Now everybody’s favourite rising power, China, that model of green development whose “basic dictatorship” our PM admired for “allowing them to actually turn their economy around on a dime and say, ‘We need to go green … we need to start investing in solar’” has instead turned on a dime after hitting a methane jackpot. Yes, methane. The one that’s 30 times worse than CO2 (or 86 depending on who you ask) because we’re all doomed if the frozen stuff gets out and rampages. And apparently it’s getting out.
The story in a publication called oilprice.com, which might soon have to change its name to lackofoilprice.com, says that thus far “gas hydrates”, which are “molecules of natural gas, most commonly methane, trapped in a ‘cage’ made from water molecules” that are frozen, have “yet to become an addition to the world’s energy mix.” But unlike the renewable stuff you keep hearing is the horse to back with public money, “they may be more abundant than all other hydrocarbons taken together: oil, gas, and coal.”
The U.S. Department of Energy thinks there could be between 250 and 700 quadrillion cubic feet of the stuff. Which is a bunch of zeroes (15 before the last comma, if you’re counting) but, the article explains, if it’s right it could mean about 200 times total annual world energy use. Unless it’s more. As for why China is getting frozen methane given its non-Arctic location, well, the ocean is a pretty cold place and there’s apparently a lot of the so-called “Fire Ice” in some sedimentary locations including the South China Sea. And while China’s production so far is small, it’s probably a harbinger of much bigger things to come.
The article notes delicately that “This is probably the last thing gas producers around the world need to hear right now, but it is what they need to hear.” And one might say the same of those environmentalists bent and determined on shutting down their own society’s fossil fuel industries.
Supposing we did what the environmentalists want and shut down our own hydrocarbon energy production system, leaving China (and Russia) as the only places left on Earth willing to harness and sell their stores of inexpensive energy. Where do you think manufacturing will go? Do we really want to be as dependent on China for our energy as we are now for our antibiotics and our medical equipment? Do we really want to force energy poverty on ourselves? A propos of which a number of American civil rights leaders including the normally annoying Jesse Jackson and the normally appalling Al Sharpton are complaining about environmentalist claims that fracking hits minorities hardest, saying it would be nice to have cheaper energy for poor people. And do we want to do all this while the dragon keeps spewing out GHGs so it’s all for nothing? If not, what’s the plan here?
Plan? You’re right. I’ll need a plan.