Post Cancún: North America. The New Energy Kingdom
On 13 December 2010 directly following the disastrous Cancún conference (“one of the largest economic conferences since the Second World War” ), a revealing post is found on the “oilprice.com” website. The article is titled North America: The New Energy Kingdom. From the article: “Beyond shale oil and shale gas, there’s the awesome energy promise of methane hydrates, frozen crystals of water and gas that lie beneath the northern permafrost and beneath oceans floors around the world in quantities that boggle the imagination.”
“Assuming 1 per cent recovery,” the US Geological Survey says, “these deposits [in US territory] could meet the natural gas needs of the country (at current rates of consumption) for 100 years.” The obstructionist corporate-colluded states – the ones responsible for climate change in the first place – have no intention of going to zero carbon in the single decade as direly warned by Hans Joachim Schellnhuber (director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research) in 2009 – what is necessary for the world to avoid reaching and exceeding a global catastrophic 2ºC. They have no intention of going to zero, ever, until the Earth is literally drilled to death – or we annihilate humanity. Whichever comes first.
NASA Has Known All Along
As we work like the busy little worker proles we are, amusing ourselves with irrelevant trivia and nonsense, the global power structures that form the plutocracy have long understood our future demise at the expense of an insatiable economy – and have kept silent. In a 2007 NASA report titled Methane Hydrates: More Than a Viable Aviation Fuel Feedstock Option, NASA unequivocally states that it is not a matter of if the methane from hydrates escapes, rather it is only a matter of when: “The unabated release of methane sequestered in these hydrates could impact the planet to the point of extinction of life as we understand it. Considering the predicted Earth thermal events, the stability of methane hydrates, and the impact of methane on the environment, the question is not will this methane be released, but when. It is suggested in this report that enhanced efforts be placed on a comprehensive program to locate, assess, and recover the sequestered methane at surface levels to meet the energy demand rather than permitting natural release into the environment.” The report later states, “Still, the world energy producers and consumers are encouraged to turn to the Sun and learn to capture, store, condition, and transmit that energy to meet energy needs and to maintain planetary stability.” Fat chance. Corporations would only be interested in the sun if they could drill it.
Blinded by Addiction: Methane Hydrates – The Oil of the Future
The OECD originated in 1948 as the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC). In the early 1990s, intergovernmental negotiations soon transformed the vision of prevention into a more restricted mitigation/adaptation agenda. By 1992 it is clear that influential interest groups and powerful institutions had become heavily involved in the negotiations, including the OECD, OPEC countries, oil-importing developing nations and private industry/corporations. The OECD has been heavily criticized by several civil society groups as well as developing states. The main criticism has been the narrowness of the OECD on account of its limited membership to a select few wealthy states. 
An unclassified document was prepared in May 2003 by the OECD and the International Energy Agency (IEA) Secretariats at the request of the Annex I Expert Group on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The acknowledgements cite Cédric Philibert at the IEA who prepared the document while thanking the US’s Jonathan Pershing for the information, comments and ideas he provided.
From the unclassified document: Technology Innovation, Development and Diffusion – OECD/IEA Information Paper:
“No technology currently exists to use this enormous energy resource. Depressurisation, thermal stimulation and solvent injection are possible candidates for commercial exploitation – but a prerequisite would be to develop tools for identifying and characterising concentrated deposits. If a technology were to be developed, it could have, with respect to climate change, a kind of Janus’ double face. On the one hand, it could prolong the era of fossil fuels and ultimately add a supplementary 10 000 Pg of carbon into the atmosphere (on top of the 5 000 Pg from the combustion of the currently known fossil resource base). Absent associated developments of CO2 capture and storage technologies, such uses would imply an increase in atmospheric concentrations of up to 20-fold (substantially higher than the seven-fold increase projected with full combustion of current resources). On the other hand, such developments could stimulate the near-term replacement of coal and oil.” [Gas hydrates may contain three orders of magnitude more methane than exists in today's atmosphere. Because hydrate breakdown, causing release to the atmosphere, can be related to global temperature increases, gas hydrates may play an even more important role in global climate change.]
The introduction within this document correctly identifies that only zero carbon can stabilize our planet: “… the ultimate objective of the UN Convention on Climate Change: ‘stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.’ Such an achievement is likely to eventually require near elimination of CO2 emissions. Without radical changes in lifestyles, only a massive deployment of carbon-free (or close to carbon-free) energy technologies can power the world economy and satisfy growing energy needs, especially of the developing world, while making stabilisation sustainable over the long term.” Yet, the authors of this document cite the solution of “new technologies” as playing the critical role in achieving the UN objective of avoiding dangerous atmospheric interference — outlining pages of false solutions that will continue to line the bank vaults of corporate powers and keep the power structures intact.
The truth that few wish to acknowledge is that a radical change in our economic system must be the imperative central role and task of this ultimate objective, along with the existing clean, safe, renewable technologies we already possess – the ones that serve to benefit citizens throughout the world with energy independence but which are the greatest threat to the very foundation of corporate powers. A further truth is that we are already beyond dangerous climate interference in the climate system – made clear by John Holdren in 2006.
The OECD report says “without radical changes in lifestyles” – omitting the fact that the wealthiest 15% are responsible for 75% of global emissions. The remaining 85% of humanity emit only 25% of all emissions while the poorest 3 billion emit essentially nothing. Such brilliant tactics using language and framing have been essential in ensuring that current power structures remain unthreatened. Such tactics have thus far succeeded in keeping global citizens in the dark by essentially employing “big green” co-opted NGOs who reverberate the same messages and language. These co-opted groups serve their vital purpose – to successfully lend the illusion of democracy, which is critical in ensuring the public is kept passive, thereby ensuring the system will not be threatened in any meaningful way. The message is consistent and repetitive: place the emphasis on the individual, frame the climate issue around false solutions of green consumerism and symbolic actions, keep the dialogue successfully away from the root causes of climate change – thereby ensuring business as usual and uninterrupted profits.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), who wrote the unclassified document mentioned above:
- Fossil fuels account for almost 90% of the growth in energy demand between now and 2030. Energy trade between regions more than doubles by 2030, most of it still in the form of oil.
- Global emissions grow 62% between now and 2030.
- Global oil demand for transport increases very closely in line with GDP.
- World emissions increase by 1.8 % per year to 38 billion tonnes in 2030 – 70% above 2000 levels.
Make no mistake that world governments have no plans of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. Global emissions are set to soar and no one disputes this. A MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) video filmed in September 2010 showcasing the views of Shell and ExxonMobil executives begins with the statement: “But the truth is that a civilization is largely defined by the energy technologies they use.” If this is true, we can easily and truthfully define, at minimum, our own ethically bankrupt society 1) by the unconcealed disrespect for our Earth, which graciously sustains us; 2) as a society that commits and condones infanticide, genocide, ecocide and now progenycide; 3) as a society that condones occupations and invasions; 4) as a socially bankrupt society that easily exploits others with no empathy; and 5) as a society that places economic value over the value of life. In the film, a comment follows: ” … powering the planet we actually possess.” The narcissistic tendencies of those at the centre of the energy dialogue are spectacular beyond imagination.
Below: Shell promotional video. November 2010 (3:32). Shell Arctic Exploration Program. The Next Chapter in Alaska’s Oil and Gas History:
Information not made public until July 18, 2007 in a working document by the National Petroleum Council’s Oil Shales and Hydrates Subgroup of the Technology Task Group of the NPC Committee on Global Oil & Gas Study showed that worldwide, only a few dozen boreholes have been drilled with most being drilled offshore Japan in 2004 and offshore India in 2006.  NPC further states that comprehensive reports of these campaigns are not in the public domain, so there is little public record available to assess the efficacy of exploration paradigms. NPC states it is unclear how much information from these tests will be made public.
Brief Timeline of Hydrate Drilling Development | Halliburton, ChevronTexaco, BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil and Friends
In 1970, Soviet scientists discussed the possibility that methane hydrates could exist in large volumes in the earth’s crust. By 1972 methane hydrates were recovered from the Black Sea. Once the presence of global hydrates was confirmed and it was proven that the volume of gas was massive, the next question, for states and corporations, was how to exploit it. The US Geological Survey estimates that globally, there is twice as much methane trapped in hydrates as there is carbon in all the world’s conventional fossil fuels. One can imagine that the sheer volume of these hydrates would have had corporations with corporate-colluded governments salivating over the potential profits of what will become our species’ greatest assault and most reckless exploitation of our Earth to date.
1982: A US Department of Defense report states that following the discovery of massive hydrate deposits off the coast of Guatemala in 1982, the US Department of Energy (DOE), in collaboration with other organizations, embarked on a ten-year program to establish a foundation on methane hydrate science.
March 1995: Chemical Engineering News: Gas hydrates eyed as future energy source: “An icelike material that occurs in underground deposits all over the world and is composed largely of water and methane may turn out to be an unconventional energy source for the future – if scientists can find a way to tap it. Global deposits of this material, known as methane (or gas) hydrate, are estimated to contain twice as much carbon as all other fossil fuels on Earth. But tapping this enormous potential energy resource may not be as easy as drilling for oil or natural gas. Nevertheless, scientists and engineers are now beginning to develop strategies to exploit methane hydrate. And some of their ideas were aired in late February in Atlanta at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.”
Canada, Japan, India, and the United States launched ambitious research projects. Canada has led with university-driven research since 1985, focused mainly on the west coast and the Arctic.
In 1997, the US Department of Energy initiated a research program with intent of commercial production by 2015. In 2000, US Congress would authorize funding via the Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act of 2000. The Interagency Coordination Committee (ICC), a coalition of six government agencies, has been advancing research on several fronts. President Clinton signed the act, which authorized approximately $50 million over five years for research.
1998: Three very quiet research programs have also taken place over the last decade at the Mackenzie Delta at the Mallik research site. In 1998, led by leading climate obstructionist Canada along with Japan, the 1150 metre deep Mallik 2L-38 well was completed. For the first time, cores were brought to the surface from an Arctic methane hydrate. In 2002 the second phase of this research project commenced, this time with a country partnership: Canada, Japan, Germany, USA and India. Three additional wells were completed and the first production test was completed. This was the first time gas would be flared from a drilled hydrate. Canada conducted its efforts under its “New Canadian Gas Hydrate Research Program” supported by the Geological Survey of Canada. The Canadian gas hydrate program focused on the marine region around Vancouver Island and Arctic region around the Mackenzie Delta.
2000: The US government passed the Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act. The Act authorized the expenditure of $43 million over five years and directs the US Department of Energy in consultation with the US Geological Survey, the Minerals Management Service, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Commerce to commence basic and applied research to identify, explore, assess and develop methane hydrates as a source of energy.
2000: From the Gas Methane Hydrates – Research Status, Annoted Bibliography, and Energy Implications Final Report, prepared for the DoE: “Theoretically, it appears possible that a single explosive methane release, such as may occur with a large seafloor collapse event, could cause a significant climate change over a short time period.”
2002: This marketing video (posted on vimeo 12 June 2010) chronicles the Mallik 2002 gas hydrate research well program. The video is courtesy of the Japan National Oil Corporation Technology Research Center (JNOCTRC) and the Geological Survey of Canada.
2002: The US Department of Energy and BP Exploration (Alaska), Inc. (BPXA), in cooperation with the US Geological Survey (USGS), initiated a research program on Alaska North Slope (ANS) methane hydrates.
2002-2006: Gulf of Mexico Bush Hill Project: The project consisted of two field expeditions having the acronym GHOST to research methane gas hydrates at and near the seafloor in the northern Gulf of Mexico. The first of two research cruises took place June 6-14, 2002 aboard the R/V Seward Johnson. Two sites, Green Canyon 185 (Bush Hill) and Green Canyon 234, were selected for study based on their well-mapped and well-characterized shallow gas hydrate outcrops.
The USGS estimates about 2.4Tm³ (85Tcf; 15Bboe) of undiscovered, technically recoverable gas resources within gas hydrates in Alaska. The area is mostly Federal, State, and Native lands covering 145,000 km² (the equivalent of some 25 North Sea quadrants). Photo: OilEdge.com
US Department of Defense
“The worldwide distribution of this energy resource has the potential for changing the balance of power.” – Brad Tomer, Department of Defense “Future Energy Resources” Workshops, May 2003
17 December 2003: The US Department of Defense (DOD) brings forth major recommendations from a workshop series: 1) That the DOD immediately conduct an in-depth study to identify the S&T (science and technology) and later the R&D (research and development) needed to assure that its future fuel and energy needs are met. The report states: “In this regard, consideration should be given to establish a position in the office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy that would be responsible for future DOD energy needs. This position would report directly to the Secretary of Defense and would coordinate with the energy and fuel offices in the individual services and with the office of the Secretary of Energy. The results of the in-depth DOD study would be reported to the Secretary of Defense, the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, and the Secretary of Energy with the necessary information upon which to establish future programs.”
During the early 1990s it was recognized that more organic carbon is stored within hydrates than is present in all the world’s coal, oil and non-hydrate natural gas combined. The DOD report states that “Concerns were raised on the linkage of hydrate deposits to catastrophic instability of continental shelves and to the lack of understanding of the global carbon cycle. These preliminary findings also raised the question on the role of periodic and massive dissociation of methane from hydrates over geologic time in affecting the earth’s climate.” A structuring of a program plan was formulated from two workshops conducted by DOE in 1998 and 2000 with the Gulf of Mexico having been a focal point for extensive studies in partnership with industries such as ChevronTexaco, Schlumberger, Conoco Phillips and Halliburton. USGS, Center for Marine Resources and Environmental Technology (CMRET) and Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) were principal participants in this study. The other focal point in the Arctic fields, in collaboration with an international partnership, has been directed to drilling and tests at the Mallik well in the Mackenzie Delta of Canada.
Within the DOD report it is identified that energy corporations are short-term focused, as evidenced in the declining corporate support on energy research during the last decade. Any investment in research is driven only by expectations of short-term returns or prevention of losses in monetary profits. Investments made by Anadarko and BP on the North Slope of Alaska in pursuit of exploiting methane hydrates resulted from the Mallik well project in Canada and the US market for natural gas. A so-called “gas bubble” during the decade between 1985 and 1995 when it is said that an excess of natural gas on the market stabilized the gas price at $1.60 per thousand cubic feet (106 BTU), rapidly accelerated from 1996 to 1999 increasing to $2.35. It continued to increase during 2000 to an average price of $3.72, the price at the time of the Department of Defense workshop. And consider this – while the Earth burns, ecosystems collapse, species are decimated and people die – oil companies’ profits skyrocket. In 2007, the combined profits of Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, ChevronTexaco and ConocoPhillips skyrocketed to $123.9 billion. In 2008, Exxon Mobil alone posted a record $45.2 billion profit. Meanwhile, ordinary citizens are left to pay for the phenomenal externalized costs ( oil-related health and environmental damage) – in the range of $232 billion annually. The United Nations reported that in 2008 the world’s largest corporations caused $2.2 trillion dollars’ worth of environmental damage. If these corporations were not able to externalize these costs by way of destroying and poisoning the natural environment, at least one-third of their profits would be lost.
These are perfect examples of the fact that within the corporate world, where quarterly profits are sacrosanct, a simple pollution tax – to be taxed at the source – would effectively force the energy markets to transition to clean renewable technologies almost overnight. Remember – for corporations it is only the quarterly profits that matter – little else.
Unfortunately we no longer have governments of the people – but rather governments of the corporation, by the corporation and for the corporation. The US president may, for all illusionary purposes, be a man with the brand name of “Obama” – but he is certainly not the one pulling the strings in the greatest puppet show on Earth.
June 2004: The American Geological Institute, Tapping methane hydrates in the Gulf: “For decades, oil companies have punched through large deposits of icy hydrocarbons in the Gulf of Mexico to reach the regular oil and gas deposits that sit below them. Starting this fall, after some delays, an industry-government effort will finally begin to examine those methane hydrate deposits more carefully — for their stability during drilling and their potential as a future energy source…. Funded largely by DOE [US Department of Energy], the interdisciplinary project was first broached in August 2000. ChevronTexaco organized the research in 2001, and now more than half a dozen companies and agencies participate, including Japan National Oil Company, Halliburton, India’s Reliance Industries and TotalFinaElf.” [August, 2010: The Energy Vampires: "The global elite know that energy is paramount to life. Control over energy means control over people. Four giant companies are now making a play to own not just all the oil, but virtually all energy sources on the planet. Royal Dutch/Shell, Exxon Mobil, Chevron Texaco & BP Amoco."]
March 2005: An International Association of Drilling Contractors paper in reference to a the methane discussion at a conference in 2004: “To achieve the longterm goals of the US Federal Government in regard to energy supplies of the US, the Department of Energy (DOE) is committed to developing the knowledge and technology base to allow commercial production of methane from domestic hydrates deposits by the year 2015…. Under changing geological conditions hydrates can dissociate and be released gradually or explosively depending on how rapidly the pressure drops or on how the temperature increases. The magnitude of this previously unknown global storehouse of methane is staggering and has raised serious inquiries….”
The Mt. Elbert-01 stratigraphic test well, Milne Point Unit on the North Slope of Alaska, collected the first open-hole formation pressure response data in a gas hydrate reservoir. This test and reservoir simulations are some of the first steps that could lead to production of hydrate reservoirs. Photo: Tim Collett, USGS | OilEdge.com
February 2007: Petroleum News: “BP-operated Mount Elbert well confirms presence of gas hydrate accumulation and enables coring and testing of gas hydrate zone. A joint government, industry and university team investigating gas hydrate deposits under Alaska’s North Slope hit the jackpot in mid-February, when the BP-operated Mount Elbert stratigraphic test well successfully penetrated several hundred feet of hydrate bearing sandstone at Milne Point. The first ever retrieval of North Slope gas hydrate well cores and the second ever test anywhere in the world of the pressure response of gas hydrates.” The US DOE funded the $4.6 million test well. Due to the extraordinary amounts of hydrate, US Congress has taken a big interest in funding research, authorizing more than $200 million in spending since 2000.
2007 and 2008: Japan (JOGMEC) and Canada (NRCan) returned to the Mallik site to initiate a new testing program that focused on a full scale production draw down test. The 2007 tests were the world’s first gas production from exploiting methane hydrate.
Forbes 29 August 2008: Energy’s Most Dangerous Game: “Welcome to the final frontier in fossil fuels, the wild card in climate change theories and the dark horse in the scramble to secure access to clean energy. Meet methane hydrates, the world’s most promising and perilous energy resource…. A substantial amount of evidence suggests that weakening the lattice-like structure of gas hydrates has triggered underwater landslides on the continental margin. In other words, the extraction process, if done improperly, could cause sudden disruptions on the ocean floor, reducing ocean pressure rates and releasing methane gas from hydrates. A mass release of methane into the sea and atmosphere could have catastrophic consequences on the pace of climate change. More than 50 million years ago, undersea landslides resulted in the release of methane gas from methane hydrate, which contributed to global warming that lasted tens of thousands of years. ‘Methane hydrate was a key cause of the global warming that led to one of the largest extinctions in the earth’s history,’ Ryo Matsumoto, a professor at the University of Tokyo who has spent 20 years researching the subject, told Bloomberg in December.”
12 November 2008: USGS Director Mark Myers states that gas hydrates research has been going on for more than 25 years.
March 2008: The Mallik 5L-38 test produced the world’s first gas flare of methane from a hydrate reservoir. The test lasted six days producing 13,000 m³ of gas.
Photo: 2006-08 Canada-Japan Mallik Project - located in the Canadian Arctic off the Mackenzie Delta. Photo: OilEdge.com
2010: A small army of representatives from universities, scientists, oil executives and others write the 2005-page book titled Realizing the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States. It includes a project summary table.
In 2010 “big green” organization WWF identifies on their website the fact that the extraction of methane hydrates from the Arctic region for energy use is banned by Arctic governments unless a comprehensive and verifiable legal agreement is in place to restrict their use to replace high carbon fuels like coal.
Video below (2010 | 0:55) created by PolarTREC teacher Bill Schmoker onboard the International Continental Shelf Survey. This was the first piston core that returned a gas hydrate sample in the core cutter. The hydrate was about 20 feet beneath the sea floor:
One of the largest landslides in Earth’s history occurred not on land, but underwater, off the coast of Norway during the Holocene epoch approximately 8,200 years ago. This event, known as the Storegga (big edge) Submarine Landslide, caused massive amounts of sediments to slide approximately 800 kilometres down the continental slope. This event triggered a massive tsunami, as high as 25 meters, that struck both Norway and Scotland. Afterwards, the seafloor was wiped clean of all life. Scientists suspect that the entire disaster happened in a very short time – a few weeks or perhaps a few days. Perhaps two hours. At the time of the Storegga slide, the hydrate was being melted by global warming. An earthquake possibly triggered the slide. More recently, in 1998, Russian scientists discovered an unstable hydrate field near the site of the Storegga slide. Scientists believe that a rapid decomposition of hydrates, related to temperature and pressure changes at the end of the last ice age, destabilized the sediments, causing the disaster. Methane hydrates should be considered as nature’s cement foundations. A frozen hydrate that cements sediments together – vital if you wish to keep ecosystems and lands intact. When you remove the methane hydrate, the seafloor destabilizes. Marine geologist James Kennett of the University of California suggests that bursts of methane from seafloor hydrates were synchronous with, and largely responsible for, virtually all the warmings the planet has experienced over the last 800,000 years. Other scientists suggest that changes in ocean currents triggered such methane bursts by channeling warmer water over continental slopes, as at Storegga.
A research paper published 21 June 2010 warns of a massive methane release triggered by seafloor erosion offshore near southwestern Japan: “Vast amounts of methane hydrate exist beneath continental margins, but whether this methane releases from sediment on a large scale and affects the oceans and atmosphere remains unclear. Analysis of newly acquired three-dimensional seismic images and drilling data from a large gas hydrate province reveal a recently eroded v-shaped depression. The depression sharply cuts through a relic bottom simulating reflection (BSR) and hydrate-laden sediments. The shape of the relic BSR indicates that the seafloor depression was once a large anticline that has recently been eroded and released an estimated 1.51 × 1011 m3 of methane. We hypothesize that erosion of the seafloor via bottom-water currents unroofed buoyant hydrate-laden sediments and subhydrate overpressured free gas zones beneath the anticline. Once triggered, gas-driven erosion created a positive feedback mechanism, releasing gas and eroding hydrate-bearing sediment. We suggest that erosive currents in deep-water methane hydrate provinces act as hair triggers, destabilizing kilometer-scale swaths of the seafloor where large concentrations of underlying overpressured methane exist. Our analysis suggests that kilometer-scale degassing events are widespread, and that deep-water hydrate reservoirs can rapidly release methane in massive quantities.”
By 2010 internet searches for the word “methane” are quietly exposing the very silent discussions, papers and investment data on the quietly emerging topic of drilling methane hydrates. No longer surprising, the most lethal component of climate change is now being viewed by multinational corporations and corporate-colluded governments as the ultimate in potential climate wealth. Most recently, in a bid to shore up its precarious energy security, Japan is to start commercial test drilling for frozen methane gas along its coast early this year. (Japan’s trade ministry has requested a budget of $105.6 million (US) for the drilling.) The issue is barely controversial as few are hardly aware of it. A corporate consortium led by the Japanese government including Japan Oil and Gas and Metals National Corporation (Jogmec) will be sinking several wells off Japan’s southeastern coast to assess the commercial viability of extracting gas from frozen methane. Surveys suggest Japan has enough methane hydrate for 100 years at the current rate of usage. Tokyo plans to start commercial output of methane hydrates by 2018.
UNEP Climbs in Bed with Shell and EDF Energy
25 February 2010: United Nations Environment Programme announces the “UNEP Global Outlook on Methane Gas Hydrates” initiative: “UNEP/GRID-Arendal, a collaborating center of the United Nations Environment Programme, announces the launch of a new initiative dedicated with bringing to the attention of the general public, the media and decision makers the latest knowledge research and development being conducted in relation to occurrences of methane gas hydrates.” On March 4 and 5, 2010, 24 delegates from Norway, the United States, Canada, Germany, Japan, Korea and India, representing government, academia, industry and the NGO community, gathered at the offices of UNEP/GRID-Arendal in Arendal, Norway to discuss the development of the Global Outlook on Methane Gas Hydrates. Who was representing the NGO community? It was the consultant and former director of the WWF Arctic. In the 2007 Report to Congress, Richard Charter, representative of NGO Defenders of Wildlife, is listed as a member of the Methane Hydrate Advisory Committee.
Highlights of key decisions made by the steering committee in the first UNEP meeting held in March 2010 include:
• Engage with and include environmental NGOs and the media early on in the process.
• Develop a FAQ section that can be used both for marketing purposes and as a volume guide.
• Develop project material toolkits based on the different target audiences (government and industry toolkit, media toolkit, NGO toolkit, education system toolkit)
• General consensus is that a broad spectrum of the expert community needs to be engaged in the process to ensure its robustness to scrutiny.
August 2010: UNEP: “Expertise from 7 national research groups (US, Canada, Germany, Norway, Japan, India, Korea), industry (Statoil, Schlumberger) and NGOs (Forum for the Future) has been assembled to guide the development of the report. As a first milestone, a project website has now been launched.” So while your favourite big green NGO continues the symbolic echoing that “we need to work harder than ever!” (never telling us the truth of what we really must do or achieve – or how much time we have to do so), and while your favourite big green works to convince you that you merely need to keep hoping, while using other strategic language that is meaningless in the face of climate catastrophe – “Forum of the Future” NGOs are and will be partnered with “some of the best-known brands in the world” including giants like Royal Dutch Shell, EDF energy and many others. [The late Godfrey Rockefeller (1924-2010) was the WWF Executive Director. Godfrey Rockefeller played a vital role in the founding and creation of WWF, which has become the wealthiest "conservation" group in the world.]
January 2011: Canada’s Globe and Mail reports the UN Environment Program describes methane hydrates as “the most abundant form of organic carbon on Earth.”
Sampled and inferred gas hydrates occur world wide in oceanic sediment of continental margins and in permafrost regions. Inferred gas hydrates are from bottom simulating reflectors (BSRs) on seismic profiles. The Mt. Elbert and Mallik test sites are located at the top of the map. ©USGS | Photo: OilEdge.com
Burn Baby Burn
“The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences….” – Sir Winston Churchill
Countries have been exploring how to exploit methane hydrates for years, some for decades. These countries include: Russia (1969), U.S. (DoE has sponsored some research on methane hydrate since at least 1982), Canada (1985), Japan (1995), New Zealand (1997), Germany (2000), Chile (2001), South Korea (2000), Ireland (2003), China (2004), Mexico (2004), Taiwan (2004) and India (2006). United Kingdom, Norway and France also are participating in hydrate methane research though it appears they are not focusing on exploration. China and South Korea are seeking to develop the extraction technology, and each is now exploring the mining of methane hydrates from their own sea beds. In 2010, at a cost of $37 million, South Korea hired a deep-water drilling ship to sink 32 holes in a sea basin south of the Dokdo Islands, which are disputed with Japan. Japan has spent more than $260 million since 2001 on research into methane hydrates.
Recently (17 October 2009), Beijing (AsiaNews) reported that a huge methane reservoir was discovered under the tundra of Tibet. A representative of the Chinese Ministry for Land and Resources stated “The secret to energy independence for China is hidden, opening up the road to environmentally sustainable development without oil,” adding “Under the ice of Tibet and Qinghai our geologists have found the largest underground reservoir of methane hydrates. Immediately after the announcement, the Shanghai market witnessed the value of the energy company shares sky rocket.”
A recent study of the Indian continental margin has confirmed the presence of methane hydrates in four offshore basins. They found one of the richest methane hydrate accumulations yet documented as well as the thickest and deepest methane hydrate stability zone near the Andaman Islands, both in the Bay of Bengal.
The US Department of Energy is spending at minimum $12 million to help ConocoPhillips test an experimental extraction technique on Alaska’s North Slope, which will incorporate the false solution of CCS (carbon capture and storage, as with shale drilling, has already proven to be a spectacular failure). Although these Arctic hydrates could become commercially viable as soon as 2015, the US and corporations are currently enjoying massive profits from shale gas (fracking) on the backs of poisoning the people. In 2009, US available natural gas resources increased by 11 percent due to shale gas mining – the biggest single-year jump in history. But, as history shows, corporate greed is unapologetic, deadly and insatiable and the thirst to dominate this industry will soon rear its ugly head.
In 2009 Russia warned of war within a decade over “Arctic oil and gas riches”. In Canada, the Harper minority government has the propaganda machine working overtime, selling the lie of “Climate Prosperity” to Canadian citizens while investing 16 billion tax dollars to friends at Lockheed Martin for F-35 stealth fighter jets. Will Korea and Iran be the next Iraq and Afghanistan – to be decimated and occupied under imperialist countries such as US and Canada? Will Japan and South Korea go to war over the disputed Dokdo Islands? Future wars over waters that hold methane hydrates, in the midst of a global water crisis, are not implausible. The Caspian Sea (a basin) is a land-locked body of salt water bordered by Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. Not only does it harbour oil reserves (that could exceed $5 trillion, according to some estimates), the sea also holds massive amounts of natural gas (up to 325 trillion cubic feet) as well as an immense amount of methane hydrates. The dangers of drilling in the Caspian Sea have been made clear.
Naïveté is Deadly
“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – Lord Acton
A scientific paper on methane hydrates in the Caspian Sea was prepared for presentation at the Offshore Technology Conference (Houston, Texas US, 6-9 May 2002) using Chevron’s internal reports and samples from 1998. From the report: “The gas hydrates of the South Caspian region prove to be widespread features of the deepwater of the South Caspian Sea, buried deposits well beneath the seafloor, and accordingly, they may represent significant and previously underestimated geo-hazards….From a structural viewpoint, the Absheron gas hydrates appear to control a large (~200 m2) zone of recent and possibly ongoing deformation on the continental slope of the South Caspian Sea. Such attributes make these gas hydrates important, and perhaps previously underestimated, geohazards of the South Caspian region. Primary among these are uncontrolled release of free gas trapped beneath the hydrate seal, or disruption of the gas hydrate stability field leading to either explosive dissociation of the gas hydrate, or reduction in sediment strength, slope instability, and mass sediment transport. Association of gas hydrates with active mud volcanoes in the South Caspian Sea increases the potential for offshore flaming eruptions, as attested to in historical records.”
There was a reason why the Cancún set of “agreements” was nothing more than an agreement to do nothing. Melting permafrost and venting methane hydrates – the greatest accelerating threat to all life on Earth – are seen to those blinded by stupidity, greed and psychopathic tendencies as nothing less than the ultimate climate wealth jackpot with global warming having opened up the Arctic.
Burn baby burn. Keep raping and pillaging our Earth to burn ever more earth-locked hydrocarbons as we apparently have not suffered enough to learn. And as we continue to burn the fossil fuels, burn with them the dreams of the children of those most vulnerable whose lives will be annihilated for short-term monetary wealth. The insanity is breathtaking.
Lying hundreds of metres below the sea and deeper still below sediments, frozen methane gas is exceedingly difficult and extremely dangerous to extract as the pressure is enormous. If Japan “succeeds,” it will have a massive impact, equivalent to the use of shale gas now being witnessed in the United States.
Global fossil fuel subsidies amount to hundreds of billions of dollars per year ($558 billion in 2008 – the year of the stealthily planned financial crisis). To be clear, our corporate-controlled states have no intention of abandoning fossil fuels. On the contrary – in brilliant stealth – they have plans to expand fossil fuels even further. No one plans on stopping them. In contrast, union workers, citizens and activists who challenge corporate profit and power in developing countries are brutally assassinated – by the hundreds.
Without a mobilization of unparalleled magnitude to a zero carbon economy in greenhouse gas-emitting developed states such as the US, Canada, Europe, Japan and Australia – within years, not decades – the world will not avoid a catastrophic 2ºC rise in global average temperature. It’s that simple. Nature will not compromise nor negotiate these terms.
Yes, Virginia – There is a Santa Claus | BP, A&M University and Corporate Media
“If we understand the mechanisms and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it… In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons … who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.” – Edward Barnays American pioneer in the field of public relations and propaganda. Combining ideas of crowd psychology with the psychoanalytical ideas of his uncle, Dr. Sigmund Freud, Bernays was one of the first to attempt to manipulate public opinion using the subconscious.
Drilling for frozen methane will undoubtedly destabilize the methane beds, which contain enough gas worldwide to diminish most complex life on our increasingly fragile Earth. Drilling methane will also undoubtedly result in landslides and advance devastation of marine life and stressed ecosystems. Further, drilling creates heat, which turns the frozen methane into gas, which will undoubtedly leak uncontrollably through the sea into our atmosphere. Such disasters will make the BP oil spill look like child’s play. After the 2010 BP oil spill, methane dead zones in the Gulf constituted gas levels as high as one million times normal.
Gulf shrimp make for exotic and quite intoxicating salad garnish now that they are self-oiling … and small miracles do appear in corporate media. During this writing, corporate media have saturated mainstream media outlets with an anomaly – that all the methane has been eaten up by bacteria.
On 6 January 2011, the Washington Post publishes an article titled Bacteria devoured methane gas from gulf oil spill, scientists say. From the article: “Besides providing some good news for the gulf region, the finding has potential implications for climate change science, too. Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and, as the earth warms, climate scientists worry that much more methane will be released from the oceans. ‘What this tells us is that natural releases of methane from the seafloor with similar characteristics will not make it up to the atmosphere, will not influence climate,’ Kessler says.” Kessler is a Texas A&M University oceanographer. Preliminary studies from both academia, including key work at Texas A&M working with and funded by industry, have supported the methane hydrate drilling project. Thomas Blasingame of Texas A&M University serves on the Methane Hydrate Advisory Committee – an Advisory Committee member to the Secretary of Energy in the US.
The fictionary has been scoured over for the most persuasive phrases and words – carefully chosen for maximum effect. Words and phrases such as ‘devoured’, ‘gobbled up’, ‘totally disappeared’, ‘incredible disappearing methane’, ‘massive microbial munching’, etc. The stealthily chosen list of words to appease all concern is endless. Corporate media has been unrelenting in pumping out falsehoods from both BP and the Obama administration that the Gulf of Mexico is safe from the effects of the BP oil disaster.
The impression is that ‘yes Virginia, miracles do happen and even the most destructive assaults on our natural environment are nothing to be concerned about’. BP’s disastrous oil spill is cleaned up – shiny and new.
Beyond such spin, the tragic state of the Gulf of Mexico is revealed by the oil and dispersants samplings on the Mississippi Coast. On 7 January 2011, federal and Louisiana officials took a boat tour of an area in southern Louisiana that remains contaminated with oil from the BP disaster. Barataria Bay is one such area where the oil continued to eat away at the fragile marshland. No cleanup crew could be found. Affected areas varied with some measuring up to 100 feet wide. “This is the biggest cover-up in the history of America,” Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser told reporters. Nungesser was angered by the claims of the Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) officials present who claimed that a plan was under development to clean the area. “It’s like you’re in bed with BP,” Nungesser chided officials. “Don’t tell me I got a voice in the way you put together that crappy document … It ain’t worth the paper it’s printed on. That is bullshit.” Nungesser also told one of the federal officials, “You cover up for BP.” And one could safely assume that many, including Stuart Smith, an internationally recognized attorney in New Orleans, believe that Nungesser is absolutely right. Smith’s opinion is that the NOAA Claims: “Gas-Gobbling” Bacteria Consumed Nearly All of the Estimated 200,000 Tons of Methane Spewed into Gulf – is mere junk science.
There is more.
Gregory Retallack a leading scientist with the University of Oregon (cited below) has been a leading voice on methane gases for decades suggesting that methane from below the seafloor produced a postapocalyptic greenhouse event that drained oxygen from the atmosphere, leaving animals gasping.
Now look at the instantaneous ‘about face’ below:
(From the article Methane Spill from the Deepwater Horizon Cleaned Up By Bacteria) “In April 2010, a drill column of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig hit a methane bubble, causing it to catch fire and sink, which allowed oil and gas to churn into the Gulf of Mexico for 83 days. Scientists predicted that the dissolved methane would stay in the gulf for years to come. But within four months, the methane had disappeared. John Kessler of Texas A&M University took three trips out to the gulf to find the methane, but made a discovery – he couldn’t find any substantial amount because it had been eaten by bacteria. The bacteria in question, aptly named methanotrophs, are able to use methane as their only source of energy. Kessler found millions of these bacteria, which appear to have eaten all of the methane from the spill. This discovery can tell us more about earth’s natural processes regarding methane bubbles that rise from the deep ocean. Methane naturally escapes from methane clathrates (cages of ice on the ocean floor) on a regular basis. If this methane, a potent greenhouse gas, got into the atmosphere, it could have serious negative effects on the climate. However, this gas does not appear to regularly reach the atmosphere, which Kessler attributes to these bacteria. Some researchers have hypothesized that this natural methane from clathrates might have played a major role in some of the great extinctions in Earth’s history, but this is seeming less and less plausible because of these new bacterial studies, according to Greg Retallack from the University of Oregon.”
The article ends with: These methane-eaters “have the ability to degrade over 300 other compounds,” according to Hazen, and can help clean-up efforts for methane contamination across the world.
In a separate article: “Some scientists have suggested that methane freed from clathrates could have contributed to the climate upheavals behind some of Earth’s greatest extinctions events, including the day when life nearly died – the Permian-Triassic extinction. * Greg Retallack from the University of Oregon initially backed this idea, but his mind has since changed. “I love this paper as it signals the final break with my long love affair with methane clathrate release as a cause of [the Permian-Triassic] mass extinction,” he says. “It seems that marine methane cannot even make it out of the ocean because it’s rapidly consumed there.” ** Richard Camilli, who has studied the Deepwater Horizon oil plume, agrees. He says that Kessler’s conclusions probably apply to natural methane leakages, as well as to other oil spills too. “[It] is likely to become a classic reference,” he says.
At the very end of the article under footnotes it states: ** It’s possible that the Permian-Triassic event might have involved methane in such large amounts that it “would have overwhelmed the methanotrophs capable of handling the small Gulf spill.” But Retallack can’t find enough methane clathrates in the ocean to account for such a large plume. He still thinks that methane was still involved in the Permian extinction but now he suspects it came from disturbed coal seams. 
The spin is intoxicating.
Such messages are not embraced by all scientists: “I despise that message—it’s blindly simplified,” says Ian MacDonald, a celebrated oceanographer at Florida State University. “The gulf is not all better now. We don’t know what we’ve done to it.” MacDonald’s views would be supported by scientific findings in December 2010, uncovered on an expedition led by David Hollander, marine geochemist at the University of South Florida. Such findings and opposing views are not just those of Hollander, but also of other independent scientists.
In the article published 13 January 2011 in The Nation titled The Search for BP’s Oil, Naomi Klein writes that in mid-December the joint government-BP body formed to oversee the spill response, released a fat report that seemed expressly designed to close the book on the disaster. Mike Utsler, BP’s Unified Area Commander, summed up its findings like this: “The beaches are safe, the water is safe, and the seafood is safe.” Klein reminds us that just four days prior, more than 8,000 pounds of tar balls were collected on Florida’s beaches —and that was an average day. Klein states by the end of 2010 investors were celebrating BP’s stock rebound. The corporation feeling so emboldened that it then revealed plans to challenge the official estimates of the amount of oil gushed out of its broken wellhead, claiming that the figures are as much as 50 percent too high. Klein reports that if BP succeeds, it could save the corporation as much as $10.5 billion in damages. Adding insult to injury the Obama administration has just given the go-ahead for sixteen deepwater drilling projects to resume in the gulf. Klein outlines the current state of the Gulf and the dire consequences of the gulf spill as conveyed by independent scientists here.
Klein states that “perhaps not coincidentally, the most outspoken scientists doing this research come from Florida and Georgia, coastal states that have so far managed to avoid offshore drilling. Their universities are far less beholden to Big Oil than, say, Louisiana State University, which has received tens of millions from the oil giants. Again and again these scientists have used their independence to correct the official record about how much oil is actually out there, and what it is doing under the waves.”
In the video below (2008 | 10:01) Roger Sassen from Texas A&M University tells us unequivocally that “when we run out of conventional oil and gas this [gas hydrate] is going to power the planet”. Sassen goes on to state, “I can’t escape from gas hydrate, it’s like my fate, my destiny at this point, I got to go along that road – I can’t escape from it.”
Today, we have already reached the worst case scenario of the IPCC (IPCC 2007 AR4), which assumes that global CO2equivalent emissions (CO2e = CO2 + methane + nitrous oxide + halocarbons) will grow from the current level of about 40 billion tons CO2e per year to near 130 GtCO2e/year through the 21st century. The consequences of this IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios is a mean global temperature rise as high as 6.5°C by 2090-2099 relative to the period 1980-1999. However, the report takes only limited account of carbon cycle feedback effects and ice/water interaction feedback effects in raising global temperatures. It also acknowledges limited information regarding ice sheet melt and breakdown dynamics. Methane is excluded. The last time mean global temperatures reached 2-3°C above present levels, in the mid-Pliocene (3 million years ago) – an event associated with CO2 levels of about 400 ppm – polar regions were heated by nearly 8°C, and sea levels had risen by 25 metres relative to the present. This represents near-total melting of Greenland and West Antarctica Ice Sheets [Robinson et al, 2008, Pliocene role in assessing future climate impacts].
With large methane releases, most methane would reach the surface before bacteria could metabolize it. This is certainly what science tells us happened during the PETM extinction event 55 million years ago. And no magic wand appeared to create magical bacteria to eat the methane that caused such extinctions. Today, corporate forces using their furtive media techniques would like us to believe magic microbes can vapourize our stupidity. And all the corporate media reporting such wishful thinking will not make it so. The bacteria in the Arctic Ocean certainly do not appear to be as effective at gobbling up the methane that is now releasing into the atmosphere in the Arctic. Shall we cross our fingers that the Arctic Ocean will warm to the temperature to that of the Gulf of Mexico, hoping magical bacteria will be the solution to our madness everywhere? The way we are going, one need not hope. Of course, methane in the Arctic Ocean will have reached a runaway state long before the bacteria are warm enough to eat up our self-imposed nightmare, however, these are mere inconveniences – the type that Shell, BP, Halliburton, Exxon-Mobil and friends do not contemplate. And as Arctic temperatures continue to accelerate, the warming of our dying world’s oceans will continue to acidify.
What corporate media powerhouse CNN et al does not report:
Next: Part III:
- The Spin Doctors | Spinning the Potential for Abrupt & Catastrophic Climate Change
- Universities as Bedfellows | Moral Nihilism
- Economy is Sacrosanct
- Ignoring the Necessity of a Plant-Based Diet at Our Own Peril
- The Right to Destroy Ourselves
- More False Solutions
Cory Morningstar is climate justice activist whose recent writings can be found on Canadians for Action on Climate Change and The Art of Annihilation site where you can read her bio. You can follow her on Twitter: @elleprovocateur
 COP16, Cancún, Mexico. The largest economic conference in history was an epic failure for humanity. And as the world burns, the wealthy elites stuffed their custom gold-lined Brioni pockets with dreams and promises of unsurpassed wealth predicated upon climate catastrophe in the 21st century. Ottmar Edenhofer, a German economist who is co-chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Working Group III on Mitigation of Climate Change, stated in an interview on 14 November 2010: “The climate summit in Cancún at the end of the month is not a climate conference, but one of the largest economic conferences since the Second World War.… [I]t’s a big mistake to discuss climate policy separately from the major themes of globalization…. One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore.…”
 In 1997–1998, the draft Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) was heavily criticized by developing states. Many argued that the agreement would threaten protection of human rights, labour and environmental standards, and the most vulnerable countries. Critics argued (correctly) that the MAI would result in a “race to the bottom” among countries willing to lower their labour and environmental standards to attract foreign investment. The OECD’s actions against harmful tax practices has also raised criticism. The primary objection is the sanctity of tax policy as a matter of sovereign entitlement. Saudi Arabia played a key role in interferingin and shaping international climate policy since international negotiations began in the 1990s in order to ensure that the billion dollar oil industry would not be affected. As a consequence of such interference by many powerful players who sought to ensure the economic and political power structure would not be threatened, adaptation surfaced as the primary goal in international climate science and policy, effectively replacing the goals of prevention and mitigation from the 1980s.
 In Japan, the “National R&D Program for Methane /Hydrate Resources” is sponsored by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and the Japan National Oil Corporation (JNOC). Japan launched its program in 2001 for a 5-year study of methane hydrate deposits at the Nankai Trough and Okhotsk Sea. Additionally, it has also embarked on a comprehensive plan to be conducted over a period of 16 years in three phases focused on research areas related to exploration, modeling, field testing, development technology and health-safety-environmental assistance. Japan’s investment is perhaps the largest of its kind in this field of research. India has initiated its National Gas Hydrate Program (NGHP) under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas in 1997. This program was reconstituted in 2000 with the direction of the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH). Efforts addressing issues of drilling, production, geoscience, and environment are under the auspices of the Office of Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and the issue of transportation is under the guidance of Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL).
 India has completed a preliminary survey of the prospective regions with high gas hydrate concentrations beyond the 700 metre water depth using geologic and thermodynamic data and expected to complete its resource estimates by the end of 2003 and initiate assessment of realities through various laboratory studies, deep water coring and drilling operations development of gas hydrate production pilot and economic studies.
Since 1999 the Department of Energy has designated the National Energy Technology Laboratory to develop a comprehensive R&D plan in collaboration with MMS, NOAA, NRL, NSF and USGS.
Studies: 3/4/2002-3/3/2006: Final Technical Report on: Controls on Gas Hydrate Formation and Dissociation, Gulf of Mexico: In Situ Field Study with Laboratory Characterizations of Exposed and Buried Gas Hydrates (DOE Award Number: DE-FC26-02NT41328 – Dates: 3/4/02 – 3/3/06)
 The paper on coal seems proposes a thesis that igniting planetary coal deposits, triggered by the extreme volcanic action of the Siberian Steppes was the major factor in the end Permian extinction event. This paper supports extreme global warming as the cause of the end-Permian extinction event with the initial trigger being massive amounts of CO2 emitted by extreme volcanic activity in the region of the Siberian Steppes. It cannot and does not exclude the contribution to extreme global warming by destabilized methane hydrates.
A Killer in Our Midst | http://www.killerinourmidst.com/
Only Zero Carbon | http://www.onlyzerocarbon.org/
Media Education Foundation | http://www.mediaed.org/