methane hydrates

Mark Jones Jones_M at
Tue Sep 8 23:54:43 PDT 1998

Greg Nowell wrote:
> The main question is whether
> the problems identified are superable or insuperable
> for capitalism.

I'm not sure that is the main question. We are a species of super-detritovores apparently bent on rereleasing the gases which hundreds of million of bioforming sequestered into and on the earth's mantle in the process of reducing carbon, releasing free oxygen and reducing surface temperatures such that allegedly higher forms of life like us could evolve. Releasing the methane hydrates (if this happened as part of runaway warming) would return the climate to something close to Venus's climate today, where the planetary surface is hot enough for lead to boil. You may say that this is scaremongering and that Detroit knows best, but I'm not so sure.

> In a 50-100 time period I'm inclined
> to view them as superable, Jones, I think, would view
> them as insuperable. Some methane hydrates are
> "onshore" in permafrost deposits and one of them
> apparently was developed for a while, but the Russians
> didn't "figure out" that it was methane hydrate until
> after the fact. However the bulk of methane hydrates
> are under the oceans. Reserves of methane hydrates
> contain more carbon than ALL living things, oil and
> coal reserves, combined. So a big part of the world's
> hydrocarbon future (if it even needs one) will depend
> on how this plays out in the long term (if one sees
> 50-100 years as long term).

That's the problem: you think 80-200 years is 'longterm' but it is scarcely that in geological terms. Of course, you will say that the amount of methane we plan to consume to drive out nice fuel cell cars is minute compared to the total sequestered, but this hardly alters the fact that will then be locked irrevocably and 'forever' into a carbon- consuming, greenhouse gas route, 'forever' being the time which elapses between the first commercial use of hydrates, and runaway global warming.
> I don't follow global warming religiously, but I do
> think that teh most "powerful" warming disaster
> scenario that I've read to date involves ocean
> temperature increases followed by methane hydrate
> deposit evaporation.
> Another disaster scenario is that 75 year-from-now
> technology is required to exploit hydrates but someone
> tries to do it with 35 year-from-now-technology and
> does a giant gas boo-boo, perhaps causing spontaneous
> release of more methane than has been used by the US in
> the last century.

Exactly. And if you think that is the kind of price worth paying for the sake of giving Ford and GM and James Heartfield what they crave, I for one do not.


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