Rep. Mike Doyle's "Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act" Signed Into Law by President Clinton
President Clinton signed the "Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act" into law yesterday, establishing a new Federal commitment to developing this plentiful, clean-burning energy source. U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-18-PA) wrote and introduced the bill (H.R. 1753) which directs the Department of Energy (DOE) to establish a Federal research and development program and authorizes $47.5 million over five years to fund this effort.
"I commend Rep. Mike Doyle for his sponsorship of H.R. 1753, the 'Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act'. This new law will help us investigate this potentially clean burning source of energy," President Clinton said. "Clean energy is critical to both our environment and our nation's energy security."
Energy R&D has long been important to the Clinton Administration, and it had signaled support for this initiative and Doyle's bill as it worked its way through Congress. Clinton signed the bill into law at the White House late Tuesday afternoon.
"Recently, there has been great concern about the price of gasoline and the future of our nation's energy supply. We should not remain captive to OPEC's whims forever, so it is important that we look at long-term solutions to these concerns. Harnessing the gas trapped in methane hydrates will secure a plentiful source of energy for our nation's future," said Doyle. "We must develop clean-burning energy sources to allow our air and environment to be healthy and vibrant and hydrate technology has an important role to play in these efforts also."
Methane hydrates are an ice-like substance found in deep ocean sediments and Arctic permafrost that contain methane in a highly concentrated form. Efforts to facilitate and develop future hydrate R&D are essential because advanced technologies could reliably and cost-effectively detect and produce natural gas from methane hydrates. Recent estimates made by the U.S. Geological Survey are that the total methane resource in hydrates exceeds the energy content of all other fossil fuel resources such as coal, oil, and conventional gas. If only a fraction of the hydrate resource can be made available, utilization of this cleanest-burning of all fossil fuels could play a key role in mitigating global warming concerns and improving air quality.
While some past research has gone on throughout the country, two of the leaders in past hydrate research are in western Pennsylvania: Professor Gerald Holder at the University of Pittsburgh and scientists at Pittsburgh's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) located in South Park, PA. Doyle expects both to play integral roles in the expanded research efforts authorized by the new law.
Rep. Doyle introduced his bill in the House on May 11,1999. Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI). The "Methane Hydrate Research Act" was passed in its final form by both the House and Senate in April, 2000. The new law calls for the Secretary of Energy to begin the R&D program within the next 180 days, meaning the effort should be under way by late fall of this year.