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Google Street View Sniffs Out America’s Gas Leaks

Google's Street View cars have captured the world's roads, highways and back alleys for years. Now they are being used for something entirely different: detecting the thousands of natural gas leaks blighting major U.S. cities. Google cars fit with air monitors have taken millions of readings along the streets of Boston, New York and Indianapolis over the past two years as part of a program run by the non-profit Environmental Defense Fund to help reduce methane emissions. The results, announced on Wednesday, reveal how common leaks are in highly populated areas.

The data, collected through air analysis systems, showed thousands of leaks in areas like Boston and New York's Staten Island that rely on older, corroded cast iron pipelines. But in Indianapolis, where newer, plastic pipes have been installed, almost no leaks were detected. "Until now, these smaller leaks have not been a priority in most places. Yet we can see from these maps just how much they can add up," Mark Brownstein, EDF chief counsel for natural gas, said in a statement.

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— Reuters