A preferred fossil fuel for the sky | TahoeDailyTribune.com

A preferred fossil fuel for the sky

Gregory Crofton

Natural gas is made up of about 70 percent methane and 20 percent propane and butane. The rest is a mixture of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen sulfide and other trace gases.

Burning natural gas instead of gasoline or diesel is less harsh on the environment because methane has a simpler chemical makeup – one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms – than other fossil fuels.

Burning more complicated chemicals like the ones contained in diesel or gasoline release more chemical byproducts into the air. When natural gas is used to fuel a car or truck it produces exhaust that’s primarily carbon dioxide and water.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the burning of natural gas means auto emissions contain up to 20 percent less carbon dioxide, up to 60 percent less oxides of nitrogen (a large contributor to smog), and up to 80 percent less carbon monoxide and up to 95 percent less fine airborne particles.

The latest research on Lake Tahoe indicates that fine airborne particles that end up in the lake are having the greatest impact on its fading clarity.

Reservoirs of natural gas are typically found 1 to 2 miles beneath the surface of the earth between layers of rock and oil. Like oil, natural gas is a fossil fuel: an energy source produced underground through many years of compression of old animal and plant matter.

– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com

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