Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fuel for thought--are we REALLY running out?

Recently,   and especially after passing gas stations with ever rising prices for gasoline and diesel, I've been thinking about oil.

For most of my life, I've been told (and I learned in grade school) that oil is a finite resource and that we are running out. I learned that oil is a fossil fuel and that it is a non-renewable resource.  As an adult and a horse transporter, one of my favorite stops was an oasis in Wyoming called Little America--a hotel/truck stop/restaurant in the middle of nowhere.  Prominently displayed at Little America is a green dinosaur, the logo and mascot for Sinclair Oil which imparts the message that oil comes to us from dead dinosaurs. Because we're running out of oil, there has been a hue and cry repeated over and over that we need to find another fuel source otherwise we're going to be caught with our pants down with nothing to push our (and the world's) economy or our cars and trucks for that matter.

I won't argue that using oil and related products is polluting.  That's a fact (and another blog).  But I'm beginning to think we've been fed misconceptions through most of our lives about the earth running out of oil.

I have driven millions of miles throughout the US over the years.  Many places, such as Texas and Oklahoma, are positively covered with oil wells.  Early on, those pumps over the wells stood idle.  Then, as prices for fuel began to creep up, the pumps were refurbished and restarted.  According to an acquaintance who owns some of those wells, the costs to create products from the crude oil in that region were too high to continue taking oil from those wells because of #1, the quality of the crude oil was poor; and #2 the oil was running out since these were among the first wells in the region to pump oil (oil was first discovered in the US in Pennsylvania of all places).  Well, after 15 years, those wells are still pumping and the oil, which was running out, is plentiful again. The same is true with oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico and many other places around the world.  The oil wells are being replenished with oil coming up from below the current oil fields!
biogenic theory

There are three major theories telling us how oil is created.  One, and it's the one most of us learned in grade school, that oil comes from dead animals and plants that were crushed and fermented under high pressure to create oil over a long, long time (biogenic theory).  Two, " Petroleum is a renewable resource made deep in the earth by inorganic processes (abiotic — an idea first proposed by Russian scientist Mikhail Lomonosov in 1757 who called it “rock oil”). That second theory is proposed by Dr. Thomas Gold, professor emeritus at Cornell and an astronomer.  A third theory is that there are deep pockets of petroleum near the center of the earth that, although not renewable, are vast and percolate upward, refilling current oil fields.  There is evidence of the abiotic theory occurring on the planet Mars
possible asphalt (oil producing) volcano ON MARS

Proofs for the latter two theories get a little technical but basically tell us that oil, deep oil, has none of the biological properties of the so-called shallow wells that have served us for as long as the past two hundred years! All the evidence from deep wells, six to eight miles deep, points to oil being mixed with biological matter as it works its way upwards towards the earth's surface and this is where the "fossil fuel" concept has come from. If you are interested in learning more of this, I'm providing links at the bottom of this blog.

The dinosaurs haven't been dead long enough to create the amounts of oil that is consumed yearly throughout the world nor did they live in sufficient quantities to create the oil "reserves" that have served humanity for (get this) 2500 years.  The question remains, if indeed oil is a renewable resource, are we using oil faster than it can be replenished?  Supposedly the world is going to START running out of oil in 2037.  Well, that year has been updated several times since I was a kid.  I have a sneaking suspicion that date will be changed again in the future as more research (and drilling) is done.  

In the meantime, we are held captive by high petroleum prices and world demand.  It's important we develop alternative energy sources for many reasons but I'm beginning to think running out of oil isn't one of them.  Just a little fuel for thought (ugh).

Major research on renewable oil

The Discovery of Oil

Origin of Petroleum 


  1. Larry this blog interests me because Mel's grandson, Jesse works in the oil wells in North Dakota. He says North Dakota has more oil that anywhere in the world and it's not gonna run out in any of our lifetimes. But when the oil in the middle east runs out, then who will be coming to us for their oil? Them!'s an interesting subject. There are also Natural Gas wells all around now too. Jess says they run into Natural gas in the Dakota's and they don't have lines for them, so they let it funnel up in 50-75 foot tubes(probably not the right word to use) and the are on fire at the top have to talk to Jess about it all because he explained some things to me that were way over the top of my head..LOL!....but I agree with you on what you have said. I thing the government thinks we are just a bunch of dummies!
    Jenny Broadhead

  2. Jenny, am so glad Jesse has a good job in North Dakota. I THINK I have met him.

    That burning off of natural gas has infuriated me for years. As I drove around the US, I saw that a lot. Obviously, in some cases, it wasn't financially profitable to capture it and put it in the pipeline system. But in North Dakota, where this is mostly new mining, there's no excuse.

    And I agree, the government does think we are a bunch of dummies or sheep who will go wherever they tell us to and think and believe whatever they say.


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