Out in Wyoming, an energy company is getting creative about extracting coal from deep below the surface. Rather than blast a hole in the side of the Earth and go digging for it, Linc Energy just wants to set the stuff on fire and gobble up the gas emitted by the blaze. What could go wrong?
The process proposed by Linc is known as underground coal gasification, and it's not without its downsides. It involves drilling thousands of feet deep into the ground and setting fire to the coal reserves there. This produces gas that can then be converted into natural gas or used to produce chemicals like ammonia. However, letting all of these noxious fumes loose underground runs the risk of contaminating the groundwater. Linc says they have 44 groundwater monitors in place to make sure this doesn't happen.
All that said, there's a good chance this setting-the-Earth-on-fire technique will cause less damage than the alternative which is digging up all that coal. Or everybody could just chill out, not set the Earth on fire and wait patiently. We're going to be mining asteroids in no time anyway. [Wyoming Public Media]