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If hydrocarbons are renewable- then is "Peak Oil" a fraud?

by Joel Bainerman

Are hydrocarbons "renewable"- and if so- what does such a conclusion mean for the future of the world's oil and natural gas supplies?

The question is critical due to the enormous amount of coverage the issue of "Peak Oil" is receiving from the mainstream press. If the supply of hydrocarbons is renewable- then the contrary to the conventional wisdom being touted throughout the mainstream press today- the world is NOT running out of oil.

Unbeknownst to Westerners, there have actually been for quite some time now two competing theories concerning the origins of petroleum. One theory claims that oil is an organic 'fossil fuel' deposited in finite quantities near the planet's surface. The other theory claims that oil is continuously generated by natural processes in the Earth's magma.

One of the world's leading advocates for the theory that hydrocarbons are renewable is Dr. Thomas Gold who contends that oil is not a limited resource, and that oil, natural gas and coal, are not so-called ďfossil fuels.Ē

In his book, The Deep Hot Biosphere: The Myth of Fossil Fuels, he explains that dinosaurs and plants and the fossils from those living beings are not the origin of oil and natural gas, but rather generated from a chemical substance in the crust of the Earth.

Dr. Gold: "Astronomers have been able to find that hydrocarbons, as oil, gas and coal are called, occur on many other planetary bodies. They are a common substance in the universe. You find it in the kind of gas clouds that made systems like our solar system. You find large quantities of hydrocarbons in them. Is it reasonable to think that our little Earth, one of the planets, contains oil and gas for reasons that are all its own and that these other bodies have it because it was built into them when they were born? That question makes a lot of sense. After all, they didnít have dinosaurs and ferns on Jupiter to produce oil and gas?"

He continues: "Human skull fossils have been found in anthracite coal in Pennsylvania. The official theory of the development of coal will not accept that reality, since human beings were not around when anthracite coal was formed. Coal was formed millions of years ago. However, you cannot mistake the fact that these are human fossils."

"The coal we dig is hard, brittle stuff. It was once a liquid, because we find embedded in the middle of a six-foot seam of coal such things as a delicate wing of some animal or a leaf of a plant. They are undestroyed, absolutely preserved; with every cell in that fossil filled with exactly the same coal as all the coal on the outside. A hard, brittle coal is not going to get into each cell of a delicate leaf without destroying it. So obviously that stuff was a thin liquid at one time which gradually hardened."

Gold claims that the only thing we find now on the Earth that would do that is petroleum, which gradually becomes stiffer and harder. That is the only logical explanation for the origin of coal. So the fact that coal contains fossils does not prove that it is a fossil fuel; it proves exactly the opposite. Those fossils found in coal prove that coal is not made from those fossils. Where then does the carbon base come from that produces all of this?

Says Dr. Gold: "Petroleum and coal were made from materials in which heavy hydrocarbons were common components. We know that because the meteorites are the sort of debris left over from the formations of the planets and those contain carbon in unoxidized form as hydrocarbons as oil and coal-like particles. We find that in one large class of meteorites and we find that equally on many of the other planetary bodies in the solar system. So itís pretty clear that when the Earth formed it contained a lot of carbon material built into it."

Dr. Gold's ideas would lead us to believe that there is so much natural gas in the earth that it is causing earthquakes in trying to escape from the Earth. If youíll drill deep enough anywhere, you will find natural gas. It may not be in commercial quantities every time, but more than likely it will be.

Is the oil and gas industry reconsidering things in light of his work?

Absolutely not.

"In many other countries they are listening to me: in Russia on a very large scale, and in China also. It is just Western Europe and the United States that are so stuck in the mud that they canít look at anything else."

What do the Russians know that the West don't?

The roots of Dr. Gold's theories are in Russia where scientists since the end World War II have been researching what is referred to as the "Modern Russian-Ukrainian Theory of Deep, Abiotic Petroleum Origins."

Although the theory was first expounded upon by Professor Nikolai Kudryavtsev in 1951 it is not the work of any one single man but has been developed by hundreds of scientists in the (now former) U.S.S.R..

The theory of deep, abiotic petroleum origins is not a vague, qualitative hypothesis, but stands as a rigorous analytic theory within the mainstream of the modern physical sciences. In this respect, the modern theory differs fundamentally not only from the previous hypothesis of a biological origin of petroleum but also from all traditional geological hypotheses.

Actually, since the nineteenth century, knowledgeable physicists, chemists, thermodynamicists, and chemical engineers have regarded with grave reservations (if not outright disdain) the suggestion that highly reduced hydrocarbon molecules of high free enthalpy (the constituents of crude oil) might somehow evolve spontaneously from highly oxidized biogenic molecules of low free enthalpy. Beginning in 1964, Soviet scientists carried out extensive theoretical statistical thermodynamic analysis which established explicitly that the hypothesis of evolution of hydrocarbon molecules (except methane) from biogenic ones in the temperature and pressure regime of the Earth's near-surface crust was glaringly in violation of the second law of thermodynamics.

The theory of deep, abiotic petroleum origins is presently applied extensively throughout the former U.S.S.R. as the guiding perspective for petroleum exploration and development projects. There are presently more than 80 oil and gas fields in the Caspian district alone which were explored and developed by applying the perspective of the modern theory and which produce from the crystalline basement rock.

Similarly, such exploration in the western Siberia cratonic-rift sedimentary basin has developed 90 petroleum fields of which 80 produce either partly or entirely from the crystalline basement. The exploration and discoveries of the 11 major and 1 giant fields on the northern flank of the Dneiper-Donets basin have already been noted. There are presently deep drilling exploration projects under way in Azerbaijan, Tatarstan, and Asian Siberia directed to testing potential oil and gas reservoirs in the crystalline basement.

Is "Peak Oil" a fraud?

So why is the western media being inundated with notions of the world running out of oil?

One could point a finger at the multinational oil companies and their vested interest in having the price of a barrel of oil rise substantially- to justify further exploration expenses- and of course- to bolster their bottom line.

Says Dr. J.F. Kenney, a long-time research on the origins of hydrocarbons:

"For almost a century, various predictions have been made that the human race was imminently going to run out of available petroleum. The passing of time has proven all those predictions to have been utterly wrong. It is pointed out here how all such predictions have depended fundamentally upon an archaic hypothesis from the 18th century that petroleum somehow (miraculously) evolved from biological detritus, and was accordingly limited in abundance."

That hypothesis has been replaced during the past forty years by the modern Russian-Ukrainian theory of abyssal, abiotic petroleum origins which has established that petroleum is a primordial material erupted from great depth. Therefore, according to Kenney, petroleum abundances are limited by little more than the quantities of its constituents as were incorporated into the Earth at the time of its formation.

As far back as 1757, in his address at the Imperial Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, Academician Mikhailo V. Lomonosov, stated:

"Rock oil originates as tiny bodies of animals buried in the sediments which, under the influence of increased temperature and pressure acting during an unimaginably long period of time, transform into rock oil [petroleum , or crude oil]"

More than 200 years later, Professor Emmanuil Chekaliuk told the conference on Petroleum and Petroleum Geology in Moscow that:

"Statistical thermodynamic analysis has established clearly that hydrocarbon molecules which comprise petroleum require very high pressures for their spontaneous formation, comparable to the pressures required for the same of diamond. In that sense, hydrocarbon molecules are the high-pressure polymorphs of the reduced carbon system as is diamond of elemental carbon. Any notion which might suggest that hydrocarbon molecules spontaneously evolve in the regimes of temperature and pressure characterized by the near-surface of the Earth, which are the regimes of methane creation and hydrocarbon destruction, does not even deserve consideration."

Contrarily, the statistics of the international petroleum industry establish that, far from diminishing, the net known recoverable reserves of petroleum have been growing steadily for the past fifty years. Those statistics show that, for every year since about 1946, the international petroleum industry has discovered at least five new tons of recoverable oil for every three which have been consumed.

As Professor P. Odell of the London School of Economics has put it, instead of "running out of oil," the human race by every measure seems to be "running into oil".

Says Dr. Kenney: "There stands no reason to worry about, and even less to plan for, any predicted demise of the petroleum industry based upon a vanishing of petroleum reserves. On the contrary, these considerations compel additional investment and development in the technology and skills of deep drilling, of deep seismic measurement and interpretation, of the reservoir properties of crystalline rock, and of the associated completion and production practices which should be applied in such non-traditional reservoirs"

If Kenney is correct, not only are any predictions that the world is "running out of oil" invalid, so also are suggestions that the petroleum exploration and production industry is a "mature" or "declining" one.

The impact on the planet of the conclusions of this debate

Much research remains to be done on "alternative" theories of the how much hydrocarbons are left in the world- unfortunately- those entities most able to do this research- the western multinational oil conglomerates- have the least interest in arriving at any conclusion other than those that are part of the "Peak Oil" stream of thought. Today the mainstream press has accepted as a given that the world has only a finite amount of oil and natural gas- and thus any decision taken on how to deal with the world's future needs are based on these conclusions. If they are erroneous- then the world is about to embark on a plan to provide for its energy needs for the coming century based on a false notion.

Research geochemist Michael Lewan of the U.S.Geological Survey in Denver, is one of the most knowledgeable advocates of the opposing theory, that petroleum is a "fossil fuel". Yet even Lewan admits:

"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?'"

We might never know the answer to that question because both sides of this debate are not being heard by the general public. If the Russians have accepted the theory that hydrocarbons are renewable- and over time they will become the leading exporters of oil and gas worldwide- this fact alone requires these alternative theories of how fossil fuels are created- is required.

It behooves western governments to begin taking these alternative theories seriously- and design future energy policies based on possibility that they are correct. Whatever strategies for meeting the world's ferocious appetite for energy are devised today- will impact the planet for decades to come.

In this issue- we simply can't afford to be wrong.

Joel Bainerman

Joel Bainerman has been a writer on economic and Middle East issues since 1983. His published archive can be viewed on his website at www.joelbainerman.com

His new online, multi-lingual alternative newsmagazine for Europeans can be viewed at www.theotherside.org.uk