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Fracked Gas Heats the Planet, But Supporters Say It’s a Solution

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/09/06/fracked-gas-heats-planet-supporters-say-its-solution


Howarth of Cornell practically qualifies as the only person in USAmerica worried enough about methane. Almost everything we know about domestic methane emissions comes from this one man. So it’s really great to see the authors returning to Howarth’s findings. A passage on whch I’d like to elaborate:

Howarth argues that because methane from fracked gas, like plant and animal methane, is lighter than gas from other fossil fuel development, some emissions attributed to biogenic sources likely come from fracking.

The authors (perhaps to spare us boring details – whereas Aleph exercises no such discretion) may have left Howarth’s case looking like a matter of opinion. Whether fingerprints constitute sufficient evidence to lock someone up for decades is a matter of opinion, where the legal opinion is well established. Similarly, the chemical fingerprints Howarth detects leave fossil fuel predators with no answer to the question “If you didn’t do it, why are your fingerprints all over it?”


The good news: there will be a dramatic shift away from fossil fuels.

The bad news: it won’t happen until climate chaos is so utterly, undeniably out of control that mass death from starvation, wars over water, and bands of desperate climate refugees by the tens of millions searching for somewhere/anywhere habitable to live are a fact of everyday hell on earth.

Really sad news: As the planet burns 30 years from now, some Trump cultists will insist it’s just a normal temperature fluctuation probably caused by sun spots, or punishment from Baby Jesus for the gays.


Gas is as bad as coal for climate

And countless studies confirm it

Ditto from TomGram

And again from physicist Joe Romm

'Gas Is a Loser and It’s Time to Move On ': Report Debunks Myth That Natural Gas Can Help Fight Climate Crisis
"Despite desperate attempts by the oil and gas industry to persuade policymakers that their products have a future in a climate-safe world, a rational look at the data clearly shows otherwise.”

Report: Burning the Gas ‘Bridge Fuel’ Myth: Why Gas Is Not Clean, Cheap, or Necessary
May 30, 2019 http://priceofoil.org/2019/05/30/gas-is-not-a-bridge-fuel/

”Trump’s own EPA estimates that its rule rollback will result in the emission of an additional 484,000 tons of methane, volatile organic compounds, and other hazardous pollutants over the next five years.”

Gas doesn’t just displace coal — it also displaces carbon-free sources of power such as renewable energy, nuclear power, and energy efficiency. A recent analysis finds that effect has been large enough recently to wipe out almost the entire [imaginary] climate benefit from increasing natural gas use in the utility sector if the leakage rate is only 1.2 percent (comparable to the EPA’s now discredited new lowball estimate).

it appears quite safe to say that natural gas simply has no net climate benefit whatsoever in any timescale that matters to humanity.

US Methane emissions increasing, EIA

“A review of more than 200 earlier studies confirms that U.S. emissions of methane are considerably higher than official estimates,” as one 2014 Stanford review research on methane leaks explained.

Methane leaks from natural gas production wipe out any climate benefit.
“This new analysis paints a devastating picture of what our world will look like if fracking and fossil fuel infrastructure buildout aren’t halted soon. But the damage to our bodies is already happening. Whether it’s toxic fracking chemicals in our drinking water, toxic gas emissions in our air, or toxic microplastics in our food, more fossil fuels means more human sickness and suffering. It needs to stop now.” —Dr. Sandra Steingraber, biologist and activist

Trying to plug the leaks will cost billions, making gas completely unable to compete against clean safe renewable energy. Not plugging the leaks increases the already-unacceptable harm gas does–numerous and increasingly known health and ecological effects in addition to its effects on climate.

We have to shut down the fossil fuel industry as fast as possible, closing the Halliburton loopholes. There’s no sign the psychotic psychopaths in charge, who are resisting all rational response to climate catastrophe, are willing to change anything in time to avoid cataclysm, so we’ll almost certainly have to nationalize the industry to coordinate its rapid shutdown with building efficiency and clean safe renewable energy into the grid and prosecute the executives in charge who have engaged in fraud, felony murder, SEC violations and crimes against humanity and the Earth. http://disq.us/p/23euy0n

While it’s true that the burning of natural gas in place of coal produces less smog and other air pollut­ants, as well as less soot and ash, it is still adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.  Even if —
and that’s a BIG “IF” — the methane associated with obtaining natural gas could be 100% captured,
the burning of pure natural gas will still produce carbon dioxide.  If we take propane as the ma-
jor component of natural gas, then the formula for its combustion is   C3H8 + 5 O2 = 4 H2O + 3 CO2 .

The burning of natural gas creates fewer OTHER pollutants than coal, but it is still adding a potent greenhouse gas to the earth’s atmosphere.

Keep It In The Ground!!

Suzuki & Hamilton also state that, “Because methane only remains in the atmosphere for a short period but has enormous impact, reducing or eliminating methane emissions is a quick, effective way to lessen the threat of climate chaos” but the article fails to explain how or why methane gas remains in the atmo­sphere for only a short time.   Most – but obviously not enough – of the carbon dioxide released by our burning of fossil fuels is absorbed by plant life, which uses the carbon atoms as ‘food’ and releases the oxygen back into the biosphere. What processes occur that remove methane from the atmosphere in a relatively short time?  Is it also absorbed and used by plants??

Natural CH4 sources: wetlands, methane-oxidizing bacteria in the guts of termites, volcanoes, seafloor vents, and methane hydrates in oceans and in polar permafrost.

Anthropogenic sources are 70% of total emissions: livestock (especially beef), rice, fossil fuel and biomass burning, (wood, dung, etc.) and landfills.

CH4 sinks: atmosphere, soil bacteria. It reacts with OH, yields CO2 and water vapour. CH4 is destroyed in the upper atmosphere. Its concentration is increasing because human emissions are.

About half of historic human CO2 emissions have been taken up by the non-atmospheric biosphere but indications are that several big sinks—like the oceans—are now getting saturated and are becoming sources of CO2 and heat. https://skepticalscience.com/co2-coming-from-ocean.htm


Because methane degrades to CO2 and CO2 remains in the atmosphere for centuries at least, its effects don’t disappear completely. While its physical qualities mean it would leave the atmosphere quickly if we stopped emitting it, and a lot will be eliminated when we stop fracking and burning fossil fuels, some of its sources are very difficult and complex to eliminate. Diet is clung to by most people out of necessity, identity, habit… The burning of wood and dung in many millions of the poorest households in the world could be fixed with minimal expense, paying for extremely cheap solar cookers or household or microgrid PV or small wind systems or other renewables.

But the rich world has been—to say the least—little inclined to help poor people of color. Instead, (Tropic of Chaos, Christian Parenti) it continues to scapegoat, exploit, and destabilize them, and many places already destabilized will be phenomenally difficult to implement any solutions at all without the rich world completely reversing its neo-colonialism, and exploitation and destruction of people and the rest of nature. IOW, its entire way of being and all its relationships.

PS The site disappeared all the hotlinks I had to alter.

Thank You!!