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Washington's Exploding Manholes Explained?

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the it-was-aliens-all-along dept.

Science 112

sciencehabit writes "Researchers who mapped methane concentrations on the streets of the nation's capital found natural gas leaks everywhere, at concentrations of up to 50 times the normal background levels. The leaking gas wastes resources, enhances ozone production, and exacerbates global warming—not to mention powering the city's infamous exploding manholes. Most of the natural gas we burn for heat and on stovetops in the United States is methane, a simple carbon atom surrounded by four hydrogens. Carbon dioxide gets more press, but methane is the more powerful agent of global warming, 21 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. And methane levels are rising fast. Methane levels in the atmosphere were just 650 parts per billion a century ago, versus 1800 ppb today."

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112 comments

Politicians are all full of crap... (5, Funny)

dgatwood (11270) | about a year ago | (#43288725)

...so it kind of goes without saying that there would be a lot of methane.

Re:Politicians are all full of crap... (0)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about a year ago | (#43289551)

Wow Government builds capital on swamp and is surprised by gas attack!

What next Chicken crosses road and is surprised by traffic?

Re:Politicians are all full of crap... (4, Informative)

PseudonymousBlowhard (1319965) | about a year ago | (#43289823)

What next Chicken crosses road and is surprised by traffic?

How about: Slashdot poster doesn't RTFA?: "Although Washington's residents often joke that the city was built on a swamp, carbon isotope analysis showed that the methane in the air came from fossil fuels, not modern swamp microbes."

Re:Politicians are all full of crap... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43289895)

We should write Congress and get people to stop shitting!
Anyone caught shitting should be compelled to wear a locked buttplug.
Think of the children!

Re:Politicians are all full of crap... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43289977)

We should write Congress and get people to stop shitting! Anyone caught shitting should be compelled to wear a locked buttplug. Think of the children!

Or... we could just light a match and thus eliminate congress.

Re:Politicians are all full of crap... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43291927)

And nothing of value would be lost.

Re:Politicians are all full of crap... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43293469)

And nothing of value would be lost.

I can imagine the news headline: 'Massive gas explosion in DC sewer system destroys Congress, $250M in civic improvement reported'...

Re:Politicians are all full of crap... (4, Funny)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year ago | (#43290299)

When we came here, all there was was swamp! And people said it would be daft to build a capital in a swamp, but we built one anyways, just to show 'em. It sank into the swamp. So we built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So we built a third. That burned down, fell over, and then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that's what you're going to get, the strongest capital in all the world!

Re:Politicians are all full of crap... (1)

Urban Garlic (447282) | about a year ago | (#43290929)

> Government builds capital on swamp ...

It's not [welovedc.com] , actually.

I suppose the confusion arises because of G. Washington's investments in trying to drain the Great Dismal Swamp [fws.gov] , but this on the Virginia-NC border, not the site of Washington DC.

seriously? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43288741)

some people still think global warming is real!? LOL

Oh.... (1)

OhANameWhatName (2688401) | about a year ago | (#43288747)

SHIT!

Re:Oh.... (1)

postbigbang (761081) | about a year ago | (#43290239)

Oh! Frack!

Magnitude of effectiveness (5, Interesting)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about a year ago | (#43288769)

Fun fact: Water vapor makes up 98% of the greenhouse effect.

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=142 [realclimate.org]

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (2)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about a year ago | (#43288785)

BTW, disclaimer: We probably do have a contribution to global warming, though I'm not sure to what extent. However, I don't really think it matters. If the pangea ultima theory is correct, it is inevitable that we will lose the ice caps and the planet will be much warmer than it is now, whether humans existed or not. Very large animals thrived in these conditions in the past, so I don't think that means inevitable doom either.

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (1)

davester666 (731373) | about a year ago | (#43288819)

Until some asshat tries to lasso a space rock into an orbit around Earth to mine it, and somebody else decides to sabotage the effort and 'fix' the planet by getting said rock to crash into the planet.

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43292873)

Hey, if we get super-villains popping up like that, we're bound to get super-heroes too.

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (1)

davester666 (731373) | about a year ago | (#43295399)

Unfortunately, it only takes 1 supervillian to succeed once and we're all screwed. So we need a superhero who is actively looking for supervillians before they have executed their first plan, and who is/are able to flawlessly defeat every plan they attempt.

That works in the comics, not so much IRL.

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (2)

Namarrgon (105036) | about a year ago | (#43289233)

Inevitable doom isn't the problem; doubtless ecosystems will adapt eventually. Until then, crop failures, population displacement, extreme weather, extinctions and ecosystem disruption on a global scale over the next 50-100+ years are to be expected. What if those trillions in adaptation costs could be reduced or avoided?

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (3, Funny)

flyneye (84093) | about a year ago | (#43289945)

You mean like the dinosaurs could've avoided it? I guess they didn't have enough money.
No one promised everyone a guaranteed long life, but, survival of the fittest, was mentioned at some point.
Just business as usual, another aeon in the life of a planet. If man doesn't survive, Jack Russell terriers will probably rise to the top of the food chain.
Monkeys are much like Washington Politicians and have no survival skills without the herd, so I'm pretty sure Jack Russells are next in line.

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (1)

chromas (1085949) | about a year ago | (#43294747)

You mean like the dinosaurs could've avoided it? I guess they didn't have enough money.

They were too busy sinking their money and technology into expensive ways to slapfight each other in the back seat while arguing over who's the bigger liar. Oh wait; they didn't have technology. Maybe if they did...

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43292211)

Its because Our society is based around the assumption of our current climate and geography. That gets a spanner in the works if those assumption are changed in any way (Gulf stream gets wonky, sea level rises, Monsoons change)

If europe goes deep freeze due to the gulf stream weakening, Whole regions of plains turn into desert, and cities get put underwater, it isn't so much that Man did it, it is more like Earth's climate is not static, and over time will change. Governments and business need to put this stuff into their planning if they want to do anything on meaningful timescales.

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (1)

flyneye (84093) | about a year ago | (#43289919)

It's all about who invested in beachfront property. No one cares about people or the planet, the planet will continue and we can fuck more people into existence. Have you seen how much beachfront property is worth? You'd do whatever you could to maintain your property and it's value. If the icecaps melted, all the poor people would have beachfront houses, how is that profitable?

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (1)

turp182 (1020263) | about a year ago | (#43290343)

The speed of the warming is the only real issue. Adaptation in nature isn't a fast process, unless you are bacteria/virii. Plants and animals adapt at different speeds, and this results in differing selection pressures throughout a given ecosystem. An example would be a plant that adapts very slowly during a warming period, resulting in less of the plant, and the animals that feed on the plant have less food to go around. Less animals survive to reproduce, and the predators that feed on the plant eaters now have less food and therefore suffer.

Man doesn't have this problem, we've basically got adaptability conquered (we can go miles below the ocean surface, to the moon, and to the highest mountain tops).

But if ecosystems collapse then we are directly threatened.

Of course cockroaches will survive, and while I've eaten a few, it wasn't pleasant. But I would do it to survive.

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (1)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about a year ago | (#43294977)

Well we've seen these sudden collapses in the past (aka mass extinctions) and it wasn't just microscale life that survived. Dinosaurs as they existed ceased to exist, but their offspring (birds) kept on going.

I don't know whether or not our population (as a single species, vs dinosaurs which were many species) is larger than theirs, but I suspect it is. However we've already adapted to the most horrid conditions. Indigenous people in the Andes mountains compared to most populations are shorter, have a higher lung capacity, and thicker skin, which enables them to comfortably walk around barefoot in biting cold with 66% of the oxygen of sea level. These adaptations are known to have come within a single generation.

http://jeb.biologists.org/content/204/18/3151.full.pdf [biologists.org]

That just shows that even without our technology, we've been able to make these adaptations pretty quickly. With as relatively frail as we view ourselves, we're rather resilient in that respect. We can survive almost entirely off of plants (indigenous people in India do so) or almost entirely off of animals (e.g. Canadian Inuit or Australian Aboriginals - notice both lived in extreme temperate ranges.) The herbivorous cultures weren't as healthy as the carnivorous ones, but they were still fruitful enough.

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (4, Informative)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | about a year ago | (#43288795)

And water vapour is in rapid equilibrium with the huge bodies of liquid water we have. Thus, a feedback and not a forcing. How often do we need to go over this again?

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (1)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about a year ago | (#43288813)

Don't go over it if you don't want to. I just find it interesting.

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (1)

PerMolestiasEruditio (1118269) | about a year ago | (#43289087)

So why does it appear that water vapour in the atmosphere (upper atmos) has been falling for the last 30 years even as global temperatures and CO2 have been increasing? Faults in the Data or in the Theory?
http://www.climate4you.com/ClimateAndClouds.htm [climate4you.com]

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | about a year ago | (#43289359)

I never said it was a strong positive feedback, did I? The key point is that water does not drive climatic changes but rather reacts to them. In what exact manner is not completely understood yet, but we are getting better.

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43290283)

Increasing temperature means that air is able to maintain a higher concentration of water in vapor state.

Sounds pretty banality to me.

Oh, and plants like warm sunny things, cows eat plants, I eat cows.

Win win win, now fuck off luddite.

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (1)

tmosley (996283) | about a year ago | (#43292533)

What of the lower atmosphere? That's where all the water vapor emissions are.

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | about a year ago | (#43289803)

The correct solution, of course, is to have vast basins of liquid CO2 and methane in order to force CO2 and methane levels into equilibrium, as well. A basin the size of Canada should suffice.

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | about a year ago | (#43289893)

Thus, a feedback and not a forcing.

But a positive (self-reinforcing) feedback, unfortunately. Greenhouse effect -> hotter climate -> more water evaporates -> more Greenhouse effect...

Not all feedback is "negative" (self-regulating)

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#43290785)

Greenhouse effect -> hotter climate -> more water evaporates -> more Greenhouse effect...

Why would it do that? Water has both positive and negative feedback effects. And the negative feedback effects are quite powerful. For example, it can form high albedo clouds which greatly reduce the heat that is retained by Earth from sunlight. Or it can form storms which greatly increase the heat transferred from the surface to the stratosphere (and then radiated into space).

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year ago | (#43291593)

if that were true we'd never have drought . there is no such equilibrium, it is a chaotic system

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (1)

tmosley (996283) | about a year ago | (#43292511)

So you are saying that water vapor used to be a byproduct of combustion, but isn't anymore?

Sort of like saying that a tsunami is no big deal because it is in rapid equilibrium with the ocean level, and that the real reason our buildings keep falling over is termites.

Also, the tsunami happens four times a day. Possibly because we keep dynamiting cliffside into the bay. But that is probably just a coincidence.

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | about a year ago | (#43292907)

So you are saying that water vapor used to be a byproduct of combustion, but isn't anymore?

Could you translate your line of thinking here from retard to english? Seriously, we have been over this crap a thousand times.Yes. Water vapour is a huge contribution to the greenhouse effect. No, water vapour is not driving climate change. How hard can it be to understand?

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (2)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about a year ago | (#43288797)

Water vapour is an amplifier. Carbon dioxide traps more heat which causes more humidity which traps more heat. Feedback is the most dangerout aspect of climate change because climate may be bistable.

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43289661)

> Fun fact

That cite you claim supports your "Fun fact" does not.

It says:

  "... the maximum supportable number for the importance of water vapour alone is about 60-70% and for water plus clouds 80-90% ... where does the oft quoted “98%” number come from? This proves to be a little difficult to track down. .... after some fruitless searching I cannot find anything in the report to justify that (anyone?). The calculations here (and from other investigators) do not support such a large number ...."

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | about a year ago | (#43290963)

Fun fact: Water vapour comes from heating up water. It's called a feedback loop. Once you kick it off it keeps going all by itself.

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (1)

compro01 (777531) | about a year ago | (#43291867)

Yes. The greenhouse effect is a very good thing as far as complex life is concerned. Without it, the Earth would have a mean surface temperature of about -18C, compared to the actual one of about 14C.

Too much greenhouse effect is a problem however.

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (1)

tmosley (996283) | about a year ago | (#43292615)

Termites are not a problem when you are being hit with a tsunami four times a day.

Things only get worse when the tsunami becomes acid. That is the REAL problem with increasing CO2 concentrations. I don't know why people harp on global whatever when ocean acidification is an undeniable reality with a non-complex direct visible link to atmospheric CO2.

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (1)

ultranova (717540) | about a year ago | (#43294345)

Fun fact: Water vapor makes up 98% of the greenhouse effect.

Another fun fact: warmer air can hold more water vapor. So your fact actually makes things worse, since any increase in carbon dioxide causes far more warming than it otherwise would due to it increasing atmospheric water vapor content too.

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (1)

klic (739114) | about a year ago | (#43295549)

Fun fact: Water vapor makes up 98% of the greenhouse effect.

Funner fact: Where the effect happens is more important. The troposphere is close to IR opaque, with gas and black body temperatures closely coupled. The black body temperature of the earth, and hence the amount of IR radiation emitted into deep space, is the deep cold of the upper atmosphere. Clouds and sulfate particulates determine the amount of light reaching the surface (mostly ocean), where almost all is turned into heat. In the longer term, that heat is equal to the IR black body radiation, with whole system temperatures adjusting until they do.

Atmospheric temperature decreases about 6.5C per kilometer altitude, and density decreases by about a factor of two every 7 kilometers. Water vapor pressure drops rapidly with temperature, and the water freezes out around 0C forming clouds and precipitation. There is very little water vapor above the high cloud tops, and that region is ruled by CO and methane, which do not freeze out at atmospheric temperatures. At some even higher altitude, the remaining amount of CO is transparent to space. Double the CO, and the transparency altitude goes up around 7km, to a region 45C colder than 7km below it.

  If you could see the earth in the infrared, from space, it would appear colored by high altitude haze from the CO and methane, with lower altitude islands of cloud floating in an opaque sea of water vapor. The land and oceans are be invisible - and irrelevant to black body radiation. If you double the CO or methane, the long term effect is to increase the coloring, raise the water vapor "sea level" altitude somewhat. The temperature at this level stays close to constant (remember, that is the temperature where water freezes out), but at a higher altitude, there is more 6.5C/km air beneath. A very small change in atmospheric properties, raising the top of the troposphere a few percent, can easily result in an average 5C change down here on the surface.

I started out as a climate change sceptic, horrified by the pseudo-scientific and pseudo-technical nonsense spewed by the media. As a responsible technologist, I studied primary sources and ran the numbers myself, and changed my mind. Atmospheric scientists know a lot, have a lot more to learn, and cannot produce a definite prediction of exactly when our fiendishly complex, multi-billion cubic kilometer atmosphere will be broken beyond repair. The fate of civilization is dependent on the slow integration of effects that depend on other integrals of integrals; when the first pebbles of the landslide reach us, the unstoppable wall of rock will follow soon after, far too late to stabilize the slope.

Nature could soak up much of the excess CO, turning it into climax forest, plankton sea floor sediment, and perennial-plant root-mediated carbonate rock, but we are destroying the absorbers with annual-crop agriculture, especially atrocities such as "biofuel". We could reduce our methane use; instead we invest in erratic sources of "energy" such as wind turbines and grid-scale solar, which must be backed kilowatt-for-kilowatt with fast turn-on natural gas turbines instead of slow-response base-load hydro and thermal generation.

The natgas pipelines are overcapacity, leaking methane, bursting, even catching fire and exploding, compounding the problem of leaky production fields and leaky aging cities. If this is a problem in Europe and the US, imagine how bad it could get if impoverished India and China tried to copy our example.

No responsible technologist should blindly repeat numbers without checking them out, whether those numbers are ideologically comforting or not. Better to shut the hell up than to drown out the few responsible people who, whatever conclusions they come to, at least try to build those conclusions from direct observation, primary data, and replicable calculation.

Self-education and calculation is not only responsible, it is lucrative. Instead of the highly touted, vastly expensive "alternative energy" proposals touted by idealogues, there are many possibilities that are inexpensive, highly profitable, and a lot of fun to work on. I'm working long hours on a few, as are a few colleagues, and after stage 3 ("..."), we might even get paid for it. Help is welcome, competition is welcome, mindless slogans are not.

Re:Magnitude of effectiveness (1)

klic (739114) | about a year ago | (#43295617)

CO(subscript 2). Slashdot editor kept the unicode subscript for previews, dropped them from the final. Fooey. Live and learn.

Decaying infastructure is a huge problem (4, Insightful)

eksith (2776419) | about a year ago | (#43288827)

Far bigger than most most give attention to. And it isn't just gas lines; it's bridges/overpasses, roads, dams, levys, sewers, tunnls, heck even our data channels etc... People tend to forget that while there has been a lot of new construction, a lot of our infastructure is still decades old. Some of it going back at least 30 - 50 years and prohibitively expensive to replace/upgrade all at once. It doesn't help that there's so much expendeture on stupid things like wars on x and a hopelessly inefficient workforce. All the while the newer buildings, those things that only house prestige and drones, are being created purely by corporate entities.

There's no immediate ROI for fixing these things that don't kill people in droves.

Re:Decaying infastructure is a huge problem (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#43288867)

Oh, please, stop the whining already. Big cities like DC have always been dumps. It's what happens when you put a lot of people into a small space. If you don't like it, move out; I did.

There's no problem with infrastructure around here (a mid-size town). It's paid out of local taxes, it's reasonably up-to-date, and it has nothing to do with wars-on-anything or "corporate entities". Getting electricity, heat, water, and Internet to homes is neither rocket science nor particularly expensive.

Re:Decaying infastructure is a huge problem (1)

eksith (2776419) | about a year ago | (#43288919)

Sorry, I don't want to drive to pick up groceries or raise chickens or spend hours in gridlock getting to work. Moving out of cities is a pretty silly way of fixing (or just plain ignoring?) the problem cause you then stretch an already strained infastructure further out to support an ever increasing number of bedroom communities in the suburbs. Killing more and more new ground to support two legged rabbits isn't sustainable.

I live in New York BTW.

Getting electricity, heat, water, and Internet to homes is neither rocket science nor particularly expensive.

The U.S. is not Iceland.

you're out of touch with non-city life (1)

r00t (33219) | about a year ago | (#43289215)

You don't want to drive to pick up groceries. OK, so how do you get them home? Horse? Somebody else drives? You just don't, because you eat out all the time?

I fill shopping carts top and bottom. I need about 4 overfilled carts per week. Even living right next door to a supermarket would be painful without a car. (outside the city, we can afford to have families)

Chickens would be sweet. They eat garden bugs and fertilize the plants. (outside your city, plants are not made of plastic, so they need a bit more care)

I commute less than a mile. It's easy: if you live in a suburb (or suburb-like tiny city) then you should work there. If you work there, then you should live there. Houses can be had for $60 thousand, maybe $400 thousand if you want half an acre in a super-nice (wealthy to be honest) neighborhood or 5 acres on the edge of town. Gridlock just doesn't exist; there aren't enough cars.

Re:you're out of touch with non-city life (1)

dkf (304284) | about a year ago | (#43289489)

I need about 4 overfilled carts per week.

Either you're feeding a family of 15 or you're buying way too many (or too bulky) groceries. Or your carts are tiny and you should trade up to the size that normal people use.

Re:you're out of touch with non-city life (1)

eksith (2776419) | about a year ago | (#43289505)

I used to live in Georgia so I'm well versed in non-city life ;) . I now live in an apartment that was around $90K and there are about another $10K in updates/fixes on it.

I walk to the store and cook at home. Even with two gallons of milk, I can come home in about 10 minutes or so from the store (you may not need as much as you think you do to fill 4 carts a week). There's an even closer shop, that's just 5 minutes on foot, but they're a bit more expensive. The train station is also about 10 minutes away so I walk there too. It's just 30 - 40 minutes at most to get to work by train (+subway). I don't own a car so even with monthly tickets, I'm spending far less on transportation than on a full-time vehicle (gas, insurance, maintenance etc...)

This was inconvenient when I first moved, but since then, I don't feel I need 4 wheels all the time.

When the farmer's market opens, I take the bus to it.

Also, my plants [wordpress.com] aren't plastic ;)

Re:you're out of touch with non-city life (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#43291883)

I used to live in Georgia so I'm well versed in non-city life ;)

Apparently, the only two ways of living you know are the boondocks and NYC. There is actually a wide range of options in between.

Re:you're out of touch with non-city life (1)

eksith (2776419) | about a year ago | (#43296679)

I may have misworded there. It most definitely wasn't the boondocks, but it's a very quiet neighborhood and actually a very nice place. I could actually smell air when I walked outside instead of pollution (quite the difference from NY). Only reason I moved was because I had family in New York. I could work and go to school while living with them.

Re:you're out of touch with non-city life (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43289901)

In other words, "My lifestyle is inherently superior, and people who want to live different lifestyles than mine are wrong and should change. Any problem that could be solved by everyone living like me isn't a real problem and doesn't need to be fixed"

Thanks for your helpful suggestion!

Re:you're out of touch with non-city life (1)

Charles Duffy (2856687) | about a year ago | (#43291133)

You don't want to drive to pick up groceries. OK, so how do you get them home? Horse? Somebody else drives? You just don't, because you eat out all the time?

Bicycle (folder, so it comes in the store with me -- no need to lock up outside). Or at least, that was how I picked up groceries for my urban household before moving to a block away from a market; now, I just walk next door.

Bigger picture, though: If you're looking at infrastructure investment and maintenance, high-density living (with mixed-use zoning) is far more cost-effective on a per-person basis. Maintaining utilities (and especially roads) has a huge cost per mile; put more people in less space, and put their entertainment, livelihoods and necessities near them (with transit to cover the cases that walking and biking don't reach), and you're waaay ahead in a city -- able to provide better services to more people at a lower cost.

Re:you're out of touch with non-city life (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#43291987)

Bigger picture, though: If you're looking at infrastructure investment and maintenance, high-density living (with mixed-use zoning) is far more cost-effective on a per-person basis.

You're still barking up the wrong tree. We aren't talking about rural living vs. megacities, we're talking about mid-size towns vs. megacities. Mid-size towns have most of the advantages of megacities without many of the problems. In fact, what is considered a mid-size town (20k-200k) today used to be considered a big city.

People claim that NYC is a very efficient place to live, but I think that's only true if you look at what New Yorkers consume directly. The high cost of living in NYC tells you that each New Yorker actually must have a huge environmental footprint, and that's not even taking into account the subsidies that flow into the city.

Re:you're out of touch with non-city life (1)

ultranova (717540) | about a year ago | (#43294455)

The high cost of living in NYC tells you that each New Yorker actually must have a huge environmental footprint, and that's not even taking into account the subsidies that flow into the city.

Or it could simply be that lots of people compete for the same living space, driving up prices. Which has nothing to do with environmental footprint, but simple supply and demand.

Re:you're out of touch with non-city life (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#43295231)

Or it could simply be that lots of people compete for the same living space, driving up prices. Which has nothing to do with environmental footprint, but simple supply and demand.

I'm not talking about real estate prices, I'm talking about cost of living.

Estimates that city living is efficient are based on just direct per person energy and resource consumption, but that neglects all the indirect costs, which are huge.

The actual amount of land needed to support NYC has been estimated to be as large as the entire eastern seaboard (but distributed across the globe, of course), and the actual amount of land needed to support each New Yorker is much higher than for people living in most other places.

Re:Decaying infastructure is a huge problem (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#43291831)

Moving out of cities is a pretty silly way of fixing (or just plain ignoring?) the problem cause you then stretch an already strained infastructure further out to support an ever increasing number of bedroom communities in the suburbs.

Bedroom communities? Bedroom communities for what? A mid-size town is big enough to have all the big city conveniences and jobs without the problems. People moved into big cities because such close proximity was needed for manufacturing and administration in the 19th and 20th century. There are few advantages to that anymore, but many of the disadvantages have remained the same.

I live in New York BTW.

You sound about as ignorant of the rest of the world as the typical New Yorker.

Re:Decaying infastructure is a huge problem (1)

Shoten (260439) | about a year ago | (#43289181)

Oh, please, stop the whining already. Big cities like DC have always been dumps. It's what happens when you put a lot of people into a small space. If you don't like it, move out; I did.

There's no problem with infrastructure around here (a mid-size town). It's paid out of local taxes, it's reasonably up-to-date, and it has nothing to do with wars-on-anything or "corporate entities". Getting electricity, heat, water, and Internet to homes is neither rocket science nor particularly expensive.

You might want to actually come to DC sometime soon. It's actually (depending on whose figures) the cleanest or second-cleanest city in the nation, and patently gorgeous. And I honestly don't know what's up with this whole article; the "exploding manhole" problem hasn't been a problem for a while now, at least several years. They got a handle on it quite some time ago...along with a lot of other things that started getting fixed once Marion Barry got taken off the playing field.

And if you don't think that getting electricity to homes is a challenge, I invite you to actually learn something about transmission and distribution. (We'll leave generation out of it for now...) It's actually incredibly challenging. The power grid grew into what it is now, with nobody ever having predicted how crucial it would be...and it's not like you can do a rip-and-replace upgrade.

Your idea of moving into more dispersed areas is actually counterproductive to that effect as well; just ask Allegheny Energy (which just got bought out by FirstEnergy, because they had so much trouble keeping profitable while serving a rural-only market, given the high costs of power delivery in that terrain). Look at it this way...what's more likely to get taken down in a snowstorm...one mile of subterranean power line in a city that connects a home to a substation, or ten miles that are all above ground in the woods? If it takes ten miles on average to feed each household instead of one, how is that cheaper?

Re:Decaying infastructure is a huge problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43290387)

Cleanest?

It's a crime infested socialist hellhole where the elites live in luxury paid for by the rest of us, who by the way are prevented by unconstitutional laws to protect themselves with firearms.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/feb/19/violent-crime-dc-surges-2012/

Re:Decaying infastructure is a huge problem (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#43291717)

You might want to actually come to DC sometime soon. It's actually (depending on whose figures) the cleanest or second-cleanest city in the nation, and patently gorgeous

I've been to DC many times. It's a crime-infested dump, albeit with some federal guilding in places because powerful politicians don't want to see it.

And if you don't think that getting electricity to homes is a challenge, I invite you to actually learn something about transmission and distribution

The point is: it's well understood technology and not that expensive.

one mile of subterranean power line in a city that connects a home to a substation, or ten miles that are all above ground in the woods

Are you f*cking kidding me? You think a "mid-size town" is people living 10 miles out in the woods?

Re:Decaying infastructure is a huge problem (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#43295529)

You might want to actually come to DC sometime soon. It's actually (depending on whose figures) the cleanest or second-cleanest city in the nation

You might want to get out of the city once in a while, it is by no means a gorgeous or clean city. Your perspective is skewed.

Re:Decaying infastructure is a huge problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43290121)

Have you ever been to DC? I live here. It certainly isn't a dump. It might be the nicest city in the US and we have a huge budget surplus too.

Re:Decaying infastructure is a huge problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43290909)

last time i was in DC there were large hi rise buildings literally crumbling down with people living in them in plain sight of the mall---blankets for walls and cardboard---on a huge building that was falling apart
im dead serious about this ---it was in the 90s and i havent been back since
oh yes and the one way streets dead ending into another one way street going the other direction really threw me for a loop
do peeple still honk thier horns at stoplights?

For now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43296095)

Oh, please, stop the whining already. Big cities like DC have always been dumps. It's what happens when you put a lot of people into a small space. If you don't like it, move out; I did.

There's no problem with infrastructure around here (a mid-size town). It's paid out of local taxes, it's reasonably up-to-date, and it has nothing to do with wars-on-anything or "corporate entities". Getting electricity, heat, water, and Internet to homes is neither rocket science nor particularly expensive.

My guess is that most of the infrastructure in your midsized town is probably "reasonably up-to-date" because it came with the suburban building boom that resulted from the post-WWII baby boom. It has probably gotten little maintenance or investment since it was laid down, and it will probably start exhibiting the same problems as today's big cities in another 30-40 years. )Maybe 60 years if yours is one of the newer Sun Belt boom towns.)

Re:Decaying infastructure is a huge problem (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | about a year ago | (#43289075)

Cost is only part of the equation though, you also have to factor in the impact any new construction will have on existing traffic. Infrastructure often becomes a victim of it's own success, these bridges aren't decaying because nobody uses them, they are decaying because they are being used all the time. Closing a bridge, even temporarily, will cause a massive amount of havoc so even if you had the funds, there is a huge disincentive to upgrade the infrastructure(usually until it's too late).

Unfortunately when it comes to physical infrastructure, redundancy is often just not possible.

Re:Decaying infastructure is a huge problem (1)

eksith (2776419) | about a year ago | (#43289119)

That's very true. This is like the broadband problem: All around the world you see people getting faster and faster access and even fiber, when they had no internet at all previously. Meanwhile a lot of us are chugging along on copper. It's all cause it's more expensive to rip out what's already here to put in anew and you can't stop everything just to do new installations.

It's quite a conundrum.

Re:Decaying infastructure is a huge problem (1)

tmosley (996283) | about a year ago | (#43292691)

I don't think that is the problem. It's the continued existence of telecom monopolies that is the cause of our slow/non-existant progress, IMO. Of course, who granted those monopolies?

Re:Decaying infastructure is a huge problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43289819)

"becomes a victim of it's own success"

Or a victim of spurious apostrophe use.

Re:Decaying infastructure is a huge problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43289167)

This happened a few times in Rio de Janeiro recently. The cause was methane build-up around electricity points.

Some people were seriously injured, and some serious damage.

Link to google images
https://www.google.com/search?q=bueiro+explodiu

Its a big city thing ... (1)

drnb (2434720) | about a year ago | (#43289251)

There's no immediate ROI for fixing these things that don't kill people in droves.

Its more of a big city thing. For example the gas lines that blew up in Boston, the cast iron lines laid down nearly 100 years ago, similar lines were laid down in small and medium sized towns all over the north east as well. However in many of these small to medium sized municipalities such lines were replaced in the 1960s-80s, they were considered old and hazardous back then.

Its not drones. Its bigger governments being less responsive to public concerns. In small and medium sized towns ignoring the gas lines running down the street might cause you to lose an election. Less so in DC, NY, Boston, etc.

Re:Its a big city thing ... (1)

eksith (2776419) | about a year ago | (#43289567)

I guess you're right. Plus the bigger the city, the bigger the bureaucracy. It's really sad that when so many lives are at stake, it's actually harder to get something like this fixed.

Re:Its a big city thing ... (1)

NixieBunny (859050) | about a year ago | (#43292665)

It's a math problem. All cities have risk management departments, whose job it is to calculate whether it makes more economic sense to pay their money to residents injured or killed by explosions, or to construction crews to repair the lines.

Re:Decaying infastructure is a huge problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43289701)

"And it isn't just gas lines; it's bridges/overpasses, roads, dams, levys, sewers, tunnls, heck even our data channels etc..."

That's what I thought as well.

US infrastructure crumbles.

Film at eleven.

Re:Decaying infastructure is a huge problem (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year ago | (#43290377)

a hopelessly inefficient workforce

I was with you except for this part. If you look at labor productivity over, say, the last couple of decades, it turns out that Americans are the most productive workers in the world, producing more per hour than anyone else. In addition, Americans work on average longer hours than other industrialized nations do.

The reason they're seen as "inefficient" is that they're paid significantly better than their counterparts in Third World countries. Another way of looking at it:
Option A: Hire 1 American for $8 an hour, and he produces $12 worth of goods in that hour.
Option B: Hire 4 Chinese workers for $2 an hour each, and each one produces $8 worth of goods per hour for a total of $32.

Re:Decaying infastructure is a huge problem (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#43290859)

There's no immediate ROI for fixing these things that don't kill people in droves.

Building a new bridge? That's sexy. That's something you can put on a political resume. Patch up an existing bridge? You're the guy that caused all those traffic jams last summer.

No surprise, I add to it every day. (1)

lindseyp (988332) | about a year ago | (#43289163)

Every time I turn on a ring on my gas stove, it's bleeding gas for a few seconds whilst the electric ignition goes "tickticktickticktick" then "whoosh" as the ring lights but by that time enough gas has escaped to make a noticeable smell from the added marker gas, even if briefly. multiply this by the total number of gas powered flames all over the place, and the level of methane in the air is going to be way higher than natural background levels.

Re:No surprise, I add to it every day. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43290459)

Math is your friend, do learn some.

Ozone production? (1)

WillKemp (1338605) | about a year ago | (#43289341)

The leaking gas [......] enhances ozone production

No such luck! The problem is that methane destroys ozone, it doesn't produce it.

Re:Ozone production? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43290391)

Methane is a precursor to ozone prouction in the troposphere.

Re:Ozone production? (1)

tmosley (996283) | about a year ago | (#43292719)

Ozone in lower atmosphere==bad. Smog, lung damage, etc.

Ozone in thin layer in upper atmosphere==good. Less UV, less skin cancer, etc.

Ozone from the lower atmosphere doesn't make it to the upper atmosphere, at least not to my knowledge. And it doesn't really matter, because the ozone layer has pretty well recovered.

Re:Ozone production? (1)

WillKemp (1338605) | about a year ago | (#43293407)

Ozone in lower atmosphere==bad. Smog, lung damage, etc.

Methane doesn't produce ozone in the lower atmosphere either.

Ozone from the lower atmosphere doesn't make it to the upper atmosphere [......]

No, but methane does - which is what we're discussing.

a simple carbon atom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43289407)

Are there difficult carbon atoms?

Let it all out (1)

Let's All Be Chinese (2654985) | about a year ago | (#43289549)

Back in the day you had sewer gas destructor lamps. Seems those would work with leaked gas too. Plus, add some sensors and you can figure out where the gas is likely leaking, so you can do something about it.

Even so, lax maintenance is nothing new. I recall reading about a certain bollard in Amsterdam that had sported a nice little flame for ages. Until someone realised it must be from a gas leak. Then it got fixed in a panic.

Exploding manholes? (1)

Vladius (2577555) | about a year ago | (#43289621)

Some jokes just write themselves....

Re:Exploding manholes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43289941)

Additionally there seems to be an isle bias in Washington's exploding manholes, based on recent history.

Re:Exploding manholes? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year ago | (#43294137)

The trolls on this site often link to an exploded manhole, they've just been trying to warn us all this time!

That is why they charge so much. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43289749)

To make you pay for all the leaks they are to lazy to fix. It is the kind of job you have to pay an actual person to do you cant off shore it.
And be damn if they want that on the payroll.

A century ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43289829)

So as a more potent greenhouse gas, at a higher level, I just had the third latest snowstorm in in 2 weeks go buy. But if I discount the sun as a greenhouse source, Which is at a low for sunspots, which do transfer heat and materials to earth, it's not cold, just a lack of heat?

You call that a summary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43289863)

I realize it's taken word-for-word from TFA, but it's all over the place. Couldn't the submitter be bothered to write a proper summary?

The title claims it's about exploding manholes in DC. The first sentence talks about detected methane leaks. The second sentence mentions exploding manholes, but also talks about other methane issues. The third explains the chemical composition of methane (really? for this crowd?). The fourth, fifth, and sixth are about methane's role in global warming - no mention of exploding manholes.

So, what's this article about? Is it really about exploding manholes (as per the title?) Or about methane leaks and why methane is bad? Or our nation's crumbling infrastructure, using this as an example? About the causes of global warming in general?

I know, because I read TFA, but I don't want to spoil it for you. Neither did the submitter, apparently.

Re:You call that a summary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43289931)

Oh, dinchya know it's about global warming? But it's about the dark underbelly of global-warming-by-methane that hardly anybody acknowledges or talks about, because it's more popular to blame it on human-produced carbon dioxide despite that getting totally consumed by all the green plants, algae and planktons.

This is a serious problem. (2)

jd2112 (1535857) | about a year ago | (#43289935)

I propose we give each member of Congress a cigarette lighter and send them into the sewers until all the gas leaks are round.

Re:This is a serious problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43290895)

Noooo they would feel too much at home in the sewers with all the other rats and forget about leaks and stay down there! Wait.... okay still no downside to your idea, I say lets go for it!

atmospheric methane levels (4, Interesting)

nblender (741424) | about a year ago | (#43290119)

I watched a youtube video a while back from a leading researcher who outlined their methods of data collection and analysis. In the video he plotted atmospheric methane levels and showed how methane was steadily increasing until the collapse of the soviet union at which point levels fell dramatically. The explanation offered was that at that time, the gas pipelines to europe had become privately owned forcing accountants to discover that "gas in" was way less than "gas out" at the other end so there was a big campaign to fix the many pipeline leaks that were ignored during communist rule.

I shudder to think how many other gas pipelines around the world are leaking...
 

Re:atmospheric methane levels (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year ago | (#43294177)

Soviet Russia and modern-day China are always going to be the "invisible giants" of pollution and GHG emission. Nobody will ever know just how much they released or are releasing, other than "It's A LOT."

WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43294775)

"forcing accountants to discover that "gas in" was way less than "gas out" at the other end"

So... gas was leaking *into* the pipeline, you say? I'm not seeing the problem...

Gas in DC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43290337)

Recent studies suggest gas leaks in Washington DC are a direct result of excessive BS.

FrisT psot!? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43290705)

fu7urem at all [goat.cx]

I live in the DC area (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43293643)

And I have NEVER heard about these "infamous exploding manholes."

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