In the article “An Inconvenient Ice”, author Lisa Margonelli examines what methane hydrates are, the capabilities of methane hydrates, and the potentially detrimental affects methane hydrates can have on global warming. Methane hydrates exist in the seabed along coastlines around the world and are massive deposits of gas that are trapped in large, icy structures underneath the coastal sea floor. Despite inadequate funding, scientists around the world are conducting experiments to determine if methane hydrates can serve as a solution to the energy challenges the ever-increasing global population is freezing.
It is estimated that methane hydrates under the sea hold more carbon than all the coal, oil, and natural gas reserves on the earth. Margonelli follows the work conducted by researchers aboard the research ship Western Flyer. These researchers are attempting to discover basic information about methane hydrates that will assist researchers in addressing the larger issues associated with methane hydrates, as well as determine the extent to which hydrate outcroppings can be reliably mined for energy and if warming oceans can release large quantities of methane.
Although hydrates extracted from the sea may serve as a solution to the world’s energy shortcomings, hydrates are unstable, difficult to locate, and their effects on local ecosystems are not well-understood. Furthermore, hydrates may intensify global warming as they can release large amounts of energy at one time. Not only can these deposits release large amounts of greenhouse gases, negatively contributing to climate change, hydrates can cause earthquakes, landslides, and tsunamis when disturbed.
I support the governmental funding of scientific research into whether methane hydrates may serve as a solution to the world’s energy challenges, and do not yet view the exploration of methane hydrates as human medaling, leading to accelerated global warming. Various uncertainties surrounding methane hydrates, including their effects on climate change, how long hydrates wait before emerging, and the amount of hydrate on standby in the capacitors deep in the ocean.
While | believe it is important to look for energy alternatives as the reserves of oil, coal and gas in the world become more difficult to access, it is just as crucial that governments ensure that methane hydrates are not taken advantage of by private companies. In 2013, the United States invested a mere $5 million on methane hydrates, which pales in comparison to the $120 million spent by Japan, a country which struggles to import energy, on methane hydrate research. Other countries, such as Canada and Russia, have invested little to no money on methane hydrate research.
While the United States “is in the middle of a shale gas boom, Canada also has abundant shale resources, while Russia has huge natural gas reserves” (BBC). Canada has even halted its research into methane hydrate. These countries lack the incentive to conduct research into how the gas can commercially be used to meet our demands for energy. This lack of incentive is incredibly concerning to me. When these “booms” are over and “abundant resources” prove to be lacking, where will these countries turn to for energy?
While the United States and Canada are wallowing in their success, Japan is conducting research which can lead to the commercial-scale production of methane hydrate, allowing for Japan to make incredible amounts of money and prove to be the leader in the energy game. Furthermore, this lack of United States ambition makes me wonder what is going to stop private companies who see the potential in methane hydrates that the United States government does not? The goal of these private companies is to make money first and foremost.
Massive oil conglomerates dump millions 680 million liters of oil into the oceans every year, thus highlighting the lack of concern for the environment these oil companies have. If these oil companies have no issue taking advantage of oil, one of the earth’s most precious resources, while simultaneously inflicting incredibly damage to our world’s oceans, what moral obligation is going to stop them from conducting their own research into and thus exploiting methane hydrate?
Although methane hydrate may be cleaner than oil or coil, it is nonetheless a hydrocarbon and burning methane emits carbon dioxide, thus contributing to the accumulation of harmful greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. I believe that research into the positive potential methane hydrates have in regards to energy should be conducted by governments. As global temperatures continue to increase, causing the oceans to warm and permafrost to melt, the large methane reserves trapped in ice may be released naturally into the atmosphere.
This could prove to be a catastrophe, as increasingly warm temperatures release more methane, thus contributing to a larger increase in global temperatures. Governments have a moral obligation to their constituents to keep them safe. While governments may be motivated by financial success, governments have passed laws, regulations, and rules and have signed treaties which show that they are concerned with protecting our environment and combating issues associated with increasing global temperatures.
However, methane hydrates can be exploited by private companies if governments fail to recognize both the positive and negative potential that methane hydrates hold. Link: http://www. bbc. com/news/business-27021610 Synfuel I believe that the single greatest advantage associated with the production and use of synfuels is that it encourages the United States to recognize its detrimental role in climate change. By using non-food crops to create liquid fuels, the United States could cut vehicle greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 50 percent in the next several decades, as plants absorb carbon dioxide to grow.
As the United States is the second largest carbon dioxide emitter behind China, it is crucial that the United States government and its citizen recognize that the nation has a moral obligation to invest in ways to discover how to limit their carbon footprint (CO2 time series 1990-2015 per region/country). Furthermore, this encourages the United States to work toward achieving the goal stated in the article of producing enough fuel and to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent. I believe that the single greatest disadvantage associated with the production and use of synfuels is cost.
I believe this not only because Vern Weekman, one of Floudas’ co-researchers, states in the article that “the main reason the industry has not embraced synthetic fuels has been cost”, but also because the financial gains associated with synfuels are not initially apparent. Money must be spent on building the synthetic fuel plants, purchasing biomass, and electricity. The researchers estimated that “the nationwide average cost of producing the synthetic equivalent of a barrel of crude oil would be $95. 11, although the cost varies regionally” (Sullivan).
As long as the price of crude oil is between $60 to $100 per barrel, I do not think that consumers will fully recognize and/or understand the environmental advantages associated with synthetic fuel, as all they will see is the price-tag. Tam also concerned that, since the cost would be much less if the synthetic fuel plants eliminated biomass and specifically used coal and natural gas during the process, companies will take this cheaper route to make more money. However, this will eliminate the environmental benefits associated with synthetic fuels.
I am concerned that large companies will merely seek financial gain and thus take advantage of this resource, further hurting the environment. I do not think that the advantages of using synfuels (produced from coal as an energy source) do outweigh the disadvantages. Although there are various advantages associated with synfuels, such as that is can be used as vehicle fuel and support mass transportation and results in lower air pollution than coal, synfuels release higher amounts of carbon dioxide than coal.
Furthermore, synfuels require mining 50% more coal. This is associated with increased land disturbance, water pollution, and extensive water use. Although synthetic fuels could allow for carbon reduction in regards to the fleet of cars that are currently on the road, these still release larger amounts of carbon dioxide, a crucial greenhouse gas, than coal, which already emits incredibly large amounts of carbon dioxide and other air pollutants when produced and burned.