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Could "Fossil Free" Fossil Fuels Be in Our Future?


Our race to find alternative fuels is critical not only because gasoline-powered vehicles emit lots of CO2–it’s also important because we’re running out of the sticky stuff. But what if the Earth could produce fossil fuels without the fossils?

A group of researchers from Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology found that artificial methane (a component of natural gas) crushed between two diamonds and heated with a laser to over 2,240 F–conditions mimicking those in earth’s mantle–could produce a blend of butane, ethane, propane, molecular hydrogen, and graphite. That’s a mixture that highly resembles natural gas. The planet’s uppe mantle doesn’t contain organic matter, which means these hydrocarbons could be produced without fossils.

The scientists warn that the study doesn’t mean commercially viable amounts of gas, oil and hydrocarbons can be produced without fossils, but it does mean a hydrocarbon cycle using just minerals and water could be at work under the Earth’s surface. Still, the discovery won’t stop the rush towards biofuels and plug-in hybrid technology–emissions concerns mean that we won’t ever truly rely heavily on fossil fuels in the future.

[Via National Geographic]

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Written By

was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.


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