METHANE IS ONE TOUGH CUSTOMER
When the topic of climate change and greenhouse gases is discussed, a lot of focus is on Carbon Dioxide, which is considered a significant contributor to warming the Earth at around 0.04% in the atmosphere. However, another greenhouse gas is far more powerful in warming the atmosphere and that gas is methane.
Methane or CH4 (one-part Carbon and 4 parts Hydrogen) is 30 times more powerful than CO2, Carbon Dioxide, in trapping heat in the atmosphere. Methane is a naturally occurring gas in the atmosphere, just like CO2, not a pollutant. Methane is introduced naturally in the atmosphere via various living carbon-based life forms, volcanic vents, trees and plants, and at times from melting permafrost.
METHANE PRODUCTION FROM OUR DIET
Almost all living creatures on Earth produce methane, yes even you. Cattle account for about 36% of methane production from human activities. However, before you start going vegan and swearing off meat, other human activities like agriculture also come close to meeting the same rate of methane introduction in the atmosphere. In fact, some crops like corn, wheat, and various fruits not only produce similar rates of CH4 (but less CO2), you have to factor in transportation of various fruits and vegetables all over the world and also the development of supplementation, which basically means you have to raise some livestock anyway.
METHANE PRODUCTION FROM ENERGY AND TECHNOLOGY
One methane source, which recently has gained some attention is from Natural Gas Production. The current Trump Administration has significantly reduced regulations on the Natural Gas Industry in relation to methane production. The reduction in regulations may produce a significant spike in CH4 output from the United States.
However, before you march down to your local natural gas and oil company with protest signs, you might want to look at your phone and computer as well. Even your new “green” electric car is a culprit. The metals used for all of these objects and require excavation and transportation, which means Carbon Dioxide and Methane is produced.
So given how technology has advanced and the quality of life has improved significantly throughout the Earth, not just the United States, it is no wonder that Methane output has increased as well. This methane increase is a problem as methane increase means the greenhouse mechanism that warms our atmosphere is enhanced, even more so than with Carbon Dioxide. The warming of the Earth would also lead to the thawing of the permafrost in Siberia and Canada which could release significantly more carbon in the atmosphere and thus increase methane production at a faster rate. Needless to say, this is not what you want as an imbalance of this nature will lead to a reaction as the Earth’s atmospheric system looks to balance out the additional heat in the atmosphere.
THERE IS HOPE!
Not all is lost though! You don’t have to stop using your smartphone or shut down the electricity. You don’t have to change your diet either. What we will have to do is invest more in common sense approaches and improved technology.
First, we need to stop cutting down the Amazon Rainforest and other jungles around the world! Those plants in these jungles produce an important balance as they produce and take in greenhouse gases. These ecosystems provide the balance we need to achieve in a natural way.
Second, plant the RIGHT trees for your ecosystem. We tend to think planting a tree, any old tree, will help the Earth but some trees produce more methane than you think. Trees from the Tropical regions belong in the tropical regions where their output and absorption ratios are more adapt for those regions. Tree meant for temperate climates should be planted in, you guessed it, temperate climates! Oh yeah, and cut down on the green grass lawn. That’s three.
Three, your lush green lawn with treatment to provide that amazing green for you to brag about to your neighbors come with a heavy price. Those pesticides and chemicals not only pollute our waterways which can create dead zones like what developing in the mouth of the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico but also increases the output of methane. So, maybe instead of a large lawn, perhaps think about a garden, some trees, and groves, and keep the grass to a minimum.
Four, invest in technology! Ranchers and farmers care just as much about the environment and Earth, if not more than you do. Meanwhile, energy providers recognize either they have to improve or the government will come along and make them improve. This is why many in agriculture, livestock, and energy communities have partnered with scientists to find solutions to reduce methane output, at least in the United States.
You can read about these studies and technologies here.
In fact, one such breakthrough found this year but still being tested is oxidizing methane which in laboratory research and modeling reduced methane global warming influence by 95%!
In fact, in this study, research and experiments have provided we can cut the Methane levels down to pre-industrial levels by utilizing microbes and other biological techniques!
WRAPPING UP ON METHANE
The reduction of regulations on methane by the Trump Administration may be a bad more or ending duplication of methane rules. I’ll leave the experts to decide the outcome in the industry. However, I should note that methane release from Natural Gas providers is not something that natural gas providers want and are actively attempting to reduce leaks as much as possible.
Ranchers meanwhile have found a way to reduce emissions from cows by adding seaweed which would reduce methane release from cows by 50%.
So what we need to do is focus on investing in research and development of technology. We can find ways to reduce methane output from human activity and we are well on the way of doing just that.
INVESTMENTS FROM THIS AUTHOR:
This author has investments in:
US Ecology Inc
Ormat Technologies Inc
First Solar, Inc.