Deep Ocean Discovery Casts Doubt on Fossil Fuel Theory

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The debate over whether petroleum is derived from dead fossils or from minerals has just been served fresh evidence from the deepest, darkest depths of the Pacific Ocean. The findings published in the journal ‘Science’ come as further food for thought supportive of those who say the established fossil fuel theory is wrong.

Science Daily,’ (March 14, 2013) showcases the findings in ‘Life Deep Within Oceanic Crust Sustained by Energy from Interior of Earth,’ whereby a team of scientists from Aarhus University are making a compelling new discovery 2.5 km deep in the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of North America. Principia Scientific International members have been among those at the forefront of the debate questioning whether oil more likely comes from rocks (abiogenic theory) rather than decayed organisms (fossil fuel theory). 

So this latest evidence from microbiologist Mark Lever and his Scandanavian team is creating a real stir. Dr. Lever’s team have been examining rock samples from the depths on board the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program’s research vessel JOIDES Resolution and finding evidence of life where it was once thought impossible – in rocks.

Oil drum spill

Dr. Lever reports, “We’re providing the first direct evidence of life in the deeply buried oceanic crust. Our findings suggest that this spatially vast ecosystem is largely supported by chemosynthesis.”

Dr Lever, formerly of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA, is now a scientist at the Center for Geomicrobiology at Aarhus University, Denmark. If confirmed, the findings are set to add further support to the theory first proposed by Russian scientists and then popularised in the West by Dr. Thomas Gold in his 1992 paper “The Deep Hot Biosphere” published in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [1]

Lever, a specialist in sulphur-reducing and methane-producing organisms, says, “We collected rock samples 55 kilometres from the nearest outcrop where seawater is entering the basalt. Here the water in the basaltic veins has a chemical composition that differs fundamentally from seawater, for instance, it is devoid of oxygen produced by photosynthesis. The microorganisms we found are native to basalt,”

For decades Thomas Gold and many Russian scientists argued microbial life is widespread in the porosity of the crust of the Earth and down to depths of several kilometers, where ever rising temperatures set a limit. According to rock oil believers bacteria at such great depths is able to feed on the oil and this accounts for the presence of biological debris in hydrocarbon fuels. This, they argue, is why fossil fuel theorists need to resort to abiogenic theory for their position. By contrast Gold is backed by several thousand Russian peer-reviewed papers adamant that oil does come from rocks and is constantly being regenerated.

But, if you buy into the fossil fuel argument then, of course, you would also need to argue oil reserves are finite and ‘peak oil’ is a real concern (‘peak oil’ believers say oil reserves are fast depleting because of human extraction). But if you hold the view that abiogenic oil is more likely then there is little reason to fear humans are going to run out of oil reserves any time soon. Indeed, if oil is formed continuously from hydrocarbons in rocks then the name ‘petroleum,’ literally meaning ‘rock oil,’ is well chosen.

Back to Dr. Lever’s findings; this new ocean drilling program is showing that subsurface life obtains its energy not from photosynthesis but from chemical sources in fluids migrating upwards through the crust. As such, we can infer the mass of the deep biosphere may be comparable to that of the surface biosphere. If true, subsurface life may be widespread on other bodies in the solar system and throughout the universe, even on worlds unaccompanied by other stars. As in a previous PSI article we saw evidence that showed hydrocarbons have been identified on other planets which undermines the argument oil must come from decayed plants and other organisms.

In short, Dr. Lever’s findings may be confirmed as further validation of the about origin of natural hydrocarbons (petroleum and natural gas). As such, hydrocarbons would be shown to be not biology reworked by geology (as the traditional western fossil fuel view would hold), but rather geology reworked by biology, as argued by Thomas Gold, PSI mavericks and thousands of Russian scientists.

[1] Thomas Gold, 1999,The Deep Hot Biosphere, Springer,ISBN 0-387-95253-5

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