"ODESSA, Texas -- Deep in the heart of Texas, above an oil patch about the size of Kansas, a little team in a small plane is trying to reveal a big problem.
They are methane hunters. With an infrared camera and a Picarro Cavity Ring-Down Laser Spectroscope, they fly spirals over pumps and compressor stations that stretch to both horizons. With each tight corkscrew, the little airplane sniffs out and measures planet-cooking, climate-changing pollution as the region below braces for an energy revolution amid a cold civil war.
The Picarro spectrometer is so sensitive, it caught the number of carbon dioxide molecules in my breath as we walked around the hangar. In the sky, it counts the density of carbon dioxide molecules on their way to heating up the sea, land and sky for the next 300 to 1,000 years.
More importantly, it also measures methane, which is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over the next 20 years. You know it better as natural gas. Heating and cooking are not the only methane culprits. Two-thirds of emissions come from belching cows, factory farms and rotting landfills. But as any Texan will tell you, it's a lot easier to control gas coming out of the ground than gas coming out of cows."