Saturday, April 16, 2005

Abiogenic Theory of Oil

Got involved in a discussion about peak oil. Someone brought up the idea that oil isn't what we think: "Oil isn't the byproduct of biological mass from the dinosaurs, it's a geologic chemical and there's plenty still left in the earth."

I read up on it - I'm no scientist so I can't be sure of the origin of oil, but my response to this was:

Even if the abiogenic theory is true. that doesn't automatically solve our problems.

first of all, just because it is there, doesn't mean we can easily get it. in fact, the deeper we have to go, the less efficient it is. sometimes it is so energy- and cost- intensive that it isn't worth it. If it were to take the energy equivalent of 1 barrel of oil for each barrel extracted, it is better NOT to extract it, right?

take the tar sands, which are extremely inefficient, requiring almost as much energy to mine and refine as is produced. in fact, in alberta, they use high quality fuel (natural gas) to produce poor quality crude oil. improved technology is making it more efficient, but it is still quite ridiculous if you think about it, especially when you factor in other costs (environmental, etc. see below)

it is likely that technological improvements would help in the long run, making extraction of your deep so called abiogenic crude oil possible and maybe somewhat efficient, but why not put that same technology into other energy sources that don't have all the drawbacks of petroleum?

if we put aside the concern with "running out" because we are now tapping into vast geological petroleum deposits, there are still other issues. the release of carbon from deep underground into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide will continue to change the composition of our planet - causing global warming in the short term. sulphur, contained in varying amounts in different oil sources, oxidizing and eventually becoming sulphuric acid in the atmosphere (acid rain)... smog formed from other particles such as nitrogens, dirty groundwater, etc. we all know about these. they won't go away with more oil!

there's more, if you want me to go on, but i'm sure everyone is sick of hearing it... my point is that a new theory of the origin of oil doesn't solve the problem.

so are we looking forward to lives filled with chronic illness, smog alert days, increasingly damaging natural disasters? oh wait, that's already happening... how is abiogenic oil going to help?

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