by Dean Esmay
I always like to keep my eye on maverick scientific theories, because some of them will almost certainly turn out to be correct. One of the more intriguing is a minority theory on where oil, natural gas, and coal come from: not from dinosaur and prehistoric plant carcasses, but through natural mechanisms deep in the Earth. Advocates of this theory point to lab-proven techniques for creating hydrocarbons with little besides water and heat and pressure, and also to the superabundance of methane and other hydrocarbons that astronomers can verify is to be found all over space, even in our own solar system.
For the longest time abiotic oil theories were ignored by all but a few scientists, and those who hold to the theory are still in the minority, but they’re getting steadily more and more respectable. There was a recent friendly paper on the topic published in Science magazine, for example.
To my eye, the most compelling evidence to date for the theory is the White Tiger oil field in Vietnam. They’re pumping out oil from underneath miles of basement granite, and lots of it, from a location that conventional theories would have said was very unlikely to contain oil. The defenders of the conventional, biological theory (oil is dinosaurs and prehistoric plants squished together and aged in the highest layers of the Earth’s crust) have only been able to answer by suggesting that the biologically-created oil leaked down there from a more conventional location. Which may be true, but seems a bit weak, especially for an oil field that’s producing so well.
If this theory is correct (repeat, “if”) then conventional thinking on so-called “Peak Oil” (such as expounded in this recent Arnold Harris comment) will have to change, because it would indicate that, essentially, we won’t be running out of oil at any point in the foreseeable future, and the only shortages will be caused by where the governments of the world allow drilling to take place and where they don’t. And, of course, we’ll have to stop referring to petroleum and natural gas and coal as “fossil fuels.”
You know, if this theory is correct, it’ll also probably thrill some of the so-called “Young Earth Creationists” and add fuel to that pointless argument. It would also add fuel, metaphorically and literally, to the global warming discussion, since it would demonstrate that the carbon we’re pumping into the atmosphere is *not* carbon that was originally there in the first place. Funny how one change of a scientific theory could impact so many areas of inquiry and debate, no?
If you have time google Abiotic and read the for and against arguments interesting times ahead especially this and next month in the usa