Let’s be honest, when we turn on our lights or light up the stove to do some baking, the last thing on our mind is where this energy comes from. We’ve become accustomed to having these modern conveniences at our fingertips, and all we have to do is pay a bill, and it all keeps on running. What many people don’t always know is what has to happen to make these things possible. Sometimes coal fired plants are used to generate energy, but more recently, natural gas has come on the scene as a “less” bad way to make our energy needs possible.
Well, in reality, while burning natural gas might not release as many harmful compounds into the air as burning coal does, it is hardly the saintly fuel energy companies make it out to be. Like coal, natural gas is an ancient resource that comes from deep underground well. Essentially, these gases, primarily methane, have become trapped under the Earth’s bedrock after millions of years of decomposition of natural matter. To get these gases and burn them, companies have to dig deep under the earth’s bedrock to release these reservoirs of ancient fuel.
While this might seem like a pretty sweet and easy setup, the reality is that there are many dangers that come with dealing with gas reserves and piping systems that are located thousands of feet underground. Sadly, there is an ongoing situation in Aliso Canyon, located in California; that illustrates this exactly. For the past two months, an enormous gas well has been leaking, spewing over 100,000 pounds of methane into the atmosphere every hour.
1. Since late October, an estimated 73,000 tons of methane has escaped the well.
2. Methane is highly flammable and is 20 times higher climate change potential than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.
3. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the climate impact of the leak over the next 20 years as “driving 7 million cars a day.”
4. Exposure to the gas and chemicals leaking from the well can cause irritation to the skin, eyes and respiratory system, as well as coughing and congestion, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness and headaches.
5. A total of 2,258 people have been placed in temporary housing, and another 3,168 are in the placement process.
6. The well is located 8,000 feet underground, and the gas company said it would take until March to permanently plug the leak.