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Here the methane hydrate trapped within the muddy sediment is showed fueling a golden flame. Methane hydrate resources are estimated to surpass coal, oil, and natural gas supplies combined.  (Source: Spiegel Online)

Japan's Chikyu research drilling vessel is the largest research drilling vessel in the world.  (Source: Spiegel Online)

There are rich deposits of methane hydrates surrounding much of Asia.  (Source: Spiegel Online)
China, India and numerous other developing nations bet on new carbon fuel to complete their ascent to economic dominance

China may just be a lot closer to writing a ticket to free itself from foreign oil.  Faced with an eventual power crisis when the nation's coal and oil resources run out, the world's top CO2 emitter, is scrounging around looking for new energy sources -- be they "clean" or "dirty."

Chinese scientists with the Guangzhou Marine Geological Survey have made a major discovery which may provide a major source of future fuel.  When dig a core sample out of the ocean floor in the deep waters of the South China Sea.  The scientists were astonished when they held a small flame to the sample and it ignited, burning with a yellowish-red flame.

The leaders of the expedition Shengxiong Yang and Nengyou Wu realized were all smiles when they returned to port an announced their discovery -- a wealth of sea floor methane hydrate. 

Methane hydrate is a flammable fuel, which consists of methane trapped within a crystal lattice of water.  On the earth it forms in small quantities in permafrost and in substantial quantities on the deep sea floor, either on continental shelfs or in deep semi-enclosed seas (like the South China Sea).  The methane hydrate discovered by the expedition was part of a 15 to 20 m layer of sediment which included a large amount of mud and silt.  These soft sediments should allow for easily drilling, which is an encouraging sign to fossil fuel companies.

China, India, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan all are expressing a large interest in and financial commitment to developing a harvesting infrastructure for this promising resource.  While the west has only expressed marginal interest in it, these Asian nations see it as an invaluable tool to pass their western competitors which they are fast approaching in terms of economic power.

China in particular has shown the largest desire for growth, each year upping its power consumption by an amount that approximately equals the total yearly power consumption for France.  Despite its superpower status, China is legally treated by the Kyoto treating as a developing nation and is free to run rampant with carbon emissions, which some fear will cause significant global warming damage.  China has pledged to try to reduce them and is apparently making some initial steps to back up its talk.  China's Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao used the terms "pollution" and "environment" 48 times in his address to the National People's Congress this year and said that China refused to repeat the mistake of "polluting first and cleaning up later."

Despite its vocal promise of reform, China has showed no intention of slowing its accelerating fossil fuel consumption.  China is thrilled about the prospect of using its neighboring sea's rich methane-hydrate resources.  Fossil fuel prospecting companies are considering using drilling and heating pipes to melt the crystals and release the methane, which will be subsequently captured.

China is not alone in its zealousness for the fuel.  Japan built the world's largest research drilling ship to aid in its prospecting chances and India has invested almost 300 million USD to begin a national program of methane prospecting and harvest.  India has achieved a significant early success, discovering an extremely thick 132 m methane-hydrate containing layer of sediment has been found in the Krishna-Godavari Basin in the Indian Ocean. 

German researchers have proposed a solution which may take away some of the environmental fears of harvesting this fuel source.  When a certain amount of pressure is applied to the methane-hydrate's crystal lattice and it is exposed to carbon dioxide, the methane is freed and up to five CO2 molecules take its place.

The Chinese and Indian governments have expressed wariness at the researcher's efforts though, as they see the process as potential attempt by the west to stifle and slow their growth by temporarily preventing them from exploiting this resource.

People must face that it is a reality that we live with every day that China and India are on a rampant and frantic pace of growth which affects our lives in many ways.  From the possible eventual loss of economic world dominance by the U.S. and its ramifications to concerns about quality of China's massive manufacturing infrastructure, these growing pains are effecting American lives more and more. 

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RE: Last paragraph, last article
By Ringold on 12/15/2007 5:01:22 PM , Rating: 2
The author of the article was just pointing out the economic facts. By sheer demographics alone, it's inevitable, unless a lot of them die and a lot of us have babies. The author didn't attach opinion, such as "this is good" or "this is bad", simply pointed out that readers should recognize the fact.

Sorry if projections showing China's GDP surpassing our own bothers you, I don't like it either, but don't find fault in people reporting it. The sooner we adjust to the issue, the better off we'll be. To attach my own opinion to it, we don't necessarily have to fear it; it can be delayed quite a long time through pro-growth leadership, encouragement of fertility, and bad luck on China's part (their one-child policy has them suffering, and their population is grey), and even once we're surpassed, Russia and even Cuba and Venezeula prove that politically adept smaller states can exert influence fay beyond what their size may suggest.

RE: Last paragraph, last article
By luhar49 on 12/16/2007 2:37:42 AM , Rating: 2
The real problem will be when Chinese and Indian citizens aspire for a standard of living on par with a developed nation. Its a distinct possibility in next 30 years. The amount of energy they would then require is certainly going to strip away world's natural resources at an astounding pace.

Apart from the acceleration of greenhouse gas emission, it would also send price of oil/coal shooting up.

In those circumstances all alternate sources of fuel(including those mentioned in this article) will become economically viable to extract. So its good that someone is trying to find newer sources of energy.

By serouscipher on 12/17/2007 3:05:14 PM , Rating: 2
Well lets not get ahead of ourselves. You presume that Indians and Chinese will gobble up the energy resources of the world in years to come, I say we will be already using alternate sources of fuel by then and thus the developed nations do not need to worry. to quote an example - New Delhi (indian capital) has all its public transport on clean fuels (CNG), and many other Indian cities are following suite. And besides I think America will finish petroleum long before us.
Besides the way the price of the oil barrel is being controlled by western countries its going to become near impossible to buy any more petroleum products by the general Indian population. Its a nice way to keep developing countries to continue 'Developing' and never become 'Developed'.

RE: Last paragraph, last article
By osalcido on 12/16/2007 4:20:01 PM , Rating: 3
Sheer numbers does not increase GDP output significantly.... Take a look at all those African countries predicted to overtake many other western nations in population but still be dirt poor.

Back in the 1950s-1960s, the Soviet Union had GDP growth rates far larger than China today or the USA then. Too large to be sustained, in fact. The economy became mismanaged and the country collapsed.

This could easily happen again in China. I remember reading about how so many Chinese are now in debt to the bank of China because they make 500 dollars a month and took out a 10 thousand dollar loan to buy a car, just cause their neighbor had one.

Also, every couple of months you hear about a certain town rising up and then being sacked by Beijing. The country is in political chaos right now (why do you think they are doing a 180 on environmental issues? the people are sick of it)... there's reason to think that the Chinese will be in the same place as Russia currently is in 30-35 years.

Overspent, overextended, and in poverty

RE: Last paragraph, last article
By luhar49 on 12/17/2007 2:58:48 PM , Rating: 2
This could easily happen again in China. I remember reading about how so many Chinese are now in debt to the bank of China because they make 500 dollars a month and took out a 10 thousand dollar loan to buy a car, just cause their neighbor had one.

You probably also read about ongoing saga about all the Americans who took loans to buy houses because their neighbours owned one and then one day realised they couldnt pay the mortgage.

No idea where you got the 50-60s GDP figures for USSR. At that time you could hardly find any information coming out of there which wasnt thoroughly massaged.

Chinese will be in the same place as Russia currently is in 30-35 years.
Overspent, overextended, and in poverty

Is this wishful thinking on your part or is it based on any facts ? Russian economy is doing quite well right now, largely due to their mineral/oil wealth. And this time they look to be spending it more wisely than those "image building" communist days.

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain

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