Could flammable ice be the next big energy boom? The ice in this case is not regular H2O, of course, but methane hydrate, a frozen form of methane gas and water that occurs naturally in undersea ice. Experts think there could be more than 43,000 trillion cubic feet of it, located hundreds and thousands of feet undersea around the world, reports Miller-McCune. And scientists say it is relatively clean-burning. “Relative to coal, methane gas produces only half the CO2 and no mercury, particulates, or ash,” says one geologist.
With natural gas relatively cheap in the United States, around $2.50 per thousand cubic feet, there's no way methane hydrate can compete, even if energy companies are able to perfect wide-scale extraction. However, in countries like Japan, which imports most of its fossil fuels, methane hydrate could be a much-needed energy source. Or, alternatively, global warming could cause the undersea methane to melt and kill us all. (Read more undersea methane stories.)