carbon energy source

You Don't Know Sh*! About Natural Gas. Read This.

Let’s talk about gas. No no, not the gas that comes out of your ass but rather the gas that comes out of the earth and fuels your stoves, homes and generates electricity that powers your life and gadgets! Everyone who recycles and eats “locally sourced” lettuce thinks they know a thing or two about what it means to being green, but when we bring up natural gas as one of the great heroes of the clean energy movement, everyone goes blank.

Here’s just how much you don’t know about natural gas.

When you hear the words “climate change” being spoken, you think about the sad polar bear standing on his 1 cubic square inch of ice almost drowning to death in the middle of the North Pole. And the world coming to an end. And the fact that you could be riding your bike more. You definitely don’t think about all the things we could be doing to lower CO2 emission rates, and how we can maintain our standard of living whilst being conscience of our carbon footprint. Natural gas is a great remedy to our emissions issues. It is the least carbon-intensive major energy source, emitting up to 60% less CO2 than coal when used for electricity generation.

When you think about oil, you think “evil liquid killing the earth that also fuels my lovely Prius named Penelope”… But did you know that coal is a huge culprit of CO2 emissions as well? Well now you know. You’re welcome.

When you see solar panels, you wish you were soaking up the sun, too or you think “ugh, too expensive for me”. You definitely don’t think about how much solar panels are saving us from ultimate world doom and saving you dollars on your energy bill.

“You know what fracking is, right??” “Fracking… Oh, let me just google that right quick. I used to know… Umm, my internet is down. Can you just remind me again?” “It’s this thing…”

When you think about climate change and these types of issues, you get overwhelmed because quite frankly, who cares about the environment when you don’t even have a job and you have all these bills to pay? Forget the polar bears, save the US economy first!

When you think of oil companies, you don’t think about the other “good stuff” they’re doing to save the environment such as renewable energy and natural gas exploration. You just think “big evil oil company killing all the polar bears… and fueling my car” because after all, that’s the way the media and all your friends tell you to think, right?

Staying informed is the key to curing ignorance… But remember, not all news sites are created equal.

Let’s talk about something dirty… Voting! Everyone does it, but no one wants to talk about it. Just kidding! It’s more like: no one does it, but everyone talks about it. It’s like our complicated relationship with cross-fit and veganism.

When you think about the things that matter to the US, you think of job creation, more organic food for everyone, and stricter gun laws. One of the most understated issues is alternative, clean sources of energy. We all love our iPhones, computers, the lights in our homes, and the gas in our stoves, but we rarely think about what powers our world (literally!). Without energy, you wouldn’t be able to read this article right now!

Think about the next question carefully… Your iPhone, iPad, computer, cat, mom, and the mac-n-cheese on your stove depend on it.

Forming opinions and perspectives can be healthy when it comes to understanding complex issues such as climate change and natural gases. However, remember that being flexible about your views can make you even smarter and more enlightened.

So knowing what you know now… Why don’t you think more people know about natural gas?! When you figure out the answer, please tell us (in the poll below).

Could Charon Have a Subsurface Ocean? 

Pluto, a distant icy dwarf planet, orbits the Sun 29 times farther out than the Earth and has estimated surface temperatures of -380 degrees Fahrenheit (-229 degrees Celsius). These frigid temperatures are far too cold to allow liquid water on Pluto’s surface. Its location and small size make it very difficult to observe; however, with NASA’s New Horizons mission slated to reach the distant world next year, scientists hope to map Pluto and its moons in great detail. 

Current models predict one moon in particular, Charon, is of great interest to study. The models indicate Charon has surface fractures, indicative of a possible subsurface ocean. Further analysis is needed to determine in the moon’s interior is warm enough to support liquid water. 

Alyssa Rhoden of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland is anxious to see what sort of data New Horizons will provide and how that data will measure up against computer generated models. By comparing the actual data to the computer models, scientists will be able to learn a lot about the thickness of the moon’s surface ice, its interior structure, the evolution of its orbit and if there is or ever was a subsurface ocean. 

Scientists have already discovered several moons around the gas giants Saturn and Jupiter, with cracked surfaces and subsurface oceans like Europa and Enceladus. The image we see here illustrates the surface fractures present on the Saturnian moon Enceladus as seen by the Cassini Spacecraft during one of its flybys. 

In the case of Europa and Enceladus, there is a “game” of gravitational tug-of-war between the planets and neighboring moons, causing the moons to stay in a slightly oval-shaped, eccentric orbit. The constant tug on the moons, results in daily tides, which ultimately result in the observed surface fractures. Scientists hypothesize that tidal heating warms the moon’s interior and extends the life of any subsurface oceans. 

So what does this mean for Charon? Well in the case of this icy moon, Rhodan’s study shows that a previous high eccentricity orbit could have caused large tides and massive amounts of friction resulting in surface fractures. Charon is a unique moon because it has approximately one-eighth the mass of Pluto, which is rather large compared to the size of its planet. Consequently, it is thought to have formed as a result of a giant impact, and much closer to its host planet. The material ejected from this collision is thought to have formed several smaller moons as well as Charon. 

After Charon formed, both Pluto and Charon would have had strong tidal forces acting on one another, and increasing interior friction levels and causing a slight tidal lag. The lags act as cosmic braking systems, slowing down a planet (or moon’s) rotation and transferring rotational energy to the bother body, pushing it farther away. This is what researchers predict happened between Charon and Pluto and why Charon isn’t closer to Pluto. 

Due to the theorized tidal interactions and the moon’s formation, there have been enough heat produced to keep Charon’s interior warm enough to support a liquid water ocean. Using computer models, Rhoden determined it would be very easy to generate the eccentricity required to produce surface fractures. So if New Horizons does not find any surface fractures on Charon, that means there is a limit on how eccentric the orbit could have been and a limit on how warm the moon’s interior could have been. 

Based on what we can see via telescope, Charon’s orbit is now a stable, circular orbit. Both Pluto and Charon have slowed and rotate at a rate where they always have the same side facing each other. The current orbit does not generate massive amounts of heat, so if there is a subsurface ocean, it would be frozen by now. 

As we know, liquid water is a must for life as we know it and places like Europa and Enceladus are potential places where we could find life; however, we don’t yet know if they contain a few other key ingredients - like an energy source, carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus. Or the subsurface oceans on these worlds may not have been around long enough for the formation of life. 

With the New Horizons Mission, NASA hopes to gain a better understanding of Pluto and its moons. Who knows, maybe we will find some of the key elements for life on Charon? Pluto is a very interesting world and so is Charon - next year should bring some exciting data. Rhoden’s research will help determine where New Horizons should look first and what it should look for. 


Image & Source Credit: NASA

Fur is naturally

Fur is naturally resilient and long-lasting. Well cared-for, a fur garment will remain functional and beautiful for many, many years – far longer that any other clothing material. In fact, fur coats are one of the few clothing items that are often passed down and used by two or even three generations.

Unlike other textiles, fur garments can also be re-cut and restyled (“remodeled”) as fashions change. Your old fur coat can even be “recycled” to make bags, pillows, throws or other home accessories.

At a time when the true ecological cost of “cheap”, mass-produced, disposable “fast-fashion” is just beginning to be calculated – think millions of tons of poor-quality fibers and short-life garments filling up landfills – the naturally durable and recyclable qualities of fur makes more sense than ever!

Real fur is an organic material. « Faux fur » (fake fur) and most synthetics are made from petrochemicals. Like other plastics, these materials do not break down easily and will remain in landfills for centuries.  The “dressing”process (tanning) helps to preserve the pelts for some time, but after many years of use they will eventually dry out and begin to deteriorate (i.e., biodegrade), returning to nature. Old fur apparel can even be composted for your garden!

See also, in Biodegradable and Sustainable Fibers, Edited by R.S. Blackburn: 

“While vegetable (plant-based) and animal fibers are fully biodegradable, mineral fibers are not.” (“Biodegradable Natural Fiber Composites,” by A.N. Netravalli, Cornell University, pg. 274.) 

And: “Of even more concern is the ability of (synthetic) polymeric fibres to remain unchanged in the environment as polymers do not degrade very readily, which has exacerbated the already existing ecological and environmental problems of waste building; the volume in waste disposal and landfill is very high. (R.S. Blackburn, Page xv.) 

And: “…natural fibers like wool and cotton are broken down through biotic process. Microorganisms have evolved enzymes that attack key bonds in these natural polymers, thereby releasing monomers that can be used as carbon and energy sources for microbial growth. In contrast, microorganisms lack enzymes to break down many synthetic fibers, thus these materials persist and accumulate in the environment. “Microbial Processes in the Degradation of Fibers”, P.M. Fedorak, University of Alberta, pg.1.The processing and dyeing of any clothing material must be carefully regulated to protect the environment. Again, nothing is 100% “green”. Fur tanning (“dressing”) and coloring, however, are relatively benign, as they must be, to preserve fur hairs and follicles. (By contrast, in leather tanning the hair is intentionally removed from the hide.)

The main chemicals used to “dress” fur pelts are table salt, water, alum salts, soda ash, sawdust, cornstarch, lanolin and other natural ingredients. Small quantities of formaldehyde can be used to protect fur follicles during dressing or dyeing, and gentle acids (e.g., acetic acid, which is vinegar) activate the tanning process, but local environmental protection controls ensure that there are no harmful effluents. Excess fats are skimmed and even PH levels must be neutralized before wastewater is released. And because furs are available in an extraordinary range of natural colours, only a small proportion are dyed.

By contrast, up to one gallon of petroleum – a non-renewable resource – is needed to produce three synthetic jackets. The production of synthetic fibers also involves chemical reactions at high temperatures, producing potentially harmful substances.

According to R.S. Blackburn (Biodegradable and Sustainable Fibers, pg xv): “The main problems with synthetic polymers are that they are non-degradable and non-renewable… Oil and petroleum are non-renewable (non-sustainable) resources and at the current rate of consumption, these fossil fuels are only expected to last for another 50-60 years… An even more important problem with the use of fossil energy is the huge translocation of carbon from the ground into the atmosphere accompanied by emissions of sulphur and nitrogen oxides as well as all kinds of hydrocarbons, and heavy metals. Fossil fuels are also the dominant global source of anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHG)’’Fur is a natural, renewable and sustainable resource. That means we only use part of what nature produces each year without depleting wildlife populations or damage the natural habitat s that sustain them. The goal is to maintain long-term ecological balance.

In nature, each plant and animal species generally produces more offspring than the land can support to maturity. Like other species, we live by making use of part of this surplus that nature creates. We also have a responsibility to protect the wilderness areas that provide these valuable resources. Modern conservationists define this as the “sustainable use” of renewable resources.

Synthetics, by contrast, are generally made from petroleum (a non-renewable resource), which is NOT consistent with the sustainable use of our environment. The production, transportation and disposal of petrochemicals can cause environmental problems.

Worldwide, the fur industry is an excellent example of an industry based on sustainable use. All the furs used by the trade are abundant and absolutely no endangered species are used. This is assured by strict provincial/state, national and international regulations. In the Canadian fur trade, government wildlife officials and biologists ensure responsible use by establishing controlled hunting and trapping, harvest quotas, licensing, and training courses for trappers. Strict government regulations ensure that these quotas and seasons are respected.
Thanks to modern wildlife management and trapping regulations, there are as many beavers and muskrats in North America now as when the Europeans first arrived in the continent. Raccoons, coyotes and foxes are more abundant than ever.