- This story really begins in 1946, just after the close
of World War II, which had illustrated quite effectively that oil was integral
to waging modern, mechanized warfare. Stalin, recognizing the importance
of oil, and recognizing also that the Soviet Union would have to be self
sufficient, launched a massive scientific undertaking that has been compared,
in its scale, to the Manhattan Project. The goal of the Soviet project
was to study every aspect of petroleum, including how it is created, how
reserves are generated, and how to best pursue petroleum exploration and
- The challenge was taken up by a wide range of scientific
disciplines, with hundreds of the top professionals in their fields contributing
to the body of scientific research. By 1951, what has been called the Modern
Russian-Ukrainian Theory of Deep, Abiotic Petroleum Origins was born. A
healthy amount of scientific debate followed for the next couple of decades,
during which time the theory, initially formulated by geologists, based
on observational data, was validated through the rigorous quantitative
work of chemists, physicists and thermodynamicists. For the last couple
of decades, the theory has been accepted as established fact by virtually
the entire scientific community of the (former) Soviet Union. It is backed
up by literally thousands of published studies in prestigious, peer-reviewed
- For over fifty years, Russian and Ukrainian scientists
have added to this body of research and refined the Russian-Ukrainian theories.
And for over fifty years, not a word of it has been published in the English
language (except for a fairly recent, bastardized version published by
astronomer Thomas Gold, who somehow forgot to credit the hundreds of scientists
whose research he stole and then misrepresented).
- This is not, by the way, just a theoretical model that
the Russians and Ukrainians have established; the theories were put to
practical use, resulting in the transformation of the Soviet Union - once
regarded as having limited prospects, at best, for successful petroleum
exploration - into a world-class petroleum producing, and exporting, nation.
- J.F. Kenney spent some 15 years studying under some of
the Russian and Ukrainian scientists who were key contributors to the modern
petroleum theory. When Kenney speaks about petroleum origins, he is not
speaking as some renegade scientist with a radical new theory; he is speaking
to give voice to an entire community of scientists whose work has never
been acknowledged in the West. Kenney writes passionately about that neglected
body of research:
- The modern Russian-Ukrainian theory of deep, abiotic
petroleum origins is not new or recent. This theory was first enunciated
by Professor Nikolai Kudryavtsev in 1951, almost a half century ago, (Kudryavtsev
1951) and has undergone extensive development, refinement, and application
since its introduction. There have been more than four thousand articles
published in the Soviet scientific journals, and many books, dealing with
the modern theory. This writer is presently co-authoring a book upon the
subject of the development and applications of the modern theory of petroleum
for which the bibliography requires more than thirty pages.
- The modern Russian-Ukrainian theory of deep, abiotic
petroleum origins is not the work of any one single man -- nor of a few
men. The modern theory was developed by hundreds of scientists in the (now
former) U.S.S.R., including many of the finest geologists, geochemists,
geophysicists, and thermodynamicists of that country. There have now been
more than two generations of geologists, geophysicists, chemists, and other
scientists in the U.S.S.R. who have worked upon and contributed to the
development of the modern theory. (Kropotkin 1956; Anisimov, Vasilyev et
al. 1959; Kudryavtsev 1959; Porfir'yev 1959; Kudryavtsev 1963; Raznitsyn
1963; Krayushkin 1965; Markevich 1966; Dolenko 1968; Dolenko 1971; Linetskii
1974; Letnikov, Karpov et al. 1977; Porfir'yev and Klochko 1981; Krayushkin
- The modern Russian-Ukrainian theory of deep, abiotic
petroleum origins is not untested or speculative. On the contrary, the
modern theory was severely challenged by many traditionally-minded geologists
at the time of its introduction; and during the first decade thenafter,
the modern theory was thoroughly examined, extensively reviewed, powerfully
debated, and rigorously tested. Every year following 1951, there were important
scientific conferences organized in the U.S.S.R. to debate and evaluate
the modern theory, its development, and its predictions. The All-Union
conferences in petroleum and petroleum geology in the years 1952-1964/5
dealt particularly with this subject. (During the period when the modern
theory was being subjected to extensive critical challenge and testing,
a number of the men pointed out that there had never been any similar critical
review or testing of the traditional hypothesis that petroleum might somehow
have evolved spontaneously from biological detritus.)
- The modern Russian-Ukrainian 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. 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
- They also determined that the evolution of reduced hydrocarbon
molecules requires pressures of magnitudes encountered at depths equal
to such of the mantle of the Earth. During the second phase of its development,
the modern theory of petroleum was entirely recast from a qualitative argument
based upon a synthesis of many qualitative facts into a quantitative argument
based upon the analytical arguments of quantum statistical mechanics and
thermodynamic stability theory. (Chekaliuk 1967; Boiko 1968; Chekaliuk
1971; Chekaliuk and Kenney 1991; Kenney 1995) With the transformation of
the modern theory from a synthetic geology theory arguing by persuasion
into an analytical physical theory arguing by compulsion, petroleum geology
entered the mainstream of modern science.
- The modern Russian-Ukrainian theory of deep, abiotic
petroleum origins is not controversial nor presently a matter of academic
debate. The period of debate about this extensive body of knowledge has
been over for approximately two decades (Simakov 1986). The modern theory
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.
(Krayushkin, Chebanenko et al. 1994) 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.
- It appears that, 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 theory is backed by a massive body of research representing
fifty years of intense scientific inquiry. The other theory is an unproven
relic of the eighteenth century. One theory anticipates deep oil reserves,
refillable oil fields, migratory oil systems, deep sources of generation,
and the spontaneous venting of gas and oil. The other theory has a difficult
time explaining any such documented phenomena.
- So which theory have we in the West, in our infinite
wisdom, chosen to embrace? Why, the fundamentally absurd 'Fossil Fuel'
theory, of course -- the same theory that the 'Peak Oil' doomsday warnings
are based on.
- I am sorry to report here, by the way, that in doing
my homework, I never did come across any of that "hard science"
documenting 'Peak Oil' that Mr. Strahl referred to. All the 'Peak Oil'
literature that I found, on Ruppert's site and elsewhere, took for granted
that petroleum is a non-renewable 'fossil fuel.' That theory is never questioned,
nor is any effort made to validate it. It is simply taken to be an established
scientific fact, which it quite obviously is not.
- So what do Ruppert and his resident experts have to say
about all of this? Dale Allen Pfeiffer, identified as the "FTW Contributing
Editor for Energy," has written: "There is some speculation that
oil is abiotic in origin -- generally asserting that oil is formed from
magma instead of an organic origin. These ideas are really groundless."
- Here is a question that I have for both Mr. Ruppert and
Mr. Pfeiffer: Do you consider it honest, responsible journalism to dismiss
a fifty year body of multi-disciplinary scientific research, conducted
by hundreds of the world's most gifted scientists, as "some speculation"?
- Another of FTW's prognosticators, Colin Campbell, is
described by Ruppert as "perhaps the world's foremost expert on oil."
He was asked by Ruppert, in an interview, "what would you say to the
people who insist that oil is created from magma ...?" Before we get
to Campbell's answer, we should first take note of the tone of Ruppert's
question. It is not really meant as a question at all, but rather as a
statement, as in "there is really nothing you can say that will satisfy
these nutcases who insist on bringing up these loony theories."
- Campbell's response to the question was an interesting
one: "No one in the industry gives the slightest credence to these
theories." Why, one wonders, did Mr. Campbell choose to answer the
question on behalf of the petroleum industry? And does it come as a surprise
to anyone that the petroleum industry doesn't want to acknowledge abiotic
theories of petroleum origins? Should we have instead expected something
along these lines?:
- The Center for an Informed America
March 13, 2004
Cop v CIA (Center for an Informed America)
- The Most Important Center for an Informed America Story
in Two Years...
- On February 29, 2004, I received the following e-mail
message from Michael Ruppert of From
- I challenge you to an open, public debate on the subject
of Peak Oil; any time, any place after March 13th 2004. I challenge you
to bring scientific material, production data and academic references and
citations for your conclusions like I have. I suggest a mutually acceptable
panel of judges and I will put up $1,000 towards a purse to go to the winner
of that debate. I expect you to do the same. And you made a dishonest and
borderline libelous statement when you suggested that I am somehow pleased
that these wars of aggression have taken place to secure oil. My message
all along has been, "Not in my name!" Put your money where your
mouth is. But first I suggest you do some homework. Ad hominem attacks
using the word "bullshit", unsupported by scientific data are
a sign of intellectual weakness (at best). I will throw more than 500 footnoted
citations at you from unimpeachable sources. Be prepared to eat them or
rebut them with something more than you have offered.
- Wow! How does high noon sound?
- Before I get started here, Mike, I need to ask you just
one quick question: are you sure it was only a "borderline libelous
statement"? Because I was really going for something more unambiguously
libelous. I'll see if I can do better on this outing. Let me know how I
- Several readers have written to me, incidentally, with
a variation of the following question: "How can you say that Peak
Oil is being promoted to sell war when all of the websites promoting the
notion of Peak Oil are stridently anti-war?"
- But of course they are. That, you see, is precisely the
point. What I was trying to say is that the notion of 'Peak Oil' is being
specifically marketed to the anti-war crowd -- because, as we all know,
the pro-war crowd doesn't need to be fed any additional justifications
for going to war; any of the old lies will do just fine. And I never said
that the necessity of war was being overtly sold. What I said, if I remember
correctly, is that it is being sold with a wink and a nudge.
- The point that I was trying to make is that it would
be difficult to imagine a better way to implicitly sell the necessity of
war, even while appearing to stake out a position against war, than through
the promotion of the concept of 'Peak Oil.' After September 11, 2001, someone
famously said that if Osama bin Laden didn't exist, the US would have had
to invent him. I think the same could be said for 'Peak Oil.'
- I also need to mention here that those who are selling
'Peak Oil' hysteria aren't offering much in the way of alternatives, or
solutions. Ruppert, for example, has stated flatly that "there is
no effective replacement for what hydrocarbon energy provides today."
- The message is quite clear: "we're running out of
oil soon; there is no alternative; we're all screwed." And this isn't,
mind you, just an energy problem; as Ruppert has correctly noted, "Almost
every current human endeavor from transportation, to manufacturing, to
plastics, and especially food production is inextricably intertwined with
oil and natural gas supplies."
- If we run out of oil, in other words, our entire way
of life will come crashing down. One of Ruppert's "unimpeachable sources,"
Colin Campbell, describes an apocalyptic future, just around the corner,
that will be characterized by "war, starvation, economic recession,
possibly even the extinction of homo sapiens."
- My question is: if Ruppert is not selling the necessity
of war, then exactly what is the message that he is sending to readers
with such doomsday forecasts? At the end of a recent posting, Ruppert quotes
dialogue from the 1975 Sidney Pollack film, Three Days of the Condor:
- Higgins: ...It's simple economics. Today it's oil, right?
In 10 or 15 years - food, Plutonium. And maybe even sooner. Now what do
you think the people are gonna want us to do then? Turner: Ask them. Higgins:
Not now - then. Ask them when they're running out. Ask them when there's
no heat in their homes and they're cold. Ask them when their engines stop.
Ask them when people who've never known hunger start going hungry. Do you
want to know something? They won't want us to ask them. They'll just want
us to get it for them.
- The message there seems pretty clear: once the people
understand what is at stake, they will support whatever is deemed necessary
to secure the world's oil supplies. And what is it that Ruppert is accomplishing
with his persistent 'Peak Oil' postings? He is helping his readers to understand
what is allegedly at stake.
- Elsewhere on his site, Ruppert warns that "Different
regions of the world peak in oil production at different times ... the
OPEC nations of the Middle East peak last. Within a few years, they --
or whoever controls them -- will be in effective control of the world economy,
and, in essence, of human civilization as a whole."
- Within a few years, the Middle East will be in control
of all of human civilization?! Try as I might, I can't imagine any claim
that would more effectively rally support for a U.S. takeover of the Middle
East. The effect of such outlandish claims is to cast the present war as
a war of necessity. Indeed, a BBC report posted on Ruppert's site explicitly
endorses that notion: "It's not greed that's driving big oil companies
- it's survival."
- On the very day that Ruppert's challenge arrived, I received
another e-mail, from someone I previously identified - erroneously, it
would appear - as a "prominent critic" of Michael Ruppert. In
further correspondence, the writer, Jeff Strahl, explained that he is (a)
not a critic of Ruppert in general, but rather a critic only of Ruppert's
stance on certain aspects of the 9-11 story, and (b) not all that prominent.
This is what Mr. Strahl had to say:
- I'm a participant in a relatively new website,
which has done lots of work regarding the WTC and Pentagon side of the
9/11 events, especially the physical evidence which reveals the official
story as a complete hoax. Under "talks" you'll find a slide show
I've done (and will do again) in public on the Pentagon aspects. This is
all simply to let you know I'm far from an apologist for the status quo.
Nor am I an apologist for Mike Ruppert, with whom in fact I got into a
donnybrook of a fight on public email lists over his denial of the relevancy
of physical evidence and the fact that an article full of disinformation
about the WTC collapse, written 9/13/01, was still on his website, unedited
or corrected, two years later. He finally gave in and printed a (sort of)
retraction. That said, I have to take issue with your stance re Peak Oil,
something you say you wish were true, but deny, not on the basis of any
information, but on the basis that you seem to think it's too good to be
true, and that it's all info presented by Ruppert, which you thus suspect
since you suspect Ruppert. Matter of fact, Peak Oil was predicted by an
oil geologist, King Hubbert, way back in the mid '60s, before Ruppert was
even in college. It's been pursued since then by lots of people in the
science know-how, including Dale Allen Pfeiffer, Richard Heinberg, Colin
Campbell and Kenneth Deffeyes. The information is quite clear, global oil
production has either peaked in the last couple of years or will do so
in the next couple, as Hubbert predicted decades ago (He predicted Peak
Oil in the US as happening in the early '70s, was laughed at, but his prediction
came true right on schedule). The science here is quite hard, facts are
available from lots of sources. Perhaps Hubbert was part of a long-planned
disinfo campaign that was planned way back in the '60s, and all the others
are part of that plot. I find it hard to believe that, and I am quite a
- As for the relevancy of physical evidence, it would appear
that that is another bone that I have to pick with Mr. Ruppert. But I will
save that for another time. For now, the issue is 'Peak Oil' (which, as
you can see, I am continuing to enclose in quotation marks, which is, as
regular readers know, how I identify things that don't actually exist).
- For the record, I never said that Michael Ruppert was
the only one presenting information about 'Peak Oil.' I said that he was
the most prominent of those promoting the idea. I also never implied that
Ruppert came up with the idea on his own. I am aware that the theory has
a history. The issue here, however, is the sudden prominence that 'Peak
Oil' has attained.
- Lastly, let me say that, unlike you, Jeff, I am enough
of a skeptic to believe that an ambitious, well-orchestrated disinformation
campaign, possibly spanning generations, should never arbitrarily be ruled
out. I am also enough of a skeptic to suspect that when a topic I have
covered generates the volume of e-mail that my 'Peak Oil' musings have
generated, then I must have managed to step into a pretty big pile of shit.
What I did not realize, until I decided to take Mr. Ruppert's advice and
"do some homework," was that it was a much bigger pile than I
could have imagined.
- I read through some, but certainly not all, of the alleged
evidence that Ruppert has brought to the table concerning 'Peak Oil.' Since
I have no interest in financially supporting his cause, I am not a paid
subscriber and can therefore not access the 'members only' postings. But
I doubt that I am missing much. The postings that I did read tended to
be extremely redundant and, therefore, a little on the boring side.
- Ruppert's arguments range from the vaguely compelling
to the downright bizarre. One argument that pops up repeatedly is exemplified
by this Ruppert-penned line: "One of the biggest signs of the reality
of Peak Oil over the last two decades has been a continual pattern of merger-acquisition-downsizing
throughout the industry."
- Really? And is that pattern somehow unique to the petroleum
industry? Or is it a pattern that has been followed by just about every
major industry? Is the consolidation of the supermarket industry a sign
of the reality of Peak Groceries? And with consolidation of the media industry,
should we be concerned about Peak News? Or should we, perhaps, recognize
that a pattern of monopoly control - characterized by mergers, acquisitions,
and downsizing - represents nothing more than business as usual throughout
the corporate world?
- Another telling sign of 'Peak Oil,' according to Ruppert
and Co., is sudden price hikes on gas and oil. Of course, that would be
a somewhat more compelling argument if the oil cartels did not have a decades-long
history of constantly feigning shortages to foist sudden price increases
on consumers (usually just before peak travel periods). Contrary to the
argument that appears on Ruppert's site, it is not need that is driving
the oil industry, it is greed.
- In what is undoubtedly the most bizarre posting that
Ruppert offers in support of his theory, he ponders whether dialogue from
an obscure 1965 television series indicates that the CIA knew as far back
as the 1960s about the coming onset of 'Peak Oil.'
- Even if that little factoid came from a more, uhmm, credible
source, what would the significance be? Hasn't the conventional wisdom
been, for many decades, that oil is a 'fossil fuel,' and therefore a finite,
non-renewable resource? Since when has it been an intelligence community
secret that a finite resource will someday run out?
- A few readers raised that very issue in questioning my
recent 'Peak Oil' rants. "Even if we are not now in the era of Peak
Oil," the argument generally goes, "then surely we will be soon.
After all, it is inevitable." And conventional wisdom dictates that
it is, indeed, inevitable. But if this website has one overriding purpose,
it is to question conventional wisdom whenever possible.
- There is no shortage of authoritatively stated figures
on the From the Wilderness website: billions of barrels of oil discovered
to date; billions of barrels of oil produced to date; billions of barrels
of oil in known reserves; billions of barrels of oil consumed annually.
Yadda, yadda, yadda. My favorite figure is the one labeled, in one posting,
"Yet-to-Find." That figure, 150 billion barrels (a relative pittance),
is supposed to represent the precise volume of conventional oil in all
the unknown number of oil fields of unknown size that haven't been discovered
yet. Ruppert himself has written, with a cocksure swagger, that "there
are no more significant quantities of oil to be discovered anywhere ..."
- A rather bold statement, to say the least, considering
that it would seem to be impossible for a mere mortal to know such a thing.
- Ruppert's figures certainly paint a scary picture: rapid
oil consumption + diminishing oil reserves + no new discoveries = no more
oil. And sooner, rather than later. But is the 'Peak Oil' argument really
valid? It seems logical -- a non-renewable resource consumed with a vengeance
obviously can't last for long. The only flaw in the argument, I suppose,
would be if oil wasn't really a 'fossil fuel,' and if it wasn't really
a non-renewable resource.
- "Conventional wisdom says the world's supply of
oil is finite, and that it was deposited in horizontal reservoirs near
the surface in a process that took millions of years." So said the
Wall Street Journal in April 1999 (Christopher Cooper "Odd Reservoir
Off Louisiana Prods Oil Experts to Seek a Deeper Meaning," Wall Street
Journal, April 16, 1999). It therefore logically follows that conventional
wisdom also says that oil will reach a production peak, and then ultimately
- As I said a few paragraphs ago, the purpose of this website
is to question conventional wisdom -- by acquainting readers with stories
that the media overlook, and with viewpoints that are not allowed in the
mainstream. It was my understanding that From the Wilderness, and other
'alternative' websites, had a similar goal.
- But is 'Peak Oil' really some suppressed, taboo topic?
If it is, then why, as I sit here typing this, with today's (March 7, 2004)
edition of the Los Angeles Times atop my desk, are the words "Running
Out of Oil -- and Time" staring me in the face from the front page
of the widely read Sunday Opinion section? The lengthy piece, penned by
Paul Roberts, is replete with dire warnings of the coming crisis. Save
for the fact that the words 'Peak Oil' are not routinely capitalized, it
could easily pass for a From the Wilderness posting.
- The Times also informed readers that Roberts has a new
book due out in May, entitled The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous
New World. Scary stuff. Beating Robert's book to the stores will be Colin
Campbell's The Coming Oil Crisis, due in April. Both titles will have to
compete for shelf space with titles such as Richard Heinberg's The Party's
Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies, published April of
last year; David Goodstein's Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil, which
just hit the shelves last month; and Kenneth Deffeyes' Hubbert's Peak:
The Impending World Oil Shortage, published October 2001. The field is
getting a bit crowded, but sales over at Amazon.com remain strong for most
of the contenders.
- The wholesale promotion of 'Peak Oil' seems to have taken
off immediately after the September 11, 2001 'terrorist' attacks, and it
is now really starting to pick up some steam.
- The BBC covered the big story last April
- CNN covered it in October
- The Guardian covered it in December
- Now the Los Angeles Times has joined the chorus.
- I guess the cat is pretty much out of the bag on this
one. Everyone can cancel their subscriptions to From the Wilderness and
pocket the $35 a year, since you can read the very same bullshit for free
in the pages of the Los Angeles Times.
- Interestingly enough, there is another story about oil
that, unlike the 'Peak Oil' story, actually has been suppressed. It is
a story that very few, if any, of my readers, or of Michael Ruppert's readers,
are likely aware of. But before we get to that story, let's first briefly
review what we all 'know' about oil.
- As anyone who stayed awake during elementary school science
class knows, oil comes from dinosaurs. I remember as a kid (calm down,
folks; there will be no Brady Bunch references this week) seeing some kind
of 'public service' spot explaining how dinosaurs "gave their all"
so that we could one day have oil. It seemed a reasonable enough idea at
the time -- from the perspective of an eight-year-old. But if, as an adult,
you really stop to give it some thought, doesn't the idea seem a little,
uhmm ... what's the word I'm looking for here? ... oh yeah, I remember
now ... preposterous?
- How could dinosaurs have possibly created the planet's
vast oil fields? Did millions, or even billions, of them die at the very
same time and at the very same place? Were there dinosaur Jonestowns on
a grand scale occurring at locations all across the planet? And how did
they all get buried so quickly? Because if they weren't buried right away,
wouldn't they have just decomposed and/or been consumed by scavengers?
And how much oil can you really squeeze from a pile of parched dinosaur
- Maybe there was some type of cataclysmic event that caused
the sudden extinction of the dinosaurs and also buried them -- like the
impact of an asteroid or a comet. But even so, you wouldn't think that
all the dinosaurs would have been huddled together waiting to become oil
fields. And besides, scientists are now backing away from the mass extinction
- The Wall Street Journal article previously cited noted
that it "would take a pretty big pile of dead dinosaurs to account
for the estimated 660 billion barrels of oil in the [Middle East]."
I don't know what the precise dinosaur-carcass-to-barrel-of-oil conversion
rate is, but it does seem like it would take a hell of a lot of dead dinosaurs.
Even if we generously allow that a single dinosaur could yield 5 barrels
of oil (an absurd notion, but let's play along for now), more than 130
billion dinosaurs would have had to be simultaneously entombed in just
one small region of the world. But were there really hundreds of billions
of dinosaurs roaming the earth? If so, then one wonders why there is all
this talk now of overpopulation and scarce resources, when all we are currently
dealing with is a few billion humans populating the same earth.
- And why the Middle East? Was that region some kind of
Mecca for dinosaurs? Was it the climate, or the lack of water and vegetation,
that drew them there? Of course, the region could have been much different
in prehistoric times. Maybe it was like the Great Valley in the Land Before
Time movies. Or maybe the dinosaurs had to cross the Middle East to get
to the Great Valley, but they never made it, because they got bogged down
in the desert and ultimately became (through, I'm guessing here, some alchemical
process) cans of 10W-40 motor oil.
- Another version of the 'fossil fuel' story holds that
microscopic animal carcasses and other biological matter gathered on the
world's sea floors, with that organic matter then being covered over with
sediment over the course of millions of years. You would think, however,
that any biological matter would decompose long before being covered over
by sediment. But I guess not. And I guess there were no bottom-feeders
in those days to clear the ocean floors of organic debris. Fair enough.
But I still don't understand how those massive piles of biological debris,
some consisting of hundreds of billions of tons of matter, could have just
suddenly appeared, so that they could then sit, undisturbed, for millions
of years as they were covered over with sediment. I can understand how
biological detritus could accumulate over time, mixed in with the sediment,
but that wouldn't really create the conditions for the generation of vast
reservoirs of crude oil. So I guess I must be missing something here.
- The notion that oil is a 'fossil fuel' was first proposed
by Russian scholar Mikhailo Lomonosov in 1757. Lomonosov's rudimentary
hypothesis, based on the limited base of scientific knowledge that existed
at the time, and on his own simple observations, was that "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."
- Two and a half centuries later, Lomonosov's theory remains
as it was in 1757 -- an unproved, and almost entirely speculative, hypothesis.
Returning once again to the Wall Street Journal, we find that, "Although
the world has been drilling for oil for generations, little is known about
the nature of the resource or the underground activities that led to its
creation." A paragraph in the Encyclopedia Britannica concerning the
origins of oil ends thusly: "In spite of the great amount of scientific
research ... there remain many unresolved questions regarding its origins."
- Does that not seem a little odd? We are talking here,
after all, about a resource that, by all accounts, plays a crucial role
in a vast array of human endeavors (by one published account, petroleum
is a raw ingredient in some 70,000 manufactured products, including medicines,
synthetic fabrics, fertilizers, paints and varnishes, acrylics, plastics,
and cosmetics). By many accounts, the very survival of the human race is
entirely dependent on the availability of petroleum. And yet we know almost
nothing about this most life-sustaining of the earth's resources. And even
though, by some shrill accounts, the well is about to run dry, no one seems
to be overly concerned with understanding the nature and origins of so-called
'fossil fuels.' We are, rather, content with continuing to embrace an unproved
18th century theory that, if subjected to any sort of logical analysis,
- On September 26, 1995, the New York Times ran an article
headlined "Geochemist Says Oil Fields
May Be Refilled Naturally." Penned by Malcolm W. Browne, the piece
appeared on page C1.
- Could it be that many of the world's oil fields are refilling
themselves at nearly the same rate they are being drained by an energy
hungry world? A geochemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
in Massachusetts ... Dr. Jean K. Whelan ... infers that oil is moving in
quite rapid spurts from great depths to reservoirs closer to the surface.
Skeptics of Dr. Whelan's hypothesis ... say her explanation remains to
be proved ... Discovered in 1972, an oil reservoir some 6,000 feet beneath
Eugene Island 330 [not actually an island, but a patch of sea floor in
the Gulf of Mexico] is one of the world's most productive oil sources ...
Eugene Island 330 is remarkable for another reason: it's estimated reserves
have declined much less than experts had predicted on the basis of its
production rate. "It could be," Dr. Whelan said, "that at
some sites, particularly where there is a lot of faulting in the rock,
a reservoir from which oil is being pumped might be a steady-state system
-- one that is replenished by deeper reserves as fast as oil is pumped
out" ... The discovery that oil seepage is continuous and extensive
from many ocean vents lying above fault zones has convinced many scientists
that oil is making its way up through the faults from much deeper deposits
... A recent report from the Department of Energy Task Force on Strategic
Energy Research and Development concluded from the Woods Hole project that
"there new data and interpretations strongly suggest that the oil
and gas in the Eugene Island field could be treated as a steady-state rather
than a fixed resource." The report added, "Preliminary analysis
also suggest that similar phenomena may be taking place in other producing
areas, including the deep-water Gulf of Mexico and the Alaskan North Slope"
... There is much evidence that deep reserves of hydrocarbon fuels remain
to be tapped.
- This compelling article raised a number of questions,
including: how did all those piles of dinosaur carcasses end up thousands
of feet beneath the earth's surface? How do finite reservoirs of dinosaur
goo become "steady-state" resources? And how does the fossil
fuel theory explain the continuous, spontaneous venting of gas and oil?
- The Eugene Island story was revisited by the media three-and-a-half
years later, by the Wall Street Journal (Christopher Cooper "Odd Reservoir
Off Louisiana Prods Oil Experts to Seek a Deeper Meaning," Wall Street
Journal, April 16, 1999).
- Something mysterious is going on at Eugene Island 330.
Production at the oil field, deep in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of
Louisiana, was supposed to have declined years ago. And for a while. it
behaved like any normal field: Following its 1973 discovery, Eugene Island
330's output peaked at about 15,000 barrels a day. By 1989, production
had slowed to about 4,000 barrels a day. Then suddenly -- some say almost
inexplicably -- Eugene Island's fortunes reversed. The field, operated
by PennzEnergy Co., is now producing 13,000 barrels a day, and probable
reserves have rocketed to more than 400 million barrels from 60 million.
Stranger still, scientists studying the field say the crude coming out
of the pipe is of a geological age quite different from the oil that gushed
10 years ago. All of which has led some scientists to a radical theory:
Eugene Island is rapidly refilling itself, perhaps from some continuous
source miles below the Earth's surface. That, they say, raises the tantalizing
possibility that oil may not be the limited resource it is assumed to be.
... Jean Whelan, a geochemist and senior researcher from the Woods Hole
Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts ... says, "I believe there
is a huge system of oil just migrating" deep underground. ... About
80 miles off the Louisiana coast, the underwater landscape surrounding
Eugene Island is otherworldly, cut with deep fissures and faults that spontaneously
belch gas and oil.
- So now we are talking about a huge system of migrating
dinosaur goo that is miles beneath the Earth's surface! Those dinosaurs
were rather crafty, weren't they? Exactly three years later (to the day),
the media once again paid a visit to the Gulf of Mexico. This time, it
was Newsday that filed the report (Robert Cooke "Oil Field's Free
Refill," Newsday, April 19, 2002).
- Deep underwater, and deeper underground, scientists see
surprising hints that gas and oil deposits can be replenished, filling
up again, sometimes rapidly. Although it sounds too good to be true, increasing
evidence from the Gulf of Mexico suggests that some old oil fields are
being refilled by petroleum surging up from deep below, scientists report.
That may mean that current estimates of oil and gas abundance are far too
low. ... chemical oceanographer Mahlon "Chuck" Kennicutt [said]
"They are refilling as we speak. But whether this is a worldwide phenomenon,
we don't know" ... Kennicutt, a faculty member at Texas A&M University,
said it is now clear that gas and oil are coming into the known reservoirs
very rapidly in terms of geologic time. The inflow of new gas, and some
oil, has been detectable in as little as three to 10 years. In the past,
it was not suspected that oil fields can refill because it was assumed
that oil was formed in place, or nearby, rather than far below. According
to marine geologist Harry Roberts, at Louisiana State University ... "You
have a very leaky fault system that does allow it (petroleum) to migrate
in. It's directly connected to an oil and gas generating system at great
depth." ... "There already appears to be a large body of evidence
consistent with ... oil and gas generation and migration on very short
time scales in many areas globally" [Jean Whelan] wrote in the journal
Sea Technology ... Analysis of the ancient oil that seems to be coming
up from deep below in the Gulf of Mexico suggests that the flow of new
oil "is coming from deeper, hotter [sediment] formations" and
is not simply a lateral inflow from the old deposits that surround existing
oil fields, [Whelan] said.
- Now I'm really starting to get confused. Can someone
please walk me through this? What exactly is an "oil and gas generating
system"? And how does such a system generate oil "on very short
time scales"? Is someone down there right now, even as I type these
words, forklifting dinosaur carcasses into some gigantic cauldron to cook
up a fresh batch of oil?
- Desperate for answers to such perplexing questions, I
turned for advice to Mr. Peak Oil himself, Michael Ruppert, and this is
what I found: "oil ... is the result of climactic conditions that
have existed at only one time in the earth's 4.5 billion year history."
I'm guessing that that "one time" - that one golden window of
opportunity to get just the right mix of dinosaur stew - isn't the present
time, so it doesn't seem quite right, to me at least, that oil is being
generated right now.
- In June 2003, Geotimes paid a visit to the Gulf of Mexico
("Raining Hydrocarbons in the Gulf"), and the story grew yet
- Below the Gulf of Mexico, hydrocarbons flow upward through
an intricate network of conduits and reservoirs ... and this is all happening
now, not millions and millions of years ago, says Larry Cathles, a chemical
geologist at Cornell University. "We're dealing with this giant flow-through
system where the hydrocarbons are generating now, moving through the overlying
strata now, building the reservoirs now and spilling out into the ocean
now," Cathles says. ... Cathles and his team estimate that in a study
area of about 9,600 square miles off the coast of Louisiana [including
Eugene Island 330], source rocks a dozen kilometers [roughly seven miles]
down have generated as much as 184 billion tons of oil and gas -- about
1,000 billion barrels of oil and gas equivalent. "That's 30 percent
more than we humans have consumed over the entire petroleum era,"
Cathles say. "And that's just this one little postage stamp area;
if this is going on worldwide, then there's a lot of hydrocarbons venting
- Dry oil wells spontaneously refilling? Oil generation
and migration systems? Massive oil reserves miles beneath the earth's surface?
Spontaneous venting of enormous volumes of gas and oil? (Roberts noted
that - and this isn't really going to please the environmentalists, but
I'm just reporting the facts, ma'am - "natural seepage" in areas
like the Gulf of Mexico "far exceeds anything that gets spilled"
by the oil industry. And those natural emissions have been pumped into
our oceans since long before there was an oil industry.)
- The all too obvious question here is: how is any of that
explained by a theory that holds that oil and gas are 'fossil fuels' created
in finite quantities through a unique geological process that occurred
millions of years ago?
- Why do we insist on retaining an antiquated theory that
is so obviously contradicted by readily observable phenomena? Is the advancement
of the sciences not based on formulating a hypothesis, and then testing
that hypothesis? And if the hypothesis fails to account for the available
data, is it not customary to either modify that hypothesis or formulate
a new hypothesis -- rather than, say, clinging to the same discredited
hypothesis for 250 years?
- In August 2002, the journal Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences published a study authored by J.F. Kenney, V.A. Kutchenov,
N.A. Bendeliani and V.A. Alekseev. The authors argued, quite compellingly,
that oil is not created from organic compounds at the temperatures and
pressures found close to the surface of the earth, but rather is created
from inorganic compounds at the extreme temperatures and pressures present
only near the core of the earth.
- As Geotimes noted ("Inorganic Origin of Oil: Much
Ado About Nothing?," Geotimes, November 2002), the journal "published
the paper at the request of Academy member Howard Reiss, a chemical physicist
at the University of California at Los Angeles. As per the PNAS guidelines
for members communicating papers, Reiss obtained reviews of the paper from
at least two referees from different institutions (not affiliated with
the authors) and shepherded the report through revisions."
- I mention that because I happened to read something that
Michael Ruppert wrote recently that seems pertinent: "In real life,
it is called 'the proof is in the pudding.' In scientific circles, it is
called peer review, and it usually involves having your research published
in a peer-reviewed journal. It is an often-frustrating process, but peer-reviewed
articles ensure the validity of science."
- It would seem then that we can safely conclude that what
Kenney, et. al. have presented is valid science, since it definitely was
published in a peer-reviewed journal. And what that valid science says,
quite clearly, is that petroleum is not by any stretch of the imagination
a finite resource, or a 'fossil fuel,' but is in fact a resource that is
continuously generated by natural processes deep within the planet.
- Geotimes also noted that the research paper "examined
thermodynamic arguments that say methane is the only organic hydrocarbon
to exist within Earth's crust." Indeed, utilizing the laws of modern
thermodynamics, the authors constructed a mathematical model that proves
that oil can not form under the conditions dictated by the 'fossil fuel'
- I mention that because of something else I read on Ruppert's
site. Listed as #5 of "Nine Critical Questions to Ask About Alternative
Energy" is: "Most of the other questions in this list can be
tied up into this one question: does the invention defy the Laws of Thermodynamics?
If the answer is yes, then something is wrong."
- Well then, Mr. Ruppert, I have some very bad news for
you, because something definitely is wrong -- with your 'Peak Oil' theory.
Because here we have a published study, subjected to peer review (thus
assuring the "validity" of the study), that demonstrates, with
mathematical certainty, that it is actually the 'fossil fuel' theory that
defies the laws of thermodynamics. It appears then that if we follow Ruppert's
Laws, we have to rule out fossil fuels as a viable alternative to petroleum.
- Reaction to the publication of the Kenney study was swift.
First to weigh in was (Tom Clarke "Fossil Fuels Without the Fossils:
Petroleum: Animal, Vegetable or Mineral?," Nature
News Service, August 14, 2002).
- Petroleum - the archetypal fossil fuel - couldn't have
formed from the remains of dead animals and plants, claim US and Russian
researchers. They argue that petroleum originated from minerals at extreme
temperatures and pressures. Other geochemists say that the work resurrects
a scientific debate that is almost a fossil itself, and criticize the team's
conclusions. The team, led by J.F. Kenney of the Gas Resources Corporation
in Houston, Texas, mimicked conditions more than 100 kilometres below the
earth's surface by heating marble, iron oxide and water to around 1500°
C and 50,000 times atmospheric pressure. They produced traces of methane,
the main constituent of natural gas, and octane, the hydrocarbon molecule
that makes petrol. A mathematical model of the process suggests that, apart
from methane, none of the ingredients of petroleum could form at depths
less than 100 kilometres.
- The geochemist community, and the petroleum industry,
were both suitably outraged by the publication of the study. The usual
parade of experts was trotted out, of course, but a funny thing happened:
as much as they obviously wanted to, those experts were unable to deny
the validity of the research. So they resorted to a very unusual tactic:
they reluctantly acknowledged that oil can indeed be created from minerals,
but they insisted that that inconvenient fact really has nothing to do
with the oil that we use.
- Showing that oil can also form without a biological origin
does not disprove [the 'fossil fuel'] hypothesis. "It doesn't discredit
anything," said a geochemist who asked not to be named. ... "No
one disputes that hydrocarbons can form this way," says Mark McCaffrey,
a geochemist with Oil Tracers LLC, a petroleum-prospecting consultancy
in Dallas, Texas. A tiny percentage of natural oil deposits are known to
be non-biological, but this doesn't mean that petrol isn't a fossil fuel,
he says. "I don't know anyone in the petroleum community who really
takes this prospect seriously," says Walter Michaelis, a geochemist
at the University of Hamburg in Germany.
- So I guess the geochemist community is a petulant lot.
They did "concede," however, that oil "that forms inorganically
at the high temperatures and massive pressures close to the Earth's mantle
layer could be forced upwards towards the surface by water, which is denser
than oil. It can then be trapped by sedimentary rocks that are impermeable
- What they were acknowledging, lest anyone misunderstand,
is that the oil that we pump out of reservoirs near the surface of the
earth, and the oil that is spontaneously and continuously generated deep
within the earth, could very well be the same oil. But even so, they insist,
that is certainly no reason to abandon, or even question, our perfectly
ridiculous 'fossil fuel' theory.
- Coverage by New
Scientist of the 'controversial' journal publication largely mirrored
the coverage by Nature (Jeff Hecht "You Can Squeeze Oil Out of a Stone,"
New Scientist, August 17, 2002).
- Oil doesn't come from dead plants and animals, but from
plain old rock, a controversial new study claims. The heat and pressure
a hundred kilometres underground produces hydrocarbons from inorganic carbon
and water, says J.F. Kenney, who runs the Gas Resources Corporation, an
oil exploration firm in Houston. He and three Russian colleagues believe
all our oil is made this way, and untapped supplies are there for the taking.
Petroleum geologists already accept that some oil forms like this. "Nobody
ever argued that there are no inorganic sources," says Mike Lewan
of the US Geological Survey. But they take strong issue with Kenney's claim
that petroleum can't form from organic matter in shallow rocks.
- Geotimes chimed in as well, quoting Scott Imbus, an organic
geochemist for Chevron Texaco Corp., who explained that the Kenney research
is "an excellent and rigorous treatment of the theoretical and experimental
aspects for abiotic hydrocarbon formation deep in the Earth. Unfortunately,
it has little or nothing to do with the origins of commercial fossil fuel