Never Running Out of Fossil Fuels

#Future

Tue, Apr 15th, 2014 20:00 by capnasty NEWS

The Atlantic reports on "a little-known energy source," methane hydrate, which, when combined with new technology, could provide "twice as much energy than we ever had with oil, gas and coal together." While this could be great news, methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. The article also has a great introduction to how the Middle East ended up being the way it is today.

[...] methane hydrate is being developed in much the same methodical way that shale gas was developed before it, except by a bigger, more international group of researchers. Shale gas, too, was subject to skepticism wide and loud. The egg on naysayers’ faces suggests that it would be foolish to ignore the prospects for methane hydrate—and more foolish still not to consider the potential consequences.

If methane hydrate allows much of the world to switch from oil to gas, the conversion would undermine governments that depend on oil revenues, especially petro-autocracies like Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Unless oil states are exceptionally well run, a gush of petroleum revenues can actually weaken their economies by crowding out other business. Worse, most oil nations are so corrupt that social scientists argue over whether there is an inherent bond—a “resource curse”—between big petroleum deposits and political malfeasance. It seems safe to say that few Americans would be upset if a plunge in demand eliminated these countries’ hold over the U.S. economy. But those same people might not relish the global instability—a belt of financial and political turmoil from Venezuela to Turkmenistan—that their collapse could well unleash.

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