Sunday, November 04, 2012

If I Have reached you.......

This will be my absolute last message to the blog, I am sorry to say. I am in paliative care in the hospital from which I will not be escaping. Not enough energy and, frankly, any energy I do have left will be lavished on far more important personal things. But, to be quite honest, It is very difficult to know, when writing a blog, whether anyone is receiving or not. If you were, if I reached you, if, perchance, I touched you, I sure would like to know. Richard Embleton, Over and Out

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Relieving urban traffic congestion and reducing fossil fuel dependence

Every major city and large urban center shares a common problem, traffic congestion, particularly during rush hours. And in virtually every instance a major, if not the dominant, contributor to that congestion is commercial delivery traffic. Primary traffic corridors and the primary concentration of retail and commercial businesses to which deliveries are being made are on the same routes, the same streets.

In an era of dwindling fossil fuel reserves, resulting in punishing increases in fuel costs, and stressed budgets at all levels of government resulting in curtailment of funds for infrastructure development and maintenance, some serious thinking outside the box is needed to deal with this combined problem.

I believe there is a simple, efficient, and cost effective solution available in most large cities.

The other thing large cities share in common is that they have a major investment in a public transit infrastructure. In most large cities this includes subways, streetcars and trolleys. These are all powered by electricity, not fossil fuels, though the electricity they use may, today, be generated using fossil fuels. But that is a situation that will undergo dramatic changes over the next couple of decades as existing power generation plants age and are pulled offline.

That electricity driven public transit system and infrastructure can serve as the foundation for solving both urban fossil fuel dependence and urban traffic congestion. All three system infrastructures (subway, streetcar and trolley) can double as effective and efficient urban freight distribution networks. The chassis on which these three vehicles are built can be used as the chassis for freight vehicles that will run on the same infrastructure as the current passenger vehicles.

Subway cars are ideally suited as urban freight carriers. They have four sets of extra-wide, double entry/loading doors, car to car connection, driver compartment built in, and the ability to be run individually or linked together as a train. Use the same chassis, strip out the seating and hand-holds, eliminate the climate control system, eliminate the windows, build in the necessary racks/shelves and partitions and you have an ideal urban freight carrier. They use an existing track infrastructure that also carries people. They can be run 24-hours a day, in any weather because the infrastructure is underground. With retail and commercial concentrated along the same corridors served by the subways it is the most efficient system for delivery to those businesses or strategically located depots. Freight sidings could be relatively easily added where needed so as not to impede passenger traffic while loading/unloading. And it could be undertaken now to great advantage for the city in easing the traffic congestion of delivery trucks on city streets.

A simple, effective dispatch control system could easily be developed, probably using some form of bar-code system. The whole freight system could be privatized, bringing revenue to the city and eliminating the bureaucracy needed from city payroll and expense.

In the same way, streetcar infrastructure could be used for surface freight cars, freight vehicles built on a streetcar chassis. Sidings could be easily added where needed, running down alleys for example. These could serve secondary commercial concentrations not on the subway lines.

Freight trolleys, likewise, could be built on the same chassis as passenger trolleys, use the same power line infrastructure and routes, have additional sidings built so as not to impede passenger traffic on the same lines. These would service those secondary commercial concentrations similar to but not served by streetcars.

All of this is akin to the way in which freight planes have become so ubiquitous at our airports. Freight has piggybacked on an infrastructure that was already in place for passenger traffic, with the addition of extra terminals at airports to divert freight away from passenger terminals. The air traffic control, runways, route management and tracking systems, and route protocols were all already in place.

The decline in reserves of all fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal) is a certainty over the next couple of decades and well beyond. They are not replenishable, at least not in human time-scales. One way or another all facets of our society dependent on these fossil fuels are going to have to find ways to adapt as reserves diminish.

Although electricity has its own problems, such as aging infrastructure and a reliance on massive power generation facilities and long-distance transmission lines, one certainty is that electricity generation has many renewable options such as solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, tidal, and more. We are not forever tied to fossil fuels for electricity generation. And there is the clear additional benefit that these options can be at a smaller scale and distributed. Any city, for example, has within it's boundaries sufficient rooftop space that, with solar power, most of it's electricity for the transportation and freight infrastructure could be generated within city boundaries. Add wind power to that and possible other options like power generated from burning trash, and much of the power needs can be readily satisfied internally. Local options can reduce, or eliminate, the dependence on long distance power grids. With privatization of the urban freight system, the city could also expect those companies using that infrastructure to share in the cost of building and maintaining the local power generation facilities.

Those corporations that currently supply the passenger vehicles for the public transit system could be commissioned to use their chassis and develop the freight options on that chassis. Similarly, however, third party corporations could be allowed, on a competitive bid basis, to develop the freight vehicles, in the same way that third party companies produce specialized truck bodies for truck freight.

Any city that prides itself on being forward looking cannot afford to ignore the elephant in the room of dwindling fossil fuel supplies over the coming decades. Any city willing to take such an innovative, pro-active approach to pre-avoiding the problems that fossil fuel depletion will inflict on them will have a clear leg up on the fossil fuel downslope.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Peak Oil: Is There Any Longer a Valid Debate?

It has been some time since I sat down to analyze what is happening with peak oil. It has been difficult to see that there is any meaningful response from government, business and the media. They are still very busy characterizing minor new discoveries of oil as the saviors of society, as though there is a pervasive fear of admitting the truth to the public. The pieces of the puzzle that one has to fit together are very fragmented and misrepresented in the media.

* There is a renewed effort in the US to paint the tar sands as an ethical source of oil. I still believe Chris Skrebowski is right in his projection that the tar sands will peak in 2015. I covered this in the article, Will the tar sands peak in 2015?, on my blog. The essential limiting factors on tar sands are flow rate (the amount that can be extracted at one time from all mines) and the density of hydrocarbons in the formation which tends to decrease toward the periphery of the formation. The latter is the basis for Skrebowski's 2015 peak projection.
* The US was putting a great deal of stock in shale gas as the future of energy for the US. With all of the environmental problems from fracking, the public is, even now, split on the validity of that as an energy source. In addition the IEA and USGS(EIA) have now downgraded the estimates for the Murcheson Shale formation in eastern US from over 400 trillion cubic feet to something less than 50 trillion cubic feet. There is also serious doubts about the validity of the estimates for the Bakken shale formation in north central US and southern prairie provinces of Canada. This is a tremendous blow to US energy plans. It is also very likely that estimates on recoverable energy from other shale formations, both in the US and abroad, have been dramatically overstated. At the same time the true cost of extraction and site restoration have probably been dramatically understated.
* It is strongly believed, in the peak oil community, and recently being tacitly admitted in the mainstream press and political circles, that the OPEC reserve estimates for Saudi Arabia, and potentially other OPEC members, are vastly overstated and that even Saudi Arabia has reached or surpassed its production peak. The Saudis are only managing to keep up their production with the injection of tremendous volumes of sea water to keep up the wellhead pressure. But they are now experiencing water cut up to as high as 90% on some wells. In the process they are also destroying their critical fresh water aquifers by contaminating them with salt water. In addition OPEC nations are increasingly consuming their own oil resources meaning as their standard of living rises and the disparity between production and exports is growing each year. From a global perspective it is not production that matters but rather exports.
* Emerging nations such as China and India are still experiencing exponential growth in their energy consumption every year. Both use a tremendous amount of coal as well (China has vast coal reserves but they are also a net coal importer), but coal reserves are significantly declining, with production rates now also on the decline. Energy consumption tends to follow economic growth and decline and there is still a tremendous amount of economic growth possible in these two large population giants. As is always the case, the more the economy grows the greater are the population's expectations for standard of living and consumption. This is certainly proving to be the case in these two nations.
* Deep water oil is not the panacea that western nations had painted it to be. The recovery of deep water oil is very technically challenging, expensive and risky, both in terms of safety and environmental well being. BP's Deepwater Horizon loss was the first major deepwater oil disaster, but it definitely will not be the last. There will always be a high risk of methane explosions and the resulting leak is extremely damaging to the environment. It is also very likely that the optimistic estimates of how much undiscovered deep water oil exists have been dramatically overstated. Deep water wells also tend to peak much more rapidly than land-based wells - vis-a-vis the North Sea and Mexico's Cantarell - so their benefit is short-lived. Considering the cost of exploration and discovery, the long lead time needed to put safe extraction technology in place, and the limits on the number of recovery wells that can be sunk into a single reserve, deep water oil is very unlikely to keep up with the declines in land-based production. It is very possible that deep water oil may quickly become non viable economically and have to be abandoned.
* Methane hydrates (as well as coal bed methane and bio-mass methane) are seen as a strong potential as the next great energy source. Certainly with the decline in viability of shale gas this will renew the expectations for methane hydrates. I have covered this extensively in my blog. The estimates for recoverability of Methane Hydrates are all over the map, as are the reserves that have a potential for economic recovery if the technology can be sorted out. In general, however, the recoverability estimates, I believe, are badly overstated. In addition it would take a whole new energy infrastructure to take full advantage of these resources, an energy infrastructure that I believe we are already past the point of possibility of developing.
* There is an ever growing disparity between WTI crude prices and the other, more realistic prices of oil such as Brent. The WTI, NYMEX-traded, American price is being kept artificially low as the US, the world's largest oil importer, attempts to impose prices on the rest of the world in order to keep it's ever increasing energy costs in check, particularly as it tries to recover from the 2008 global economic recession, which it still has not managed to do. Increasingly global oil producers will not trade their oil contracts on NYMEX because they are able to get much better prices on other global oil commodity exchanges which more accurately reflect the state of global oil reserves. With the US credit rating having recently been downgraded by S&P there is an increasing possibility that the US dollar will be overthrown as the global reserve currency. This will make the US/NYMEX oil pricing increasingly irrelevant and drive the cost the US must pay for oil up to realistic levels equivalent to what the rest of the world pays.
* Over the past several years there is a clear, but unprovable pattern, of the US waging war after war against oil-rich countries in the hands of rulers, usually dictators, not friendly to the U.S. First there was Iraq and Afghanistan (the gateway to the Caspian Sea oil province), then the suspected involvement in the overthrow of Mubarak in Egypt, the invasion of Libya, the suspected involvement in the division of Sudan, the continued saber rattling at Iran and Venezuela, and the increasing rhetoric, now that Libya is more or less settled, over Syria. After the invasion of Afghanistan a former executive of Conoco Phillips, Ahmid Karzai, was installed as ruler and plans immediately began for a pipeline to bring Caspian oil to a Pacific port via Afghanistan. After the invasion of Irag western oil companies immediately began negotiating for their share of the Iraqi oil pie. The same is about to happen in Libya. And when Sudan was partitioned the US took aim at the oil reserves in the newly separated south Sudan. The saber rattling over Iran, Syria and others has as much to do with their oil reserves as politics. And in all, the US has more military presence in the Arabian Gulf than anywhere else in the world except the US itself.
* Despite several years of teeth gnashing and negative press in the US over Canada's tar sands oil being dirty oil (complete with bans against it in several states including California), the US government has a measure on the table for building a high volume pipeline, the Keystone Pipeline, from Alberta to the major US oil refineries in Texas and elsewhere along the Gulf coast. It is obvious they only consider tar sands oil dirty when they can get adequate supply from elsewhere in the world. With the reality of declining OPEC, Mexican and other sources of oil staring them in the face, they desperately want to tie up that Canadian tar sands oil, particularly since China is making increasing investment in the tar sands also in an attempt to ensure future oil availability. Venezuela has vast oil sands, in the Orinoco region, that probably equal those in Canada, but Venezuela is not friendly to US interests.
* The US is quietly but increasingly reducing its investment in automobile infrastructure (highways, tunnels, bridges, etc) including new construction and maintenance of existing infrastructure. This is obviously partly due to the long recession that has gripped the country but it is a clear indicator that when budgets are tight they are no longer prepared to give top priority to automobile infrastructure.
* Most developed nations such as the US and European nations are placing increased emphasis on electric cars as the centerpiece of the future of the automobile. That, however, ignores the simple and glaringly obvious reality that electrical generation and transmission infrastructure is rapidly deteriorating and will require massive billions of dollars of investment in order to support an electric car culture. In addition, any sort of serious government push to accelerate the conversion to electric cars will dramatically increase the drawdown of increasingly rare resources, particularly for the production of the batteries needed to run those electric cars. It is clearly doubtful if the hundreds of millions of cars in the US and Europe will ever be replaced wholesale by electric vehicles.
* Increasingly over the past decade, published oil production and reserve figures have been broadened to include more and more questionable commodities such as synthetic oil from tar sands, liquid fuels created from coal and natural gas condensates, liquid fuels produced from shale formations, ethanol, bio-fuels and more. The simple reality already is that traditional crude oil is no longer satisfying the demand but is increasingly reliant on these other non-traditional sources to make up the shortfall. But even the figures reported by the EIA, of crude plus condensates, are already on the decline.

Peak oil is not an event wherein all of a sudden one day governments, business and the media will announce that peak oil has arrived and we all need to adjust the way we live on this planet. It won't be sudden. It won't be clear. And in the initial stages of the decline following peak there is plenty of wiggle room to disguise the fact that we are in decline, and room to perpetuate the state of denial in which we have existed for the past couple of decades. As has often been said, peak oil ultimately will only be recognized in the rearview mirror.
I believe peak oil has already arrived. I believe, in fact, based on the data available, peak oil arrived in 2005. In the several years since then enormous effort has been put into disguising that reality and turning to other energy sources and classifying them as oil to allow that facade to be maintained. I do not believe we are adjusting to the reality of peak oil. I belief we are firmly entrenched in trying to deny that reality and scrambling ever harder to find some viable energy alternative that will allow us to carry on business as usual to keep us from ever having to deal with that reality. The chances are very slim, however, of finding any energy source that will allow us the massive amounts of cheap energy that we derive from crude oil. Peak oil will probably mean peak net energy and be followed by an accelerating decline in all forms of energy.
The news, however, is not all bad. Peak oil and peak net energy will also mean peak CO2 emissions. That will allow the planet a chance to begin recovering from the damage our high energy human lifestyle has inflicted on the planet. That at least improves the prospect of the long term survivability of our species and that of other species with whom we reluctantly share this planet.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How I Shed 45 pounds in 21 days

This isn't a pitch for some new dieting product, a promise of tighter, sexier abs, a miracle pill. No come-ons. No promises. No fancy new exercise equipment.
This is a personal story of heart disease. I was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy about three years ago after experienced mild congestive heart failure. Since that time I have had a consistent problem, due to my weakened heart condition, of retaining excess fluid in my body, particularly in my abdominal cavity and my lower extremities.

Over a four-five week period this spring my body simply slowed down the elimination of these excess fluids. Over that period of time I put on nearly forty pounds in weight, all unexpelled fluid. My abdomen swelled up to the point that I looked like I was eight and a half months pregnant, with twins. After a couple of weeks of testing - ultra sounds, X-rays, CT-scans - it was confirmed that it was all a result of fluid retention.

At that point my family doctor checked me into the hospital and referred me to my cardiologist, my gastro-enterologist, my nephrologist and to a respirologist because of a mass spotted on my right lung.

The first order of business was a paracentesis, a draining of excess fluid from the abdominal cavity. In that procedure they drained nearly seven liters of fluid representing about 16 pounds of that additional body weight. That, of course, is included in the forty-five pounds total that I managed to shed. The rest was achieved through a massive increase in my diuretic (Furosemide, a lasix product) from 20 to 120mg per day, and adding an additional high potency diuretic, metolazone, of 2.5mg per day (the latter added when the lasix proved unable to do the job on its own).

After eight days in the hospital I was released. At home I continued on the diuretic regimen and, over the next two weeks, shed another 29 pounds of excess fluid at an average rate of over 2 pounds a day, for a total weight loss in 21 days of 45 pounds, nearly one quarter of my bloated body weight.

The combination of that and several other adjustments to my medication and significant changes to my diet, most to do with restricted fluid intake, has left me feeling better and stronger than I have felt in several years. And after 29 days my total body weight has dropped by 55 pounds and leveled off.

Of course, this tale ends with a caveat. Don't try this at home.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The Death of Osama bin Laden

Monday, May 02, 2011.
Osama bin Laden has reportedly been killed by a select unit of U.S. navy seals in a raid yesterday on his "luxury" compound in Abbottabad, a city deep inside Pakistan less than an hour's drive, 60 kilometers, from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. The compound was only about a mile away from a major Pakistani military academy and garrison. Coupled with the suggestion that the compound was the largest building in the community with barbed-wire-topped eighteen-foot walls, brings into serious question Pakistani claims of lack of knowledge of his whereabouts and their lack of cooperation and efforts in finding him, and their repeated claims that bin Laden was still in Afghanistan.

The fact that bin Laden's body was seized by U.S. forces after initial identification (which reportedly included DNA analysis?) and removed and buried at sea over 800 miles away (to supposedly prevent the establishment of a martyr's grave site) will, of course, have the conspiracy theorists working overtime. There are already claims by the "birthers" (Donald Trump among them) that the timing of this whole "fictitious" event was staged to draw attention away from what they describe as the "obviously forged" long-form certificate of Barrack Obama's birth in Hawaii that has been posted on the "official" White House web site.

Regardless of the "true" story, this event has been portrayed in such a way that it is obviously going to have serious geopolitical ramifications over the coming weeks and months.

It would seem very likely that there is now going to be a serious redrawing of the diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and the Pakistani government. Their blatant lack of cooperation in the U.S. war on terrorism had only been tolerated because the White House still considered that the hunt for bin Laden and al Qaida still needed Pakistan's help. The announcement that U.S. special forces raided bin Laden's compound deep inside Pakistan (the Pakistan government apparently declined a request for their forces to be involved), seized the body and disposed of it at sea themselves, is a clear signal that Pakistan's cooperation is no longer needed and the price of whatever cooperation they were giving was not worth it. They were clearly more a hindrance than a help.

It will, undoubtedly, also spell an end, or at least a serious curtailment, of U.S. financial and military aid to Pakistan, a serious blow to a regime locked in a perpetual confrontation with neighboring India, both countries with nuclear arsenals, and reeling under tremendous financial pressure after a series of devastating natural disasters.

The other obvious and very expected outcome of this event is that leaders of every western nation immediately issued a warning that this was likely to lead to a short term outbreak of new terrorist activity from al Qaida cells as well as other terrorist organizations. In other words, the fear level has been ramped up amid the euphoria surrounding bin Laden's death. Fear is good for the economy. This expectation of terrorist activity takes the focus off the still faltering global economic recovery, at least for now.

At the same time, however, this is very likely to bring on renewed and stronger calls, both in the U.S. and in other involved western nations, to withdraw troops and military support from Afghanistan. After all, those troops were only there because of al Qaida and because of the hunt for bin Laden. Now that it is clear he was not there but in Pakistan, and now that he has been "brought to justice", the supposed need for a military presence there has been eliminated. It will be argued that it is time to withdraw and focus on protecting the homeland.

To offset those calls, however, it is very likely that a new threat will be "created" to replace the current al Qaida as justification for the continued use of the military in the global war on terrorism. War is good for business and the fear engendered by war and the threat of it is good for eliciting the support and placid cooperation of the citizenry.

The other thing that will be very interesting to watch over the coming months is the middle east and Muslim countries in general, including Pakistan and Indonesia. Despite some discomfort within the Muslim world about al Qaida's tactics, there was and remains widespread support for bin Laden's message and objective of the overthrow of brutal dictatorial regimes in Muslim countries. The wave of citizen protest in Muslim countries like Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, and Syria that has dominated world media for the past several months is, at least in part, a result of that very bin Laden message. If bin Laden is going to be seen as a martyr in the Muslim world it is most likely now to be as a result of that message and objective because of its broad appeal. And it is very likely that the strength and commitment of those citizen revolts will now increase in recognition of bin Laden's martyrdom.

That martyrdom is also very likely to strengthen the anti-west and, particularly, anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world. I believe this is very likely to result in increased serious terrorist acts not on the U.S. but within those Muslim countries against oil-supply infrastructure from which U.S. imports originate.

At a time when the U.S. is quietly having to increase its imports of oil from Saudia Arabia, because of the rapidly dwindling availability of supply from Mexico due to an annual 14% decline in output from the Cantarell field, this is likely to finally wake the American people up to the realities of peak oil and make it increasingly difficult for politicians to hide, ignore and deny those realities. We will be smack up against the reality that the vast majority of the world's remaining oil reserves are within those very Muslim nations whose America-friendly dictatorial regimes are under tremendous and increasing pressure from their own citizens to step down and be replaced with "democratically elected" governments. It is unlikely that any of those replacement governments (all likely wanting to return to a more traditional Muslim society governed by Shariah law) are going to be as friendly to the U.S. or as sympathetic to its needs as the regimes they are replacing. The U.S. may now find itself increasingly hard-pressed to get the quantities of oil it needs on a day to day basis, let alone the higher volumes it would need for a serious economic recovery and increased industrial activity if it tries to repatriate production that it has shipped offshore over past decades.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Can we survive our successes?

As advanced technological societies like ours fall apart with the accelerating decline in resource availability, I believe survivability is going to have to be accomplished at the community level, not as a scattering of rugged individualists living on their backwoods homesteads. We are still going to need some separation and specialization of skills and responsibilities and the optimum economies of scale that are afforded by the community that cannot be achieved by one individual. And, of course, from a natural selection point of view, we are going to need a broad, varied and healthy gene pool to avoid the problems of long term interbreeding.

Most importantly, however, if any significant portion of the current level of human population is to survive into the future, we are going to have to rely on agriculture. There simply are not enough resources, or wilderness left for those resources, to support any more than a very small human population well below one billion, probably closer to 100-200 million globally. Without the massive fossil fuel inputs on which modern agriculture critically relies, however, the new labor-intensive agriculture of the future is going to have to be community dependent and community supporting. It is going to have to become a key, even dominant part of the community's way of life.

I believe the appropriate size of community in a post-carbon world will be relatively small, with more than a few hundred but no more than perhaps ten thousand in total. That size allows for a diverse collection of specialized skills, helping to ensure the community's self-sufficiency and self-reliance. But I still see trade between neighboring communities for specialized goods and services (e.g. high education) that there is no justification or benefit in replicating in every community. That size is also still small enough to have and maintain a truly homogeneous sense of community and community spirit, a pulling together for the benefit of all. And yet large enough to allow, even encourage, friendly competition both within and between communities.

The first key to the community's self-sufficiency must be agriculture. The community has to be able to produce all of the food needed to sustain its whole population. This is one of the areas where the efficiencies of scale and specialization must come strongly into play.

Everybody needs potatoes, but not everyone is good at growing potatoes, and not everyone's soil is good for growing potatoes. But somewhere in the broader community is a patch of the ideal soil for growing potatoes and someone who grows potatoes better than anyone else. True community efficiency is achieved by bringing those two elements together, not just for the benefit of the best potato grower but for the benefit of the whole community. Each crop, be it potatoes, corn, pole beans, tomatoes or whatever, has its own specialists who produce enough for the whole community.

The same thing applies to animal husbandry. Someone in the community is probably best at raising chickens and getting optimum egg production and growing the best eating birds. Someone else is good at managing a dairy herd. Someone else is exceptional at raising rabbits, someone else sheep or goats. And someone is best at breeding and raising the all important horses, or even oxen, on which, over time, the community will become so dependent. With specialization optimum community efficiency will result.

That specialization would, of course, carry over into trades. Someone is excellent at making and repairing furniture. Another is an excellent potter. Someone else is a good sheet-metal worker, another a blacksmith, yet another is the best house-builder, or chimney builder, or barn builder or saddle and harness maker. Someone is best at making pants, or shirts, or sweaters, or mitts, or hats, or toques, or shoes, or underwear, or coats.

The key to all of this, however, is how to value the effort that everyone contributes to the welfare of the community. What is someone's time worth? Is the cabinet maker's time more valuable than the farmhand who milks the cows in the dairy? Is the dressmaker more valuable than the milliner? The blacksmith more valuable than the potter? In the truest sense of community the answer on all is; no. Everyone's contribution is of equal value. Were it otherwise then people naturally will want to specialize in those skills that are considered more valuable and the tasks considered to be of less value will always be short-staffed. And it is that artificial valuation of skills, based on their ability to make money for other people, that has been the underpinning of eco-destructive, resource-consuming, profit-driven capitalism. It is what has turned us all into wage slaves.

By now, of course, you are saying to yourself that this all sounds like communism and you will see it as good or bad depending on your gut reaction and view of communism. But that is just a word. We don't look at a herd of elephants and label them communists. Nor a herd of cows, a pack of wolves, a flock of geese, a pride of lions. If I had to put a label on it I would define it as tribalism.

The tribe appears to be the evolutionary ideal structure of human collective. Even within the larger social structures and communities of modern civilization, tribalism still prevails as a homogeneous unit within those larger communities. But too often the traditional tribe is plagued by the problems inherent in inbreeding in a small gene pool. Neo-tribalism would attempt to capitalize, through knowledge we have gained over milennia, on the benefits of the tribal model and community size without the downsides.

Tribalism, essentially, implies broad blood relationships. It is generally focused on the multiple generations of the extended family, strengthened and broadened by marriage between members of separate tribal units. And that blood relationship within the group is the commonality across a wide variety of animal species. It is common not only to humans but to all herding and group-based species, like elephants, lions, wolves, geese, buffalo, gnus, gazelles, lemurs, ants, bees, and many, many more. And it is the basis of a group dynamic that has remained remarkably and unshakably consistent through all of evolutionary history.

We are, after all, gene machines, each and every one of us. Our intellect cannot overcome that. And why would we want to? If it ain't broke, why fix it? Every other method of artificial social organization that we have tried to use as a motivational force to hold a group together has had a beginning, middle and end to its period in human history. Through all of those competing structures the one consistency has always been the tribal unit of the extended family. And as each of those social structures have fails it is the tribal extended family that becomes the glue that holds society together while we search for the next artificial, human-created social unit. When times get tough, it is the extended family that endures and sustains. When a community disintegrates it is not the community which moves out to start over again. It is the extended family.

Our modern societies have allowed, even encouraged us to pursue individualism, to move away from the nuclear family and seek our own individual destiny within the larger social unit of city or nation. And yet when those pursuits fail it is the welcoming bossom of the extended family that we return to. Very often those larger social units see the tribalism of the extended family as a threat, a competitor. They feel they must break up that blood-based unit in order for their own artificial unit to succeed. That has almost become human nature over these past several centuries. We believe that all things natural are to be overcome, defeated, rather than worked within. As a species we are so intent on proving that we are somehow separate and apart from and superior to the natural world that we leave ourselves no choice but to do battle with it.

This has been a very long way of saying that community in the post-carbon world, I believe, is going to have to be tribal in nature, based on the blood relationships of the extended family. It is the only truly enduring form of human collective that will see us through the extremely difficult adjustments that are going to be thrust upon us as the planet's varied energy resources are driven into terminal decline by our species-centric overuse of them. I say species-centric rather than human-centric because it is not just the human population that has exploded with our overuse of fossil fuels. There have been parallel explosions in cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens, dogs, cats, a very narrow selection of plants, and selective others at the incredible expense of the other tens of thousands of species with whom we are supposed to be sharing this planet. We have chauvinistically embraced the belief that if it's of no apparent use to humans it has no place in the world and can be eliminated.

Forget the debate. Forget what economists keep saying. Forget the pandering of politicians and the ludicrous reassurances of professional, paid deniers. Take this to the bank. Things are going to get very tough in the balance of your lifetime! And no one will be immune. Not the rich, nor the powerful. Not those with the biggest armies or the fattest bank accounts. They are all critically dependent on the fossil fuel economy we have created over these past couple of centuries. Those fat bank accounts will be meaningless when all of our debt-based, fiat money becomes worthless in a sea of noncollectable debt. Those armies will go nowhere when their fossil-fuel driven machines run out of fuel for the last time. And the food and goods to sustain even the rich will no longer arrive when the heavily fossil-fuel dependent global food and goods distribution industry grinds to a halt for lack of fuel.

This won't happen tomorrow. It may not even be rapid, but if we continue to plan our future in an intentionally entrenched state of denial it may very well be. More likely it will unfold over the course of decades, perhaps even a century or longer. More important, however, is the fact that it has already begun. The stresses created by the early declines in availability of the preferred light, sweet crude oil are already taking their toll globally.

America, fifty years ago, was the prime exporter of oil to the world. It now relies on foreign imports for over seventy percent of its oil, much of it from very politically unstable parts of the world. And an endless stream of wars are being fought in an attempt to ensure continued access to those ever-shrinking reserves. The Gulf of Mexico has been turned into a cesspool by offshore drilling with greater risks being taken daily with drilling in methane-prone deep-water areas. Northern Alberta has been turned into a lifeless and life-threatening moonscape, clearly visible from space, by the tar sands industry. In our quest for feedstock for biofuels we have pushed food prices to the breaking point for over a billion of the planet's poor and starving, while destroying a full quarter of equatorial rain forests to replace them with oil palm plantations. Our pursuit of alternatives, in the form of nuclear energy, have turned vast tracts into radio-active wastelands from Chernobyl to Fukushima to Three Mile Island. And, after over half a century, no one has yet figured out a workable method for the safe long term storage of deadly, highly-radioactive nuclear waste. Saner heads are finally beginning to prevail with nation after nation deciding to decommission its nuclear power plants. Entire mountains in many areas have been scraped away strip mining for coal with several underground coal seam fires have been burning unchecked for decades. Every major river has been dammed up to provide hydro-electricity to offset our diminishing fossil-fuel resources, destroying the habitat for hundreds of unique species. Vast tracts of prime agricultural land and critical fresh water aquifers are being destroyed by fracking in pursuit of natural gas as our oil resources diminish. And there is nowhere left on this planet that has not already been touched and despoiled by our refuse.

Put simply, we are destroying this planet and its life-support capability in the pursuit of the energy resources critically needed to maintain our institutionally-imposed, highly-unsustainable human lifestyle. I believe strongly that the greatest contributor to that unsustainability and eco-destruction is the city, the mega-community that has become so prevalent over the past two centuries. Cities, at least as they exist today, are totally artificial constructs that cannot be readily made self-supporting and self-reliant. They are totally dependent on resources attainable only beyond their limits. To even become self-reliant and self-supporting in terms of food would require a massive restructuring of the urban environment.

The primary justification for the manic growth of cities, particularly in this past century, has been the achievement of economies of scale in the mass production of industrial, commercial and consumer goods. Small workshops and cottage industry simply could not achieve those types of economies. But the goods manufactured in those massive, mechano-efficient factories have not been for the satisfaction of basic needs, not life-supporting. They are targeted at wants, artificial needs often having to be created and maintained with massive advertising campaigns. The purpose is selling product. And the focus is on the producers and their products, not the customers and their needs. We have completely turned the law of supply and demand on its head. The producer needs to sell product and lots of it and we have all been turned into consumers, not users, not purchasers, not customers, but consumers with an assumed and accepted duty and responsibility to continue to be good consumers buying products we do not need. And that is exactly what we are doing, consuming, consuming the planets critical, finite, non-renewable resources for the sake of amassing profits for the producers and their shareholders.

Those cities, especially western cities as they have evolved over the past half century plus, with increasingly separated industrial, business, retail and residential zones, have become totally dependent on the automobile. Take it away and they simply cannot function. And possibly the first real casualty of the decline in oil availability will be the automobile, or at least the private, family automobile. No great loss from a planetary survival perspective. That one item has been responsible for the greatest consumption and misuse of this planet's resources in human history.

The small, agrarian community is the only realistic model for a post carbon society capable of supporting a reasonable percentage of our current, global population. But the vast majority of that population has no life experience of the small community, especially one devoid of the technology on which we have become so fixated and dependent. And the transition to that lifestyle will, for most, be very difficult. But consider the alternatives.

Whether you like it or not, believe it or not, accept it or not, the world, especially the highly urbanized world of cities, is not run by politicians and governments. It is run by global corporations and banks, each with more power than the government of any single nation within whose borders they operate. Probably the greatest social mistake made since the onset of the industrial revolution has been granting these soulless organizations the status of artificial people. Corporations have been granted all of the rights of an individual under the law, without the limitations that make life for real individuals a struggle. And the single most important difference between the corporation and you or I is longevity. We live an average of seventy years or so. A corporation, as they exist today, can go on, in theory, for hundreds or even thousands of years.

This was not always the case. When corporations were first created they were incorporated or set up to bring together the large amounts of capital needed to achieve a specific objective (e.g. the building of bridge, construction of a railway, the digging of a canal, establishment of a plantation in a far-flung corner of the world). They were chartered with a sunset clause, a time and a specific event that would initiate their unwinding. And they were limited to activities consistent with the satisfaction of the terms of their charter. Somehow, that simple, controllable, purpose-driven organization has been allowed to evolve into a cancerous blight that grows out of control destroying or devouring everything around it.

Was it ever possible to imbue the corporation with a soul, a conscience? Perhaps, perhaps not, but it is probably too late now. But, if we do not strip corporations of their unchecked power to gobble up this planets resources in the single-minded pursuit of profits they will collectively complete their assumed job of converting everything available into money, into profits. They will go on as long as there are resources available. They will ultimately destroy the planet, with no compunction, in that pursuit and leave the whole damned thing a barren wasteland just like any of the thousands of other abandoned, toxic factory and industrial sites they have already left behind.

I know I'm being melodramatic, totally impractical, polemic. But nothing else we try to do to save this planet as our home has any chance of working as long as corporations continue to be allowed the rights and powers they now enjoy and so vigorously abuse. We may as well stand before the factory doors, bend over and kiss our collective asses goodbye.

Embleton out!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I Haven't Abandoned Peak Oil!

Several readers have recently asked me why I stopped writing about peak oil? I could simply say that I turned my writing energy loose on novel writing; already having finished one and now half way through another. But I am accustomed to balancing multiple different writing projects, especially when they are in totally different genres.

What really happened is that I got tired of banging my head against the wall. Nobody is listening, and certainly not the people who need to; politicians and industry leaders, business executives and media pundits. The primary objective of all of them is perpetuation of business as usual. And that business as usual is the problem, not the solution.

I doubted whether my voice was needed any longer. There are, after all, many other voices out there still talking peak oil, most much stronger voices than myself. They seem content to carry on the fight even in the face of endless losses, all in the belief that no matter how many battles they lose they will eventually win the war. I can't do that. I'm much too pragmatic. I see no redeeming value in continuing to fight a battle which I know I will lose in the end. It is better, in my mind, to walk away and live to fight another day.

I have not abandoned peak oil. I can't. It is, in fact, the primary backdrop to the first novel I mentioned above. It is also the defining issue of our time for humanity, even if humanity thus far refuses to see that. But when you are faced with overwhelming opposition, the only way to carry on the fight is to go underground. And that is what I have done.

I have done a lot of thinking about why people refuse to face the reality of peak oil, all in an attempt to figure out how to force them to face it and deal with it. On the surface it appears that the answer is simple. People are afraid of what peak oil will do to their lives and, therefore, hope that it is not true and hope that by not accepting it, it will simply go away so they don't have to deal with it. It's an odd form of denial.

On the other hand, however, it is possible that the majority of people simply do not know about peak oil, are not aware that there is a very serious crisis ahead, do not yet understand that their lives are going to be turned upside down and they will be faced with a battle just to survive. That would be understandable.

Government, business, industry, and the mainstream media are all declaring that there is no problem, that we have more than enough oil and other energy to keep the lights on for millennia to come. Every new oil discovery, no matter how small and inconsequential, is touted as undeniable proof that there is an endless supply of oil and that all we have to do is find it and extract it. Who cares if we destroy ANWR as well as the Gulf and virtually all of Northern Alberta and wherever else we pursue a major oil play. From time to time they still trot out that old, totally discredited chestnut of the Russian abiotic oil theory that claims oil is being constantly generated in the earth's mantle from inorganic material and will never run out.

It leaves one to wonder, therefore, not why people are in denial or ignorant of the issue but, rather, why is so much effort being made by government and industry to keep people in denial, to keep them ignorant of the looming disaster? It's like not going public with the news that a one-hundred-mile-wide asteroid is headed directly for the earth. Better to let the masses enjoy their final days in ignorance. But as long as that much effort is being lavished on denial, a critical mass of people who understand and accept peak oil will never be achieved. And that is the real tragedy here, that that ignorance robs people of the option to prepare for what is coming.

Why, you may ask, should it matter? So people are kept ignorant of the looming crisis. So what? One very simple reason.... Peak oil is survivable, with knowledge and proper preparation. Even more importantly, however, is this reality. The worst impact of peak oil on global society could be prevented if we acted now with a radical change in direction in the way human society operates.

Preventable! If we change course!

The corollary to that, of course, is that if we do not change course and persist with business as usual, the entire human population will face the most extreme consequences of peak oil when it arrives. Guaranteed!

That is why, to me, it has always been a no-brainer. If we change course, we can prevent the worst impact. If we don't, we'll face the worst head on. Duhhhh! Let me think. Do I want to stare death in the face, with a one in ten chance of survival, and see if I can survive it or do I want to change direction and avoid it?

That's right! I said a one in ten chance of survival.

The human carrying capacity of the earth following the depletion of the planet's fossil fuels (oil, coal, and natural gas) is generally estimated at between .5 and 1.5 billion people. We currently have a global population approaching 7 billion and if the population trend continues for the next 40-50 years it will top 10 billion. Even if the carrying capacity is twice the estimate, which is very unlikely (it has been estimated that in the 2-3 decades immediately following depletion of the fossil fuels the population could drop to under 500 million) that would still mean that 3-4 out of every 5 humans alive at that time will not survive. Are you willing to gamble that you will be one of the survivors with no advance preparation?

In case you haven't heard, or have heard and still refuse to believe, peak oil is not, as some professional denialists would have you believe, some radical, fringe theory put out by a bunch of wacko conspiracy theorists. And it is not, as some of those conspiracy theorists suggest, a con job by the oil, coal and natural gas industries to keep the price of their products high. It is, in fact, in my opinion, not a theory at all. It is an inescapable reality that is unfolding even now.

The peak oil philosophy is supported by, taught about, lectured on, and written about by college professors, former energy industry executives no longer beholden to an industry paycheck and free to speak openly, some current and former national leaders, several major entertainers, a plethora of writers, a variety of reputable energy industry analysts, many leading economists, some brave, outspoken serving politicians, and a few brave mainstream journalists.

So why aren't people hearing the message? Noise! There are simply far more promoters of denial, pushers of business as usual, salesmen of the American dream, peddlers of happiness, all hawking their wares at maximum volume for any note of reality to possibly squeeze into the public consciousness. Who wants to hear about some threat to the good life when they can buy a car that parks itself? Who wants to hear about a looming disaster when American Idol is there on our high-definition, dolby stereo, flat-screen 64" plasma TV to entertain us? You mean The Osbornes and Survivor aren't really reality? You mean we aren't in Iraq to bring them democracy and freedom? And yes, Virginia, there really is no frickin' red-suited Santa Claus!

Wake up people! Before it's too damned late! You've got some changes to make! Turn off the TV. Park the Hummer in the garage. Turn off the damned air conditioner and open the windows. Boycott MacDonalds and WalMart and everybody else who's pushing the American dream of cheap and fast. Walk to the damned convenience store next time you need a quart of milk. Trade in those damned gucchi loafers for a pair of cheap sneakers. Sell all that expensive jewelery and buy a year's supply of rice and dried beans. Turn that 1/2 acre of grass in front of your house into a garden that produces stuff you can actually eat. And get the hell out of that 5000 square foot Mcmansion that you can't afford to heat and into something practical.

I don't know what to tell you, and I don't think it's my job. You have to educate yourself and decide what is the best way for you and your family and friends and community to survive. Every case is different. All I know is, if you are an average American, you're going to have to change a lot. And there's no time like the present. So don't wait. Get on with it. And if there are hurdles in the way, like zoning laws, work on changing and eliminating them now rather than later. Once we have passed peak oil, which I honestly believe has already happened but has been disguised by the prolonged economic downturn, it will become increasingly difficult to get your preparations done in time. You have to be prepared before things reach the critical stage.

I don't believe we will ever recover from the current global economic downturn. But we will, unfortunately, try very hard to recover. And those attempts at recovery will likely push us ever faster toward that post-carbon world and leave us wholly unprepared to deal with it.

I am glad that my age any deteriorating health make it unlikely that I will have to deal with that. It's not going to be pretty. But if you are younger, especially if you are still in or have recently left school, for God's sake do yourself a favour and stop listening to CNN and Fox and reading the mainstream daily for your news. They aren't going to tell you what's really happening until its too late. Don't let them keep you in the dark. You've got to get ahead of the game because it's all going to come apart in your lifetime.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Regarding spam messages

I don't know what other blogs are experiencing but this blog, over the past six months, has become a target for spam messages trying to sell anything from movie downloads to sex toys and even some unmentionables. That torrent if spam has made me very disheartened to the point I am considering (but only considering) closing this blog. These messages are not the reason for the dearth of new material on my part, however. I have been very busy on a new novel involving methane hydrates in deepwater drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico. I am happy to report that the first draft of that novel, entitled "Block 743" is complete and will be in the hands of my first readers early in the new year. I'll post further messages in this blog as I proceed, hopefully all the way to publication.

Now.... For those who keep posting those spam messages to this blog, and you know who you are, you are completely wasting your time. I moderate all messages to the blog and, no matter how often you try, I am not going to approve those messages and let them through on the blog. So get stuffed.


Monday, August 02, 2010

Methane Hydrate Risk in our Pursuit of Energy

Everyone knows business men are trustworthy. Hell, survey after survey shows that they are more trusted than the family doctor or your local banker or pharmacist or those bleeding-heart scientists writing global warming reports for the IPCC or, God forbid, that wacko environmentalist living down the street who keeps showing up at all those Greenpeace demonstrations. So, of course we can count on business men, these pillars of society, to protect the environment and do the right thing and make decisions in the best interest of "the little people", as Tony Hayward, CEO of BP, so eloquently put it.

And we can trust corporations, like BP, Exxon, Halliburton, Enron and Lehman Brothers, to monitor and police their own operations. If they find something wrong they will make sure it gets fixed, and quickly. So there is no need for us or our governments to hold them accountable. They will hold themselves accountable. After all, isn't BP voluntarily setting aside $20-billion to cover costs and claims resulting from the Gulf oil spill? And don't they have thousands of people on the beaches and on shrimp boats cleaning up the oil spill? Oh wait, they were strong-armed into all of that by President Obama. Well they would have done it anyway, right?

The reality is, in my opinion, that the inordinate faith and trust afforded business and industry leaders and executives is both misplaced and highly irrational in face of the evidence of the collateral damage of their profit-centred decisions and actions over the last several decades. The reality is that, despite the fact that in the beginning people were prone to exclaim, "what a terrible accident", this was no accident. Far from it. The disaster that befell The Deepwater Horizon was the result of very high-risk human decisions in the face of overwhelming evidence that should have caused them to turn back. But don't take my word for it.

The following is from an article in entitled Gulf Spill: Did Pesky Hydrates Trigger the Blowout? "Drillers have long been wary of methane hydrates because they can pack a powerful punch. One liter of water ice that has trapped individual methane molecules in the "cages" of its crystal structure can release 168 liters of methane gas when the ice decomposes. Bea [professor Robert Bea, of University of California, Berkeley], who has 55 years of experience assessing risks in and around offshore operations, says "there was concern at this location for gas hydrates. We're out to the [water depth] where it ought to be there." The deeper the water, the greater the pressure, which when high enough can keep hydrates stable well below the sea floor. .... And there were signs that drillers did encounter hydrates. About a month before the blowout, a "kick" of gas pressure hit the well hard enough that the platform was shut down. "Something under high pressure was being encountered," says Bea—apparently both hydrates and gas on different occasions."[3]

This is from a piece on the History channel titled, Methane Hydrate Explosion – Wars for Oil – BP Oil Spill Doomsday Scenario from History Channel. "The Horizon rig’s mechanic stated the well had problems for months, the drill repeatedly kicked due to methane gas pressure, the levels of gas were twice as high as he’d ever seen in his career. According to interviews with platform workers conducted during BP’s internal investigation, a bubble of methane gas escaped from the well and shot up the drill column, expanding quickly as it burst through several seals and barriers before exploding. .......the upper mile of seafloor is cemented by methane hydrate which is much like permafrost and is stratified in layers. It melts and changes phases instantly back into gas at about 60F or 17C degrees. We have every reason to believe the hot pressurized oil and gas is eroding layers of formations from large leaks 1000 feet below the well head, probably more leaks below. There seems to be no way to stop this well and the processes will likely continue like opening cracks in a dam. At some point the well head pipe will blow off leaving an open hole … the substrate rock is fractured below the previously impermeable hydrate layers above."[4]

This warning is from an article title BP Oil Spill & Methane Hydrate on a site, "Because drilling can bring warm fluids up from depth, potentially melting the shallower gas hydrate, many researchers and engineers anticipate that drilling through gas hydrate may pose a hazard to the stability of the well, the platform anchors, the tethers, or even entire platforms."[5]

A further warning on Discovery is contained in this piece titled, Volatile Methane Ice Could Spark More Drilling Disasters. "The decision by BP and many other energy companies to drill through areas of unusual ice-like crystals -- called methane hydrates -- is a risky one fraught with huge consequences for failure. .... "Methane hydrates are a geological hazard, and it's been well established for decades that they are dangerous," said Richard Charter, head of the Defenders of Wildlife marine program and member of the Department of Energy's methane hydrates advisory panel. "Until 10 or 15 years ago, the industry would avoid them no matter what." .... Now, Charter said, the rush to produce more oil for domestic consumption has forced companies like BP to take bigger risks by drilling in deep waters that are a breeding ground of hydrates. And they worry that a new drilling push into the Arctic Ocean -- which President Barack Obama has authorized to begin next month -- could expose a fragile and remote environment to additional risks from catastrophic oil spills." [7]

This sort of thing is not new. I was with Union Carbide at the time of the Bhopal disaster from a chemical gas leak at one of their plants in Bhopal India that killed several thousand people living near the plant. You could virtually hear the collective exhaled sigh of relief from the rest of the petrochemical industry at the time. The disaster at Bhopal was an accident waiting to happen, just as was the BP Gulf oil spill. The practices employed in the petrochemical industry, though within industry and legislative guidelines, were inevitably going to result in an event like Bhopal. The collective sigh of relief within the industry after Bhopal was the relief that it had happened to some other company first.

And therein lies the basis of my one tiny bit of sympathy for BP. Even though an entire industry my utilize practices that are inevitably going to lead to a disaster somewhere down the road (and huge, and very expensive political lobbies generally exist to make sure their hands aren't tied by needless safety standards), the blame for that disaster, when it happens, falls squarely on the sole shoulders of the one company that unfortunately is first to fall on its face. They bear all of the blame and finger pointing, even (or especially?) from others within their own industry employing the same risky practices, simply because they were the first to fall into the trap. The others within the industry are often prevented from later falling into the same trap by changes in the legislative and monitoring environment, changes that should have existed before.

Following Bhopal, Union Carbide eventually was broken into its component parts and sold off, along with company assets, in order for some shell of the former industrial giant to survive. And BP, the disaster already costing them untold billions, will undoubtedly go through the same process as it spirals downward. It may, like Union Carbide, ultimately survive, or it may not.

As another example, similar industry-wide risks are being taken throughout the US by the shale-gas industry. They use a process called hydraulic fracturing to release natural gas from shale rock. A massive surge in drilling - with hundreds of thousands of new gas wells across the country - was begun under the Bush administration. That industry, with the help and blessing of Vice President Cheney's NEPDG (National Energy Policy Development Group) was summarily exempted from the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and dozens of other similar pieces of needlessly restrictive environmental legislation passed over the previous decades intended to protect the environment. The very predictable result is that underground water supplies and aquifers in most areas where this type of drilling is done have been contaminated with both natural gas and the toxic chemicals used in the drilling and extraction processes. People previously utilizing those underground water sources can now literally burn the water coming out of their taps because it is so highly contaminated with natural gas. They may not have drinkable water but at least they're getting their gas for free.

As those who have followed my blog know - and I apologize for the drop-off in articles over this past winter and spring because of personal health issues - I have been writing about methane hydrates for over four years now. And I strongly believe the BP Gulf disaster is far from over. I believe the whole reserve of Methane Hydrates through which the BP rig drilled has been destabilized and will continue to release its methane into the Gulf - readings near the well head already indicate methane levels up to a million times higher than normal - for many years to come. I further believe that if the well is successfully capped the hydrates will continue to release their methane and eventually result in a massive and explosive methane release the likes of which has not been seen in recorded history. In addition, recent readings indicate that the free oil in the Gulf is declining due to a virtual explosion of the bacteria that consume the oil. But that is a double edged sword because this bacterial bloom is rapidly building a dead zone in the Gulf with insufficient oxygen to support the marine life that normally inhabits these warm tropical waters.

But as bad as the Deepwater Horizon explosion and sinking may have been and as environmentally disastrous as the resulting Gulf oil spill is, this is still not the really serious environmental disaster I foresee if we continue toward full exploitation of Methane Hydrates as an energy source. And that is a serious interest and intent of the governments of several nations, among them; Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Taiwan, India, China, Canada, and the U.S. And the list grows every day.

The problem is - and this is a subject that is constantly debated - that methane hydrates are inherently unstable. It is a structure (methane gas trapped in a cage of water ice) composed of two opposing forces; the attempt by the ice cage to retain its crystalline structure and the attempt by the methane concentrated within that structure to re-expand (168 times) back into a free gas. And the only one of those two opposing forces that is stable and constant is that of the gas trying to free itself from the structure. The ice that contains it is subject to change with any change in the pressure around it or the temperature, or both.

If deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico or, more seriously, in the fragile Arctic Ocean, continues to push into Methane Hydrate zones, the risk of massive hydrate destabilization grows with each well. Once a deposit of Methane Hydrates is destabilized, if changes in temperature or pressure are sufficient to support it, the whole deposit can release its methane. That release could be gradual but there is just as strong a probability that it could be explosive and massive. Remember, methane is concentrated at 168 times the density of the gas in hydrate form, meaning it will expand 168 times when it reverts back into a gas. This can cause an explosive uplift in the seafloor overlaying the hydrate formation. It could result in a collapse of that area of seafloor. In either case, if rapid and explosive enough, the release could trigger a tsunami. The resulting environmental damage of such an event in the Arctic, or the serious potential of risk for residents living along the gulf shore on the Gulf of Mexico should such an event happen there, should cause both governments and energy companies to take serious pause following the current Gulf oil spill. A simple question needs to dominate all such discussions and considerations. Is our thoughtless energy greed worth the rapidly escalating risks that our pursuit of that energy is causing us to take?

Will that question even be considered?

1) Global Oil Supply Now Contracting?
2) BP’s oil spill fight plagued by methane hydrates, a hazard of deep water
3) Gulf Spill: Did Pesky Hydrates Trigger the Blowout?
4) Methane Hydrate Explosion – Wars for Oil – BP Oil Spill Doomsday Scenario from History Channel
5) BP Oil Spill & Methane Hydrate
6) BP Oil Spill – Methane Hydrate Never Mentioned – For What it’s Worth Buffalo Springfield
7) Volatile Methane Ice Could Spark More Drilling Disasters
Energy companies used to avoid methane hydrates no matter what. Now the industry may be drilling right into danger.
8) Ocean Warming Melts Methane Hydrates Which Screws Us All

Friday, April 02, 2010

A Balanced (hopefully) look at Methane Hydrates

When it comes to the issue of exploiting permafrost/undersea Methane Hydrates I definitely have a strong bias. I am against it. Nonetheless there are strong and, from some perspectives, valid opinions to the contrary. In this article I will attempt to present a balance of both sides of the argument, while taking certain editorial license consistent with my bias.

If you study the methane hydrate literature, as I have for the past several years - the newspaper and magazine articles, the web sites and blogs, the scientific papers - the one thing that is clear is that there are a lot of different and conflicting opinions in play. That is understandable. It is only in these past thirty years that the role of methane as an important carbon sink and a serious greenhouse gas, and the potential of methane hydrates as a fossil-fuel-replacing energy source have come to the forefront. Significant study of methane hydrates is really only in its infancy, and it is being driven, sponsored and financed by two different, opposing objectives. In fairness, however, I must point out that at this stage there are nearly as many concerns expressed and warnings issued from the energy industry as there are from the scientific community. The difference is that one side downplays the concerns and warnings and the other side pushes them to the forefront.

It is, nonetheless, those two different aspects of methane hydrates - as a source of the serious greenhouse gas more than 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide and as a potential energy source - that are at the heart of the divergence of opinion. Those, like myself, focused on methane as a greenhouse gas see the potentially serious environmental risks and dangers involved in attempting to exploit methane hydrates, especially in view of our energy exploitation track record. Those focused on methane hydrates as a major potential energy source tend to downplay the risks and dangers in the name of "need", progress and national energy security.

But haven't we been here before? The orchestrated debate over cigarettes and tobacco? The debate constantly swirling around the burning of fossil fuels? The debate over biofuels contributing to escalating global hunger? The furious global warming debate? Even the rancorous terminology hurled from either side of the debate is the same.

I have listed nearly thirty online sources at the end of this article that show, as clearly and in as balanced a manner as I can manage, the clear divergence of literature fostered by the two different camps. If you are uncertain how you feel about the exploitation of methane hydrates, or if you are looking to build your knowledge about them I urge you to visit as many of these sites as possible. Alternatively, google searches will give you literally hundreds of thousands of references and sites to investigate. If you are looking for an overview, with a bias toward a concern for the risks and dangers, I invite you to read the several other articles I have written in my blog on the subject.

Unintended consequences

Various sites listed deal with unintended consequences. We can destabilize a reserve of methane hydrates accidentally when we aren't even attempting to exploit it. Methane Hydrate: A surprising compound, has this, ".....ocean-based oil-drilling operations sometimes encounter methane hydrate deposits. As a drill spins through the hydrate, the process can cause it to dissociate. The freed gas may explode, causing the drilling crew to lose control of the well. Another concern is that unstable hydrate layers could give way beneath oil platforms or, on a larger scale, even cause tsunamis."[2] Gas Hydrates: Natural gas hydrate studies in Canada, adds, "Shallow gas in the Mackenzie Delta, that may be attributable to hydrate, resulted in the loss of life of two drillers during early exploration." and includes this warning, "Present atmospheric methane is increasing at such a rate that if it continues, methane will be the dominant greenhouse gas in the second half of the century."[4] And methane, I remind you, is 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

What unintended consequences might occur when we are intentionally interfering with methane hydrate reserves, with whatever extraction technology we might use? Methane hydrates: Energy's most dangerous game, addresses this issue directly. "The paradox is that while gas can be extracted from methane hydrates, doing so poses potentially catastrophic risks. ..... A substantial amount of evidence suggests that weakening the lattice-like structure of gas hydrates has triggered underwater landslides on the continental margin. In other words, the extraction process, if done improperly, could cause sudden disruptions on the ocean floor, reducing ocean pressure rates and releasing methane gas from hydrates."[6] This is addressed further in Realizing the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States, in this statement. "The production of methane from methane hydrate also involves potential drilling and production safety issues and environmental consequences. Production safety issues are sometimes called “geohazards” because they refer to adverse geologic and environmental consequences that may result from human disturbance of the methane hydrate and surrounding sedimentary layers."[12] However a strong counter argument is presented in, Methane and Methane Hydrates, Section 2, "Nonetheless, the hydrates in the sediments of the seafloor do remain frozen: after all, they are icy lattices. In addition, they remain frozen even well above the normal melting point of ice (0°C; 32°F), and at temperatures up to about 15°C (59°F). They manage this feat because of the enormous pressure that exists at these depths."[15]

Political Pressures to use Methane as an Energy Source

The use of methane as a fuel and energy source is not some distant pipe dream. Significant quantities of methane (produced with digesters from animal manure) are already in use in some countries such as Denmark. But there appears to be serious political pressure and a genuine rush on to get at and use permafrost and undersea methane hydrates as a game-changing energy source, as outlined in Methane hydrates: Energy's most dangerous game. "Major government research initiatives have been launched in China, India, Germany, Norway, Russia, Taiwan and several other countries." the article says. "The Japanese government has estimated that producing gas from methane hydrates is commercially viable when oil prices rise above $54 a barrel. ..... To date, Japan has made the biggest bet on methane hydrates and appears to be the closest to commercial production."[6]

The underpinning of the political pressures to exploit methane hydrates can clearly be seen in this statement from Methane Hydrate - The Gas Resource of the Future. "According to EIA, total U.S. natural gas consumption is expected to increase from about 22 trillion cubic feet today to 26 trillion cubic feet in 2030- a projected jump of more than 18 percent [ed note: If natural gas to liquid is pursued as a serious alternative source of transportation fuel this estimate is far too low.]. ..... Production of domestic conventional and unconventional natural gas cannot keep pace with demand growth. The development of new, cost-effective resources such as methane hydrate can play a major role in moderating price increases and ensuring adequate future supplies of natural gas for American consumers."[11]

Optimistic Time Frames

That same site gives us a glimpse into the optimistic time frames being suggested and pursued. "We think that the future may be sooner than some of us are considering," Robert Hunter, president of ASRC Energy Services, which led the first major field study in Alaska's Prudhoe Bay with BP Alaska Exploration and the Department of Energy, told Petroleum News. "In parts of the world such as the North Slope, with unique motivation, hydrates may become a very stable source of natural gas within the next five to 10 years."[6] One wonders what he means with that phrase, "....with unique motivation....". Another view of the time frames is presented in Methane Hydrate Could Augment Natural Gas Supplies. "DOE's program and programs in the national and international research community provide increasing confidence from a technical standpoint that some commercial production of methane from methane hydrate could be achieved in the United States before 2025," said Charles Paull .... senior scientist, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California."[9]

Risks and Dangers

Another view of the risks and dangers involved, with or without human involvement and exploitation, is addressed in Gas (Methane) Hydrates -- A New Frontier, "Seafloor slopes of 5 degrees and less should be stable on the Atlantic continental margin, yet many landslide scars are present. The depth of the top of these scars is near the top of the hydrate zone, and seismic profiles indicate less hydrate in the sediment beneath slide scars. Evidence available suggests a link between hydrate instability and occurrence of landslides on the continental margin."[7]

A variety of extraction techniques are being looked at to overcome the inherent difficulties in exploiting methane hydrates, as detailed in A Breakthrough in Fuel Supplying From Methane Hydrates. "Getting methane hydrate gas to flow consistently and predictably, however, has been the problem. Using heat to release the gas works, but requires too much energy to be useful. Researchers have also been trying to release the methane by reducing the pressure on it. Then last month, the Mallik team became the first to use reduced pressure to get a steady, consistent flow."[13] Both of these techniques, however, and others, run the risk that once they successfully destabilize and disassociate the methane hydrates in any part of the reserve it could lead to a catastrophic runaway destabilization of the entire reserve, a warning repeated often through the literature listed at the end of this article. In the paper, Could Methane Trigger a Climate Doomsday Within a Human Lifespan? the concern over this potential is rooted in the geological past. "The new paper suggests that exactly this type of cascading release of methane reserves rapidly warmed the Earth 635 million years ago, replacing an Ice Age with a period of tropical heat. The study’s lead author suggests it could happen again, and fast - not over thousands or millions of years, but possibly within a century. ..... "This is a major concern because it’s possible that only a little warming can unleash this trapped methane," Martin Kennedy, a professor at UC Riverside, said in a release. "Unzippering the methane reservoir could potentially warm the Earth tens of degrees, and the mechanism could be geologically very rapid."."[23] The paper goes on to state that these concerns have caused a new focus in the scientific community. "Jim Kennett, a professor of geology and paleobiology at UC Santa Barbara, said that finding climate triggers and tipping points had become the most important scientific problem of our time."[23] These views, however, are not universal in the scientific community. "David Archer, a University of Chicago geosciences professor, argued in a paper last year that methane release appears likely to be "chronic rather than catastrophic" and only on the scale of human fossil-fuel combustion."[23] The concerns, however, are reiterated in Runaway Methane Global Warming. "From these records it appears that there have been short periods of only a few hundred years in the geological past when rapid increases of the Earth's temperature have occurred superimposed on top of the rise and fall of average temperatures over the longer term. For these short periods temperature rises of up to 8 degrees centigrade appear to have occurred on top of existing long term rises of 5 to 7 degrees to give temperatures up to 15 degrees centigrade warmer than today. Temperatures then fell back to the long term trend, the whole rise and fall only lasting a few hundred years. The most likely cause of this rapid global warming over such a short period is the release of methane into the atmosphere."[25]

In Methane Hydrates: A Carbon Management Challenge, the serious questions about the risks and dangers are asked but with no pretense of supplying answers or solutions. "What are the risks of recovering methane from ocean hydrates? Could the release of methane make the sediments unstable enough to cause the collapse of seafloor foundations for conventional oil and gas drilling rigs? Could the melting, or dissociation, of methane hydrate ice lead to releases of large volumes of methane to the atmosphere, raising greenhouse gas levels and exacerbating global warming?"[20] The depth and breadth of these issues are honestly explored in the U.S. Department of Energy paper, Methane Hydrates. "However, the issues surrounding methane hydrates go well beyond its energy resource potential. As field and laboratory studies supported by the Methane Hydrates Program continue to document hydrate’s integral and active role in the global environment, important new questions are raised about the influence of hydrates on the global carbon cycle, deep sea life, sea-floor stability, and other phenomena."[21] That verbiage, however, may just serve as a preamble to this, "Therefore, the National Methane Hydrate R&D Program is driven by the need to better understand the nature of hydrates, hydrate-bearing sediments, and the interaction between the global methane hydrate reservoir and the world’s oceans and atmosphere as a compliment to the ultimate realization of hydrate’s energy potential."[21]

If our global industrial society is to be kept rolling along at anything near its current vigorous pace, there is no question that global peaks in oil, natural gas and/or coal are going to require the exploitation of new energy sources such as methane hydrates, coal-bed methane, shale gas, shale oil, and the re-embracing of nuclear energy as a primary source of electrical energy. Plans for the exploitation of methane hydrates, however, in the name of energy security and in pursuit of the dream of national energy independence are not likely to materialize as governments and politicians hope and intend, It is very likely that methane will be drawn under the umbrella of natural gas and subject to global market trading and pricing. It is even more likely that the reserves of methane hydrates will end up in the hands of energy companies who are already lining up to buy leases in areas where significant methane hydrate reserves are suspected. Additionally the research and development on technologies for the extraction of methane hydrates is being driven and financed by these same energy companies. The likelihood of them willingly giving over control of those leases and that extraction to government energy departments is very slim. They will, after all, be moving heavily into these alternatives because their current cash cows are drying up. They need them for their future financial stability and continued growth.

I am quite sure that nothing bloggers such as myself or scientists have to say will ultimately have any bearing on what governments and the energy industry will do with methane hydrates. The best we can hope is to keep them honest.

Reference material

The following links were important sources of material for this article and are here for your reference.

1) Arctic Methane on the Move?
2) Methane Hydrate: A surprising compound
3) Methane hydrates
4) Gas Hydrates: Natural gas hydrate studies in Canada
5) Methane hydrates and global warming
6) Methane hydrates: Energy's most dangerous game
7) Gas (Methane) Hydrates -- A New Frontier
8) Japan eyes methane hydrate as energy savior
9) Methane Hydrate Could Augment Natural Gas Supplies
10) Japan Mines `Flammable Ice,' Flirts With Environmental Disaster
11) Methane Hydrate - The Gas Resource of the Future
12) Realizing the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States
13) A Breakthrough in Fuel Supplying From Methane Hydrates
14) Permafrost Melting and Stability of Offshore Methane Hydrates Subject to Global Warming
16) Methane Hydrate Extraction To Become Viable?
17) Gas Hydrates: Entrance to a Methane Age or Climate Threat?
18) Ocean methane hydrates as a slow tipping point in the global carbon cycle
19) More evidence of climate change: Arctic methane hydrates evaporating
20) Methane Hydrates: A Carbon Management Challenge
22) Methane Hydrates: An Abundance of Clean Energy?
23) Could Methane Trigger a Climate Doomsday Within a Human Lifespan?
24) Methane Hydrates: What are they thinking?
25) Runaway Methane Global Warming
26) Melting of permafrost could trigger rapid global warming warns UN
27) METHANE HYDRATE ICE: A Possible Mechanism For Ice Age And Global Warming Cycles
28) Ice Sculptures for Science: Chain Saws, Pickaxes, Methane Hydrates and Climate Change
29) Global Warming: Methane Could Be Far Worse Than Carbon Dioxide

Friday, March 26, 2010

Methane Hydrates: The Planet's Largest Single Carbon Sink?

Methane hydrates are perhaps the largest and most important carbon sink on the planet. Some scientific estimates place the amount of carbon stored in methane hydrates as greater than all the carbon stored in oil, natural gas and coal combined.[1] They are critical in maintaining the stability of earth's atmosphere and temperature.

What is a carbon sink? According to, as an example, "A carbon sink is anything that absorbs more carbon that it releases, whilst a carbon source is anything that releases more carbon than is absorbed. Forests, soils, oceans and the atmosphere all store carbon and this carbon moves between them in a continuous cycle. This constant movement of carbon means that forests act as sources or sinks at different times."[5]

Two primary carbon sinks, however, were not involved in that continuous cycling of carbon. Fossil fuel reserves (oil, natural gas and coal) and methane hydrate reserves (methane hydrates should properly be included in the categorization of fossil fuels), like the carbon locked in rocks, locked up carbon in stable reserves and took it out of the cycle. Until man started exploiting and burning fossil fuels those reserves were sinks only. We have, unfortunately, turned fossil fuels into one of the largest carbon sources on the planet. Now we are threatening to do the same with methane.

As recently as 1971, in fact, methane was not even on the radar as an important greenhouse gas. According to the report, Methane: A Scientific Journey from Obscurity to Climate Super-Stardom, "The first survey in 1971 on the possibility of inadvertent human modification of climate stated that "Methane has no direct effects on the climate or the biosphere [and] it is considered to be of no importance". The gas did not even appear in the index of the major climatology book of the time (Lamb's Climate Past, Present and Future)."[3]

As a result the study of methane hydrates is still very much in its infancy. Most of the research to date, in fact, has focused on the potential of using the methane in those hydrates as an energy source in light of the approaching peak and decline in oil and other fossil fuels. There has been little attention and little funding available for studying methane as a greenhouse gas and as a potential contributor to global warming, even its potential as a catalyst in a runaway greenhouse effect.

Why is all of that important? How serious a greenhouse gas is methane? Methane, when first released into the atmosphere is 62 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. However, it has a much shorter lifespan in the atmosphere. It quickly diminishes in potency to about 20 times that of carbon dioxide and will completely oxidize after about twenty years. But that's not the end of it's importance as a greenhouse gas. Methane in the upper atmosphere oxidizes into carbon dioxide and water vapour (also an important greenhouse gas) and will remain in the upper atmosphere as carbon dioxide for another hundred years. So it has a very potent early life as a greenhouse gas but also a long term life cycle as both reduced potency methane gas and then carbon dioxide.

One of the troubling aspects of methane hydrates (much more on this later) is that the methane in the hydrate is in gaseous form and under pressure. Where compressed natural gas (CNG) is artificially compressed and stored in steel cylinders or other containment vessels at pressures of 200-248 atmospheres,[6] the methane gas in methane hydrates is naturally present at a pressure of 162 atmospheres in a cage of ice.[4] Anyone who has ever seen a gas cylinder explode knows how explosive gases under pressure can be with a sudden release of that pressure.

Keith Bennett, a reader of my blog from the UK, recently sent me an e-mail in which he reminded me, "every time we have messed with nature we have found that we harm the ‘delicate balance’." This is what has bothered me with the increasing talk of exploiting methane hydrates as an energy source. We have already drastically impacted the other primary carbon sinks on this planet; cutting and burning the forests, dredging up and burning the fossil fuel reservoirs, destroying the carbon sequestration ability of our soils, saturating the oceans and diminishing their ability to absorb and sequester carbon dioxide, drastically changing the makeup of the atmosphere. We keep transferring the planet's carbon from stable sinks and reservoirs into the comparatively unstable atmosphere as carbon dioxide by burning massive volumes of fossil fuels. To date, methane hydrates were the last major carbon sink that we had not destroyed, a shortcoming we seem to be hell bent to rectify.

Ignorance may have been a legitimate excuse when we began the process of destroying the other important carbon sinks. We just did not realize the impact we were having. But we have now known for many decades and still continue to inflict damage on this planet's environment through our misuse and abuse of the carbon cycle. To now, with all that we have learned, head into the destruction of the last major carbon sink in the pursuit of more energy is to do so with no remaining excuse of ignorance to use. There is ignorance, but not such as to justify going forward. We simply do not know how important methane hydrates are as a carbon sink. We don't know what impact on the future livability of this planet we will have by exploiting methane hydrates and diminishing those reserves. We do know, as Keith Bennett suggested, that every time we have thus far "messed with" nature we have harmed the delicate balance that has evolved over millions and billions of years on this planet.

If we take the same approach with methane hydrates that we have taken with the exploitation of the other fossil fuels we most assuredly will further upset, if not destroy, that delicate balance. With fossil fuels, at every turn, we have leaned in favour of exploiting the energy resource rather than protecting the environment, both for ourselves and for future generations. Keep the wheels of industry rolling today at whatever cost to tomorrow.

Marine methane hydrate reserves are relatively stable but remain so within a fairly narrow range of temperature and pressure known as the Hydrate stability zone. In my article (also in the blog), The real problem with Methane Hydrates is Sliding under the Radar, I dealt with this issue at length. Here is an excerpt but I would seriously encourage you to read the whole article. "The physical nature of methane hydrates and the quite distinct physical properties of water - specifically H2O - and of methane (CH4) independently function both as a barrier to exploitation and as a serious environmental risk in conjunction with global warming. ..... H2O which is only water above 0C [at 1 atmosphere] and becomes vapour at higher temperatures - reaches its maximum density of 999.9720 kilograms per cubic meter at a temperature of 3.98C. At the freezing temperature of 0C its density has reduced to 998.8395 kilograms per cubic meter, 988.1170 at -10C. The critical part of that range, with regard to methane hydrates, is that from 0C to 3.98C. ..... The lower density of H2O as ice (998.8395) at 0C (even lower if the ice is super cooled) is what allows ice to float on the surface of water. Average global ocean temperatures today (this has varied over geological time, especially during different eras of ice age and global warming) is 2C. At 2C H2O has a density 999.9400, between that of ice at 0C of 998.8395 and the maximum density at 3.98C of 999.9720. It still supports, therefore, the lighter ice even in the Arctic. ..... Because of the lower density (greater buoyancy) of ice relative to sea water, submarine methane hydrates are always under pressure, physically wanting to rise to the surface. The [hydrate] deposits only become "relatively" stable when anchored by sufficient sediment on the ocean bottom. When and if that "anchorage" breaks down or is swept away, for example, by a sub-surface landslide, the hydrates can suddenly be released into the water and rise toward the surface. ..... The density of the gaseous methane in hydrates is 162 times greater than methane gas in the atmosphere. At the temperature and pressure of the sea water around and above the hydrate deposits, the methane gas contained in the hydrates should have much lower density (occupy much more space) than it does. This physical anomaly means that the pressure on the methane gas to expand is constantly at odds with and pushing against the ice cage enclosing it. This is a key component of the essential instability of methane hydrates. ..... Gas density generally decreases far more rapidly for gases than liquids or solids as temperature rises or pressure decreases. That means two factors can affect the stability of methane hydrates currently in the hydrate stability zone. Changes in sea level can affect the water pressure in the zone: a drop in sea level can decrease the pressure. Changes in temperature of the water can have the same effect. Increase of the temperature above the current average 2C can also dramatically affect that stability."

In view of the threat of global warming, the potential impact from rising sea temperatures warrants particular attention. As the temperature of the hydrate deposit rises two opposing things begin to happen. The ice cage around the methane shrinks, further increasing the pressure on the methane gas inside, similar to squeezing a cylinder containing a gas. This increases the tendency of the gas to seek escape from the containment. At the same time the ice cage containing the methane is softening and weakening, making it more susceptible to rupture. This increases the probability that the submarine methane hydrate deposits will destabilize and that they will do so explosively.

There is now considerable accepted scientific evidence that this has happened several times in the geological past,[10] most notably 55 million years ago, as per NASA.[11] Of more immediate concern, however, is the growing evidence that there is a measurable and significant increase in methane venting from hydrate deposits on the Arctic sea floor.[7][8] The temperatures in the Arctic have been increasing much more rapidly over the past century than elsewhere on earth. In fact, atmospheric methane concentrations have more than doubled over the past 200 years "due to decomposing organic materials in wetlands and swamps and human aided emissions from gas pipelines, coal mining, increases in irrigation and livestock flatulence."[11] The Arctic is a kind of canary in the coal mine when it comes to showing the early signs of global warming. The concern over Arctic sub sea methane venting is doubled when considering the potential positive feedback on releasing the massive amount of methane hydrates trapped in Arctic permafrost, both in northern North America and Europe/Asia. Large areas of Arctic permafrost coastline are, quite literally, oozing into the ocean and releasing their sequestered methane.
1) Methane hydrate - A major reservoir of carbon in the shallow geosphere?
2) Siberian Peatlands a Net Carbon Sink and Global Methane Source Since the Early Holocene
3) Methane: A Scientific Journey from Obscurity to Climate Super-Stardom
4) The real problem with Methane Hydrates is Sliding under the Radar
6) Compressed natural gas
7) JGR/MIT Study - Subsea Methane Clathrates May Already Be Venting Far More Quickly Than Projected
8) Extensive Methane Venting to the Atmosphere from Sediments of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf
9) Computer simulation strengthens link between climate change and release of subsea methane
10) Explosive methane venting at hydrate/gas transition in the bedrock