Good Gas, Bad Gas

National Geographic 19 November 2012.

Burn natural gas and it warms your house. But let it leak,
from fracked wells or the melting Arctic, and it
warms the whole planet.

By Marianne Lavelle
Photograph by Mark Thiessen

The last rays of sun filter through the snow-covered spruces along the shore of Goldstream Lake, just outside Fairbanks, Alaska. Out on the lake Katey Walter Anthony stares at the black ice beneath her feet and at the white bubbles trapped inside it. Large and small, in layer upon layer, they spread out in every direction, like stars in the night sky. Walter Anthony, an ecologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, grabs a heavy ice pick and wraps the rope handle around her wrist. A graduate student holds a lighted match above a large bubble; Walter Anthony plunges the pick into it.

Gas rushing from the hole ignites with a whoomp that staggers her. “My job’s the worst, because usually you catch on fire,” she says, smiling. In the gathering twilight she and her team ignite one bubble after another…

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