Monday, March 17, 2008

Bacteria Linked to Climate Change and Renewable Energy Sources

Steven Petsch, a geoscientist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has been studying natural gas reservoirs in Michigan’s Antrim Shale. His findings have provided scientist with a new insight to global warming and the entire climate history here on earth.

Petsch discovered certain bacteria which fed off of CO² deep below ice sheets. These bacteria are responsible for producing natural gas during the ice age and the progression of glaciers through Michigan. During the Ice Age there were also high levels of methane in the earth’s atmosphere. Throughout the draw back of the ice sheets there was an immense amount of natural gas in the atmosphere, which consists primarily of methane gas.

By using the chemistry of water and rock samples from the shale Petsch is recreating an environment similar to that of the Ice Age. The water melted away from the glaciers and allowed for bacteria to thrive and consume the available carbon, therefore storing the natural gas they produced, underneath the shale.
75% of the gas stored was released into the atmosphere while retreating glaciers during the ice age as well as adding methane from other sources such as tropical wetlands. All of this concludes there were large emissions of methane throughout the atmosphere during this time period.

The bacteria provide us with the opportunity to create natural gas reservoirs, ultimately supplying us with another source of renewable energy.
These studies also are bringing scientist closer to discovering what aspects (particularly how methane) affects melting glaciers and global warming within our own environment.

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