According to news reports yesterday, members of OPEC alone glommed in $645 Billion (Euro 430 Billion) for the first six months of this year. Not only have oil consumers been gorged to the hilt, we have been reduced to being supplicants of the oil producers. Every day we are being fed the unceasing lesson from the same hymnal, that oil is running out "tomorrow," come and get it while you still can, not unlike 1855 when Samuel Kier's Rock Oil patent medicine made from Pennsylvania crude oil touted to cure everything from diarrhea, rheumatism, ringworm to deafness, solemnly cautioning buyers, "Hurry Before This Wonderful Product is Depleted from Nature's Laboratory." This while The Peak Oil Pranksters are ever ready to carry the message for the oil patch both here and everywhere working near overtime to heighten our anxieties about oil supply, programming us to pay ever more to the oil barons and sheiks.
But wait, suppose, just suppose they are wrong and willfully misleading us. That oil's origins are not, to repeat, not biological, according to the gospel we have been taught to believe. That in effect oil originates from deep carbon deposits dating to the very beginnings of the Earth's formation in quantities vastly greater than commonly thought. The very presence of methane in the solar system is cited as one of the key underpinnings of this theory's seriousness. Then by seepage through the earth's mantle, Abiotic oil becomes in essence a renewing resource migrating toward the Earth's crust until it escapes to the surface (i.e. Canada's tar sands as theorized by some) or trapped by impermeable strata forming petroleum reservoirs.
Much research has been done on Abiotic Theory by a bevy of Russian and Ukranian geologists starting during the Soviet era, most especially by Nikolai Alexandrovich Kurdryavtsev who proposed the modern Abiotic Theory of Petroleum in 1951.
Among Kurdryavtsev's colleagues was Professor V.A. Krayushkin, chair of the Dept. of Petroleum Exploration at the Ukranian Academy of Sciences and leader of the DneiperDonets Basin Exploration project in the Ukraine, an area that has yielded eleven giant oil fields holding at least 65 billion barrels of oil and some 100 billion cubic meters of recoverable gas, comparable to the North Slope of Alaska . The area had previously been designated as having no potential for petroleum production whatsoever. Exploration, according to a paper by Richard Heinberg, was conducted entirely according to the "perspective of the modern Russian Ukranian theory of abyssal, abiotic petroleum origins".
Question, how often have you heard of M. King Hubbert and his peak oil theories dating to 1949 and how often have you heard of Kurdryavtsev or Krayushkin? Certainly, for those having some interest in Peak Oil jargon, Hubbert's name comes up endlessly, while Kurdryavtsev and Krayushkin probably never, or rarely if at all. But then again Hubbert was Chief Consultant for Shell Oil's Production Research Division and his theories served their Marketing Department well. His predictions first made in 1949 that the fossil fuel era would be of very short duration made him, with help of the fine hand of oil industry flacks, probably the best known geophysicist of his time.
Is the theory of abiotic oil viable? I am not a geologist so I cannot begin to answer authoritatively. It is certainly worth exploring with far greater seriousness than has been the case to date. But I have come to learn the oil industry and its minions. One can rest assured that if abiotic oil is a true challenge to current theory and most especially in the dimension it is purported to be, the oil patch will do all in its power to divert our attention elsewhere. Were we to learn that the supply of oil is limitless, the emperor's clothes would evaporate and the price of oil would collapse.
These comments are not in any way meant to encourage the increased and continued use of oil and carbon-based energy. Issues of greenhouse warming and climate change are far too primordial for us in any way not to continue down the path of a fossil/carbon-free society. But that will take time and in the meanwhile we must wrest back our economic bearings from the rapaciousness of the oil producers and one way to begin doing that is to dismantle the received shibboleths being used to hold us in their grasp. It is time to begin dealing with them as consumers free to make our choices just as we would with any other product or supplier. If we don't like attitudes or pricing policies or loyalty, as in customer relations we should once again be able to turn to another provider of comparable goods and we, as the buying public, or for that matter the nation in its own strategic interests, take our trade elsewhere. Seems far-fetched today? Just wait.