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More Abiotic Oil

Matt,

What do you think of this article? Does it give us hope? Maybe there's plenty of oil left after all.

Steve

Steve,

No less than 10 people emailed me about this article in the last week. A few points to consier:

1. As the ramifications of Peak Oil become increasingly undeniable, you will see more and more articles like this one. Such articles placate the average person who, after reading them, feels reassured there is "another side to the story."

Yes, there may be another side to the story, but that side is based on a combination of myth, fantasy, and crank science.

2. People really, really, really want to believe such articles are true. Here's a link to a lengthy online discussion of the article. As you can see from the responses, most folks are either flat out ignorant of, or in full blown denial about the reality of oil depletion.

3. If you are tempted to believe in such fantasies such as abiotic oil, ask yourself, "If there really were a source of renewable, limitless oil, wouldn't the oil companies have found it by now?"

Whichever oil company located this source and proved it to be viable would be able to report massive reserve growth. Their stock would shoot the roof.

I guarantee you if Dr. Gold and his band of followers had actually located/proven the viability of abiotic oil, the oil companies (who have more money, technology, and motivation than God herself) would have been investing in it like there's no tomorrow. But they're not. Instead they're busy downsizing, merging and revising their estimated reserves downward - all the actions you expect to see in an industry that knows the party is over.

4. Even if there is some truth to the theory of abiotic oil, it certainly isn't doing us any good! Ninety-nine percent of the world's oil comes from 44 oil-producing nations. Twenty-four of these 44 nations are now in permanent, terminal decline! If abiotic oil is going to "save us," it had better show up fast.

5. If abiotic oil was a viable reality, don't you think George Bush and/or John Kerry - both of whom major connections to the oil industry - would be proclaiming it as a path towards "independence from foreign oil!"?

6. The Middle East reserve growth the article speaks of was a myth. In the late 1980's OPEC instituted a policy whereby the amount of oil each member country was allowed to export was based on the amount of oil it reported in reserves.

Amazingly enough, once this policy was instituted, OPEC countries all reported massive reserve growth practically overnight! One must ask, if such reserve growth was indeed a reality, why won't the OPEC countries let independent third-parties check the status of these reserves?

7. Finally, I cover this issue in The Oil Age is Over: What to Expect as the World Runs Out of Cheap Oil, 2005-2050. Here is an excerpt:
___________________

22. I heard that some scientist has a theory that fossil fuels actually renew themselves. If that's true, wouldn't it cast doubt on the validity of Peak Oil?

The scientist you speak of is a man by the name of Dr. Thomas Gold. In his 1999 book, The Deep Hot Biosphere, he proposes a theory that oil comes from deep in the Earth’s crust, left over from some primordial event in the formation of the Earth, when hydrocarbons were formed. If his theory were true, it would mean that fossil fuels are actually renewable resources.(1)

Unfortunately, his theory has been proven to be false, time and time again. As Steve Drury, who reviewed Gold's book for Geological Magazine, puts it, "Any Earth scientist will take a perverse delight in reading the book, because it is entertaining stuff, but even a beginner will see the gaping holes where Gold has deftly avoided the vast bulk of mundane evidence regarding our planet's hydrocarbons."(2) When asked about the validity of theories such as Gold's, Dr. Colin Campbell responded:

"Oil sometimes does occur in fractured or weathered crystalline rocks, which may have led people to accept this theory, but in all cases there is an easy explanation of lateral migration from normal sources. Isotopic evidence provides a clear link to the organic origins. No one in the industry gives the slightest credence to these theories: after drilling for 150 years they know a bit about it. Another misleading idea is about oilfields being refilled. Some are, but the oil simply is leaking in from a deeper accumulation."(3)

Finally, the deep-earth hypothesis has a fatal flaw: If oil were, indeed, formed under intense heat and pressure in the center of the Earth, it would tend to disintegrate as it rose from the regions of high temperature and pressure to the benign, cooler, low-pressure world closer to the Earth's surface. (4)

Endnotes

1.Interview with Dr. Colin Campbell, Archived at globalpublicmedia.com/INTERVIEWS/COLIN.CAMPBELL/>

2.Oliver Morton, "Fuel's Paradise," Wired Magazine, Archived at www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.07/gold.html

3. Michael Ruppert, "Colin Campbell on Oil," From the Wilderness, (October 10, 2002) Archived at www.fromthewilderness.com/free/ww3/102302_campbell.html

4. Lita Epstein, C.D. Jaco, and Julianne C. Iwersen-Neimann, The Politics of Oil, p.22

Editorial Notes: The American Association of Petroleum Geologists seem to be giving some credence to the abiotic oil theory here in the build up to a 2003 conference: www.aapg.org/explorer/2002/11nov/abiogenic.html Notes from that page:
Although hydrocarbons can be produced from inorganic sources, a 1993 study based on helium isotopes found that abiogenic hydrocarbons account for less than 200 parts per million of cumulative global production to date, Lewan said. "Is it so diffuse that it never really accumulates? Is it focused in certain areas where it can be accumulated?" he asked. "I don't think anybody has ever doubted that there is an inorganic source of hydrocarbons. The key question is, 'Do they exist in commercial quantities?'"
The conference unfortunately never occured, although may have been rescheduled for July 11-14, 2004. The important question, as others have noted, is not whether abiotic oil exists but whether it exists in commerially accessible quantities to have any affect on the global oil peak. As none seems to have been produced commercially so far, I wouldn't be getting too complacent just yet.

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