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Methane locked up in hydrate form on the north slope has been regarded by many in energy to be the ‘holy grail’ problem to crack due to the vast reserves.  The problem hasn’t been the location but rather the ability to free up the methane gas safely at the rig without the ice crystal structures melting for safe transportation and power generation.  Now Japan and China are both looking at getting the hydrates off the ocean floor and both are having a row with each other.  (Japan is talking about working within their constitution to have more defense force available due to the post-1945 constitution that lets only various Self Defense Force functions to exit.) Hopefully we can look forward to a graceful working out between the two countries as they push the technology forward for safe methane hydrate extraction and work out the currently frayed territory issues.

For the U.S., methane hydrates on the North Slope are a vast resource that could compliment the current mix of coal and petrol production at a cleaner and possibly cheaper price point.  For Japan, it is much more a matter of energy survival as they do not have oil, coal or gas reserves of their own.  Ironically, the lack of those reserves and F.D.R’s oil embargo on Japan induces even more for Japan to expand in the late 1930’s into China (and other nearby Asian countries) for energy resources.

Marine property rights can been somewhat elusive as seen the last couple of years with China creating atolls into actual land forms to then make claims in new ocean areas. Hopefully these two nations can work out both the technology as well as the diplomacy.