USA– Methane is bubbling up out of the Condamine River in Queensland, Australia, and Jeremy Buckingham wants you to know what he thinks about it. To make his point perfectly clear, he lights the river on fire in this video posted to his Facebook page.
Sometimes a picture says a thousand words, says Buckingham, a member of parliament representing the New South Wales Greens party. The fracking is just a kilometer away, methane coming up and now the river is alight.
The Condamine River has been seeping methane for years, but no one is really sure why. Buckingham is convinced its because of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the area.
Origin Energy operates coal seam gas wells in the region, but the company says it doesnt think its to blame for the leaks. After a 2012 report, the company said that an investigation into the seeps found no evidence of safety risk or environmental harm.
However, we do know that methane does harm the environment by contributing to global warming. Methane is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a period of 100 years. Methane leaks like this one can and do occur naturally, particularly when frozen organic material melts something thats currently happening in Arctic permafrost. Its an area that researchers are striving to understand.
There are also plenty of leaks that are human-caused. A 2014 report on methane leaks that inevitably accompany natural gas production totally negate the climate change benefit of using natural gas as a low-emission source of energy. And earlier this month, the EPA reported that the U.S. energy industry is emitting far more methane than previously thought. The oil and gas sector is the largest emitting-sector for methane and accounts for a third of total U.S. methane emissions, the agency said.
Meanwhile in Australia, Buckingham hopes the strong visual will persuade people to stop backing the fracking industry. The most incredible thing Ive ever seen a tragedy in the Murray-Darling basin, says Buckingham. This is utterly unacceptable.