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Thousands of Gas Leaks Discovered Under Streets of Washington DC

samzenpus posted about 7 months ago | from the do-you-smell-something? dept.

United States 292

First time accepted submitter gallifreyan99 writes "Researchers from Duke revealed today that they had discovered nearly 5,900 gas leaks under the streets of Washington DC, including 12 that posed a serious risk of explosion. And it's not just Washington: a gas industry whistleblower who is part of the team showed this was happening in cities all over America."

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great! now maybe they can (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45984825)

take care of the massive rat problem at 1st & Capitol NE?

Re:great! now maybe they can (3, Funny)

oneiros27 (46144) | about 7 months ago | (#45985023)

Not to worry, there are forces at hand already working on the rodent problem there. [twitter.com]

Re:great! now maybe they can (2)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 7 months ago | (#45985281)

Tod and Templeton battle an evil privatized energy infrastructure conglomerate.

Yep, It has Pixar written all over it.

Re:great! now maybe they can (2)

Austrian Anarchy (3010653) | about 7 months ago | (#45985309)

When sovereign immunity is given to any people the result is predictable.

Re: great! now maybe they can (1)

OECD (639690) | about 7 months ago | (#45985523)

They could gas the rats...

So.. (1)

Captain Coolwater (3052217) | about 7 months ago | (#45984845)

You thought you weren't going to die? Ha!

Private enterprise to the rescue (5, Insightful)

captbob2002 (411323) | about 7 months ago | (#45984847)

Good to know that private enterprise is taking such good care of their infrastructure - so much better than anything the government might operate *snort*.

I am sure they will ask for a rate increase to perform the maintenance that they should have been doing all along - can't take that kind of money from the shareholders (owners.)

Keep the profits private and the losses public - that's the ticket.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45984891)

"Keep the profits private and the losses public - that's the ticket."

You just now figure that out? What a genius. Get this man a pocket calculator.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (5, Insightful)

blue trane (110704) | about 7 months ago | (#45984909)

Utilities should be public, and not operated for profit. Since they're in the public good, money can be created (by the Fed, say, which then gives it to the government at no interest and keeps the loan rolling over forever, or forgives it) to make infrastructure safe. The free market has failed to provide secure infrastructure, because the free market does not care about the General Welfare; but the government is mandated to by the Constitution.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45984961)

Except that the government is, in many ways, controlled by corporations. And if the government really cared about the constitution, we wouldn't have the TSA, the NSA spying, stop-and-frisk, free speech zones, or suspicion-less border searches.

Both the government and corporations are just trash.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985537)

Translation: "Corporations cannot be controlled, and it's just too hard to control government, so we should just do nothing."

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985843)

Translation: Nonsensical straw man.

Stating reality != stating that we should do nothing.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (4, Funny)

plover (150551) | about 7 months ago | (#45984975)

Utilities should be public, and not operated for profit.

But ... free markets! Capitalism! Invisible hands! Civil liberties! Competition!

You socialists think that just because corporate greed has always won every decision in every board room ever, that means that every future corporation will be equally corrupt. We'll be the first to tell you that "past performance is no guarantee of future success." It could certainly happen that a private, for-profit utility would put the public good ahead of their profits.

Well, it could happen.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (2)

JWW (79176) | about 7 months ago | (#45985075)

Maybe they wouldn't directly put the public good ahead of profits, but they might put limiting their liability ahead of their profits.

Having a large accident would be a large liability for an energy company, and they would naturally take steps to avoid it.

While companies exist to make money the idea that only the government really cares about the people is a little too simplistic. Especially when you start talking into account how government entities like the NSA "care" about the people.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985371)

Oh the magic hand will take care of it. It will sweep the corpses away like it does in the auto industry.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985447)

Except for the article which completely refutes that point, oh and the coal waste leak into the water, of and EVERY freaking corporate disaster in history. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of things government bungles or makes more difficult than it needs to be but I trust the Army Corp of Engineers to manage things far better than private industry. Heck I trust healthcare.gov to give me better medical protections than private industry. I'm still waiting for my privately owned major healthcare company to fix their website.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985837)

Army Corp of Engineers

Is this the same army that can not even tell you how many boots it owns (something every one of its employees should have)? Used and new. Their inventory system is a disaster. Wonder why they keep asking for more money? They do not even know what they have. It is run by zillions of little fiefdoms. Yet somehow magically they will get this infrastructure correct?

Let me put this in terms a slashdot code grunt can understand.

You have company A who makes software. There is a team working on it. The code is a bit knarly. But they know it and know what to leave alone and what to fix.

Here is the 'slashdot fix' for government stuff applied here.

Disband company A. Fire all the guys who work on it and make them work on something else. Then give all of the code to company B because they have a product that works all the time. This old nasty code will somehow magically become better right?

http://steshaw.org/economics-in-one-lesson/chap02p1.html
http://steshaw.org/economics-in-one-lesson/chap03p1.html
http://steshaw.org/economics-in-one-lesson/chap04p1.html

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (5, Interesting)

overshoot (39700) | about 7 months ago | (#45985481)

Having a large accident would be a large liability for an energy company, and they would naturally take steps to avoid it.

That's not how regulated utilities work [1]. Their rates are set to guarantee a defined return on investment. To avoid having them "invest" in gold-plated executive toilets at Corporate Headquarters, the utility commission gets to decide what the company can invest in. If they approve an upgrade to the pipes, the Corporation gets to charge the customers for the cost plus ROI. If the Commission denies the request (to keep rates down) the liability is a business expense and the Corporation gets to charge the customers and add ROI to that, too.

Private or public, utility infrastructure is a political decision.

[1] City gas is a so-called "natural monopoly." Think about what an unregulated one would be like.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985091)

It could certainly happen that a private, for-profit utility would put the public good ahead of their profits.

Happens all the time in the Maker movement. People are starting businesses left and right that profit from creating infrastructure that does nothing but help other geeks to be successful. As a result, often the profit is modest, but it is there. Publicly traded companies on the other hand never could, because the people funding it (buying shares) are only doing so for the sole purpose of getting the maximum profit they can in return. In this setup, if the management were to sacrifice profits for the greater good, it creates an incentive for people to cash out and buy a stock with a higher profit.

Corporations aren't inherently evil, wall street is.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985235)

Yeah, public utilities are a real big free market.
 
When can you people stop being asshats and discuss the issue at hand instead of the same old shit turned over to smell anew with each article addressing the matter?

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (1)

east coast (590680) | about 7 months ago | (#45985347)

Come to Pennsylvania and tell me how great government run programs are when you look at our roadways. Government isn't an automagic solution. There is just as much greed and corpution in the government as there is anywhere else.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 7 months ago | (#45985667)

I think the problem American politics has with regulating is a false dichotomy. Voters here are confused and scared by the economy. Believing that there is good side and an evil side, with free market freedom jesus on one side and the DMV devil on the other side is a lot more comforting than various shades of grey wrapped up in numbers and statistics. So we get overzealous with letting companies do what they want, with faith that it will somehow work out for the best.

It's stupid, but lets not move from that into another oversimplification: either way can go horribly wrong. And regulation gone wrong combined with corporate greed can sometimes worse than either individually. So lets not make statements implying that a public utility would be inherently better than a private corporation, lets focus on data. Are there any public utilities in DC which have a better safety record? If so, then maybe try making the gas lines a regulated public utility.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (2, Insightful)

Petron (1771156) | about 7 months ago | (#45985669)

Like Chernobyl? Run by the government for the public good... then it exploded in 1986. Then it was brought back online and ran until the end 2000 because the public good needed cheap power.

The problem is the lack of free markets. In most cities you don't have the option of 5 different gas companies. You get one. That is because the city leaders in their infinite wisdom on what is good for the people decided that ABC Company will handle all the hardware and maintenance.

I worked at an ISP as a Tech support manager years back, and our DSL lines had to use the local TelCom's lines. We had to pay a rental fee for those lines (to pay for maintenance) and at the end of the day, we made very little on DSL. You see they had the government contract. All phone lines in the area were controlled by them. Any other TelCom had to use their lines (with the rental fee). They had a monopoly, where the competition had to buy from them. And the TelCom had crappy lines and had no interest in fixing them. One section of town was wired with 'Paper lines'... copper wire wrapped in wax paper. These lines were meant to be used as a temporary fix while real line can be ordered and laid... but they used it as normal line. When ever it rained we had calls in and you can year popping on the line. If you can hear noise... think on what the computer picks up. The only resort they had was call the TelCom to fix it... and a few days later, when things dried out... "Everything is fine'. We got sick of it and we started to put up wireless routers all over town. We offered wireless internet, and started to move all our DSL customers to wireless... only then did the TelCom started to replace those paper lines with real lines. Funny how competition forces improvements heh?

With the utilities we don't have a free market. We have a strongly regulated, heavily controlled, government backed monopoly... and then we blame the free market when it becomes corrupt. I have one choice for a gas company. I have one choice for an electric company. I have one choice for a TelCom. That is not the Free Market.

Don't think too hard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985065)

You're going to sprain something.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 7 months ago | (#45985113)

Creating money = tax on existing money = unpopular with people who have lots of money.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985297)

What part about "bourgeois" did you forget?

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (1)

N1AK (864906) | about 7 months ago | (#45985149)

Utilities should be public, and not operated for profit. Since they're in the public good

It's a pretty simplistic position. Why should gas infrastructure be public when surely it isn't as critical, or at least no more so, than food, water, medicine, logistics, drilling for oil?

The argument that giving something to the government magically makes it safe is nonsense. Give something to a government department with the wrong targets and insufficient funding and you'll end up with a mess regardless of their motive.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (2)

ibwolf (126465) | about 7 months ago | (#45985501)

Why should gas infrastructure be public when surely it isn't as critical, or at least no more so, than food, water, medicine, logistics, drilling for oil?

If a grocery store isn't doing a good job it will likely go out of business. Setting up a new grocery store is fairly simple and doesn't require much capital.

Now compare that to setting up a competing gas infrastructure.

It's not about "being in the public good" per se. But being of an inherently monopolistic nature. Private gas infrastructure makes about as much sense as private road infrastructure.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (0)

Pino Grigio (2232472) | about 7 months ago | (#45985233)

What a stupid comment blue trane. If you want to see how good nationalised industries are at managing infrastructure, just look at the UK in the 1970's. What this article doesn't tell you is that no gas network will always be 100% leak free. It's the same with water. What corporations do (that government utilities don't) is try to find the optimal point between economic benefit and infrastructure quality. They'll also innovate their way out of problems if there's a strong economic case for doing so. The only time this doesn't happen is when they become effective monopolies, which is what you're implying they should become with government control.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985575)

Wow, the free marketeer idiocy abounds.

Public utility does not equal "nationalised." In fact, in the U.S., I can think of no public utility off the top of my head that is operated even at the state agency level. In most cases, public utilities are either arms of local government (with authority delegated by the state to the appropriate local sub-department), or as tightly regulated, semi-independent corporations.

The reason public utilities have been regulated this way is that public welfare (including individual safety, affordability, etc.) is seen as on balance being more important than having "a strong economic case," which generally means only implementing ex post facto improvements after whatever disaster has been caused by "efficiency" improvements.

Given your spelling, I suspect you are from Europe, which one would think wold make you familiar with the precautionary principle. Here in the U.S., we don't tend to think about such things, which has led to the progressive deregulation of public utilities, leading to sky-high rates [nypowerandlight.com] , and great outcomes such as rolling blackouts [wikipedia.org] in the middle of dangerously hot weather.

the cult of innovation (1)

epine (68316) | about 7 months ago | (#45985847)

They'll also innovate their way out of problems if there's a strong economic case for doing so.

Yes, they do. A typical innovation is to move head office to a foreign country so if they get in too much legal trouble in one place, they can continue to operate elsewhere.

If at all possible, the first recourse in the private sector is to innovate your way out of bearing the downside. Contrary to your ideological end cap, this happens a great deal more often than just the companies who've gained some form of monopoly power. It would be tedious just to list the corporate inventiveness on this front (some of which is criminal, not that this makes much difference when prosecutors are left holding an empty cage.)

Here's one they actually caught. Enron convict Jeffrey Skilling has reached a deal to be released early from prison [cnn.com]

Skilling was sentenced to 24 years in prison for his role in the Enron debacle. Under the deal, he could shave nearly a decade off the 15 years remaining on his prison term.

He must have given a lot of blow jobs during his years in the can to collect enough cigarettes to make whole his many victims, justifying his early release for good behaviour.

Actually solving the problem is the private-sector recourse of last resort, unless it leads to a future business model where there's a substantial likelihood of being able to innovate your way out of bearing the downside. Now there's an incentive to get the saliva flowing in the profit motive.

The government isn't better or worse, just different. The worst outcomes occurs as a collaboration between the government and the private sector. Regulatory capture is a transaction between hookers and johns to bugger the public purse.

Here's the concluding paragraphs of Michael I. Norton taking the piss out of Hayekian overreach in his Edge.org essay Markets Are Bad; Markets Are Good [edge.org] :

When we think of groups, we think of the conditions under which groups are likely to behave well or behave poorly. We don't often think of them as self-correcting, as always performing well over time, or most importantly, as either inherently good or inherently bad.

Applying the same logic to markets—think of them in this context as "groups writ large"—will assist with the development of a richer and more accurate theory of when and why markets are likely to have terrible or uplifting consequences.

Mainly they behave well when something firmly bars the gate to behaving badly. Greenspan believed that Wall Street corporations could successfully police each other, if the government stayed out of the way.

Greenspan admits 'mistake' that helped crisis [nbcnews.com]

Greenspan, 82, acknowledged under questioning that he had made a "mistake" in believing that banks, operating in their own self-interest, would do what was necessary to protect their shareholders and institutions. Greenspan called that "a flaw in the model ... that defines how the world works."

Oops. By the downside-mitigating innovations of Goldman Sachs, who picked up the cheque for that mess? "Too big to fail" was cleverly crafted.

Unfortunately, markets are not some automatic panacea for all that ails the human condition. They are just one little piece of the puzzle that sometimes weave extraordinary magic. America's founding fathers weren't a market. They were just a bunch of extremely astute men well aware of how easily it all goes wrong, who sat down and tried to do the right thing, acting on moral sentiments rather than market incentives. What tangle of corporate interests could ever have lead to the American constitution?

Just imagine how if the founding fathers had been Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Jeff Bezos and the Koch brothers how that would have carved out. These are some of the greatest market minds who've ever lived.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985337)

Excuse me blue trane...

Gas leaks are not new or unexpected. Fixing the problem areas is part of normal upkeep. People who write these articles are fairly ignorant what they write about. They just want to produce a sensational article. 99.99% of these are so small, it takes special equipment to detect them.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about 7 months ago | (#45985431)

Problem is there will be a profit for somebody. Contractors regularly gouge the government primary as payback for jumping over the huge hurdles that replace responsible management. Even if it's all in house suppliers do about the same. I do not really blame them government jobs can take forever to actually get paid, sue you on general principle, and gouge you for political donations and rubber chicken dinners.

Now I would love to see the local governments take over fiber to the home etc with open access policies. That could spawn another cycle of information revolution in the country. Instead were worrying about how to insure media companies continue to increase profit margins.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985687)

Sure, if we let government run the utilities we would all still be shoveling our coal deliveries and grousing about how the government needs to do something about the smog. The government regulates the utilities, that voids the idea that the utilities are free market right there.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (3, Insightful)

dcw3 (649211) | about 7 months ago | (#45985067)

This is not an example of free enterprise by any stretch of the imagination. Public utilities are tightly controlled, with virtually no competition.

So, while we can debate the virtues, or lack thereof, of public vs. private efforts, utilities fall into the grey area in between.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (4, Insightful)

jbmartin6 (1232050) | about 7 months ago | (#45985077)

Monopolies are bad. Government makes a monopoly. Results are bad. Are you surprised? I am surprised at your apparent attitude, given the track record of government-managed systems. You think that would be better?

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985505)

Monopolies are bad. Government makes a monopoly. Results are bad. Are you surprised? I am surprised at your apparent attitude, given the track record of government-managed systems. You think that would be better?

Yes. I trust the government more than a corporation. At least a government I can theoretically remove. A corporate monopoly I didn't want, and I'm stuck with it forever.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (5, Insightful)

amck (34780) | about 7 months ago | (#45985603)

Monopolies are bad. Government makes a monopoly. Results are bad. Are you surprised? I am surprised at your apparent attitude, given the track record of government-managed systems. You think that would be better?

Not necessarily. For example the method used in Former Yugoslavia: the bread business was nationalised to ensure cheap bread for the populace. Two government bread companies were set up (IIRC). They were made to compete with each other, but with within strict rules, so that profit-taking for the benefit of staff salaries was out, but they could find efficiencies and compete. Also, it was legal for private companies to set up and sell other types of bread, but obviously couldn't control the market.

Similarly, Ireland had a nationalized shipping company to ensure shipping happened in Ireland ; during WWII no-one else would ship to Ireland because of the danger, and after the war they needed stable prices. Other companies could compete, but this meant there was a ceiling on prices and there was always someone capable of shipping.

Secondly having spent half my life in the public and half in the private sector, the private-sector is just as bad, it just doesn't have public investigations into waste.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985191)

So you actually think it would be different if government ran the utility in DC?

Yes, it would; there would never be mention of it in any news.

If you're going to keep towing the big government mentality, dont bitch about the back pains in the future!

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (3, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 7 months ago | (#45985401)

Except that they aren't private, they're granted a monopoly and enjoy quasi-governmental rights. This is what happens when you have the worst of both worlds.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (2)

Ksevio (865461) | about 7 months ago | (#45985721)

I am sure they will ask for a rate increase to perform the maintenance that they should have been doing all along

They do one better - they charge the customers now for the line-loss as a percentage of what they use. They actually have incentive to have leaky pipes because it means they're selling more gas to the same number of customers.

Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (1)

operagost (62405) | about 7 months ago | (#45985867)

I'm not quite sure what your point is. Do you believe that a government-enforced monopoly is somehow capitalist? These utilities are as heavily regulated as one that was owned by the government. Why do you believe that a government that is too corrupt to properly regulate a monopoly will suddenly become competent and reliable once it is in charge of all operations?

The compete lack of logic here astounds me.

Daum PotPlayer 1.5.44465 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45984849)

Daum PotPlayer 1.5.44465
16.01.2014 - Freeware - Media Player - Info - Download - x64 Version

Changes since v1.5.40688:

        Added support for HEVC(H.265) video format
        Fixed seeking problem when playing AVCHD files
        Fixed an issue that the screen is broken while playing VC1/WMV3 files in DXVA IDCT mode
        Fixed a problem that uses too much system memory cache during playback
        Fixed an issue where some ruby tags are not displayed properly
        Fixed an issue that the screen is broken with using DXVA in certain situations
        Added Nvidia CUDA H.264 encoder
        Improved scanner for HDTV channels
        Fixed a problem with saving idx/sub subtitles
        Fixed a problem that can not play files from certain FTP servers
        Fixed sync issue of certain MPEG files
        Changed default setting of broadcasting audio compression to 48000, 128K
        Changed default setting of ASF Splitter/Source to WMF Source Filter
        Fixed seeking problem with certain DVDs
        Fixed a problem where CUDA and QuickSync decoders doesn't work with DVD playback
        Removed deprecated codecs from Built-in Audio Decoder
        The icons have been changed
        The selections of various codec formats have been added into filter control
        Added Dirac and MS Screen v1-4 codec support
        Added the ability to ignore more HTML tags in subtitles
        Enabled AVC1 to H264 processing of MPEG PS/TS files by default
        Fixed stopping problem of DVD playback when using DXVA in certain situations
        Improved seeking speed of MPEG TS/PS, MKV, OGG files
        Improved playback of multi-program MPEG TS files
        Improved thumbnail image creating function
        Improved scene explorer feature
        Added three-finger actions into touch support
        Added a process to distinguish between clicks and double-clicks
        Removed one finger tap action from touch support (it acts as a mouse click)
        Added the ability to set 2nd audio renderer
        Added WavPack/OPUS filter selection
        Changed displaying thumbnail previews to depending on current aspect ratio
        Some fixes with some WebDAV servers
        Some fixes in screen capture
        Added built-in video stream switcher
        Added the ability to combine Ctrl,Alt,Shift keys with mouse actions
        Improved S/PDIF handling
        *Added the ability to auto detect 3D input format based on filename suffixes
        *Added the ability to auto switch between video modes
        Added deband filter into video processing
        Improved built-in codec handling
        Moved some external files into a folder named "module"
        Fixed an issue with using motion blur effect on certain videos
        Fixed a broadcasting problem when using original FPS
        Fixed a problem in subtitle explorer
        *Some fixes with RealMedia files

What a noobs (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45984851)

This is known tech, used extensively in many countries, yet they still can't manage to maintain a decent system quality.
http://www.activistpost.com/2010/08/10-signs-us-is-becoming-third-world.html

Re:What a noobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985295)

worked in the gas industry in the 1980s, the company had SUVs fitted with gas detectors regularly surveying the network to schedule pipe renewall. The really bad leaks showed up with dead street trees as methane deprives the soil.

Water World (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45984857)

If anyone was able to make it to the end of the movie, there's a scene where he drops the match down the shaft and the whole ship blows up.

Re:Water World (1)

hubie (108345) | about 7 months ago | (#45985011)

Bugs Bunny did that to Yosemite Sam's ship in Captain Hareblower [wikia.com] , but it is a powder room not a gas leak

Mythbusters (1)

plover (150551) | about 7 months ago | (#45985033)

Forget fiction. I would like to know how dangerous the Mythbusters think the situation is.

Their tests on trying to create a manhole explosion was really interesting. They found they needed the right mix of air and methane, and a cluttered sewer pipe caused the fire to spread more effectively than a clear pipe.

For example, the 50% concentration mentioned in TFA is way too concentrated to produce a big boom.

Re:Mythbusters (1)

dj245 (732906) | about 7 months ago | (#45985591)

Forget fiction. I would like to know how dangerous the Mythbusters think the situation is.

Their tests on trying to create a manhole explosion was really interesting. They found they needed the right mix of air and methane, and a cluttered sewer pipe caused the fire to spread more effectively than a clear pipe.

For example, the 50% concentration mentioned in TFA is way too concentrated to produce a big boom.

Yes but at some point that concentration was zero. Now it is 50%. There must have been a point in the middle where the methane was within the explosive limit. Getting exactly the right conditions for an explosion may be difficult but with thousands of leaks it happens eventually.

Fracking / Shale gas... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45984863)

What did they expect?

But the biggest danger is of poisoning the water table and water supply.

Shouldn't be a surprise... (3, Interesting)

Mashiki (184564) | about 7 months ago | (#45984865)

This happens all over the place, including serious enough leaks that can cause explosions. Occasionally you hear about a building/house/etc blowing up because gas has leaked in from a line out front, or was run under a building, or something else. The only solution is checking, that and running new pipe. In my area back about 15 years ago Union Gas replaced all of the old turn of the century cast iron pipe with plastic. There was no shortage of the old stuff cracking and having developed leaks over the last 100 years. And of course, they checked every house along the way to the meter and if need be they dug up your front yard and replaced the pipe.

I'm actually not sure why the whistleblower thing is "needed" being that anyone who went to highschool(at least in Canada), knows that this is an issue. And yet, we have NG all over the place, or propane if you're too far off the line, or oil. And of course there's still plenty of people who don't have any of those, and are pure electric or wood.

Exploding manholes (4, Interesting)

oneiros27 (46144) | about 7 months ago | (#45984997)

Back when I lived in DC (late 1990s) there were regular reports of exploding manholes ... with the best guess of the cause being a combination of gas leaks and electrical shorts. Of couse, in the report on the problem [goodspeedupdate.com] blamed PEPCO (electrical) not Washington Gas.

About 10 years ago, they had a solution -- install manholes with vent holes in them, so the gas pressure can't build up as easily. Of course, you instead get extra water underground, which can lead to faster corrosion of pipes.

Last year, when the methane levels were first reported [sciencemag.org] , the estimate was 38 exploding manholes per year ... so I'm guessing the vented covers have been less than successful.

Re:Exploding manholes (2)

complete loony (663508) | about 7 months ago | (#45985185)

Blowing the cover off the manhole is easy, the explosion could have been triggered a long way off underground. Plus ethane is slightly denser than air, so it's unlikely to vent off much through the manhole cover. You'd probably need to push air through to disperse the gas.

Re:Exploding manholes (1)

dkf (304284) | about 7 months ago | (#45985773)

Blowing the cover off the manhole is easy, the explosion could have been triggered a long way off underground. Plus ethane is slightly denser than air, so it's unlikely to vent off much through the manhole cover. You'd probably need to push air through to disperse the gas.

It's very close to the density of air (heavier than pure nitrogen gas, lighter than pure oxygen gas) so it is very unlikely to either pool or disperse.

Re:Exploding manholes (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 7 months ago | (#45985423)

Now they need "power vents" to actively exchange the gas.

Re:Exploding manholes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985583)

Exploding.. Man.. Holes?

Re: Exploding manholes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985751)

Indeed, methane explodes from man holes with an alarming degree of frequency.

Re:Exploding manholes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985609)

"which can lead to faster corrosion of pipes"

Is water corrosion a significant factor? I'd think the pipes would leak or fail from hydrogen embrittlement first, assuming basic precautions such as a zinc rich paint applied to the pipes at install.

Re:Exploding manholes (2)

clickclickdrone (964164) | about 7 months ago | (#45985733)

You can't call them manholes any more, it's sexist. They're called street level person apertures.

Re:Shouldn't be a surprise... (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 7 months ago | (#45985145)

NG is hot - fracking is making it cheap and (even more) ubiquitous - the whistleblower thing is necessary to prod infrastructure improvements now before a major disaster gives this cheap new energy source a black eye, causing the demand for an already high supply commodity to fall.

Re:Shouldn't be a surprise... (1)

Ksevio (865461) | about 7 months ago | (#45985753)

The big issue here is of the 12 cases where a leak was large enough to cause an explosion, the majority of them were still present a year later. Lots of leaks are expected, but serious ones should be fixed.

Am I a bad person. . . (1)

Salgak1 (20136) | about 7 months ago | (#45984871)

. . . .for wanting several thousand lit matches in JUST the right spots, all around DC ???

Of course, one DOES have to worry about the massive wind from all the politicians, blowing them out, which may explain why DC is still on the map. . . .

wow a whole continent poked with gas leeks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45984883)

it must have cost a fortune to test Rio and Mexico City.

Re:wow a whole continent poked with gas leeks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985087)

They have lots of leeks in Wales too.

Ninjas (1)

Chemisor (97276) | about 7 months ago | (#45984889)

Check for ninjas in the basement.

Re:Ninjas (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45984953)

Joey: What are you, a spy or somethin'?

Haru: A spy is like a gnat compared to a ninja.

Joey: Ninja? You're a ninja? Get outta here, you're a ninja!

In other news ... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45984895)

"The latest teenage prank is to throw lighted matches and cigarettes down manholes in Washington, DC."

"Gas company announces it needs to raise rates to fix leaks."

...A few months go by of more efficient gas lines - meaning less wasted into the atmosphere.

"Gas company CEO gets bonus for increased profits. Writes book on how to be a great CEO."

He then appears on CNBC and is introduced as Blow Hard Jack and pontificates on how a business should be run. CNBC talking heads fawn all over him and blame Democrats for the poor business climate.

DC residents stuck with higher rates while CEO and shareholders rake it in. But hey, they worked HARD for it - they had to READ a news headline in the paper about their operational stupidity. The thought of proactively looking for leaks never crossed their mind.

Who needs terrorists... (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 7 months ago | (#45984899)

Corporate America manages to destroy critical infrastructure wholesale all bu itself...

Re:Who needs terrorists... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985009)

They killed Bradley Delp. You know that right.

Gas >"< (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45984915)

And 545 of them are in the three branches of government.

Jail the whistleblower (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45984917)

Standard operating procedure in the U.S. is to shoot the messenger and ignore the problem.

Re:Jail the whistleblower (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985155)

When you're in the private sector, there are laws protecting you if you whistle-blow.

If you've signed up for a security clearance, you waive those protections.

So, this is why (1)

hlavac (914630) | about 7 months ago | (#45984935)

So this is why there is such a big campaign against smoking in US!

Magnitude? (0)

jc42 (318812) | about 7 months ago | (#45984943)

So is there any data on the quantity of methane, etc. produced by this? How does it compare with cow farts, for instance?

Maybe they shouldn't fix it ... (1)

MacTO (1161105) | about 7 months ago | (#45984947)

I live in a fairly small city that experienced two gas leaks in as many days (and I believe it was three within the span of a week) due to work being done to the lines by the gas company. The two gas leaks were significant enough to evacuate nearby residents and shut down power to the neighborhood.

If these businesses aren't willing to hire and train competent work crews, maybe it's best that things are left alone.

That's not gas (1)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | about 7 months ago | (#45984969)

That's hot air, the place is full of it

this explains it...finally! (1)

Connie_Lingus (317691) | about 7 months ago | (#45984981)

no wonder our elected officials all act like brainless tools...

they are high on fumes.

Are they sure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985001)

Are they sure it's just not HOT AIR?

Shhhh (4, Insightful)

LookIntoTheFuture (3480731) | about 7 months ago | (#45985037)

Do you hear that? That's the sound of the US crumbling under unregulated greed and power.

There is only one solution (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985049)

Prosecute the whistleblowers for leaking the leaks!

Think of the^W^W^W Imagine what a terrorist could do with this information!

Re:There is only one solution (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | about 7 months ago | (#45985405)

You forgot that we need to grant Homeland Security the ability to declare matches and all forms of fire to be weapons of terror. Sure, a few innocent people might be arrested as they try to keep warm in the freezing cold, but that's a small price to pay for freedom from the terrorists. Remember: Anyone who opposes the bad on the terrorist tool known as fire is probably a terrorist and hates America!

Cat tongue (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 7 months ago | (#45985071)

Well, it's a good thing it's not a widespread problem [eia.gov]

This is just a cover story (1)

jbmartin6 (1232050) | about 7 months ago | (#45985101)

This is government lies. They need to lay the groundwork for using 'gas leak' to explain all these vampire/zombie/werewolf/alien incidents.

Need some sort of "but we have the most powerful.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985103)

Perhaps we can have some posts about how the US has the most powerful military in the world, outspending nearly the rest of the world combined.

Infrastructure in crumbles and the roads are far worse then China but yeah, keep spending on weapons you dont need.

There is only one thing to do... (2)

3seas (184403) | about 7 months ago | (#45985109)

Call the NSA, CIA, FBI and all those who are against leaks.

Re:There is only one thing to do... (1)

3seas (184403) | about 7 months ago | (#45985121)

And give them a supply of matches.

If you want to know how this would evolve (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985161)

look no further than this http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2106146,00.html

Am I the only one not surprised? (3, Funny)

Cro Magnon (467622) | about 7 months ago | (#45985175)

I always knew WDC was full of gas.

Sensationalist headline is Sensational (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985263)

There isn't anything ere to be worried about folks.

There are thousands and thousands of miles of 60 plus year old cast iron and steel pipe. These pipes expand and contract over time and wiggle themselves loose. Typically these leaks are very small and are no danger to the public, which is why they are allowed to persist. Every natural gas utility in the United States is required to have a leak management program which is monitored by the state they reside in and the Department of Transportation. Most natural gas utilities have capital infrastructure projects in place to replace these old pipes with new plastic pipe, which is more flexible and creates a very strong joint. The creation of these programs is directly related to the regulatory agencies mandating a reduction in leaks each year.

If you do ever smell natural gas (which actually doesn't smell, mercaptain is added for the fart smell) please call your utility and report it.

I am an engineer at a natural gas utility and it is my job manage the installation of plastic pipe and deal with these leaks.

The Anti-Fracking FUD campaign (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985271)

This must be a conspiracy to get us to adopt wind and solar and drop coal and natural gas.

Or maybe it's the home heating oil alliance.

Maybe we should go back to nuclear power.

Got Gas? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985273)

5800 methane detections while driving around in a car...only got out for further analysis 19 times. Of that, how many of the 5800 were farts?

Well, that's one way (2)

overshoot (39700) | about 7 months ago | (#45985333)

The good news is that this may get the Government to notice the enormous deferred-maintenance problem in the USA.

The bad news is that they'll only fix the stuff inside the Beltway and pay for it by shorting repairs somewhere else.

No no no (4, Funny)

Greyfox (87712) | about 7 months ago | (#45985375)

That's Ok! I don't see any need for job-killing regulations for the energy industry in Washington! If anything they need LESS regulation, or someone will outsource all those gas jobs to China! Congress doesn't want to kill jobs do they?

Re:No no no (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 7 months ago | (#45985567)

Not China but the undocumented who will do the work under the table and off the books for very low pay to fix the pipes

Greenhouse gas (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985535)

It is a greenhouse gas 30x-70x that of CO2.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methane

http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=116532&org=NSF&from=news

look twice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985617)

At first glance I read this as "Thousands of Geeks Discovered Under Streets of Washington DC"

Don't worry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985777)

Terrorists don't know how to light matches.

I know! (1)

operagost (62405) | about 7 months ago | (#45985819)

Clearly, the answer is to raise taxes to pay for it. The rich aren't paying their fair share. The bad news is, the rich in D.C. all work for the government-- so good luck with that.

Thousands of Basement Dweller Leaks Discovered (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45985857)

Thousands of Basement Dweller Leaks Discovered Under Washington DC. Mothers asked to provide Beano alongside Hot Pockets.
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