- Depleted oil pools seem to be renewing themselves inexplicably.
Is petroleum a renewable resource? According to renowned scientist Thomas
Gold that's just about right! Forget everything you thought you knew about
fossil fuels and dinosaur remains, in an article published recently by
the Washington Post, Gold explains that hydrocarbons exist abundantly deep
inside the earth's core and interact biologically with other life substances
to continuously produce self renewing springs of petroleum.
- This could be great news for vulnerable countries like
the United States. This report comes at a time when fuel prices are soaring,
largely due to America's huge dependency on unpredictable foreign producers
to supply crude oil. Some say this news may well shatter the conventional
belief that petroleum is not a renewable resource. At the heart of Gold's
theory though is the existence of a controversial underground "biosphere",
from which he says all planetary life originates.
- No Flake
- Gold has never shied away from controversy. A Vienna-born
physicist, cosmologist and "general scientific heavy lifter",
the Post notes that Gold "founded and for many years directed the
Cornell Center for Radiophysics and Space Research. In his 79 years he's
authored more than 280 scholarly papers on subjects ranging from astronomy
- According to the Post, "he's also a full-time heretic,
periodically parachuting into some new scientific field and infuriating
academic plodders there with some outlandishly bold new theory. More annoying,
his theories usually turn out to be right. Worst of all, he thinks the
orthodox have so gummed up the gates of knowledge that they were more open
to breakthroughs 50 years ago."
- The Washington Post Story, published last November, says
that Gold has been labeled "one of America's most iconoclastic scientists."
Gold himself is quoted as saying: "In choosing a hypothesis there
is no virtue in being timid ... [but] I clearly would have been burned
at the stake in another age." The Post notes that Gold, "who
holds prestigious appointments to the National Academy of Sciences and
the Royal Society of London, turned his attention to petroleum during the
energy crisis of the late 1970s."
- And Gold's career has been astonishing. The Post offers
- "In 1947, fresh from pioneering wartime work on
the development of radar, he used his research into high-frequency receptors
to publish an entire new theory of mammalian hearing. Physiologists shrugged
it off for 30 years. Until auditory technology evolved enough to prove
- "In 1959, when everybody thought the surface of
the moon was frozen lava, Gold decided it was covered with dust from meteor
impacts. Footprints of the Apollo astronauts will testify eternally that
he was right about that, too.
- "In 1967 astronomers trashed his suggestion that
energy pulsating in the distant universe was the signature of collapsing
stars. The subsequent observation of pulsars won two other scientists a
Nobel Prize. And proved Gold correct.
- "In 1992 he predicted that Martian meteorites might
contain fossilized microbes. Four years later NASA announced the same thing."
- "The Deep Hot Biosphere"
- Gold's views are articulated in his new book, "The
Deep Hot Biosphere". Central to his views is his idea that the origin
and bulk of biological life is not on the surface of the Earth but deep
within it. Life forms on the surface like plants and animals are later
adaptations. Crucial to all this, is Gold's finding that petroleum molecules
are abundant throughout the universe and "an inexhaustible supply",
created by the "Big Bang" lie trapped within the earth's molten
- According to the Post, Gold argues that "the long-held
assumption that oil comes from the millennial composting of dinosaurs and
ancient swamps has always been dubious, whatever school science books may
say." Gold's "theory of a deep, hot biosphere doesn't just solve
its contradictions, it sorts out in the process such minor matters as the
origin of all earthly life and its relationship with the rest of the universe."
- How does it all work? The Washington Post story explains
Gold's theory like this:
- "Oil and gas were born out of the Big Bang and trapped
in the Earth 4.5 billion years ago in randomly dispersed molecular form.
But the intense heat of the Earth's volcanic core "sweats them out"
of the rocks that contain them, sending them migrating outward through
the porous deep Earth because they are more fluid and weigh less. In a
region between 10 and 300 kilometers deep, the hydrocarbons nourish vast
colonies of microbes where all of earthly life began, and where today there's
a vastly greater mass of living things than exist on the surface of the
planet. The migrating oil and gas "sweep up" the biological wreckage
of this life as they percolate upward, together with molecules of helium,
all of which eventually get trapped and concentrated for periods in near-surface
reservoirs where oil is usually found."
- Sound far out? The Post notes that "in the years
since Gold first noised the outlines of his theory, researchers throughout
the world have documented extensively the presence of active microbes in
the deep Earth under conditions of heat and pressure once thought impossible
to sustain life." Some scientist think similar forces are at work
elsewhere in the solar system, perhaps on Jupiter's moon Europa. Furthermore,
astronomers have detected petroleum molecules deep in space, where plant
life is not thought to be possible. Getting back to more Earthly matters,
the Post adds however, "some oil reservoirs long thought exhausted
now appear to be mysteriously refilling."
- Timely news
- This news couldn't come at a better time. Recent decisions
to cut petro production by the OPEC nations have left Americans struggling
to catch their breaths in the wake of the latest oil shock and the resultant
sky rocketing oil prices which seem to reach new pinnacles every day. Prices
for crude have reached a nine-year record high surpassing prices last seen
during the Gulf War. Some analysts now suggest publicly that gasoline
prices may hit as high as $2 at the pumps before leveling out later this
- Unfortunately though, Gold's ideas aren't likely to result
in any technological breakthroughs in time to impact this most recent crisis.
Some American's are considering other actions, including "gas outs",
protests to show indignation, and calls for a federal investigation to
find out why existing crude stocks aren't finding there way to suffering
consumers. In fact, fires, explosions, and unplanned down time seems to
have been wreaking havoc with refinery operators ever since the beginning
of the new year, aggravating the problem by causing shortages of refined
products and fueling frequent price spikes.
- One man, Jim Bell, founder of the 22 year old Ecological
Life Systems Institute (ELSI) suggests that the oil industry has not been
forthcoming with the public about the status of their domestic refinery
equipment. Could they be trying to hide something?
- "Barely a year ago, Congress was told that only
about 30% of U.S. refineries would be ready for Y2K. At the same time,
special laws were rammed through Congress keeping the Y2K readiness level
of their systems a secret from the public. It's hard to believe that all
this sudden failure of refinery equipment is merely a coincidence. I think
its outrageous that they can't open their secret files now and let us see
what's behind all the accident' and injuries."
- Bell is advocating a grassroots signature drive from
his website, www.elsi.org, to compel President Clinton to conduct a public
investigation into the role-played by refineries in the current run up
of gas prices. Whatever the cause, U.S. Department of Energy spokesmen
have warned that the current shortage of refined products could well extends
into the summer driving season.
- Refinery problems aside though, scientists may be hard
at work validating Gold's theories. Is petroleum really renewable? Many
within the industry remain skeptical. Plus, cleaner and more efficient
fuels are now on the horizon. Still, the potential discovery of newly forming
petroleum ponds and the development of abundant natural gas reserves within
our own borders could, at least in the near future, save American consumers
from our dependence on imported oil and the threat it poses to our lifestyles
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