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(Skeptical Inquirer)   Science beats the tar out of "Bottomless Inorganic Oil" theory   ( divider line
    More: Followup  
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29929 clicks; posted to Main » on 02 Jun 2004 at 4:17 PM (18 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook

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2004-06-02 9:29:56 AM  
Now I'm really glad I didn't comment in that thread. I knew people smarter and with more specialized knowledge than I could do it better.
2004-06-02 9:50:14 AM  
Except ... it didn't.

The article actually beat the tar out of the scientist, but said the theory might merit more discussion someday. It cites one counterexample and does not refute the idea that there might be massive pools of oil at depths we can't yet reach. The majority of the article is dedicated to attacking the credentials and "extremism" of the scientist.

And they are frustrated with advocates of this alternative theory who dismiss evidence of a biological origin or interpret organics in crude oil as contaminants. Such an idea is anathema to the well-established understanding that biomarkers in petroleum are a result of living organisms transforming the complex molecules, dying, and then being subjected to burial processes that turn the biomarkets into petroleum products.

So much for objectivity, hm?
2004-06-02 9:54:27 AM  
Also notice that their major reasons for not looking further into this theory are:

1. He's not qualified to make this assertion, despite working with three scientists who are.
2. Oil companies don't want to waste their money on ideas that might not work, when they have a perfectly good method already.
3. Scientists don't like the idea that he's questioning well-established theory. (Einstein, anyone? Bohr? Planck?)
2004-06-02 10:06:33 AM  
Also I just noticed that this article is from May-June 2003.
2004-06-02 10:06:33 AM  
How about "We've never discovered a viable source of oil in anything other than sedimentary rock."

Just because there is a mechanism for the inorganic creation of oil doesn't mean that 1) it actually happens, or 2) it means anything to the worlds oil reserves.

The submitter is perhaps overzelous in saying science "beats the tar" out of the theory. Perhaps he was reaaaaaly reaching for a pun. But it does do a pretty good job of saying that we still aren't free to buy our new Canyoneros.
2004-06-02 10:08:28 AM  
Wow, simultaneous posts. Can't beat the tar out of that!

Also, have we looked? The article seems to suggest that we've only looked once (in 1990, in Sweden).
2004-06-02 10:08:32 AM  
I agree, ThatDevGuy. Also, note this from the article:

There is nothing new about any mix of hydrogen and carbon at pressures of 40 kilobar or so, and temperatures of greater than 800 degrees Celsius, forming oil.

A related question, if this is true, what is to stop us from creating oil?
2004-06-02 10:13:52 AM  
A related question, if this is true, what is to stop us from creating oil?

Ask and you shall recieve.
2004-06-02 10:14:41 AM  
I'm guessing the cost of doing so, Before Picture Model
2004-06-02 10:14:53 AM  
A related question, if this is true, what is to stop us from creating oil?

The amount of energy required to create it. In the earth's crust, that energy is there. Above that you have to generate it using something else.
2004-06-02 10:18:43 AM  
BPM- any idea how much energy it takes to create 40kb of pressure and 800 degrees of temprature?

Its possible to producue fusion as well, it just takes twice as much energy to sustain as it produces. That doesn't mean that cost effective fusion can't happen, it just means that we haven't figured out a way to do it yet.

Thats pretty much the problem with this never ending oil hypothisis. The kind of investments in capitol it would take to develop tools and techniques to drill to the depths that would be required are astronomical compared to the return. As much as energy is a political issue, the retrival of oil is a buisness proposition. If its not cost effective, it wont happen.

I suspect that if there really is a grain of truth to this, someone will pull an Niels Bohr, and prove it. Until then, its just a quack theory. The inverse of your rule number 3 is true as well. Just because science doesn't approve, doesn't mean that there is a cover up designed to hold onto current dogma.
2004-06-02 10:19:31 AM  
We could create oil easily. However, we can't use the result of that process to supply energy for the process itself. Such a cycle is impossible due to the 1st and 2nd laws of thermodynamics. You always expend more energy than you create. (Which is why we like oil so much -- we didn't expend the energy, the earth did it for us.)

Where might we find an enormous source of renewable energy, readily available to the entire planet, and reasonably cheap to harness? Hmm...

Let's think about that.
2004-06-02 10:22:19 AM  
I suspect that if there really is a grain of truth to this, someone will pull an Niels Bohr, and prove it.

Where exactly is this mystery scientist going to get the money for such an expedition and the equipment required?

Niels Bohr did his experiments using a cheap electron gun and tinfoil.
2004-06-02 10:33:24 AM  
Thanks for the responses. No, I don't know anything about thermodynamics or pressure bars. I'm not a scientist, and I don't play one on Fark.

It just seems to me that for every naysayer, there is someone who makes it happen. You are all correct in that it would have to become commercially viable, but the old saying "Necessity is the mother of invention" is what will evenutally come into play.
2004-06-02 10:33:39 AM  
And now billions of dollars are spent on particle accelerators to work on expanding his theories.

Just because something is hard, doesn't mean that its expensive. And if this really, truly, actually is a source of neverending energy then Exxon will take some of the 21 billion dollars of profit that they made this year and invest in it. Until then, this looks like a pipe dream of cold fusion.
2004-06-02 10:50:06 AM  
Maybe the answer of whether or not oil can be formed by non-biological means will be answered not by geologists and chemists working the oil fields, but by some small robot exploring deep core drilling of the moon or Mars. If deposits of oil are found on either the likelyhood of oil being an inorganically formed material would be a theory that fit the evidence. Here on Earth both mechanisms are possible and only by depleting the supply and waiting for recovery can the theories be tested to the ultimate.

One thing for sure... those resposible for making the estimates of the remaining oil supplies world wide have missed the mark so many times that their calculations are obviously missing some component in the equations.
2004-06-02 12:51:54 PM  
We should have tapped into my forehead when we had the chance.

(Charter member of obscure and unctous super-hero sect, the Oily-teens.)
2004-06-02 4:24:40 PM  
FACT: One half of everything in your Science text is definitrly a bunch of crap, the other half may be; we just don't know which half is which.

I can name you five hundred ideas which were considered crackpot a century ago, which are now accepted norm, and vice versa.
2004-06-02 4:24:58 PM  
a lot of science has been laughed at before it became well accepted.

not supporting nor denying just saying is all...
2004-06-02 4:26:22 PM  
"The potential that inorganic hydrocarbons, especially methane and a few other gases, might exist at enormous depth in the crust is an idea that could use a little more discussion. However, nor from people who take theories to the point of absurdity," he says. "This is an idea that needs to be looked into at some point as we start running our of energy. But no one who is objective discusses the issue at this time."

Objective...or perhaps on oil company payroll. In that industry, same difference!
2004-06-02 4:26:52 PM  
"But no one who is objective discusses the issue at this time." I think Roger Sassen is familiar w/ Fark.COM.

Did the flamewar die out in the previous thread?? {One may only hope...}
2004-06-02 4:27:05 PM  
Duh! Oil is a fossil fuel and fossil fuels come from fossils which come from organic life forms. Case closed!
2004-06-02 4:30:18 PM  
by the time they find it we'll (being this generation and the one or two behind it) probably all be dead anyway. Why should I care?
2004-06-02 4:31:18 PM  
If we could only harness some of the energy from each keystroke of people on the Internet...maybe laptop computers could have little coils or maybe piezo transducers in each key. The more you type, the longer your battery lasts!
2004-06-02 4:32:00 PM  
And your point is what?
2004-06-02 4:32:23 PM  
I laugh at your puny fuel sources. I just put a Pez across a 9 volt battery and get FREE DENSE ANTI-POWER.
2004-06-02 4:33:15 PM  
Wake me up when they invent the "Mr. Fusion" device for my car. My brother left some cheap Busch beer in the fridge, and I'm not about to drink the stuff.
2004-06-02 4:33:37 PM  

1. The ignorant superstition of naked unwashed savages;

2. Intolerable blasphemy, and an affront to all which is right and holy, which must be suppressed at all cost;

3. Dangerously reckless speculation. . . but there MAY be a grain of truth in it here or there;

4. Well, the obvious answer! So simple a child could see it;

5. The conventionally accepted norm, true enough in most cases, but on close inspection there are some serious holes in it;

6. Old fashioned thinking, pretty much discredited by the mainstream, but it still has a few defenders;

7. A perfectly ridiculous notion to be sure, but there's a broader lesson to be learned: It is dangerous to accept any idea at first glance, even if it appears plausible;

8. The ignorant superstition of naked unwashed savages.
2004-06-02 4:35:12 PM  
This is such a political issue, I doubt pretty much anything I read about this topic one way or the other.
2004-06-02 4:36:10 PM  
Liquefy the dead.
2004-06-02 4:36:53 PM  
Fallacy: Ad Hominem

Description of Ad Hominem
Translated from Latin to English, "Ad Hominem" means "against the man" or "against the person."

An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument. Typically, this fallacy involves two steps. First, an attack against the character of person making the claim, her circumstances, or her actions is made (or the character, circumstances, or actions of the person reporting the claim). Second, this attack is taken to be evidence against the claim or argument the person in question is making (or presenting). This type of "argument" has the following form:

Person A makes claim X.
Person B makes an attack on person A.
Therefore A's claim is false.
The reason why an Ad Hominem (of any kind) is a fallacy is that the character, circumstances, or actions of a person do not (in most cases) have a bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim being made (or the quality of the argument being made).

Example of Ad Hominem

Bill: "I believe that abortion is morally wrong."
Dave: "Of course you would say that, you're a priest."
Bill: "What about the arguments I gave to support my position?"
Dave: "Those don't count. Like I said, you're a priest, so you have to say that abortion is wrong. Further, you are just a lackey to the Pope, so I can't believe what you say."
2004-06-02 4:37:14 PM  
What I'd really like to know is...
Why in two separate instances did the word "nor" appear in that article when it should have been "not"?
2004-06-02 4:38:05 PM  
I was wondering that same thing.
2004-06-02 4:38:28 PM  
Oh ho ho, this is rich. Let's just look at this article for the article's sake:

The idea, heavily debated in Russia during the 1950s and 1960s,

Oh, you know what that means kiddies, the COMMIES were into this! It HAS to be bad!

The newest incarnation comes from J.F. Kenney, a self-proclaimed oil and gas driller from Houston, Texas, who worked with three Russian scientists, including Vladimir Kutcherov of the Russian State University of Oil and Gas.

Self-proclaimed... must be a crackpot then. Too bad he's not a Harvard-appointed oil and gas driller. And there's the pesky Russians again. This guy can't be right.

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.

Ignore the proper following of the scientific process here folks... and to help you ignore it, we won't mention any of the institutions or people who reviewed it. They might have influence and make you think positively of the mans ideas and we wouldn't want that. It would get in the way of you ignoring it.

Such is absolute nonsense. Many geologists would agree.

They didn't, but they would. We promise.

But the granite did not yield an economically viable result.

Ignore the fact that we are debunking the idea that oil can come from an inorganic source as we simply tell you the result was not economically viable, not whether they found any oil or not.

"Unfortunately, it has little or nothing to do with the origins of commercial fossil fuel deposits."

Ignore the fact we're not talking about the origins of commercial fossil fuel deposits and instead entirely different deposits at much greater deapths.

What a steaming pile of slanted "jouranlism". I can't even judge whether the scientific claims they are talking about are true or false.
2004-06-02 4:38:32 PM  
Ah HA! So oil doesn't come from organisms that died prior to the earth's creation (6,000 years ago). It is God's will that we shall ravage this Earth like Jacob going in unto his wives and slaves. God bless Bush and our infinite supply of crude.
2004-06-02 4:38:35 PM  
Soylent black is people!
2004-06-02 4:38:35 PM  

FACT: One half of everything in your Science text is definitrly (sic) a bunch of crap, the other half may be; we just don't know which half is which.

I can name you five hundred ideas which were considered crackpot a century ago, which are now accepted norm, and vice versa.

You are exactly right. This process of constantly learning, revising, updating, and improving is what has created every scientific breakthrough in the history of mankind and will continue to serve us well. It is unchanging dogma and the refusal to change which hurts mankind. The very fact that everything we know is wrong is humanity's greatest strength as it drives our curiosity and discovery.
2004-06-02 4:39:01 PM  
Now let us consider biodiesel. Based on a report by the US DOE and USDA entitled "Life Cycle Inventory of Biodiesel and Petroleum Diesel for Use in an Urban Bus"5, biodiesel produced from soy has an energy balance of 3.2:1. That means that for each unit of energy put into growing the soybeans and turning the soy oil into biodiesel, we get back 3.2 units of energy in the form of biodiesel. That works out to an energy efficiency of 320%. The reason for the energy efficiency being greater than 100% is that the growing soybeans turn energy from the sun into chemical energy (oil). Current generation diesel engines are 43% efficient (HCCI diesel engines under development, and heavy duty diesel engines have higher efficiencies, but for the moment we'll just use current car-sized diesel engine technology). That brings the overall energy balance down to 1.38:1, roughly three times better than the 0.36:1 of the hydrogen fuel cell car. This figure means that for each unit of energy that goes into growing the crops and producing the biodiesel, 1.38 units of energy are available to be used for moving the vehicle, a net gain of 38%, compared to a net loss of 64% for hydrogen. With the improved energy balances of other crops such as mustard and algae compared to the 3.2:1 of soy, this energy balance would be even better.
2004-06-02 4:40:22 PM  
And the second thing I'd really like to know...
If oil comes from fossils, how many fossils does it take to create a big huge oil field that supplies billions of barrels of crude, and how did all those fossils get in that one place? Really... I want to know.. because it just doesn't seem logical.
2004-06-02 4:42:24 PM  
I'm still waiting for my "Mr. Fusion" power source as shown in Back to the Future.
2004-06-02 4:43:27 PM  
So, WTF, we couldn't wait until after OPEC lowered barell prices before we start to debunk the "Hey, OPEC, we just found a shiatload of oil!"

This reminds me of the reporters, right after 9/11, broadcasting every vulnerability at every strategic location across the US during every single newscast.

You guys sure do know how to screw up a perfectly good government media spin.
2004-06-02 4:43:34 PM  
Uh-Huh-Huh-Huh...You Said "PNAS"
2004-06-02 4:43:49 PM  
Bludstone....did they figure the ratio using hemp as a source would produce?
2004-06-02 4:44:42 PM  
"Their paper on inorganic hydrocarbon formation, published in the August 20, 2002, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), has generated coverage .... PNAS published the paper at the request of Academy member Howard Reiss, a chemical physicist at the University of California at Los Angeles."

ha ha ha, he said P-NAS.
2004-06-02 4:47:19 PM  
Gecko Gingrich

That was an offally interesting article.

I will take my pun-ishment now.
2004-06-02 4:47:43 PM  
Exactly, waz.

While oil obviously can be made via decomposition, I think this inorganic method makes a lot of sense.

Either that or there used to be a LOT of things living in some underground river/cavern we haven't found...
2004-06-02 4:47:55 PM  

Im not sure. Most hemp research is illegal (!) in the states. Its probably off the scale. Something like 5:1 or better. Dont quote me on that. Try finding the info :)
2004-06-02 4:48:04 PM  
2004-06-02 04:33:37 PM olddinosaur
No. The scientific method does work in the manner described.
2004-06-02 4:49:35 PM  
Wait - who are the people that are debunking the guy? What are their credentials? I mean, asking an astrophysicist about geology is like asking a banker about your car.

And asking a reporter to understand anything is like trying to explain your technical job to your parents. They might vaguely understand what you're saying, but when asked to repeat it the depth of their misunderstandings become evident.
2004-06-02 4:51:42 PM  

Bull. Go read "The structure of scientific revolutions."

Whenever anyone makes an "outlandish" but well tested and repeat-able claim, its still scoffed at.

Science development is like a tree. It branches based on different theories building off of each other. A scientific revolution is when someone "discovers" that one of the branches is wrong, and chops it off. This pisses off all the leaves (Read: scientists) on said branch. They fight to make sure it doesnt get cut off.

Oi. What a thread.
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