Predictably, the recent rise in oil prices has the usual doom-and-gloom crowd, which has consistently been wrong for 30 years, out saying once again that this proves we are running out of oil and that severe curbs on gasoline consumption must be imposed to preserve what little is left for future generations. They need not worry. There is growing evidence that oil is far more plentiful than we have been led to believe.
The prevailing theory of the origin of oil is the dead dinosaur hypothesis and dates back to the 18th century. Its originator was a Russian scientist named Mikhail Lomonosov, who put it this way in a 1757 paper, "Rock oil (petroleum) 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, transforms into rock oil."
However, in the 1950s, Russian and Ukrainian scientists developed a new theory about petroleum's origins called the abiotic or abiogenic theory. According to this view, oil is fundamentally inorganic and has no relationship to dead plant or animal life. Rather, oil originates deep in the Earth's crust from inorganic material that is part of the planet's origin.
In the words of geologist Vladimir Porfir'yev, "The overwhelming preponderance of geological evidence compels the conclusion that crude oil and natural gas have no intrinsic connection with biological matter originating near the surface of the Earth. They are primordial materials which have erupted from great depths."
For more than 50 years, Russian and Ukrainian scientists have successfully used the abiotic theory to find oil and natural gas. For example, the Dnieper-Donets Basin has yielded a significant amount of oil and natural gas even though it is an area that conventional biological theories reject as unpromising. A recent technical paper found that the results "confirm the scientific conclusions that the oil and natural gas found in?the Dnieper-Donets Basin are of deep, and abiotic, origin."
As Russia has opened up since the fall of the Soviet Union and because it has become a large and growing factor in the international oil market, American scientists are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about and interested in the abiotic theory of petroleum. Recently, the National Academy of Sciences published a paper on the topic. The Gas Research Institute has financed exploration based on abiotic theories, with encouraging results. And the American Association of Petroleum Geologists has taken an interest in the subject as well.
Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.
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