To an alien orbiting Earth in a flying saucer, natural gas flares would be one of the most visible signs of human life on earth.
Notice I said “human life,” not “intelligent life.”
Flaring is the practice of burning off the natural gas that is produced in association with oil rather than piping it to market, using it at the wellhead, or reinjecting into the ground. Flaring was once common, but in more recent times, it has largely been limited to places like Russia and Nigeria. Now, though, it is becoming a big source of controversy in the United States. According to a recent New York Times article, some 30 percent of natural gas produced from rapidly expanding North Dakota oil fields will be flared this year—more than enough to heat every home in North Dakota through the state’s harsh winters. Elsewhere in this country, less than one percent of gas is flared.
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Ed is the author of the recently published, There Aint No Such Thing As A Free Lunch