Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Natural Gas Leaks Plaguing the U.S.

Wouldn’t you want to know if your money was being used to destroy the planet? Well it is, and here’s how… 

By Kaitlyn Maskalenko, Intern Fall 2015 Endicott College                    

Leaking natural gas isn’t some far off problem, affecting someone other than you. It’s not a problem that we can afford to put off until tomorrow. Every second, there is methane seeping from broken pipes into the atmosphere, trapping in heat and warming our planet’s climate. This is the message that the Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET) wants every single person to know and understand. As a non-profit organization based in Cambridge, HEET has recently joined efforts to map the natural gas leaks plaguing U.S. cities. So far they have located over 20,000 leaks across Massachusetts alone. They have published maps, like the one below, that pinpoint the exact locations of these leaks.
Credit: HEET
Unburned methane is an extremely powerful greenhouse gas. It is said to trap 86 times more heat than CO2 over 20 years, and is 34 times more potent than CO2 over 100 years. Unless leaks pose a safety hazard, the city isn’t required to fix them. But the problem is that they ultimately are a safety hazard, even if not an immediate one. The damage done by these leaks will be apparent one day, and by then it will irrevocable.

Not only is this an issue for the environment, but it’s also a problem for the pockets of Americans. In Massachusetts, it is within the law for natural gas companies to pass along the cost of lost gas to their customers. A study in 2013 showed that leaks cost natural gas customers between $640 million and $1.5 billion from 2000 to 2011 for gas that never even reached their homes. The oldest leak in the state, located near Fenway Park, has been leaking natural gas into our atmosphere since it was first recorded in 1985. On top of that, the methane leaked annually is the greenhouse gas equivalent to the CO2 emitted by 6 million cars.
Credit: http://earthtechling.com/tag/greenhouse-gases/
Not only is this leaking gas costing our planet, it’s costing our wallets. HEET wants to publicize the leaks so that utility companies will be pressured to fix them. And they aren’t the only company with this goal in mind. Last year the Environmental Defense Fund teamed up with Google Earth to map leaks in cities across the country. This will make it possible to fix the biggest leaks first, which is the quickest and most effective way to remedy the problem. HEET’s ultimate goal is to convert to energy sources with 0% carbon emission. This will no doubt take some serious effort, but getting these leaks under control is just the first step in that direction. Click here to see what you can do to help. 

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