June 27, 2008

Japan and US agree to accelerate global warming

Oh, shit... this has 'bad idea' written all over it.

AOMORI, Japan (AFP) — Japan and the United States on Saturday agreed to cooperate on research into methane hydrate, known as the "ice that burns" which is seen as a promising future energy source.

Energy ministers from the world's two largest economies signed the cooperation agreement at a meeting in northern Japan that comes amid mounting concern about record-high oil prices.

Methane hydrate, or methane gas trapped in frozen water, looks like ice but burns. Its deposits can be found in permafrost regions and seabeds.

Under the three-year cooperation agreement, Japan hopes to conduct an on-shore production test in Alaska.

The deal was signed between Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Akira Amari and US Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman.

The Japanese ministry and US department plan "extensive research with respect to methane hydrate exploration and resource assessment," a statement announcing the bilateral cooperation said.

"To establish technology for commercial production, we have to conduct test-production for several months," a Japanese ministry official said.

Yeah. There are so many problems with this, it's not even funny. For one thing, this stuff will be extremely difficult to bring up. For another, it's methane, a much nastier greenhouse gas than CO2. All that carbon that was in the atmosphere millions of years ago? This is where a lot of it is stored. And it's comparatively easy to destablize. In fact, temperature changes in the oceans RIGHT NOW may soon cause deposits of the stuff to flash over from their frozen form to gas. And then they'll bubble up, which will make the current carbon load in the atmosphere look like a non-issue.

Oh, and most of the stuff is in international waters. It'll be a lot of fun going to war over this crap.

Posted by mcblogger at June 27, 2008 09:37 AM

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Allow me to play my usual role of contrarian :) and suggest that exploiting this resource may be a good thing, at least in the area of global warming and using the facts presented.

Methane is approximately 21-72 times worse than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Burning methane for energy basically converts it to carbon dioxide and water. CH4 + 2O2 -> CO2 + 2H2O if I remember my chemistry. So by burning it, you convert it to an equal amount of a gas that is an order of magnitude better in terms of global warming.

Now, if the methane was going to be permanently fixed in the Arctic ice, it would be better to leave it sequestered. But since, as you mention, the Arctic ice is going to melt away in the next 30 years, it is better to convert all that methane to carbon dioxide than let it simply seep into the atmosphere.

Posted by: Kedron Touvell [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 27, 2008 11:24 AM

Yeah. Quit whining, McBlogger, and evolve!

Posted by: Mayor McSleaze [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 27, 2008 03:24 PM

OK, let me try to explain this... This isn't like oil. Bringing it to the surface releases methane. Period. It's like oil sand and shale... just 'excavating' it creates a massive increase in carbon.

It is not trapped in sea ice. It's ocean floor and, in limited quantities, in permafrost. Most of the permafrost stuff will be released into the atmosphere in the next few years if we don't do something now. Which means it's likely to go into the air and drive us above 500ppm. Mining this stuff disrupts it and we have the potential for flashover. It could easily go over 1000 ppm.

Kedron, I'm all about being the contrarian on things that actually do have a real counterpoint. This doesn't. It's far better to go carbon neutral.

Posted by: mcblogger [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 27, 2008 03:40 PM

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