I hate to disagree, but I wonder why your column on peak oil completely ignores abiogenic oil theory. I’m quite disappointed that you don’t even question the conventional wisdom here. There is considerable and growing evidence that “fossil fuel” is a misnomer and a myth, that oil is constantly being produced by the earth, far below the planet’s surface, and that it is brought to attainable depths by the centrifugal forces of the earth’s rotation.

Even without all the geological evidence, it seems only logical. Which is more likely- that oil is basically dinosaur juice, or that it’s something akin to methane (natural gas), produced deep within the earth’s core? If it’s dino-juice, then why can’t we make oil in a lab, from animal carcasses? We can make diamonds, mimicking the deep earth processes. Why would we assume it’s any different from natural gas?

Hubbert’s research was shoddy, and as much as he is disproved, people keep referring back to his work and trying to excuse its failures. Why? Why you Cecil?

Welcome to the SDMB, Wyendor.

A link to the column you’re commenting on is appreciated. Providing one can be as simple as pasting the URL into your post, making sure to leave a blank space on either side of it. Like so: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/060224.html

Cecil only has a few hundred words in each weekly column to answer the question asked, so he can’t mention every theory. He has discussed the abiogenic theory in a past column. I can’t find it online, but it can be found on pp. 91-92 of More of the Straight Dope, which you can purchase for a pittance.

Welcome to the SDMB wyendor:
Could you please provide a link or two to the theory you are talking about?
I have never heard it before and the “centrifugal forces of the earth’s rotation” part sounds false.


Wiki does an OK job of explaining it: abiogenic

Thank you, I will take the time and read it.


The tough part of course, is keeping it on the earth once it has reached the surface. That’s why gas tanks have caps: to keep centrifugal force from hurling gas into the atmosphere.

Interesting article.
Doesn’t mean will won’t still run out of available and affordable oil in the short term, but interesting.


No, there is not “considerable and growing evidence”. The theory was proposed by real geologists many years ago, but it has long since ceased to be taken seriously by anyone but creationists (who have their own motives for supporting it), the tinfoil-hat brigade, and a lot of Russians who, in three generations, have yet to produce any meaningful results.

…that’s the comicbook version

We can make oil in a lab, and, for some purposes, such as exotic lubricants, we do right now–and Germany did a lot of work in artificial fuels during W.W.II. But industrial processes invariably require more energy to be put in than can be taken out, and what we’re mainly looking for, on the world-wide scale, is an energy source.

More distressingly, you seem to have your own private definition of “logical”. There is not an atom of logic in what you say above; it’s pure wishful thinking.

Unless you can prove it, that statement is a direct libel.

My Staff Report running right now mentions swine oil production, with a link too. Of course we can make oil in a lab from animal parts, byproducts, and waste.

John W. Kennedy: While I agree with you, shouldn’t we be a little politer to a new guest? Your reply is heavy on the direct insults.
Please fell free to pound me for Jr Modding, but I think we should be a little nicer to our new guest. You cannot fight ignorance well by just getting them angry and defensive.
I for one welcome learning about this theory that is new to me and I do not trust.


I respect your knowledge and opinions on Science and Engineering matters. Could you weigh in please on the **abiogenic ** theory?


Sure, methane is common around the solar system, but methane is just a carbon atom with four hydrogens stuck onto it. It forms easily when carbon and hydrogen come into contact like in the developing solar system. What’s missing is an explanation for how these could be chained together to form the more complex molecules that make up crude oil. It’s just not plausible.

And centrifugal force? puh-leeease. Do you actually have a cite where someone claims that centrifugal force would be responsible for moving oil from the depths, closer to the surface?

As I said, his final paragraph descended to direct libel of a respected scientist.

But I confess I may also have been affected by the sheer anti-Science hawgwash I found on the Web while researching my answer. (I’m still furious over the George Deutsch affair.)

That simply is not true.

It is currently taken seriously by, for example, Thomas Gold, geoscientist with Cornell Univeristy. Gold is a real geologist, one of the world’s leaders in fact. He is neither a creationist, nor a tinfoil-hatter, nor a Russian. He is a highly respected agnostic, Austrian American scientist.

And he is by no means the only geoscientist who supports the inorganic oil theory.

Skepticism is a wonderful. Dismissal of all opposing scientists as tinfoil hatters and religious nutters a terrible thing and aids in no way in the fight against ignorance.

Is that the same Thomas Gold who thought that the moon would be covered in a layer of dust several feet thick, which the lunar modules would sink into?

I have no idea.

Are you implying that if it is then that means that he is a Russian, creationist or tinfoil hatter? Are you suggesting that if it is then it means he isn’t a highly respected geoscientist with a string of honours and achievements as long as your arm? Are you saying that if it is then that means that he isn’t a geoscientist employed by Cornell?

I really can’t see what point you are trying to make here. Even if what you say is correct how does that in any way refute what I posted? Or how does it in any way make the man a Russian, Creationist tinfoil hatter??

Hmmmm…this is difficult.

A while ago, I picked up a question passed on from Cecil about abiogenic oil and the origin of oil - specifically, it involved “why is there so much oil in the Middle East”. During this time, I spent a lot of time with some co-workers who were fuel source analysts, who also connected me to some University folks who sent me some papers. I ended up putting the report on the back burner, for a specific reason.

I want to be totally clear in what I write next, so there is no misunderstanding or misquoting.

I did not find much support for abiogenic theory, except perhaps in small, localized cases. But I also did not find a good, complete theory on exactly why and how the large petroleum deposits came about. I found a lot of theories, which when I dug into them started to read more and more like they were circular reasoning. I started to find a large number of “we still can’t explain why these microfossils are not present, why the metals content is thus, why the field goes uniformly across so many different rock strata”, etc.

I came to the conclusion the real means and method of formation of large petroleum deposits, like those of large coal deposits, is not exactly known, and that it is possible that several different theories explain their origin, not any one. That is, some portion of oil may be from land organic matter, some portion from seabed organic matter, and yes, some non-zero portion, I will not hazard as to how much, may be in fact abiogenic. Hydrocarbons do after all exist on places where life has likely never been (such as Titan), after all - it’s not unreasonable to assume that some portion of the hydrocarbons on Earth come from abiogenic processes.

What is the speed with which abiogenesis is supposed to work? Does the theory think it would be enough to start refilling previously “empty” oilfields over the course of decades? Centuries?

I was just curious - I didn’t mean to insinuate anything. It’s a fairly unusual name, which makes it unlikely that two people in the same profession would bear it - admittedly, the 40 year separation does make a difference to the likelihood.

If it is the same person, I think we can say, at least, that he’s not afraid to champion unorthodox ideas. Nothing wrong with that, though.

Neither would make sense, it should be thousands or even millions of years even if it is true.

I like **Una’s ** reply. It leaves the possibility open but makes it sound either unlikely or minimal.

If we can lure her in one more time, I would like to ask her for her educated opinion about the “centrifugal forces of the earth’s rotation” part from the Op. My limited science education makes this sound false to me and that it would be some other force that would lead to abiogenic Oil to rise up.