted their long term survival they had to depend upon blind “luck” and lucky they were. Dinosaurs have survived at least three mass extinction events initiated by natural, no human intervention, events over roughly 250 million years to this day. Of course today’s dinosaurs, birds, have evolved considerably over the past 250 million years.

    Humans on the other hand have had the intellectual acumen to analyze and modify their local habitat and access to food, enormously, and to virtually remove themselves from the “prey” category in the past 10-15,000 years enabling them to obscenely over populate the Earth. Overpopulation by humans occurred incredibly rapidly subsequent to inventing devices which enabled the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels to be converted into motion within the last few hundred years. Unfortunately; humans have primarily chosen to ignore the analyses of intellectuals and opt for the blind “luck” courses of action taken by the dinosaurs and assume that they will have a long reign, equal to or exceeding that of the dinosaurs, rather than take actions deemed apropos for the reducing of the unbelievably disastrous consequences likely to result from our insatiable consumption of the Earth’s resources.

    With but a few exceptions most of those commenting about this blog are apparently giddy to place the future of the life on Earth into the hands of “their” trusted technologists yet are simultaneously insistent that other technologists are insufficiently knowledgeable/competent/aware/trustworthy to issue salient statements projecting the likely consequences of human actions upon same Earth. Why? Perhaps the microcosm of humanity illustrated by the above comments hits the nail on the head; the unmitigated desire of most individuals to at a minimum maintain their level of creature comforts and luxury currently attained and preferably to increase same as their lifetime progresses.

    The so called free enterprise capitalist economic system through which Americans in particular, and “developed” nations in general, seek to continue/increase their creature comfort levels by convincing those humans in the “developing” countries, who are not currently privy to same, that they simply cannot live without said creature comforts, which they can obtain from us for a price, is perhaps the most damaging invention ever conceived of by man. The damages to the Earth exacerbated by the exponential increase of human population enabled by the conversion of currently “sequestered” carbon within the hydrocarbon fuels used for power and myriads of exotic/toxic chemical concoctions primarily goes unobserved or denied by the masses of humans intent on “improving” their individual lot in life.

    Agreed there are fewer carbon atoms in methane and it contains about 1.15 times as much energy per unit mass as oil, 1.65 times that of anthracite coal and 2.2 times as much as bituminous coal it is however a greenhouse gas with a potency roughly 20-25 times that of COO. It is not possible to exactly measure the percentage of contribution each of the 4 major greenhouse gases; however, as stated in the article it is considered likely that one or perhaps all of the mass die offs evident in the Earth’s fossil record were initiated by some type of mechanical event which produced a massive conversion of methane hydrate into free methane. I recall reading about methane-hydrates 20-30 years ago and even back then cautionary recommendations about the potential to significantly adversely impact the Earth’s atmosphere were widely circulated when the concepts for mining of the sea floor for energy were broached. As the old adage says “beware what you wish for, less you get it”.

    I have pointed out in previous comments; that there is currently a human induced extinction event underway which, has the potential to take the Earth back to the microbial life only stage, is virtually unknown, unrecognized or denied by an incredibly large percentage of humans. A couple of examples; human desire/greed for elephant tusk ivory and shark fin soup are decimating both species at such a rate that Afican elephants and many species of sharks have a high likelihood of becoming extinct within a decade or so and the no brain involvement human response has been has been, to obtain as much as they can NOW before they are completely gone. Unfortunately there is a dearth of rational thought being applied by most humans concerning the fate of the Earth and her flora and fauna in preference for a maximum of thought about their individual wants and desires; but, obviously not their needs nor especially the future needs of humans and the rest of the Earth’s critters.

  33. mervel says:

    I basically agree ken on the craziness of this insane trade in animal parts for NO good reason. Ivory is desired mainly in China for nothing but status, the same goes for shark fin soup etc.

    Knuckle fighting CAFE standards was not stupid it was very logical. From the perspective of our country yes we could do better on some of these issues, but from the perspective of an individual auto company who is competing in the world no the less regulation the better. We do many things worse than Europe but we do have more environmental regulations on our cars then they do for example. So no it was not stupid it was logical.

    The responsibility of our government is to address some of these issues it is not the responsibility of the energy industry or the auto industry, their responsibility is to make a profit.

  34. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Mervel, history proves the argument against CAFE standards to be wrong. While the US companies were saying people didn’t want to buy fuel efficient cars Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen and others filled that market. Detroit did make some small, efficient cars and they sold with some success but US auto execs seemed to think that customers who wanted efficient cars were just cheapskates. Meanwhile the Japanese companies built a following among buyers who found their cars were better built and more dependable than the American models. The Big Three scoffed at the foreign companies when they came here but guess what Toyota is number one or very nearly so – built on a business model of providing fuel economy and dependability. While Detroit said “we can’t build hybrid vehicles and nobody will buy them” Toyota built the Prius.

    The question is, can we learn from this sort of example? One lesson we should have learned was that as a technological leader we should be constantly working to make products that are better, more efficient, and provide customers value – not the perceived value that advertising tries to create. We shouldn’t act like GM and think that just because we are the biggest we can rest on our laurels and people will take whatever we give them.

    As a for instance, why have so many Americans fought the idea of solar power for so long? We should be creating the technologies and selling them to the rest of the world. Why aren’t we the leaders in efficient construction, home building, power generation … the list is very long.

    We used to be a “can do” nation. Now we just make excuses why we haven’t done.

  35. mervel says:

    Knuckle I would agree with your assessment about the traditional big three Detroit auto manufacturers. I have always bought Toyota’s because they are simply better made cars from a better company. That is the market at work, the big three are not really the big three anymore they screwed up and lost their market, they made bad decisions starting as you showed back in the 1970′s, the beginning of the end. Thus when that happens better companies such as Toyota and others take their customers. That is the way it should work. If we had not had a market system we would not have a prius. Toyota today is just as much of an American Company as GM is as far as what is built in the US and what is not.

    What I meant was simply that we cannot always expect individual companies to have some sort of motive for the overall public good; unless it coincides with them making more profits. The government must step into the regulatory structure providing the correct incentives to reduce carbon and emissions. But Toyota did not care about CAFE laws, they cared about making money and they saw an opportunity particularly with cars that were made to last at least 200,000 miles and have good to great gas mileage. GM didn’t see that and lost out, they deserved to lose they made bad decisions. But it was not the CAFE standards it was a response to the market.

  36. mervel says:

    In a world of international corporations there is no “we”.

  37. mervel says:

    The same holds for energy.

    People buy what is the least expensive for the same quality. When solar becomes price competitive with natural gas it will have a great advantage and as you show it is getting close to happening. But don’t expect Chevron or BP to care one way or the other, believe me when Solar is price competitive it will likely be largely produced by one of the major energy companies.

    Coal is such a great example. The US government has spent of lot of regulatory time and sweat trying to clean up coal powered plants. Coal is just horrible the worst possible energy as far as emissions. So we spent all of this time trying to get coal companies and utilities to do this or that. All of that effort was miniscule in its impact compared to the recent boom in natural gas which is essentially going to make coal almost not relevant. There has been a massive shift from coal powered plants to natural gas powered plants in just the last 5 years. This shift has done more for the environment than all of those regulations combined. If the boom continues to lower the price of NG we could actually make a dent in the biggest polluters and producers of carbon in the world, the Chinese.

  38. mervel says:

    Also we will be the ones exporting NG to the Chinese as we become a net energy exporter within the next 10-15 years.

  39. Walker says:

    “…we cannot always expect individual companies to have some sort of motive for the overall public good; unless it coincides with them making more profits.”

    Well, but then there’s intelligent self interest with a long-term view, and the modern corporation’s relentless focus on short-term profits and stock price. Think Henry Ford and his labor rate that was double that of his competitors, or CostCo, paying an average wage twice that of Walmart and providing health insurance for many more of their employees.

    There is no reason that American car manufacturers couldn’t have seen things coming years before it hit them in the face other than the fact that American executives aren’t much in the habit of thinking long-term– that’s not how we structure their pay packages.

  40. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Mervel, the importance of government intervention in the market is that the market doesn’t care about national interest, national security, morality, standards of fair play, etc.

    It is financially advantageous for pig farmers in China to dump dead, diseased pigs into the river that people in Shanghai drink out of. Same as it is a good business decision to dump the toxic waste your factory creates into a river or burn it and let it drift out of a smokestack. Business people with a conscience wouldn’t do that of course and in a completely free market those people would be driven out of business.

    That is why we have government because government is the shared conscience of the society. Government has the duty and obligation to level the playing field for business and between business and customers or individuals. If we could trust people not to be greedy, not to pollute, not to sell dangerous products…if we could trust our fellow humans not to randomly shoot each other for seemingly no reason then we wouldn’t need government.

    And before you say I’m just against business let me say that customers drive businesses to do things that they may not want to do. Many businesses may wish to pay their workers more money but if their competitors undercut them on price many customers will buy based only on price – not on value. It happens millions of times every single day that people will bypass a business owned by their neighbor in favor of a faceless corporation because it provides them a small discount in price.

    So, getting back to CAFE standards, our elected leaders with the advice of experts both in and out of government (including the military) determined that our nation would be safer and more secure if we reduced our dependency on petroleum. It was a rational decision not some fuzzy headed liberal pot smoke induced idea. By setting a standard it created a level playing field and companies had the choice to fight it or to accept the challenge to make our nation safer and stronger.

  41. Walker says:

    Well said, khl! And that’s exactly why we need to do everything possible to get money out of politics. When corporations can buy votes in congress that save them money by allowing them to dump dead pigs in the river, that’s what’s going to happen, every time.

    That’s why Citizen’s United was an absolutely poisonous decision.

  42. mervel says:

    “So, getting back to CAFE standards, our elected leaders with the advice of experts both in and out of government (including the military) determined that our nation would be safer and more secure if we reduced our dependency on petroleum. It was a rational decision not some fuzzy headed liberal pot smoke induced idea. By setting a standard it created a level playing field and companies had the choice to fight it or to accept the challenge to make our nation safer and stronger.”

    And in the end what really is really about to free us totally from oil imports? In the end we are about to become an oil and natural gas net exporter due to private corporations seeking profits from shale oil and natural gas through technological breakthroughs in drilling technology.

  43. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    From your link:
    “New fuel economy standards in the U.S. and efforts by China, Japan and the European Union to reduce demand would help to make up for a disappointing decade for global energy efficiency.
    “But even with these and other new policies in place, a significant share of the potential to improve energy efficiency — four-fifths of the potential in the buildings sector and more than half in industry — still remains untapped,” the IEA stated.
    Policymakers are still missing out on potential benefits for energy security, economic growth and the environment.
    Growth in demand over the years to 2035 would be halved and oil demand would peak just before 2020, if governments took action to remove barriers preventing the implementation of energy efficiency measures that are already economically viable, the global organization said.”

    Please read that two or three times.

  44. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I predict in the years to come the taxpayers in Pennsylvania and elsewhere will be asked to pick up enormous costs related to the push for energy extraction when (to quote the source above):

    “a significant share of the potential to improve energy efficiency — four-fifths of the potential in the buildings sector and more than half in industry — still remains untapped,”

    It is certain that there are a small group of people today who will be making a fortune from natural gas fracking, and a larger group who will make a decent living from fracking jobs. But when the gas runs out and the money that should have been put aside by private corporations for inevitable clean-ups turns out to have been siphoned off by “investors” it will be the government and the taxpayers who will have to pay. You TEA Party people should be with me on this because you know I’m right. This isn’t our first rodeo.

  45. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    An affirmation this morning.

    Pennsylvania coal mines leaking polluted water into streams because previous owners didn’t clean them up. Now people want to use that polluted water to frack with. Win win, right? What could possibly go wrong trucking 5 million gallons of polluted water for each fracked well and then capturing the excess and taking it to be treated?

  46. Walker says:

    “And in the end what really is really about to free us totally from oil imports?”

    No, Mervel, that was in the eighties. The planet needs to reduce the amount of fossil fuel it burns. We burn way more than our share. Cheap energy is great for generating profits, but it’s bad for the planet long term. (Oh, yeah, unless large scale, low cost sequestration technology comes into existence in time– if you value your offspring, don’t count on it.) Cheap energy also slows the development of solar power. And fracking is certain to exacerbate our problems with water for drinking and for agriculture.

    So why bother thinking long term while the money’s rolling in, eh?

  47. Ken Hall says:

    Dead on Walker!

    Mervel that light you see at the end of the tunnel “why is it wobbling”?

    Does anyone seriously believe that the “free enterprise” capitalistic system, so widely ballyhooed, has a snowball’s chance in hell of turning this economic train, upon which the four horsemen of the apocalypse ride, around?

  48. mervel says:

    Ken, the free market needs to be restrained and we need good government to do that.

    But we have seen the environmental impact of totally non-free market systems. The large scale socialist experiments in the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia to name only a few, were environmental nightmares, far far worse than the evil capitalists that so many love to hate.

    But yeah, I agree that government does need to control and make up for the excesses that the free market produces, particularly these headless entities we call corporations.

  49. mervel says:

    Fracking got us off coal faster than all of your government meddling walker. Is it a perfect solution or a long term solution, no it is not, we need to bring down the cost of solar and wind.

    Of course here in the North Country we have driven out wind power because it blocks the view and kills some birds. We have also slapped tarrifs on solar panels to make the MORE expensive to protect our businesses. These things don’t help. I doubt most environmentalists really want any solutions. Solutions are going to come from the market and be owned by corporate America, I would bet as soon as EXXON starts producing large scale solar you guys will hate solar.

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