We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
We have been hearing about how the earth is running out of oil for decades but thus far there seems to be no end of the petroleum reserves in sight. Those warnings begin to sound like just another Chicken Little story – the sorts of exaggerated scare stories which cause people to dismiss some valid claims and predictions coming from environmentalists.
The theory of “abiogenic” petroleum production and also here - that is, petroleum production not from ancient plant and microorganism life, but generated chemically in the earth’s mantle – enters the debate about the limits of petroleum reserves. After all, if petroleum hydrocarbons are generated in the mantle from simple molecules like methane, then we are sitting happily on top of an essentially unlimited oil and natural gas production line.
The simplest way to demonstrate the origin of organic (carbon-containing) molecules is to look at the ratios of isotopes of carbon, especially carbon 13. Overall, the evidence strongly suggests that our fuel hydrocarbons do indeed have plant and bacterial origins – that they are “fossil fuels” - but it also indicates a likely but very minor production from non-living origins.
When science leaves the academy and the professional conferences, all sorts of things can happen, as in the global warming debates. Anti-environmentalists, and SUV drivers, want to believe the comforting abiogenic theory, and anti-growth and anti-oil environmentalists want to believe – or to make us believe – that we are down to our last drop. (Here is one such discussion.)
Psychologists and psychiatrists always are telling us about how powerful the wish to believe something can be, and how powerful wishes can be in distorting our version of reality. Even scientists are not immune from this human frailty, but they are hopefully more immune – and their results and opinions are always subject to the scrutiny and challenges of their colleagues. Trying to punch holes in one-another’s hypotheses and data is part of the job. Without the emergence of surprising new evidence, it appears that abiogenic oil is not a meaningful component of oil supply.