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Study Finds Methane Leaks Negate Benefits of Natural Gas-Powered Vehicles

samzenpus posted about 5 months ago | from the zero-sum-game dept.

Transportation 102

Lasrick writes "Coral Davenport at the NY Times reports on a study to be published on Friday: '...a surprising new report...concludes that switching buses and trucks from traditional diesel fuel to natural gas could actually harm the planet's climate.' The report apparently documents that the leaks of methane that occur when drilling for natural gas more than make up for the climate change benefits of using natural gas as a transportation fuel. The report will be published Friday in the journal Science."

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102 comments

Manipulative headline (5, Insightful)

HateBreeder (656491) | about 5 months ago | (#46244091)

The title implies that we should abandon gas as an alternative to diesel/petrol.

This is done by falsely implying that pollution due to methane leaks are an inherit part of the drilling process.

Instead, what we should really do is improve the drilling techniques to avoid/minimize leakage.

Re:Manipulative headline (4, Interesting)

dbIII (701233) | about 5 months ago | (#46244103)

Very true - from the article:

The report’s authors conclude that the leaks can be reined in if oil and gas companies invest in technology to prevent methane from escaping into the atmosphere from gas wells and production facilities.

So more a message of "take care" instead of "abandon".

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 5 months ago | (#46244583)

This theorem is factually accurate for activity at the well during drilling, where there are Company men and Consultants on site who may give a damn.

Drilling is but one small part of the well's lifetime, and there are many opportunities for loss of methane during the service of wells and delivery of product.

That said, you have to get your energy from one dirty source or another. Methane is much less toxic than burning black coal, and I re-peat, burning lignite is re-tarded.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | about 5 months ago | (#46247257)

Yeah, but that's almost like saying that the leaks can be prevented by coating the pipes in unicorn sharts.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

Sqr(twg) (2126054) | about 5 months ago | (#46248785)

That would be true, if oil and gas companies were capable of "taking care". Given that they don't give a shit if thousands of people get sick or die as a result of their drilling, there's not much hope of that.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 5 months ago | (#46251723)

Methane is money these days. That encourages care.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 5 months ago | (#46244111)

Unless that's more expensive than finding greener power sources.

Like "lawyer combustion" or "woman's scorn"

Re:Manipulative headline (3, Funny)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 5 months ago | (#46244447)

Ooooh, if all our cars were powered by Woman's Scorn they would be quick like Lambos and sound even meaner!

Re:Manipulative headline (2)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 5 months ago | (#46245351)

Ooooh, if all our cars were powered by Woman's Scorn they would be quick like Lambos and sound even meaner!

And they'd be much better for the environment because we'd all drive less. Can you imagine if every time you stepped on the accelerator you heard, "ARE YOU EVEN LISTEN TO ME!" I'd walk or bike to anything less than 100 miles.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 5 months ago | (#46248423)

That would make a good engine noise for an electric car.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | about 5 months ago | (#46247197)

Natural gas if scaled up is a transition fuel at best, it will peak out in
about 50 years unless they figure out to hook up all the sewer systems
and agri waste in the world via something akin to a digester.

http://strausfamilycreamery.co... [strausfamilycreamery.com]

I think if all cars on earth ran on natural gas it would be a short run indeed.

Alot of the oil and gas crowd are looking at natural gas as a transition
for their declining oil output globally.

When you see Saudi drilling offshore it should be wake up call the
the easier and cheaper onshore oil is in decline, and no new onshore
fields have been found via seismograph or otherwise.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 5 months ago | (#46248451)

Declining oil output globally? Citation needed, peak oil boy.

For now, production continues to increase. Crow will soon have to be eaten. By rights it should already be cold leftover crow.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 5 months ago | (#46249317)

Everyone knows we hit peak oil in the 1970s. That's why we have to walk everywhere, and those antique internal combustion vehicles are cluttering our landfills.

Re:Manipulative headline (5, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | about 5 months ago | (#46244135)

I'd also like to know how much methane is leaked from oil (petroleum) drilling. You see them burning gas off in flares on the rig and refineries, but how much escapes. This is important because if we assume the alternative gives zero methane we may not see the true saving.

Re:Manipulative headline (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46244139)

Hydraulic fracturing, nothing like the drilling process we've been using for nearly half a century now, is the technique being used to extract large amounts of natural gas. It causes a lot more problems than leaking methane and possibly harm the climate. Ever seen someone light their shower water on fire? Last time I checked, no one knew how much methane is being spewed into the atmosphere off the coast of Russia for years now. The negative effects of hydraulic fracturing has been hush hush... oh, and could be harming the climate.

Re:Manipulative headline (3, Interesting)

Giblet535 (3480751) | about 5 months ago | (#46244789)

Nonsense. Stop gobbling the gullibility pills. The videos of burning tap water are from water wells that were already polluted (naturally) by methane. Fracking occurs MILES below any aquifers, and the bore is very well sealed. Water and methane are frequent partners and have always been. Forcing deep-well waste water back into the ground is different: there's reason to believe it causes earthquakes and has been banned as a result.

Re:Manipulative headline (4, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 5 months ago | (#46245811)

Part of what you say is true, however

Fracking occurs MILES below any aquifers, and the bore is very well sealed

is only potentially a true statement. Yes, if it's done right, the well bore is sealed and there is very little chance of contamination through the bore. However, cementing a well (the process that seals it) is not a trivial task (cf, the Macando disaster). It can be done correctly or not. The testing isn't easy and there is always going to be the temptation to just call it OK and go with the cement job.

If you don't have processes in place to supervise the drilling company (like, for example, Pennsylvania) you're going to end up with contaminated well bores. Most of the time a small leak won't do anything untoward - at least not right away. But left in place for a couple of years you can get significant migration of petrochemicals at very shallow depths.

Same issue with capping a well once it's finished producing - you can do it cheaply or you can do it correctly.

What needs to happen is for the 'non traditional' petrochemical producing states to create and administrative structure like the Texas Railroad Commission (dumb, historical name) with regulatory powers and significant legal teeth to ensure that things are done correctly. Seems like a no brainer - it's self funding and Texas has a long track record of creating a really high level of well control without undue fuss. That doesn't seem to have happened. I'm sure drilling companies would love to NOT be adequately supervised but we all know how well that works out.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

Giblet535 (3480751) | about 5 months ago | (#46250025)

Handing more power to bumbling crony government authorities is no answer. It might make sense to create a private licensing and oversight consortium with the incentives (e.g., full liability) to guarantee adherence to operational safety standards. That would increase production costs, but accountability would likely improve dramatically, and that's where a lot of the problems lie.

Re:Manipulative headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46254889)

What makes you think handing more power to bumbling corporate crony lawyers is any better? You have noticed the revolving door between corporate executive offices and government positions right?

Re:Manipulative headline (1, Troll)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | about 5 months ago | (#46247421)

Explain why some oil companies are trucking in water to ppl who have had their water
wells ruined by fracking fluids.

Are you one of the paid corporate bloggers, or one of the ones for the government that
helped make the Halliburton Loophole ? So they could legally hide 8 of the ingredients
that are toxic sludge that causes cancer and organ failure.

http://www.independentwatertes... [independen...esting.com]

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11... [nytimes.com]

http://www.earthworksaction.or... [earthworksaction.org]

So when it comes to lying plutocrats puppetteering the government regulations
so they can squeeze out a little more profit at the cost of ruining the ENTIRE
north american water table, I find it hilarious that ppl will come on here and
post a shill post when the oil companies have been filmed hauling drinkable
water to ppl because their damn water wells are ruined and even reverse
osmosis filtering won't get the toxic crap out.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

Giblet535 (3480751) | about 5 months ago | (#46249799)

Oil companies bring water to people when the oil company causes an accidental release of ground contaminants. I said nothing regarding fluid runoff pollution in my previous post. Reading comprehension -1 on that one, sorry. However, fluid runoff pollution is a managed risk of any type of natural gas or oil recovery operation, whether old-school or fracturing methods are used. It is also a managed risk in mining or water well drilling. The ground it seems is just full of nasty chemicals that you don't want to eat or drink, and digging or drilling invariably brings those nasty chemicals to the surface. You should read less MSM tripe and more engineering or geology literature: you'll sound less....schizophrenic on this topic.

Bullshit. (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | about 5 months ago | (#46250381)

Where you get your information, Rush Limbaugh?

Plus methanes half life is only about 10 years ... (4, Informative)

Viol8 (599362) | about 5 months ago | (#46244213)

... in out atmosphere , whereas the CO2 released from burning it hangs around for hundreds if not thousands of years until its reabsorbed.

(And yes I am aware that the escaped methane ends up as CO2 after those 10 odd years , but its a tiny amount compared to the amount we release by burning).

Short lived greenhouse gases help persuade (1)

Strange Attractor (18957) | about 5 months ago | (#46245627)

If people let enough methane escape to change the climate, it would be a short term disaster and teaching opportunity. It seems better than releasing enough CO2 to get the same change in temperature, because with CO2 the the effect would last so much longer.

Re:Short lived greenhouse gases help persuade (1)

Tharkkun (2605613) | about 5 months ago | (#46247627)

If people let enough methane escape to change the climate, it would be a short term disaster and teaching opportunity. It seems better than releasing enough CO2 to get the same change in temperature, because with CO2 the the effect would last so much longer.

If we limited reproduction of humans or wiped a 3rd world country off the planet we'd also significantly reduce CO2 being released as well. We're creating the problem by just living which is far worse than oil companies do. Also temperature change? Have you looked at the weather lately? Global Warming is in full effect here in Minnesota.

Re:Plus methanes half life is only about 10 years (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 5 months ago | (#46245749)

Quibble: Ten years is the mean lifetime of methane in the atmosphere. The half-life is even less, about seven years.

The major sink is reaction with hydroxyl (OH-) radicals in the upper atmosphere. The second biggest sink is consumption by soil bacteria.

More info here [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Manipulative headline (3, Insightful)

Vintermann (400722) | about 5 months ago | (#46244293)

Instead, what we should really do is improve the drilling techniques to avoid/minimize leakage.

No. In order to say that, we need to know how feasible it is to reduce leakage. It's by no means certain it's easy or even possible.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 5 months ago | (#46244457)

Mod parent Insightful.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

flyneye (84093) | about 5 months ago | (#46244297)

Underneath it also implies fracking is like a giant fart.

Re:Manipulative headline (4, Interesting)

Mashiki (184564) | about 5 months ago | (#46244325)

I'm oddly getting rather pissed at the manipulative headlines, followed by the "well it's bad anyway, we should simply not do it at all" mentality that seems to be permeating from environmentalist, but also academia. Now maybe I'm off in the wild, but it sure seems like their only solution is the dark ages, with 1/3 or less the number of humans. Because "it's the only way."

Re:Manipulative headline (3, Insightful)

lisaparratt (752068) | about 5 months ago | (#46244385)

Or, you know, get a little perspective, realise that those imaginary shiny pennies are inconsequential compared to the long term survival of our species, and just do what it takes to make fission/fusion/solar a practicable, virtually endless, virtually free supply, and just make this whole energy scarcity issue vanish in a puff of science.

But then they wouldn't be able to rinse us common folk for every penny we've got through fuel costs and associated taxes, would they?

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about 5 months ago | (#46244509)

and just do what it takes to make fission...

We already did that. The problems with nuclear power are problems of emotion and education, not technology. Yet it's the most opposed form of generation out there.

Re:Manipulative headline (2)

lisaparratt (752068) | about 5 months ago | (#46246071)

Those are both aspects of making it practicable. The main method I'd recommend for solving that issue is to ignore the drooling masses, and just get the fuckers built. They'll soon shut up once they're addicted to the delicious delicious energy, now with free clean air!

Re:Manipulative headline (2)

Mashiki (184564) | about 5 months ago | (#46244857)

Or, you know, get a little perspective

Odd, I thought I had plenty of perspective. After all, if what you said was true then environmentalists wouldn't throw a hissyfit over nuclear power, or even waste to energy facilities. But they do, and they do so in a very hard way. Many of them simply don't "want" them at all, just like they don't want coal/oil/NG/etc power plants. Hell, I've even seen them against methane reclamation from cow and pig shit.

Re:Manipulative headline (2)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 5 months ago | (#46245831)

Your lack of perspective is due to the fact that you can't tell the difference between environmentalists and hippie nutjobs. That's as bad as thinking every Republican is Rush Limbaugh.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 5 months ago | (#46250395)

Your lack of perspective is due to the fact that you can't tell the difference between environmentalists and hippie nutjobs. That's as bad as thinking every Republican is Rush Limbaugh.

I live in Ontario, in turn there's this city called Toronto. Which believes that it's the centre of the universe much like California. There is no difference between environmentalists and hippie nutjobs.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

Megol (3135005) | about 5 months ago | (#46246603)

As the environmentalists (isn't that some TV show?) doesn't your argument fails. There are plenty that argues for increased use of nuclear power.

In short you seem to have built a private compound vision of some "normal environmentalist" that really doesn't make much sense. "They" are against everything as you have heard that some person is against something and then they have to be against everything else too, right?

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | about 5 months ago | (#46247575)

Nuclear would work if greed didn't override common sense and safety.

Unfortunately humans still are brainwashed that ink on paper is worth
more then the entire biosphere.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

If I was going to do nuclear I'd give more consideration to the Thorium LFTR
method mentioned in the google tech talk a few years ago.

Google "LFTR remix".

They like to talk about the huge increase in cancer that is coming among poor ppl
specifically, they don't like to show the science as to why.

Eating anything out of the pacific just became extra risky.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 5 months ago | (#46245243)

A couple of hundred more years of this won't mean jack squat for quality and longevity of life -- indeed, rising seas may be a pain in the ass, but as long as the economy remains strong, and invention continues apace, you're better off in 200 years with 30 foot higher seas and an extra fifty years' worth of medical tech than low seas and a slower economy and medical tech 50 years behind where it otherwise would be.

Eould you rather out ancestors in 1850 slam the brakes on burning and their economy, leaving us with less gw and 1870 medical tech (mmmmmaybe)?

If you think you've helped humanity by any objective measure, mega body counts beg to differ.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 5 months ago | (#46245265)

1970, only a North Korea-like economy would advance 20 years in 150. Which is the point -- time and again advancement correlates to economic freedom.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 5 months ago | (#46245997)

Or perhaps the combination of rising population and mass migrations of humans due to abrupt climate change might create orders of magnitude more problems than you are thinking about. We can't do anything short term about the population. We presumably can do something about climate change, although I doubt we actually will be able to slow things down given the political and economic and quite possibly physical barriers ahead of us.

Might not be the rather benign situation you're envisioning.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

lisaparratt (752068) | about 5 months ago | (#46246141)

Orbital solar with microwave downlinks. "Oops, it lost geosync!" -> population crisis solved!

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

lisaparratt (752068) | about 5 months ago | (#46246113)

I didn't say become a freegan micromanaging communist, I said solve the energy problem. I'm pretty sure you'd be better off in 200 years with the technological benefits 180+ years of free energy would unlock. The environmental stuff is pure bonus.

Re:Manipulative headline (3, Interesting)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | about 5 months ago | (#46247927)

The energy problem has been solved in several ways, they are all being held back
by ppl who are getting rich off the current paradigm.

Our current situation is largely due to ppl protecting their goose that lays the golden eggs.

1) Geothermal - could power the world many times over
2) Solar Thermal - could power the world many times over ( molten salt for energy storage )
3) Wind - could power the world ( molten salt for energy storage )
4) Ocean currents - could power the world many times over ( google Aquanator )
5) Biological Hydrogen - could power the world many times over ( Indirect solar )
6) Algae oil - ( indirect solar ) ( working prototypes at valcent technologies )
7) Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors ( can't make nuclear weapons with it, it can burn up the old waste in Yucca mountain )

We don't have an energy problem, we have a management problem.

The current "management" are puppets of the plutocrats and that is why we are screwed.

Re:Manipulative headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46254933)

Shh, you are most definitely causing the robber baron cheerleaders to shift uncomfortably in their pants.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | about 5 months ago | (#46247505)

I don't know where you got 1/3rd the humans, the foaming neo-malthusians want
90% of humans to shuffle off this mortal coil, and they took the time to stand
on a podium and scream and carve it in stone.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

These ppl give zero consideration to things like vertical hydroponics, biological
hydrogen, geothermal binary cycle power, etc etc....

I think the main reason is because they are Eugenics pseudo science nut jobs just like Hitler.

As earth is about to enter the space age, if room is an issue "look up"...the universe is waiting.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 5 months ago | (#46244369)

"The title implies that we should abandon gas as an alternative to diesel/petrol."

An heating our homes an firing our industries.
The part that vehicles use is negligible.

The article stinks. At least there are no shaky videos.

Re:Manipulative headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46244439)

"inherit"???

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

Zocalo (252965) | about 5 months ago | (#46244855)

It also needs to take into account that methane released into the atmosphere, while having a larger impact than CO2 tonne for tonne, breaks down over a relatively short period (a half life of several years), at which point its impact on warming falls to near zero, whereas CO2 lingers for centuries with a much larger cumulative impact. Lots of anti-fracking FUD going around at the moment, both from the NIMBY and established traditional big-oil industries, that's covering similar ground to this.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

nabsltd (1313397) | about 5 months ago | (#46245715)

The title implies that we should abandon gas as an alternative to diesel/petrol.

This is done by falsely implying that pollution due to methane leaks are an inherit part of the drilling process.

Also, the title implies that it is the use of natural gas in vehicles that is the issue, when it's really about the drilling, which would be required regardless of the end use of the gas

Re:Manipulative headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46248501)

Also, the title implies that it is the use of natural gas in vehicles that is the issue, when it's really about the drilling, which would be required regardless of he end use of the gas

It's not the drilling that's causing methane leaks. It's things like control valves bleeding gas to power the control mechanisms, the century-old distribution leaky infrastructure in cities, etc.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

indros13 (531405) | about 5 months ago | (#46245849)

The title may be manipulative, but it's also right. Even with plenty of coal-fired power still on the grid, electric vehicles offer lower greenhouse gas emissions than natural gas vehicles, and the grid continues to get cleaner as more renewable energy is added to it. EVs are a great complement, too, because their batteries allow for energy storage of variable wind and solar. And even the 1st generation EV batteries have enough storage to power 60% of daily vehicle trips in the U.S. From a climate perspective, we have no business trying to increase extraction of fossil fuels. From an infrastructure perspective, we have no business trying to build another fossil fuel fueling network when we already have electricity everywhere to power electric vehicles.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | about 5 months ago | (#46247109)

That and we need to outlaw tundra, swamps, and flatulent animals
as they make methane too.

Also to just save time and group it in one large lump we could
outlaw common sense too, lol.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

epiccollision (1373095) | about 5 months ago | (#46251311)

The title implies that we should abandon gas as an alternative to diesel/petrol.

This is done by falsely implying that pollution due to methane leaks are an inherit part of the drilling process.

Instead, what we should really do is improve the drilling techniques to avoid/minimize leakage.

except that is nearly impossible, since we are actively making the area more porous with fracking in the first place. Even if we could perfect sealing the well casings(5%+ fail immediately) we'd have to account for each sites geology the costs to seal the possible impact of an entire site would be completely cost prohibitive. I think people might start asking harder question once drilling companies started laying down gas impermeable membranes across the countryside, instead of just polluting it.

Re:Manipulative headline (1)

spitzak (4019) | about 5 months ago | (#46252607)

As opposed to other pollution, I would think this has the nice advantage that it is in the drilling companies interest to reduce it (since what they are leaking is the product they want to sell!). It is true that they will not naturally stop leaks where the cost of stopping the leak is greater than the savings in product, but it sure sounds like a mild bit of regulation can fix this (and the company does get any methane they save, thus offsetting some of the cost of the regulation). In any case this sure seems like it is not something inheriently wrong or unsolvable with natural gas.

Along those lines... (2)

VernonNemitz (581327) | about 5 months ago | (#46244107)

I'm expecting a report any time now regarding hydrogen-fueled vehicles, and leaks of hydrogen. See, ozone and hydrogen are hypergolic; they react on contact, so each ozone molecule that reacts is no longer there. Net result, because hydrogen naturally rises to the stratosphere where the Earth's ozone layer is, hydrogen leaks could lead to a bigger ozone hole than the chlorocarbons made....

Re:Along those lines... (4, Informative)

Chrisq (894406) | about 5 months ago | (#46244141)

I'm expecting a report any time now regarding hydrogen-fueled vehicles, and leaks of hydrogen..

look no further [stanford.edu] , though it is largely positive compared to the alternatives of natural gas and petroleum.

Re:Along those lines... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46244689)

I am more scared by possible long term loss of Hydrogen from our ... well, hydrosphere: H20 -> Electrolysis -> leak -> stratosphere -> exosphere -> bye, bye, gone in the solar wind! Methane at least stays here converted into CO2 and H2O.
BTW, according to fossil records, was atmospheric pressure higher in previous geological eras? If yes, our planet may be facing Mars' future.

Re: Along those lines... (1)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | about 5 months ago | (#46244913)

What I am worried about is when hydrogen powered vehicles don't leak... Fuel cells convert hydrogen and oxygen from the air into water vapor, but water vapor is a far more potent greenhouse gas than methane or CO2. Seems to me that making a energy storage medium that converts water in liquid form to water in vapor form would do way more harm than good.

Re: Along those lines... (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 5 months ago | (#46246097)

water vapor is a far more potent greenhouse gas than methane or CO2

We have a solution to that: it's called "rain."

The problem with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is not the water vapor they produce; it's capturing and storing the hydrogen. Of course, one really easy way to store hydrogen is by chemically combining it with carbon, but if you do that then you might as well react it by combustion instead of (whatever the opposite of electrolysis is called) and then -- oops! -- you're back to the conventional drivetrain you started with.

In other words, the future will be synthetic hydrocarbon fuel made from captured CO2 (or more likely, from coal [wikipedia.org] because humanity is a bunch of shortsighted morons) in regular internal combustion engines.

Re: Along those lines... (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about 5 months ago | (#46251823)

Hydrogen fuel cells have a theoretical efficiency of over 60%, and that's something we can't do with combustion engines. Making hydrocarbon fuels from captured CO2 and then burning it is a reasonable interim technology, but it doesn't seem like the best long term approach.

Re: Along those lines... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46255505)

Not theoretical, Toyota's current fuel cell demonstrator is getting a hair over 60% tank-to-wheel.
System efficiency drops quite a bit if you catalytically convert CH4 to H2 to feed a ion exchange membrane fuel cell, but still about twice a decent ICE drivetrain...

Re:Along those lines... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46245617)

I am more scared by possible long term loss of Hydrogen from our ... well, hydrosphere: H20 -> Electrolysis -> leak -> stratosphere -> exosphere -> bye, bye, gone in the solar wind! Methane at least stays here converted into CO2 and H2O.
BTW, according to fossil records, was atmospheric pressure higher in previous geological eras? If yes, our planet may be facing Mars' future.

I think, perhaps, you underestimate the mass of hydrogen in the oceans by several orders of magnitude.

Re:Along those lines... (1)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | about 5 months ago | (#46247961)

Mars lost its atmosphere when it lost its magnetic field.

The earth's magnetic field is in decline, and will flip likely in the
not too distant future.

During the flip the "Aurora" will likely be seen over most of the earth.

More info here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

Surprise (4, Interesting)

Kokuyo (549451) | about 5 months ago | (#46244125)

Being able to populate the planet with 8 billion people that are all able to travel at greater than walking speed is bound to have an impact.

You can bet your booty that if we invented a way to power our vehicles with unicorn farts, in some way the release of so many unicorn farts would, yet again, harm the environment.

Basically it's not about having no impact but about distributing and minimizing it.

By the way, what exactly is the thought behind replacing one fossil fuel with another?

Re:Surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46244145)

By the way, what exactly is the thought behind replacing one fossil fuel with another?

The exact same line of thinking which describes natural gas as "clean" [nytimes.com] . It allegedly has less impact on the environment than coal, which led to some people pushing it as a stop-gap measure until better technologies are deployed. You'd get the impression that natural gas *is* the better and environmentally-harmless technology listening to some people though.

Re:Surprise (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46244445)

Simple chemical considerations show that methane emits 1.2 moles of CO2 per MJ generated, while coal emits 2.0 moles per MJ [wou.edu] . There's nothing "alleged" about the scientific fact that burning gas to produce energy is cleaner than burning coal to produce energy, and the ratio is large enough that you'd have to leak more gas than you collect in order for coal to become cleaner. And that's assuming "clean" black coal, not the brown coal that's typically burned in large quantities around the world.

Re: Surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46244455)

First natural gas is methane (90%), so it is not like methane is some kind of exotic leaky byproduct. And second all fossil fuels are generally bad for env., there is no exception.

Re:Surprise (1)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about 5 months ago | (#46244531)

Because coal is so dirty that practically ANYTHING is "clean" in comparison.

Is drilling the cause? (2)

Koby77 (992785) | about 5 months ago | (#46244133)

From the article:

The study concludes that there is already about 50 percent more methane in the atmosphere than previously estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency, a signal that more methane is leaking from the natural gas production chain than previously thought.

So the EPA just came up with a guess, and now that they're wrong they blame it on leaky pipes? Methane is produced by many other sources besides drilling, including natural plant growth. Considering how poorly the CO2 alarmist models have matched actual global temperatures, the EPA definitely needs to study and understand the cause prior to enacting more regulations that will jack up my heating bill even further.

Re:Is drilling the cause? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46244233)

Why can't they ever just say "Yeah, we don't know why and have no way of really knowing why in the near future or ever."

Re:Is drilling the cause? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46254977)

Agreed! I'm not well versed in all that science-y stuff, but I'll be damned if some eggheaded science type is gonna take away MY Hummer! Besides, the trailer park is SUPER COLD this year, so much for global warming! I can't believe how stupid all of you libtards are! Hockey sticks! Let's just get rid of the EPA entirely, as well as welfare (keep the corporate subsidies though, we gotta look out for our multinationals), edjumacation, the FDA and the CDC. And let's get that black fella out of the Oval Office and put a proper rich white man in there!

And no leaks whatsoever when drilling for oil?? (1)

LostMonk (1839248) | about 5 months ago | (#46244149)

Are there no gas leaks whatsoever when drilling for oil??

So natural gas is only used for transportation? (3, Interesting)

swb (14022) | about 5 months ago | (#46244175)

The article places blame on natural gas drilling and production for methane leaks, saying it negates the emissions advantages of using it as a transportation fuel.

So we only use it as a transportation fuel, and abiding the wisdom of this study we will stop producing it, since it isn't used for heating homes, as an industrial fuel or used in power plants?

I would guess that vehicle fueling is the smallest category of use of natural gas and even if we abandoned it totally as a vehicle fuel it would not change the amount of natural gas produced. So going back to diesel in all the vehicles that now use it would be a net gain in greenhouse gas production, since there would be almost no change in methane leaks from gas production.

Are we doomed? (1)

mendax (114116) | about 5 months ago | (#46244215)

Does anyone get the impression that our civilization is doomed? Short of finding a way of making practical nuclear fusion reactors work, something that has been always "30 years from now" since the time I was in middle school forty years ago, there seems to be no solution to our future energy needs that don't do evil things to our planet's climate that eventually will doom our civilization. So, in my mind, there are three alternatives: mass suicide, going off the grid and reverting to the behavior of our hunter/gatherer ancestors, or "drill, baby, drill". I don't like any of them but every solution seems to have its own very evil side effects. So I'm going to continue to burn fossil fuels and thank my lucky stars that I won't live to see "the end".

Maybe I'm just an ostrich who prefers to stick his head in a hole rather than face the future with more optimism.

Re:Are we doomed? (3, Interesting)

Derling Whirvish (636322) | about 5 months ago | (#46244291)

Does anyone get the impression that our civilization is doomed? Short of finding a way of making practical nuclear fusion reactors work, something that has been always "30 years from now" since the time I was in middle school forty years ago, there seems to be no solution to our future energy needs that don't do evil things to our planet's climate that eventually will doom our civilization.

You are 100% correct no matter what the source of energy. The course we are on is unsustainable at our current rate of energy consumption. Tom Murphy's excellent essay "Galactic-Scale Energy [ucsd.edu] " made the case rather well (and it deserves its own Slashdot entry if it hasn't already had one -- I'm too lazy too look it up). About 1400 years from now (which is less time into the future than we are from the fall of the Roman Empire) we will be using more energy than is currently produced by the entirety of the sun if we don't back off on the growth of our energy consumption, which is showing no signs of easing up. It doesn't matter if the source of the energy is fossil fuels, nuclear fusion, or some future magic, the earth cannot host that amount of energy consumption. The planet will have reached its thermodynamic limit long before then.

Re: Are we doomed? (1)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | about 5 months ago | (#46244953)

"Showing no signs of easing up"

Let's be reasonable here... you are extrapolating 1400 years into the future based on a few decades of high human population growth, which is already curtailing.

Obligatory XKCD (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 5 months ago | (#46248675)

https://xkcd.com/605/ [xkcd.com]

Also, compare with this [wikipedia.org] (which I seem to be posting a lot today, between this and the "Star Trek Economics" article).

Re:Are we doomed? (2)

swb (14022) | about 5 months ago | (#46244405)

I think you're right but I think the principal problem is population growth.

It seems to me that most of our problems are driven by the excess billions of people we support.

There are a fair number of people who advocate a more off the grid approach, with a lot of emphasis on localized, smaller scale agriculture and light industry.

Basically you spend half your time on small-scale agriculture and the rest on local light industry. This removes a lot of the transportation and mass production for a consumer economy energy consumption.

The downside is you live like it's 1850, and I'm not sure how readily I'm willing to give up modern medicine.

Re:Are we doomed? (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 5 months ago | (#46244621)

The downside is you live like it's 1850, and I'm not sure how readily I'm willing to give up modern medicine.

Not just modern medicine, virtually all modern industry would go away with that commune approach. You won't have steel, aluminum, carbon fiber, most rubber, most electronics, batteries, particle accelerators, the internet, etc. The list goes on and on. I'm pretty sure there are not many of people who really desire that life.

Re:Are we doomed? (1)

swb (14022) | about 5 months ago | (#46246043)

I don't know that I consider myself an advocate for that kind of socio-economic restructuring, but as I understand the arguments, there's some kind of hand-waving arguments that argue that when you eliminate a lot of mechanized transport you eliminate most demand/need for many "advanced" materials like carbon fiber.

There's also some arguments made that some kinds of concentrated economic activity and trade will still happen, just on a much smaller scale to due to reduced demand.

I don't really buy it much, but then again, when I look at what we're doing now and think about how long we can sustain it, I'm not sure I buy that, either.

Re:Are we doomed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46255167)

Yeah buddy, I read that Koch Brothers pamphlet too, and I 100% agree with you that our current luxurious lifestyle is only possible by living under the boot of corporate leadership. It's not like people can create their own internet from scratch, you need corporate magic to make those tubes work! The Koch Brothers told me so!

Re:Are we doomed? (1, Flamebait)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 5 months ago | (#46244665)

There are 3 different fields of problems that could doom our civilization: Energy, Economic, Population Growth.

The energy problems are actually the smallest. I don't want to take a "don't worry, the future will solve it" attitude because that's incredibly irresponsible, but I think we're on a path to solving global warming by accident. Solar cells are getting cheaper and more efficient, electric cars are looking better every day, fossil fuels are getting more expensive and it's getting harder to socialize the losses involved in their use. We're already in for some nasty effects of global warming, nothing we can do about that without a time machine, but in the long term I think this is a problem that will take care of itself if we stay on the right path. That's the path the denialist crowd is trying to steer us off of. I think we've already passed peak per-capita energy use, for any time period in which we'll have to worry about how much energy people are using. We were wasting it badly in the past decades and are still wasting it pretty hard today. People in the future will be amazed at how much energy we consumed through waste.

Economic and population growth are much bigger problems. We have to do something very different economically. All we can do by making alterations to capitalism is buy ourselves some time with it. I have no idea how anyone could see it as "elegant" or "self-regulating." It's a dumb chaotic half-baked "system" full of nasty positive feedback loops and minefielded with unnecessary catastrophic failure conditions. It appeared to work "OK" for a couple of centuries (largely because our standards were so low) as long as we kept furiously fiddling with the dials, but automation and wealth concentration are utterly breaking it. And if you look at the big picture, it's always been horrendously inefficient and has done a poor job of serving humanity. I think the best solution would be to use mincome to make a smooth transition to a society where automated production provides resources to everyone.

That ties into the population problem. The good news is that educated people do a decent job of limiting how many kids they have. The bad news is that the path to making everyone highly educated will cause a population explosion. So one way out is to try to make everyone highly educated before the population level starts causing major problems, but it's scary - it's like your DeLorean is headed for a wall at 80mph, you don't think you can stop in time, so you hit the gas to try to reach 88mph and get to where the wall doesn't exist instead. Scary and potentially fatal, but maybe the best way out.

Re:Are we doomed? (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 5 months ago | (#46247189)

Does anyone get the impression that our civilization is doomed?

No, I get the impression that there are a lot of people making a living by peddling the impression that our civilization is doomed.

As if they would drill less (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46244305)

Would we would drill less if we didn't have to fuel vehicles with natural gas? Doesn't seem likely. We need energy, so we will keep drilling until the resources are used up. If we can use diesel where it has a less negative effect, and natural gas where it has a less negative effect, this will slow the overall negative effect of using fossil fuels. It will buy us some time to figure out a solution.

Re:As if they would drill less (1)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | about 5 months ago | (#46248019)

To be honest we don't even need to drill, we can grow oil with sunlight,
same for hydrogen.

Valcent managed 100,000 gal/acre/yr in the desert.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

Clean means no particulates (3, Informative)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 5 months ago | (#46244349)

When you see those clean burning logos, that means no black plumes from diesel engines. That is good for people's health. It is not too surprising that there are no climate benefits. Part of the advantage for natural gas over coal is that combined cycle gas turbines are about 60% efficient while coal plants are 30 to 40% efficient. For the internal combustion engines in buses, the efficiency is about the same for both diesel and natural gas. And, diesel also has more hydrogen than coal in its makeup. But, producing a methane fuel cell is probably easier than producing a diesel fuel cell so natural gas buses have the potential to be more climate friendly than diesel buses sooner. Add that methane may be a useful hydrogen carrier for hydrogen fuel cells and the development of a methane infrastructure for trucks and buses is likely a smart move.

Headline mongers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46244395)

The lead author is an assistant prof fresh out of grad school with no real world work experience other than reading and writing journal articles. I am not trying to trivialize journal article writing, it's a bitch! But this guy, Brandt, has no friggin idea about how natural gas is actually produced, whether leaks actually occur, to what extent. In fact, he has no friggin idea about energy production in general, other than reading and writing journal papers.

Imagine this, ./: imagine a master chef cook who's never touched a transistor or a 555 timer IC in his life start advocating for tin removal from solder alloys. He may have extensively studied the toxic effects of tin in humans and how tin enters the human food supply, and may have drawn a statistically valid conclusion that tin content in our food correlates with the intensity of tin use in our modern life, but then, would he present any qualification to advocate against something he has never even touched in real life?

Just my unsolicited $0.02.

Media picks up minor detail to play gotcha! (3, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 5 months ago | (#46244437)

Basically the media always takes some research report, ignores the backer of the study to look for biases, chews through the report, ignores all the important findings, and finally picks some minor titbit that can be presented, "this shows they were wrong". It does not matter what "this" is or who "they" were. All it matters is, the reporter gets to have a smug smile, and some people are painted as ignorant while the listener's attention is grabbed long enough to peddle the "new and exciting products" from their sponsors.

This wonderful research was brought to you by: (source) [nytimes.com] The study, conducted by the University of Texas and sponsored by the Environmental Defense Fund and nine petroleum companies,. Main idea there was the gas leaks from fracking sites is more than estimated by EPA but much less than environmental groups.

One of the minor finding of this research was, compared to liquid hydrocarbons, the gaseous hydrocarbon burns cleanly and produces less carbon dioxide, but leaks more in the present day (paraphrased and emphasis by me) infrastructure. One would think the right thing to do is to plug the damned leaks, especially because the leakers are distributed according to power rule. (nothing to do with political power, power rule is a statistical term). Like 80% of crime committed by 20% of criminals, or 80% income earned by 20% of the employed, 80% of the leaks come from 20% of the leakers and 1% of the leakers basically account for 50% of all leaks. So it would be very cost effective to go after the leaks, plug it and make natural gas better than liquids as transportation fuel.

The immobile consumers of energy (offices, homes, factories) have alternatives to fossil fuels to varying degrees, mostly in the form of renewable electricity. But the transportation sector (except of electrified rail) relies totally on fossil fuels. Planes burn kerosene, no alternatives in sight. Trucks burn diesel some vague alternatives for delivery loops on the horizon, none for long distance haulers, yet. Diesel locomotives drag a long chain of LPG , CNG rail cars, but don't have the ability to use one of them as the fuel tank. But if the natural gas prices keep dropping, we can expect them to take a look. The railroads phased out all the steam locomotives and switched diesel in just one decade in 1950s. Cars have some alternatives within striking distance. No alternatives to fossil fules in sea cargo side either. The dependency of transportation sector on fossil fuels is not likely to be shaken for considerable future. Taking the effort to plug the leaks and switching to gaseous hydrocarbons instead of liquid hydrocarbons is the most viable thing to do to tackle climate change.

Re:Media picks up minor detail to play gotcha! (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | about 5 months ago | (#46245921)

Strictly speaking, if you wanted to go to an all-methane economy, you could do it. Planes, trains, and trucks would all be fueled using liquid methane. It's cold and harder to handle than diesel/kerosene, but it's doable.

The reason you would make the switch is because you can create methane synthetically via electrolysis and Sabatier reaction. The ultimate energy source would be solar or nuclear.

Re:Media picks up minor detail to play gotcha! (1)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | about 5 months ago | (#46248075)

I think the ultimate energy source is seen in the Casimir Effect, but our
science budget would have to be scaled up to 10% of what we spend
on military, lol.

Maybe we could close 10% of the 700+ baes in 100+ countries ??? ROFL

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

http://www.scientificamerican.... [scientificamerican.com]

http://physicsworld.com/cws/ar... [physicsworld.com]

Quantum mechanics is not a panacea. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 5 months ago | (#46251351)

It is true quantum mechanics allows for the conservation of energy, momentum, mass etc to be violated, unlike classical mechanics. But these "violations" creating more energy than was supplied etc are all limited by the Plank's constant. The Hiesenberg's Uncertainity Principle can be restated in terms of energy. Energy can be created out of nothing, but the duration of the energy imbalance times the amount of imbalance is limited by Plank's constant. Thus even if Casimir effect produces energy out of nothing it is going be nearly zero. If it is significantly above zero it will last for infinitesimally small duration. Quantum mechanics can defy classical mechanics, but only upto Plank's constant.

Water water everywhere.... (1)

3seas (184403) | about 5 months ago | (#46245483)

but not a drop to burn???..... Its such a HHO.....

Ars Technica has a very good treatment on this (1)

dpilot (134227) | about 5 months ago | (#46245541)

They look at this article, as well as various responses to it. The overall tone is even and reasonable. There is a bit of sensationalism to TFA, and some of its claims appear to be taking worst-case situations and generalizing them to the entire population of wells, etc.

It seems... (1)

bananahead (829691) | about 5 months ago | (#46246521)

There needs to be random comment here about real men driving little natural gas cars and the frequency of farts while driving creating some sort of natural phenomenon involving sea turtles and climate change, but the words escape me right now...

Methane degrades over time (1)

neonv (803374) | about 5 months ago | (#46247701)

The article does not mention at all that methane breaks down in the atmosphere after about 9.6 years (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_methane#Removal_processes), and creates needed water vapor in the upper atmosphere. Carbon dioxide does not react with anything in the atmosphere on it's own. Hence, methane is preferable in the long term.

Very serious methane (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46248275)

Methane leaks are no joke. You could be stuck in traffic down wind from these vehicles and never make it home.

Might be true for the green part. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46248315)

But not the cost part.

Unjustified assumption (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about 5 months ago | (#46251937)

The assumption that global warming is a bad thing is unjustified. One reason among many is that if the climate is warm, it's not necessary to burn stuff to keep warm. Less burning, less air pollution.
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