Last year, Japan succeeded in extracting an untapped fuel from its ocean floor – methane hydrate, or flammable ice. Proponents argue that it will offset energy crises, but what are the environmental risks?
Buried below the seabed around Japan, there are beds of methane, trapped in molecular cages of ice. In some places, the sediment covering these deposits of frozen water and methane has been eroded away, leaving whitish mounts of what looks like dirty ice rearing up out of the seafloor.
Put a match to this sea ice and it doesn’t just melt, it ignites