Methane

Duke Energy / Flickr Creative Commons

Last year Duke Energy acquired Piedmont Natural Gas for $4.9 billion. The purchase is a marker of the energy industry’s shift toward using natural gas to produce electricity. Supporters of natural gas say it is cheaper and burns cleaner than coal. But critics argue that methane leaks during storage and transportation, which can accelerate global warming.

A hog waste lagoon in Beaufort County, NC.
DefMo / Flickr Creative Commons

  

It’s been an environmental quandry for years: what to do hog waste in North Carolina.

The state is home to nearly 9 million hogs, which produce massive amounts of waste.

Some of it goes back onto the farms of eastern North Carolina as fertilizer, but much of it is stored in open-air lagoons, which have been known to contaminate groundwater and produce a putrid smell for nearby homes.

A new technology exists to convert the waste into energy but it is not affordable for most hog farmers.

New Research at North Carolina State University points to the disadvantages of improperly disposing of biodegradable plastics. The products are designed to break down in composting bins. James Levis is an N.C. State PhD candidate and one of the study's organizers. He says the problem is that most biodegradable plastics are being thrown in the trash.

There's new evidence that the method of extracting natural gas called "hydraulic fracturing" could be contaminating drinking water. A team of Duke researchers have found elevated levels of methane in well water near hydraulic fracturing sites. That could be an important finding as state legislators consider whether to begin allowing the practice here in North Carolina. Natural gas deposits have been discovered deep under some of the state's most populated counties like Wake, Durham, and Orange.