Nearly 250 Methane Gas Leaks Under Streets in L.A.

Methane gas leaks are among the many problems of modern cities and one of the unknown dangers that we face every day. Exposure to high methane gas levels leads to headaches and depletes the oxygen levels in the body, causing difficulty in breathing and suffocation. If the oxygen level in the body is less than 12%, the person becomes unconscious. These leaks are usually reported on and fixed. However, more insidious leaks can go on for months and even years without being discovered and hold an entirely different sort of danger-the release of methane gas into the atmosphere. Methane is methane emissions cause a powerful greenhouse gas, about 25% of man-made global warming. Methane gas is far worse than carbon dioxide in terms of environmental effects. Still, it is central to the oil and gas industry as it provides energy for hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Older pipes that go decades without renovation tend to leak, and those leaks allow methane gas into the atmosphere. These leaking pipes are found all over America from Boston to L.A. and have been notoriously difficult to find and fix. For years, many organizations have lobbied gas companies to search and fix these leaks, but an efficient method of finding them was not available.

However, researchers from various environmental organizations have attached air monitoring equipment to cars and have managed to find leaks all over the United States. More recently, researchers from the Environmental Defense Fund attached real-time air monitoring equipment to a Google Street View mapping car that drove for more than 1,000 miles in the greater L.A. region. Partnered with Colorado State University scientists, they plotted 250 methane gas leaks and reported on the results. For those at the Environmental Defense Fund, the methane gas leaks are a huge obstacle to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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