Frozen Gas: The World's Next Power Surge?

Vast reserves of gas hydrates in the ocean floor may be a godsend--if they can be tapped

To the untrained eye, the whitish deposits hauled up from sediment under the ocean floor might look like veins of ordinary ice. But ice doesn't normally sputter and crackle as it melts--and it certainly doesn't catch fire when you put a match to it. These deposits are nodules of methane-bearing ice known as gas hydrates. Found in thick layers in the Arctic permafrost and along the margins of the continents--hundreds of feet beneath the ocean floor--they may be the world's best hope for a nearly inexhaustible energy supply in the coming millennium.

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