Monday, March 19, 2012

It’s a Gas

Twenty five years ago I started a company with my wife called Itz A Gaz Inc. This company brought joy to over a million kids and grown-ups by selling a kit for in home and do it yourself inflation of helium balloons. With the recession of 2008 the sales of the kit ended, but life for me is still a gas. Actually life all around us depends on gas and we are indeed fortunate to live on a planet with an atmosphere composed of oxygen, nitrogen and argon that promotes life. Some planets have very inhospitable atmospheres and Titan one of the eight moons around Saturn has an atmosphere composed almost entirely of methane.

This blog is dedicated to usefulness of methane for powering our planet earth. Methane is the major constituent of natural gas, a fuel we use for heating our homes, cooking, and heating our hot water. Methane also has many industrial uses such as to manufacture ammonia fertilizer, methanol, gasoline, diesel, candle wax, hydrogen, urethane, plastics such as polycarbonate, and also ethanol. The US is blessed with a massive and recently discovered reserve of natural gas called shale gas and there are now plans to compress or liquefy the gas and then use the gas as a transportation fuel to displace gasoline and diesel. Natural gas has displaced a large amount of coal in electric power generation and state of the art generation stations using natural gas emit only half of the carbon dioxide tonnage than coal fired power generation stations. The President who in every way is pro alternate energy and anti fossil fuels has suddenly embraced shale derived natural gas a clean and good domestically sourced fuel. There is no doubt that shale gas will help propel the economy forward and generate good paying jobs that are sorely needed.

Just recently the US department of energy’s information agency published some statistics that while the US is blessed with vast shale gas reserves, China is twice as blessed with twice as much potential shale gas reserves. The US uses natural gas for approximately 25% of our energy use, while China only obtains approximately 3% of its present energy use from natural gas. The discovery of vast shale gas deposits in China will mean that natural gas will play and increasing role in China’s energy mix and cleaner skies and more efficient power generation will develop in China. They too will deploy the latest methods to extract shale gas and they too will enjoy the benefits of this cleaner and now more abundant fuel. It is quite amazing how a simple gas like methane deep in the earth will give the energy intensive global economy some breathing room till we transition to a different way of living that is not as energy dependent as our Brady Bunch lifestyle. After shale gas the world will continue to rely on methane that will likely be extracted from hydrates that are deep in our oceans. My belief is that in 100 years into the future methane will still be playing and important role as a fuel and chemical feedstock. Methane truly is a gas and I suggest you click on the youtube link and listen to the words of Alfred E Neuman mister what me worry from Mad Magazine.