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CPBJ Extra Blog

Another source of Pa. gas, this time not way deep under the ground?

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There's been a lot of talk recently around the idea of potential natural-gas leakage in the life cycle of the fossil fuel, and I always thought the market would be the most logical source for the solution here.

The gas is worth money. The person who thinks up the best way to keep it from escaping, in theory, will make money.

Well, here's another one falling under that logic. Have you eaten beef lately? Maybe a hamburger over the weekend? Or how about an ice cream cone? Or have you seen someone doing so recently?

Then you should know how close this source of gas is: cows. Pennsylvania has a lot of them dotting the landscape, and researchers in Argentina have figured out a way to harness the gas they produce to capture what I'd call a significant amount of the resource.

"Each head of cattle emits between 250 and 300 liters of pure methane a day, enough energy to keep a refrigerator running for 24 hours," according to the report from Reuters.

That's a cool idea.

Now, is it profitable or even practical today to harness enough gas from bovine stomachs to make it a competitor to more conventional energy sources? Probably not yet.

But think of it this way. Compared with Jed Clampett simply shooting his gun and striking oil — a good analogy for the early and relatively easy-access days of the oil boom — it would have looked to people back then pretty silly to hydraulically fracture shale thousands of feet under the ground to get to hydrocarbons.

However, we frack today. A lot. And maybe it won't seem so silly decades from now to use cow gases to fuel our world either.

Brent Burkey

Brent Burkey

Brent Burkey covers York County, agribusiness, energy and environment, and workforce issues. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at brentb@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @brentburkey.

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