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China To Tap Combustible Ice As New Energy Source

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the undra-the-tundra dept.

Earth 185

lilbridge writes "Huge reserves of "combustible ice" — frozen methane and water — have been discovered in the tundra of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in China. Estimates show that there is enough combustible ice to provide 90 years worth of energy for China. Burning the combustible ice may be a far better alternative than letting it just melt, releasing tons of methane into the air."

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185 comments

well yeah, (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31449746)

I'd tap that.

Re:well yeah, (5, Interesting)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 4 years ago | (#31449826)

I'd tap that.

Actually, this is both interesting and apparently fits into the "suddenOutbreakOfCommonSense" category. If you ask me, it seems perfectly logical to not only stop it floating up into the air as it would do otherwise, but to also get power out of it.

Seems too good to be true. I wonder what the downside is.

Re:well yeah, (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31449832)

I wonder what the downside is.

The gas is probably under a monastery of tibetan monks?

Re:well yeah, (-1, Troll)

dominious (1077089) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450550)

no, but I hear there is a tree that will have to be removed...

Re:well yeah, (0, Offtopic)

dintech (998802) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450620)

But does it make a sound of there's no-one there to hear it?

Re:well yeah, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31450836)

Yes. It sounds much like the wailing and gnashing of teeth from grammar nazis reading your post.

Re:well yeah, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31449834)

Does the resulting CO2 from burning methane contribute less to greenhouse effect then the pure methane?

Re:well yeah, (4, Informative)

James_Duncan8181 (588316) | more than 4 years ago | (#31449840)

"Does the resulting CO2 from burning methane contribute less to greenhouse effect then the pure methane?"

Very much so. It really is a win win.

Re:well yeah, (1, Informative)

Cally (10873) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450394)

You are mistaken. Although methane has a much stronger greenhouse effect than CO2, it has a lifetime in the atmosphere of a few weeks, compared to CO2's lifetime which is tens of thousands of years. Note also that oxidising one methane molecule does not produce one CO2 molecule...

Re:well yeah, (4, Informative)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450482)

(a) And what exactly does methane turn into as it floats around in the atmosphere?

(b) You're correct - oxidation of one CH4 molecule produces one CO2 molecule and two H2O molecules.

Re:well yeah, (1)

gilleain (1310105) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450560)

(a) And what exactly does methane turn into as it floats around in the atmosphere?

(b) You're correct - oxidation of one CH4 molecule produces one CO2 molecule and two H2O molecules.

Ha! At b) - indeed, I'm struggling to think of what the GP's point was. Can there be a mechanism that makes more than one CO2 from one CH4? Maybe with the involvement of some other carbon compound, which is broken down too...

This wikipedia page Anaerobic_oxidation_of_methane [wikipedia.org] offers a reaction like this: CH4 + SO42- HCO3- + HS- + H2O as a biological reaction. Perhaps there are also geochemical degradation reactions as well, I don't know.

Re:well yeah, (3, Funny)

tophermeyer (1573841) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450654)

(b) You're correct - oxidation of one CH4 molecule produces one CO2 molecule and two H2O molecules.

Wait, your saying that using Methane as a fuel source will somehow create dihydrogen monoxide? And in twice the quantity that existed of mere methane?

Do you understand the danger? I suggest you educate yourself friend (http://www.dhmo.org/facts.html). Dihydrogen monoxide was consumed by every murderer on record at least 24 hours before their crimes! Releasing this much of the stuff in reckless!

Re:well yeah, (1, Informative)

aurispector (530273) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450500)

Tens of thousands of years, or until a chlorophyll-using plant gets hold of it - whichever comes first.

Your post is a classic example of the kind of selective misdirection employed so liberally by climate change fanatics. Actual science doesn't matter if it doesn't support your dogma.

Re:well yeah, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31450540)

CH4 + 2O2 = CO2 + 2HO

and I'm finding that the average lifespan of atmospheric methane is 8.4 years, not weeks.

Re:well yeah, (4, Informative)

bunratty (545641) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450638)

James Duncan is correct. Methane [wikipedia.org] has 25 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide over a period of 100 years. The half-life of methane in the atmosphere is not a few weeks, but seven years. Burning methane, even if the energy produced is wasted, reduces the warming potential of the gas.

Oh and one other thing about the methane (2, Interesting)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450650)

It's trapped in ice and not in the atmosphere at all. As long as it was trapped it contributed nothing to any theoretical greenhouse effect. (Ok so I think Al Gore is exaggerating things drastically so he can make a absolutely huge fortune on energy futures. I'm a little cynical.)

Re:Oh and one other thing about the methane (2, Informative)

Zumbs (1241138) | more than 4 years ago | (#31451276)

Given that global warming is causing the tundra to melt, the methane is likely to end up in the atmosphere anyway. What the Chinese are suggesting is to get power from it, thereby reducing total emissions. Not only that: Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas, so getting carbon dioxide + water instead is pretty much a win-win.

Re:well yeah, (0, Redundant)

jonadab (583620) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450946)

> Note also that oxidising one methane molecule does not produce one CO2 molecule...

ORLY?

I would have written the reaction thusly:

CH4 + 2(O2) -> CO2 + 2(H2O) + energy

That's one carbon, four hydrogen, and four oxygen on each side of the reaction, and the oxidization of one methane molecule is producing exactly one carbon dioxide molecule.

Care to explain how this is wrong?

Re:well yeah, (1)

tkjtkj (577219) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450784)

no! Rather than being a win-win, it really is a "let's not lose so much"-"let's not lose so much" kinda thing.

Re:well yeah, (1)

azaris (699901) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450834)

"Does the resulting CO2 from burning methane contribute less to greenhouse effect then the pure methane?"

Very much so. It really is a win win.

Except that the water vapor released is an even more potent greenhouse gas. The catastrophic AGW scenario of CO2 is entirely dependent on the greenhouse effect caused by water vapor that is accelerated by CO2 induced warming, not by the greenhouse effect caused by CO2 alone. Depending on who you ask, the increase of water vapor will either accelerate the warming or stop it due to the extra cloud formation blocking the radiation.

Re:well yeah, (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450908)

so instead of releasing the vapor when burning the methane, you capture it, condense it (not hard, as you have this huge supply of ice sitting around to help you cool it off) , and use the fresh water for any number of things. its 'not being retarded 101'

Re:well yeah, (5, Informative)

locofungus (179280) | more than 4 years ago | (#31451154)

The water vapour from burning methane (or anything else) is completely irrelevant (unless you're planning to burn the methane in the stratosphere)

Water vapour is a feedback, not a forcing. 70% or so of the surface of the Earth is open water. It's constantly evaporating and falling back as rain.

So quickly does the water vapour reach equilibrium that you could instantaneously remove ALL the water vapour from the atmosphere and not have any significant effect on the climate. Within a couple of weeks the water vapour will be back. The thermal inertia of the oceans and atmosphere will be amply sufficient to stop a catastrophic temperature fall during those two weeks.

CO2, OTOH, is a forcing. Instantaneously remove all the CO2 and the temperature will start to drop. As the temperature drops H2O will start to condense out. Within a few millennia we'd be back into a deep ice age. (Slowly, mainly from vulcanism, the CO2 will be replaced in the atmosphere and, with the right orbital forcings, eventually the planet would escape from the ice age again)

Or add CO2 to the atmosphere and the temperature will go up. That will cause more H2O to go into the atmosphere which will cause the temperature to rise more. Eventually an equilibrium will be reached but it takes centuries to millenia for the ocean temperature and hence water vapour to reach equilibrium for any significant step change in CO2.

Tim.

Re:well yeah, (5, Informative)

srjh (1316705) | more than 4 years ago | (#31449854)

Yes, methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Over the twelve or so years it lasts in the atmosphere, it would have about twenty times the effect of the CO2 produced from burning it.

Not just that, but it oxidises to CO2 in the atmosphere anyway, and if it's used as an energy source, you can also factor in the CO2 that isn't being emitted from alternative sources.

If it's practical to tap the methane, it's a win-win situation.

Re:well yeah, (1)

meow27 (1526173) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450358)

actually its a win- lose situation

because if you tap the methane, you make less greenhouse and have energy for practical use, while if you ignore it, it will evaporate into the atmosphere and you lose a good energy source.

Re:well yeah, (1)

Mr_Miagi (1648543) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450680)

If it's practical to tap the methane, it's a win-win situation.

Authorities have speculated that thousands of workers will cupcake [urbandictionary.com] the gas into large balloons before pumping it off for bottling.

Re:well yeah, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31450760)

If it's practical to tap the methane, it's a win-win situation.

If it's practical to tap the methane, the United States will be there to 'liberate' the Tibetans tomorrow. "Gas? What are you talking about, we're doing it for the Dali Lama and religious freedom!"

Re:well yeah, (1)

PybusJ (30549) | more than 4 years ago | (#31449938)

As I understand it, each unit of methane has a consierably greater effect (more than an order of magnitude) than the same amount of CO2. But methane stays in the atmosphere for about a tenth the time of CO2.

On the other hand when methane decomposes in the atmosphere it becomes C02 and water anyway. So all in all, you're much better off burning the methane and benefitting from the energy than releasing it.

According to wikipedia, methane has a global warming potential of 72x CO2 over 20 years and 25x over 100years: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming_potential [wikipedia.org]

Re:well yeah, (2, Insightful)

delinear (991444) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450430)

My only question then would be how long would it naturally take for the ice to melt and release the methane. If it's 10 times cleaner to burn it but the methane would naturally be released over the course of several thousand years, then would it be more detrimental to do a fast clean burn or a long slow release which the environment may be able to adapt to.

Re:well yeah, (1)

srussia (884021) | more than 4 years ago | (#31451142)

My only question then would be how long would it naturally take for the ice to melt and release the methane.

The pertinent question would be: How long would it anthropogenically take for the ice to melt?

Re:well yeah, (1)

elnyka (803306) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450112)

Does the resulting CO2 from burning methane contribute less to greenhouse effect then the pure methane?

Yep. Burning methane in the presence of water releases CO2 and water, and thus the amount of CO2 released from burning a ton of methane is less than a ton of CO2. And, despite the fact that methane breaks down faster than CO2, it seems that one ton of methane can be up to 33 times more a contributing factor on warming than a ton of CO2.

Re:well yeah, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31450264)

I assume that you mean: Burning methane in the presence of oxygen. Burning methane in the presence of water doesn't change anything (the water isn't going to participate in the reaction).

Re:well yeah, (3, Informative)

deimtee (762122) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450568)

Actually, the molecular mass of methane is 16, of which 12 is the C. Whereas the molecular mass of CO2 is 44, (C is still 12.)
So, one tonne of methane burns with four tonnes of oxygen to form 12/16 * 44/12 = 2.75 tonnes of CO2. (and also 2.25 tonnes of water)
Still makes it a sensible energy source though.

Re:the downside... (3, Interesting)

conureman (748753) | more than 4 years ago | (#31449918)

I like to admire the Asian tundra on Google Earth, and think about what a paradise it must be for mosquito predators, birds and such. I guess now we will be trying to discover how much environmental degradation is required to crash that eco-system. Too bad.

Re:the downside... (1, Informative)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450766)

I like to admire the Asian tundra on Google Earth, and think about what a paradise it must be for mosquito predators, birds and such. I guess now we will be trying to discover how much environmental degradation is required to crash that eco-system. Too bad.

Um... tundra is permanently frozen ground. Not a lot of mosquitoes can lay their eggs in a puddle of ice. Think frozen desert (Death Valley, not ice cream). You could even call it something like Mars on Earth. Not a big ecosystem to crash there.

Re:the downside... (4, Informative)

cusco (717999) | more than 4 years ago | (#31451248)

No, tundra is permanently frozen subsoil. The surface layer of soil melts and causes the huge pools of standing water you see in all of the documentaries of the Arctic. Home to incredible amounts of mosquitoes. Truly unbelievable amounts. Really.

Re:the downside... (5, Informative)

XSpud (801834) | more than 4 years ago | (#31451380)

Um... tundra is permanently frozen ground. Not a lot of mosquitoes can lay their eggs in a puddle of ice.

More accurately, tundra is permanently frozen subsoil. In most areas the top layer of soil melts each summer, and due to the impermeable permafrost layer beneath, tundra areas tend to be very boggy.

As a result, Tundra areas can have some of the highest concentrations of mosquitoes in the world: http://www.athropolis.com/arctic-facts/fact-mosquito.htm [athropolis.com]

Re:well yeah, (1)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 4 years ago | (#31449954)

Seems too good to be true. I wonder what the downside is.

Other than the usual impacts of large scale mining, converting methane to CO2 is better than releasing the methane itself. There's at least some research going on to sequester and manage CO2, I'm not sure about methane.

Re:well yeah, (2, Interesting)

migloo (671559) | more than 4 years ago | (#31449972)

I wonder what the downside is.

One downside is that they will be stealing it from occupied Tibet.

Re:well yeah, (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31449996)

Unless America is planning on returning the land taken from the native tribes it destroyed (oh yeah that's right, there's no one to give them back to since most of them were murdered), I don't see how whining about occupations will contribute to progress. Countries fight wars, crush revolutions, and sometimes occupy neighbors. It's part of life - deal with it. China is no worse than anyone else so get off your high horse.

Re:well yeah, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31450404)

Except China did this in 1950's. A few years after millions died to stop nations from conquering and occupying a foreign nation.
Do you really think the US could get away with what it did in 1800's today?
 

Re:well yeah, (2, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450412)

That reminds me of a bit from BtVS: Spike "You won. All right? You came in and you killed them and you took their land. That's what conquering nations do. It's what Caesar did, and he's not going around saying, "I came, I conquered, I felt really bad about it." The history of the world isn't people making friends. You had better weapons, and you massacred them. End of story."

As far as TFA, anything that will help China deal with the incredible smog they generate that is so bad it can be detected in California [cbsnews.com] is a good thing. IIRC China has a whole lot of smog cranking coal fired power plants, and hopefully this will allow them to shut some of those down. Meanwhile we could use the tech GE has developed and start using the energy from chicken manure [engineerlive.com] which is mostly methane IIRC, to generate power while providing heat to the chicken coops.

Re:well yeah, (2, Insightful)

cusco (717999) | more than 4 years ago | (#31451274)

China's growth goals will suck up this deposit and hardly notice. They actually want Chinese per capita energy consumption to almost equal that of American consumers. It's far more likely that they'll continue building coal and nuke plants for electricity and use this for transportation.

Re:well yeah, downside (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31449992)

maybe the idea that it definately *would* melt.

Nowadays it seems everyone just assumes the earth heating up is unavoidable, so why bother, let's just take advantage...

It could be covered up with reflective insulating blankets, thus avoiding both methane as well as it's little brother CO2 rise to glory.

As a sidenote: the earth has gone through numerous hot and cold periods; the CO2 levels rising can also be the *result* of a heating earth, instead of being the cause. The CO2 infrared absorption lines and it's presence in the atmosphere are both very small: it has just a very little real effect on heating up the air. CO2 will escape from water when the temperature rises though... We know temperatures are rising, so we can expect to see the level of CO2 rising too.

Re:well yeah, downside (3, Informative)

srjh (1316705) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450020)

As a sidenote: the earth has gone through numerous hot and cold periods; the CO2 levels rising can also be the *result* of a heating earth, instead of being the cause. The CO2 infrared absorption lines and it's presence in the atmosphere are both very small: it has just a very little real effect on heating up the air. CO2 will escape from water when the temperature rises though... We know temperatures are rising, so we can expect to see the level of CO2 rising too.

Not wanting to turn this into another climate change flamewar - but it's both a cause and a result; when it's something else doing driving the change (e.g. the sun), carbon dioxide increases as a result of the temperature increase and it amplifies the initial driving force through a positive feedback, when it's carbon dioxide doing the driving (as it appears to be at the moment), the temperature increase is the result itself.

There's a quick way to check whether the increase is coming from the oceans - photosynthesis has a slight preference for carbon-12 over the heavier carbon-13, so if fossil fuels are responsible for the rise, the carbon-13 ratio should be decreasing. If the oceans are temporarily overwhelming the biosphere, it should be increasing.

Guess which one it is. [ucsd.edu]

Also, the carbon dioxide increase in the atmosphere is lower than our emissions. Nature is busy trying to remove it from the atmosphere, let alone being a source itself.

Re:well yeah, downside (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31450146)

Could you cover that useless apostrophe you put into the possessive pronoun its?

Re:well yeah, downside (1)

germ!nation (764234) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450726)

This was kind of the point I was going to make, but I wasn't going to turn it into a reply that would get downvoted straight away as bait.

The assumption in the story was that it was going to melt anyway, if that is the case then using it for energy is of course a big win. But the obvious question is whether it was actually going to melt. I assume the deposits are old enough to have gone through an number of global temperature changes, so why would it all suddenly melt in the next 90 years?

Re:well yeah, (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450048)

Seems too good to be true. I wonder what the downside is.

Huh? Isn't it evident? At the current rate, 't'll melt long before the 90 years will elapse.>br> So, what would you expect the Chinese to do? (stop importing gas from Russia, start competing with them as a vendor, pissing the Russians off....)

Good enough for yea?

Re:well yeah, (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31450216)

Goddammit...

As if the fucking chinks don't smell enough like shit already.

Re:well yeah, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31450586)

That's your upper lip... get that checked.

Re:well yeah, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31450652)

The price of oil drops so Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Iran get less money.

Re:well yeah, (1)

tkjtkj (577219) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450748)

the downsides include:

CO2

Destruction of land topography

Possible unknown effects on plate tectonics.

Expansion of human populations, with deminution of habitat for
other animal/plant species.

Expansion of economic growth with all its nasty as well as
beneficial consequences

One never gets something for nothing.

Combustible Rice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31449792)

For a while, I thought the headline read "China to Tap Combustible RICE as a new energy source". Considering how much rice there is in Asia, that would be amazing.

Cobustible ice? (2, Funny)

thijsh (910751) | more than 4 years ago | (#31449796)

Yeah, when hell freezes over...

Re:Cobustible ice? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31451176)

Methane Hydrate [sciencedaily.com] , we have quite a bit of it off-shore. It's been researched for some time, since most of our deposits are underwater, harvesting them safely is a problem.

I'm sure the environmentalists will object and sue to stop any project to tap our Methane Hydrate reserves.

The Chinese have no such problem, and wouldn't tolerate such interference even if there was a Chinese environmentalist movement.

Further proof (0, Offtopic)

gaelfx (1111115) | more than 4 years ago | (#31449798)

That my overt gassiness is in the best interests of future generations. That'll teach my girlfriend to complain about it!

Re:Further proof (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31449802)

I had no idea those Japanese pillows could complain.

Re:Further proof (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31449936)

Re:Further proof (Score:1, Interesting)

I had no idea those Japanese pillows could complain.

How kafka-esque...

Infinite energy! (1)

jplopez (1067608) | more than 4 years ago | (#31449898)

We use this frozen combustible to freeze more combustible, which in turn will freeze even more combustible, which... no, errr, wait!

Re:Infinite energy! (2, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31451020)

You inadvertantly described the flaw with fuel cell cars.

You have water, and you crack it to make hydrogen, which makes the cars roll down the road. Sounds great doesn't it? But where does the energy come to crack the water? ----- Often the response is "just use solar" and that's fine, but if we have solar why not simply use the electricity directly in the car or house or other device? There's no need to add the additional water/hydrogen step.

Alternatively we could just use the same liquid fuel as we have now. Use solar electricity for everything else, but keep cars as they are now. We've got 10,000 years worth of coal laying around that could be liquefied into diesel fuel, and pumped into one of those new Volkswagen commuter cars at 250 MPG. These cars are so clean the pollutant can't be measured.

Solving the wrong prbolem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31450066)

It may last 90 years but on the assumption of current polulation level!!!

Re:Solving the wrong prbolem (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450330)

Families have more than 2.1 children as a source of free child labor for the family farm. But as education and income increase, this population growth tends to level out.

Re:Solving the wrong prbolem (2, Interesting)

cusco (717999) | more than 4 years ago | (#31451356)

By the gods how I hate this stupid meme. People have more than two kids because they like to fuck and don't have/use birth control. No one says, "You know, we're going to need an extra farmhand in 15 years, maybe you'd better take out your diaphragm."

How many kids did your great-grandparents have? Do you think they wanted the 'extras' because they were going to need extra workers in a decade or two, or maybe so that the kids would support them in their old age? Oh, that's right, we're talking about BROWN people, they don't love having children around the house as much as we do.

Think for 30 seconds. Even better, get to know someone who grew up in the Third World.

So Is This Why China Insists That Tibet is Theirs? (2, Interesting)

Phrogman (80473) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450196)

90 Years worth of energy for the nation with the largest population in the world seems like sufficient cause for China to claim that Tibet is part of China and always has been etc, despite the fact that it has been independant for much of its history (although its also been occupied by one power or another for much of the rest of that history of course).

If Tibet had its independence this would be a terrific resource for the country to take advantage of in modernizing itself. As it stands I am sure it will be used for Chinese benefit and not Tibetan.

Re:So Is This Why China Insists That Tibet is Thei (5, Interesting)

jonadab (583620) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450686)

No, you don't understand Chinese thinking.

The combustible ice is merely a practical concern. As such, it's basically unimportant compared to the extremely vital matter of Never Losing Face Ever, which is probably the single most important core value in far-eastern culture. Not losing face is more important than life itself and *far* more important than minor things like a few petawatt-hours of energy.

You have to understand, if Tibet hadn't always been part of China, that would imply that the "liberation" of Tibet in the mid-twentieth century was an aggressive action, not a peaceful one, and that the PROC government acted in bad faith (especially as regards the Seventeen Point thing). Admitting such a thing would be an unfathomable loss of face and an unconscionable disgrace to every Chinese person. It would be better for the entire nation to commit ritual suicide than to allow such a thing to be said.

So when was our environment methane? (1)

cyberjock1980 (1131059) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450266)

So when was the concentration of methane in the atmosphere so high it caused this?

Re:So when was our environment methane? (4, Informative)

Eternauta3k (680157) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450552)

From wp [wikipedia.org] :

Methane hydrates are believed to form by migration of gas from depth along geological faults, followed by precipitation, or crystallization, on contact of the rising gas stream with cold sea water

Re:So when was our environment methane? (-1, Troll)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450562)

Never. The earth has never been as hot as it is now. There's never been this concentration of greenhouse gases, since it's utterly unpossible for the biosphere to recover by itself. Only by giving massive amounts of money to Al Gore can we be saved. Ask not why you should give, ask how much.

You may not like that truth - it may be inconvenient to you - but if you deny it, I shall dub thee "Witch", and you shall be stoned in the village square.

Re:So when was our environment methane? (3, Interesting)

jonadab (583620) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450752)

> So when was the concentration of methane in the atmosphere so high it caused this?

There may be other ways it could have happened.

Just for example, if an insulative ice cap formed overtop a mass of biomatter (say, a bog) that was otherwise still warm enough to decompose, possibly with some water in between, you could end up with a mixture of methane and water ice forming below the ice cap as the whole thing cooled. A few thousand years later, melt off the top layer of ice, and you've got combustible ice exposed to the surface.

There may be other possible formation scenarios as well.

Energy: Good - Mining: Problematic (5, Insightful)

deboli (199358) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450270)

While there are mostly advantages in using this as a fuel, it might be an ecologic disaster to strip-mine the tundra. The Tibet - Qinghai Plateau is between 3 and 4,000 m above sea level and the climate is harsh. Areas that have been strip mined will recover slowly and the little soil that was there and allowed the tundra to grow will be removed, leaving only rocks and sands behind. It might take centuries to recover and will make life for the nomadic herders and the indigenous animals (many of them endangered) difficult if not impossible.

Re:Energy: Good - Mining: Problematic (1)

Wolvenhaven (1521217) | more than 4 years ago | (#31451130)

This is China we're talking about. They will claim that the tundra is a lifeless wasteland, suppress anything/anyone that says otherwise, and create such a crybaby, victim of global bullying attitude that everyone will just let them get along with it and apologize for hurting their feelings.

Name flipflop (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450282)

Over a decade ago ago when first heard of using frozen undersea methane deposits as a fuel source they were referred to as Methane Hydrate. Now, almost everywhere refers to them as Methane Clathrates. Why the change?

What about liberation time? (2, Interesting)

german1981 (985181) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450312)

Correct me if I'm wrong but If the CO2 is liberated twenty times faster (or more) than the methane would be liberated naturally, then there is not a win-win...

Another world (2, Interesting)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450326)

The Tibetan Plateau [wikipedia.org] :

It occupies an area of around 1,000 by 2,500 kilometers, and has an average elevation of over 4,500 meters.

The plateau is a high-altitude arid steppe interspersed with mountain ranges and large brackish lakes. Annual precipitation ranges from 100 mm to 300 mm and falls mainly as hailstorms. The southern and eastern edges of the steppe have grasslands which can sustainably support populations of nomadic herdsmen, although frost occurs for six months of the year. Permafrost occurs over extensive parts of the plateau. Proceeding to the north and northwest, the plateau becomes progressively higher, colder and drier, until reaching the remote Changthang region in the northwestern part of the plateau. Here the average altitude exceeds 5,000 meters (16,500 feet) and year-round temperatures average -4C, dipping to -40C in winter. As a result of this extremely inhospitable environment, the Changthang region (together with the adjoining Kekexili region) is the least populated region in Asia, and the third least populated area in the world after Antarctica and northern Greenland.

Wow, a Class L planet.

Re:Another world (1)

N1tr0u5 (819066) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450964)

Let's hope that the tech developed to mine or explore this area is remembered for when we need to send probes or other such to similar condition on other worlds.

I stick to my assertions that we should not be spending so much money on trying to explore other worlds before we have thoroughly discovered and explored our own. This is just another reason why - unclaimed resources and opportunities to test remote vehicles/probes in alternate world (or at least more alternate than what most regions offer) conditions.

Light it on fire (1, Funny)

TheFakeMcCoy (1485631) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450334)

Someone go flick a match, let's see if we can get the earth back on it's axis after the Chilean earthquake, missing those 1.26 microseconds out of my day has been throwing me off all week.

Say goodbye to Tibetan autonomy (5, Insightful)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450388)

People who follow my many rantings, I mean posts on Slashdot will not be surprised to know I am very happy that this seems to be a win-win scenario for reducing the amount of methane getting into the atmosphere, something I've been VERY concerned about (http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1572576&cid=31371302&art_pos=7).

Unfortunately I am afraid that this may be another excuse for China to subjugate the Tibetan people. While Chinese apologists may claim they are lifting them out of feudal poverty, I would think that is a choice that the Tibetan people should make for themselves. (Even though Americans and Europeans used "the White Man's burden" as an excuse for their colonial actions, that didn't make them right). The Dalai Lama has claimed many times that he only wants CULTURAL autonomy for Tibet, unfortunately it appears as if this is one thing the Chinese don't want; they want to make it another "Han" province. So they claim, the Dalai Lama really wants full independence despite the fact he has never advocated that and has, in fact, welcomed Chinese control over and development of Tibet.

Being from Korea, a country that narrowly escaped having it's own cultural identity from being stamped out by colonial Japan makes me sensitive to Tibet's plight. My parent's were forced to learn Japanese, have Japanese names and were forbidden to learn Korean or Korean customs. (This is in addition to many documented atrocities like "sex slaves".). For almost fifty years the Japanese occupied Korea, only their defeat in WWII prevented them from succeeding in this cultural genocide. (I'm sure the Japanese said they were "civilizing" Korea). Unfortunately I doubt the U.S. or anyone else is going to come to Tibet's rescue; well at least if the Chinese are going to ravage Tibet, they might help save the environment. So let us acknowledge and shed a tear for Tibet's sacrifice for all mankind.

While we're on the subject of China, here's an (outlandish) prediction. In twenty years they will have become the most powerful country in the world; they should just be passing the GDP of the U.S. and will have a population of about 1.5 billion (India will be the same size but much poorer). In the meantime, Russia's population should have FALLEN to less than a tenth of China's or about 125 million (or about the same number of excess males in China!). So, what about the Chinese making Russia a "deal", we'll buy eastern Siberia from you or, if you refuse our entirely reasonable price we'll just take it with our vastly more powerful military. Sure we might have a little nasty nuclear war but we'll survive (especially if we've developed effective missile defenses) and believe me you won't survive OUR attack. Remember, we have lots of cannon fodder, I mean conscripts who we can make die, I mean are willing to die for our country!

Now eastern Siberia might not sound like much but, in twenty years with global warming, it could be a pretty "hot" property (sorry). With it's vast land area right next door to China proper and huge amounts of untapped natural resources it'll be just the thing they want. If they've figured out how to harvest methane from the thawing tundra for energy generation well, more "power" to them (sorry!).

[On the other hand, if China and Russia went to war, (or were "tricked" into it by some other meddling superpower) it would QUICKLY solve the population problem as well as probably rid the earth of some excess heat due to Nuclear Winter!]

Re:Say goodbye to Tibetan autonomy (1)

jonadab (583620) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450808)

Tibetan autonomy was never going to happen anyway. China could never allow it, because that would mean admitting that they were wrong and losing face. They'd rather commit nationwide mass ritual suicide.

I thought China's population is to decline? (2, Interesting)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450876)

"and will have a population of about 1.5 billion"

I thought I remember reading projections somewhere, which indicate that China's population is soon supposed to begin a pretty rapid decline, due to several decades of 'birth control' measures imposed by the government? Contributing even further to that, I had heard that there is a large imbalance in the population ratio between males and females, because, since parents were limited to one child, many of them chose to abort girls and 'try again' until they had a boy? Because of the predominance of males, there are fewer females to become pregnant and birth the next generation, further contributing to long-term population decline?

Shouldn't those things be starting to have an effect 20 years from now?

Re:I thought China's population is to decline? (2, Interesting)

euyis (1521257) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450976)

Yes.

And even funnier such strict controls on birth are not applied on other ethnic groups - for example, Tibetans.
Now, someone please tell me how do we (yes I'm ethnic Han) colonize some inhospitable place while the Han population is rapidly aging and declining?
And who wants to move to somewhere that is cold, inhospitable, underdeveloped and filled with relatively unfriendly people?

Re:I thought China's population is to decline? (5, Funny)

Tickety-boo (1206428) | more than 4 years ago | (#31451168)

And who wants to move to somewhere that is cold, inhospitable, underdeveloped and filled with relatively unfriendly people?

Leave Quebec out of this.

Re:I thought China's population is to decline? (1)

happy_place (632005) | more than 4 years ago | (#31451086)

Thing is: An expanding empire's population never declines. At least not until it stops expanding...

Re:Say goodbye to Tibetan autonomy (1)

Apparition-X (617975) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450910)

You said: "well at least if the Chinese are going to ravage Tibet, they might help save the environment. So let us acknowledge and shed a tear for Tibet's sacrifice for all mankind." Honestly, the first sentence should be in the past tense. Have you ever been there? Monasteries which held 10,000 monks reduced to 6. Yes, 6. Most other monasteries obliterated entirely. Massive Han Chinese "settlement" in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa means it is barely Tibetan anymore. Breaks on the limit on number of children for Han Chinese that relocate to Tibet. And that is just recently. Go back a decade or two and you will find overwhelming military force used to subjugate and kill Tibetans. Mass rapes of Tibetan nuns. Plundering of the treasures of the potala. (The only reason the big gold bhudda remains is that it was too big/heavy to carry away.) Lets not forget the brilliant idea of forcing Tibetans to grow wheat instead of barley and the ensuing famine. Anyways, having been both there and Bhutan, I can say that in my observation, the Tibetan culture is dying. Contrasting it with the Bhutan culture, there is no way you could say the Tibetans have survived the Chinese onslaught. Even 10 years ago when I was there it was unmistakably a dying culture. The ravagement was more or less complete at that time. Now it is just time for the vultures to pick over the corpse (yes, a deliberate reference to sky burials).

Re:Say goodbye to Tibetan autonomy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31451186)

You start off with a rant about how China shouldn't subjugate Tibet and how cultural imperialism is bad, and then you propose a Chinese invasion of Siberia?

Tons of methane? (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450522)

If there's enough of that stuff to power China for 90 years, I don't think tons of methane will do. Millions of even billions of tons of methane would be more like it.

Re:Tons of methane? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450756)

Actually, since it's in China, they probably only have grams of it. Mg, Tg, Pg, perhaps, but grams nonetheless. Though I suppose they could be talking about metric tonnes, which would also be true.

I do generally agree that it would be nice if they could get the estimate to within three orders of magnitude in the headline.

Re:Tons of methane? (3, Informative)

jonadab (583620) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450888)

In English, the word "tons", without a numeric qualifier, does not refer to a specific amount. It just means "lots and lots". See also "trainloads", "a bargeload", "a buttload", "a metric ton", "a metric buttload", "a passel", "a whole passel", etc. These aren't specific literal amounts. They're just emphatic ways to say "a lot".

Now, if we say "thirty tons", then that is a specific amount (thirty times two thousand pounds). Similarly, "three metric tons" is a specific amount. The number makes it literal (assuming it's a literal number; "sixty gajillion tons", on the other hand, is back in the realm of absctraction, because a gajillion is not a specific number).

China's exploitation of colonized lands (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Bullard (62082) | more than 4 years ago | (#31450852)

I am sure that China's formerly communist (now nationalist/Han chauvinist) dictatorship won't be reminding anyone or allowing any debate inside the "People's Empire of China" that invading a peaceful and totally non-Chinese neighbouring nation of Tibet in 1950, resulting in over a million Tibetan deaths; brutally repressing the Tibetan people, their unique language (with Sanskrit-based script), their history, their Buddhist religion and their national identity while brainwashing Tibetans to believe that their pacifistic culture is inferior; wiping out practically all of the 6000 monasteries that served as Tibet religious and administrative centres and housed invaluable written records (burned) and precious ancient artifacts (melted for Mao's foreign reserves); exploiting Tibet's extensive and varied natural resources (precious minerals, metals, timber, various sources of energy) without native Tibetans having any say; keeping the Tibetans under constant surveillance and imposing upon them China's alien imperial language etc. amounts to genocidal colonialism.

But no, the current ultra-nationalist successor regimes of the world's most murderous dictator, the marxist Mao Zedong, have made the Final Solution in China's western neighbours (Tibet, East Turkestan aka Xinjiang and Southern Mongolia) a propaganda imperative in the name of expansionist "Han China's" unity and for them colonialism is merely the often-evoked accusation against the evil foreign powers.

So now Tibet, called the "Western Treasure house" in modern Chinese, is really facing an extensive surface stripping so that the colonizing Chinese (lead by Communist Party "princelings" and their cronies) can extract the mind-boggling amount of energy stored across the Tibetan Plateau?

If that wasn't enough, just recently a professor and member of Chinese Academy of Engineering (a Chinese Communist Party thinktank) revealed that "we foresee that in the coming decades, hundreds of millions of people will migrate to the western regions, where land is empty and resources are untapped" [eurasianet.org] !

One must suppose that if Hitler had provided the West cheap capitalist services under his nazional-socialist policies, he too would've gained quiet acceptance for Nazi-Germany's Lebensraum expansion and resource grab, like China does today...

Re:China's exploitation of colonized lands (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31451272)

I am sure that China's formerly communist (now nationalist/Han chauvinist)

Han chauvinism is being suppressed by Chinese government - the official policy is promoting the concept of Zhonghua minzu. [wikipedia.org]

that invading a peaceful and totally non-Chinese neighbouring nation of Tibet in 1950,

Tibet has always been a part of China since the Qing dynasty.

brutally repressing the Tibetan people, their unique language (with Sanskrit-based script), their history, their Buddhist religion and their national identity

Tibetan language is still being taught in Tibetan schools; the big evil Chinese government even made a Tibetan translation of Windows for them. Don't know much about the religion but I have relatives that believe in the Buddhist religion; they're not killed yet. And... national identity? Should I remind you that most people in Tibet were slaves before 1950?

while brainwashing Tibetans to believe that their pacifistic culture is inferior;

Wow.

wiping out practically all of the 6000 monasteries that served as Tibet religious and administrative centres and housed invaluable written records (burned) and precious ancient artifacts (melted for Mao's foreign reserves);

Do you know that Confuciamism artifacts (actually everything that has cultural importance) were also targeted during the Cultural Revolution? Ha? Han chauvinism?

keeping the Tibetans under constant surveillance and imposing upon them China's alien imperial language etc. amounts to genocidal colonialism.

So Han spies will have to follow the Tibetans everywhere, to the rural villages, to the mountains, to the unpopulated areas...

hundreds of millions of people will migrate to the western regions,

Don't just look at maps. The definition of "western regions" in China covers a much larger area than you think.

Start the reactor.... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31450880)

Free Tibet!

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