China is on the verge of unleashing an energy revolution which will destroy pretty much forever the green argument that “we are running out of fossil fuel.”
At the heart of this revolution is a miracle substance, sometimes known as “flammable ice”, made up of deposits of frozen gas concentrate in the ocean bed. The substance – methane hydrate – is incredibly energy intensive: according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration one cubic foot of flammable ice holds 164 cubic feet of regular natural gas.
It is by far the world’s most abundant reservoir of fossil fuel, as the Global Warming Policy Forum has reported.
According to one conservative academic calculation, Earth’s conventional reserves of natural gas hold 96 billion tonnes of carbon. Earth’s reserves of oil contain 160 billion tonnes. Earth’s reserves of coal contain 675 billion tonnes: Taken together, 931 billion tonnes of fossil fuel. But Earth’s methane hydrates contain 3,000 billion tons of carbon.
Or more. Methane hydrates are found at larger and larger volumes the deeper you drill. ConocoPhillips drilled 830 metres for its field test at Prudhoe Bay. At this level, you calculate the reservoir of methane gas in the hundreds (100s) of trillions of cubic feet (tcf). Drill deeper and you calculate reserves in the thousands (1,000s) of trillion cubic feet. Drill deeper still and you calculate reserves in the hundred-thousands (100,000s) of trillion cubic feet. Earth’s reserves of this resource could theoretically reach millions (1,000,000s) of trillion cubic feet.
Though methane hydrate is not a newly discovered phenomenon – various countries are researching its potential including the U.S. and Japan – China’s announcement via its state media agency that it has made a “major breakthrough” in successfully collecting the frozen fuel means that it is one step closer to being used commercially.
This won’t be good news, long term, for the U.S. shale gas industry.
But it represents a far bigger disaster for the renewable energy industry. Green propagandists and crony capitalists have for years successfully gulled governments into believing that only renewables like solar and wind provide the answer to the world’s long term energy needs. The clue is in the name: it implies that, unlike other fuels, this is a form of energy which is never going to run out.
What it overlooks, of course, is both the massive environmental damage done by renewables – wind especially – and also their massive costs. There would be no wind, and probably no solar either, if it weren’t for the fact that they are so heavily subsidized as a result of the compulsory levies imposed on consumers by governments which have been drinking the green Kool-Aid.
One argument which green campaigners often used to advance for renewables was the Peak Oil myth. This lasted just so long as it took U.S. oil and gas men to invent horizontal fracking – at which point trillions of cubic feet of gas and billions of barrels of oil were magicked out of nowhere, providing enough fossil fuel to last generations, and to turn the U.S. into a net exporter of petroleum products.
These methane hydrate deposits render the “Peak Energy” myth even more risibly ludicrous. Luckily for the West though they are abundant in Chinese waters – hence China’s aggressive recent manoeuvrings in the South China Sea – there are large deposits everywhere from the Arctic to America’s Eastern and Western seaboards to Northern Australia and the Indian Ocean.
This has enabled green campaigners to revive yet another of their favorite scare stories: that because methane is a greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide this will cause a potentially terrifying increase in “global warming.”
Very sadly for the greenies, this scare too is starting to look somewhat overdone. Indeed, if the results of the latest study by a team of U.S, Norwegian and German scientists are correct, then it is the 100 percent opposite of true.
The ocean waters near the surface of the Arctic Ocean absorbed 2,000 times more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than the amount of methane that escaped into the atmosphere from the same waters, according to a study by the USGS Gas Hydrates Project and collaborators in Germany and Norway. The study was conducted near Norway’s Svalbard Islands, above several seafloor methane seeps.
Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere where the study was conducted more than offset the potential warming effect of the methane emissions that were observed.
“If what we observed near Svalbard occurs more broadly at similar locations around the world, it could mean that methane seeps have a net cooling effect on climate, not a warming effect as we previously thought,” said USGS biogeochemist John Pohlman, who is the paper’s lead author. “We are looking forward to testing the hypothesis that shallow-water methane seeps are net greenhouse gas sinks in other locations.”
Yep. You read that right. Methane – deadly, evil methane, the stuff that we have long been taught by “experts” to fear even more than CO2 because it’s far more powerful a greenhouse gas and because once it starts seeping out of the melting tundra because climate change then warming will accelerate and we’ll all be doomed – may, it seems, cause global cooling not global warming.