Natural Gas Is Methane

Methane (CH4) is a horrible destroyer of the Earth — with 86 times the heat-trapping power of CO2 over 20 years.

But natural gas is natural, almost not really gas, actually the green solution brought to us by Guy-Who-Was-Not-Trump Barack Obama.

So the fact that 97% of so-called natural gas is nothing other than methane is odd.

It’s like finding out that aid to Ukraine is fueling mass murder that the U.S. government has prevented Ukraine from ending. Isn’t aid, you know, stuff that’s helpful?

Natural gas is METHANE?

The clean salvation fuel is Earth-destroying cow burps? The bridge to paradise is a disastrous slow-motion explosion of greenhouse gas?

It’s like discovering that the most important election of your lifetime ceases to be that after a couple of years as each next one looms, always a contest between two jackasses you wouldn’t trust near your pets.

Natural gas is methane? How can that be? Next you’ll tell me the Rules Based Order threatens the families of the staff at the International Criminal Court. This is mafia stuff, but the Sierra Club told it to me!

Ten years ago, I was posting about organizing meetings to oppose putting a pipeline through Virginia. I called the stuff they wanted to use the pipeline for “fracked gas.” Or I just called it a “disaster.” Probably I should have called it methane. That’s the lesson I take from the opening pages of a new book by Jonathan Mingle called Gaslight: The Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Fight for America’s Energy Future.

The more important lesson that everyone should take from this book is Margaret Mead’s about a small group and never doubting. Everyone from the U.S. President to your next-door neighbor could tell you and did tell you that filling the country with giant, disaster-prone pipelines of fossil fuels was not only the path to a clean-energy future but also inevitable regardless of what you or the whole damn country might choose to think about it. And in Virginia, everyone from the Governor to your own family members could tell you and did tell you that Dominion Power owned the state government and would get whatever it wanted. Even if what it wanted — building a giant pipeline up and over steep rocky cliffs — might not be possible, Dominion would still get permission to attempt it with no detailed plans required.

Small, scattered groups of people made the decision to say THE HELL YOU DO. And they got together and they organized, and they educated, and they researched, and they campaigned, and they did something that everyone had proven couldn’t be done — with the proof being that it hadn’t been done before: they stopped a pipeline. Oh, and they threw out the CEO of Dominion, they yanked a bunch of the state legislature out from under Dominion’s thumb, and they made the state commit to ridding itself of fossil fuels entirely. Dominion started putting up windmills in the Atlantic Ocean and saying things that bordered on truthfulness.

Were these changes what widely known facts required of anyone concerned with the future of life on Earth? Of course they were, but that had been true when Dominion proposed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, just as when it cancelled it.

The counties that led the way to stopping the pipeline also voted strongly for Donald Trump in 2016 — he who would have done the Iraq War right by stealing the oil, he who would drill-baby-drill, he who to this day wants the pipelines. The fact that Trump’s incompetent, rushed push for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline actually helped stop it doesn’t mean that anyone voted for him with that strategy in mind. And of course not everyone in Nelson County or other key locations worked to stop the pipeline. At the core of the mass movement that saved the land was a small number of activists — mostly retirees  and lawyers — working fulltime on what everyone told them was hopeless. But there is also at the core of this story the hard fact of NIMBYism. Some people who worked heroically to stop this pipeline will tell you themselves that they only started because of its location, or even only because of the proposal to seize their land through eminent domain, but that they learned so much through the process that they would have done the same regardless had they only known enough at the start about what pipelines do to the local environment and the world.

The question that arises from this story is how to globalize it, how to generate the same dedicated activism (in shifts, since the same people can’t go all-out forever) for the whole world as for one corner of it. There are a few possible foundations here for building that kind of effort.

First, people may not all have been focused on protecting those distant in space but many were focused on protecting those distant in time. They were consciously and explicitly trying to provide homes to generations yet to come in their corner of the Earth. One promoter of the pipeline, quoted in the book, claimed it wouldn’t leak for 40 years. A local resident asked about the time beyond 40 years, and the response was “Well, are you gonna be around after that?” Dominion had majorly failed to read the room.

Second, the campaign to stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline collaborated with and stood in solidarity with those working — some successfully, some not — to stop or at least slow other pipelines. And the parts of the world directly impacted by actual or proposed pipelines or other sacrifice-zone climate-collapse infrastructure has grown significant.

Third, people in these areas have been educated. They understand far better than they did what is at stake, including for the world as a whole, which they are increasingly aware their locality is a part of.

Fourth, they’ve also learned activism and tasted success. This makes the road ahead much harder for data centers and other projects that corporations might seek to impose on Virginians.

But will people catch on that they’re being preempted at a larger scale? That the war on Gaza is in part an attempted pipeline installation, that Russophobia is being used to somehow justify more methane exports — and the blowing up of Russia’s pipelines! — that Joe Biden is making promises to save the climate while energetically boosting fossil fuel consumption and cutting deals with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin to try to get more pipelines flowing?

And if we do catch on to that, will we also realize that the fact that we haven’t stopped it constitutes zero evidence that we won’t?

Photo credit.

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