Thursday, June 10, 2004


Bruce Bartlett (excerpts): "Predictably, the recent rise in oil prices has the usual doom-and-gloom crowd, which has consistently been wrong for 30 years, out saying once again that this proves we are running out of oil and that severe curbs on gasoline consumption must be imposed to preserve what little is left for future generations. They need not worry. There is growing evidence that oil is far more plentiful than we have been led to believe.... in the 1950s, Russian and Ukrainian scientists developed a new theory about petroleum's origins called the abiotic or abiogenic theory. According to this view, oil is fundamentally inorganic and has no relationship to dead plant or animal life. Rather, oil originates deep in the Earth's crust from inorganic material that is part of the planet's origin.

In the words of geologist Vladimir Porfir'yev: "The overwhelming preponderance of geological evidence compels the conclusion that crude oil and natural gas have no intrinsic connection with biological matter originating near the surface of the Earth. They are primordial materials which have erupted from great depths." For more than 50 years, Russian and Ukrainian scientists have successfully used the abiotic theory to find oil and natural gas. For example, the Dnieper-Donets Basin has yielded a significant amount of oil and natural gas even though it is an area that conventional biological theories reject as unpromising. A recent technical paper found that the results "confirm the scientific conclusions that the oil and natural gas found in . the Dnieper-Donets Basin are of deep, and abiotic, origin."

The leading supporter of the abiotic theory in the U.S. is Prof. Thomas Gold of Cornell. His 1999 book, The Deep Hot Biosphere (Springer-Verlag) is a thorough discussion of the issues. It is based in part on research financed by the U.S. Geological Survey. Among prominent scientists whose work supports the abiotic theory are Jean Whelan of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Mahlon Kennicutt of Texas A&M University, and J.F Kenny of the Gas Resources Corporation.

Interestingly, economic research also implicitly supports abiotic theory. A leading researcher in this regard is Michael C. Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research and formerly chief energy economist for DRI-WEFA.

In a new paper, Lynch debunks a common theory called the Hubbert Curve, which postulates that the yield of oil fields is inherently limited. The problem, as Lynch points out, is that actual experience in many instances contradicts the Hubbert theory. Its primary flaw is that it views geology as the sole factor in oil discovery, recovery and depletion. In fact, oil prices, government policy and technology play critical roles. But the evidence he presents of oil fields that yielded far more than the Hubbert Curve predicts is consistent with the abiotic theory, which says that oil fields can be refilled from sources well below those in which production now takes place."

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