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Transportation Earth

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

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  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Friday February 14, 2014 @06:51AM (#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".

  • Surprise (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kokuyo ( 549451 ) on Friday February 14, 2014 @07:00AM (#46244125) Journal

    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?

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Friday February 14, 2014 @07:31AM (#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.

  • Re:Are we doomed? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Derling Whirvish ( 636322 ) on Friday February 14, 2014 @08:07AM (#46244291) Journal

    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 []" 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.

  • by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <> on Friday February 14, 2014 @08:18AM (#46244325) Homepage

    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."

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Friday February 14, 2014 @08:54AM (#46244437) Journal
    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) [] 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.

  • by Giblet535 ( 3480751 ) on Friday February 14, 2014 @09:46AM (#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.
  • by Ex-MislTech ( 557759 ) on Friday February 14, 2014 @02:02PM (#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.

Have you ever noticed that the people who are always trying to tell you `there's a time for work and a time for play' never find the time for play?