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The abiotic oil idea is geologic nonsense, but it's found a second life by being highly useful for disarming concerns among the faithful over the finite supply of fossil fuels. As Rachel Maddow correctly points out above, this is an outgrowth of young earth creationism aided by wishful thinking and the willful ignorance now in the process of utterly consuming a once relatively normal political party. It becomes a big problem for the rest of us when they put anti-science nutcases in charge of large departments tasked with preventing or mitigating this kind of stuff:

North Carolina health officials are warning residents to steer clear of the Dan River, where a pipe from a nearby power plant is dumping unsafe levels of arsenic. ... Arsenic levels in the waste-water are 14 times those considered safe for human contact.

“Because the Duke Power-Eden coal ash spill is located in North Carolina’s portion of the Dan River, a potential hazard exists immediately downstream of the release,” health officials said in a statement, recommending that people “avoid recreational contact with water and sediment in the Dan River in North Carolina downstream of the Duke Power-Eden spill site.”


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Comment Preferences

  •  Heh - perfect post & title. (11+ / 0-)

    Had I only known you were going with it, I would've sent this to you to post the video - I think it's directly pertinent and eminently appropriate:

    Vision of a Post Apocalyptic Mission Fail

    Just posted it this morning. :)

  •  A Planet of Ignorance in the Age of Stupid (17+ / 0-)

    It's true there is some abiotic hydrocarbon formation but that doesn't get to the heart of the problem. Let's say they're 100% about abiotic fuel deposits. It doesn't matter because the real problem is we can't continue burning sequestered hydrocarbons no matter what process created them. Leave the grease in the ground. Methane, petroleum, coal, all of it -- it has to stay buried.

    Food processed to be nothing more than simple starches with two dozen flavorings and stabilizers added to make it appear to be food isn't "food". It's "feed" -- what you give to livestock to fatten them up for slaughter.

    by ontheleftcoast on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 06:34:51 AM PST

    •  Or, natural processes will take their toll. (13+ / 0-)

      Eventually we'll render the planet virtually uninhabitable to us and most other lifeforms, there'll be a mass extinction (including us, probably) and slowly things will settle back to homeostasis.

      The planet will go on just fine without us.  What people rarely seem to get is that we're not doing it for "the environment" we're doing it for US.

      And unless the rich already have decided they have enough trillions to build Elysium, they'll go down with the boat as surely as they did on the Titanic.  Physics trumps wealth and power every time.

    •  I agree. I don't necessarily see it as bunk (5+ / 0-)

      science.  They are perfectly willing to test their ideas and admit when they come up short.  But if it take 100 million years to create organic oil or 100 million years to create abiotic oil, I don't see how either case is much different.

      And we love to wear a badge, a uniform / And we love to fly a flag But I won't...let others live in hell / As we divide against each other And we fight amongst ourselves

      by ban48 on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 07:28:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You missed a few points (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Aunt Pat, Liberal Protestant

        The first claim is that abiotic oil is continuously created, faster than we are burning carbon, so that we cannot run out. That is their argument against Peak Oil.

        Creationists then claim that abiotic oil is created on a timescale of no more than the thousands of years that they claim constitutes the history of the Universe.

        The problem with all of this is that what was sound but purely conjectural science in the 18th century became highly contested science in the 20th century, and simply failed to work. Now the only remaining proponents of abiotic petroleum are cranks and conspiracy theorists (specifically Jerome Corsid, a Birther who claims that the US is helping Iran get nuclear weapons) who are absolutely not willing to test their ideas and admit when they come up short. Corsi's book is Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil.

        Wikipedia: Abiogenic petroleum origin

        Although the abiogenic hypothesis was accepted by many geologists in the former Soviet Union, it fell out of favor at the end of the 20th century because it never made any useful prediction for the discovery of oil deposits.

        Glasby GP (2006). "Abiogenic origin of hydrocarbons: an historical overview"[PDF]. Resour Geol 56 (1): 83–96. doi:10.1111/j.1751-3928.2006.tb00271.x.

        Also, the chemical and isotopic composition of petroleum strongly favors an origin from plant matter, not from carbon and hydrogen cracked from CO2 and water.

        But you are right that the key fact is that none of this matters, because we can't afford to burn the fossil carbon we know about, much less any more that might turn up.

        Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

        by Mokurai on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 09:50:06 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, yeah - point taken. I definitely missed the (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          claim that oil is being produced in the mantle faster than we consume it.  I definitely would have stopped in laughter right there.  My bad.

          And we love to wear a badge, a uniform / And we love to fly a flag But I won't...let others live in hell / As we divide against each other And we fight amongst ourselves

          by ban48 on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 02:38:46 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  how abiotic hydrocarbons are different (0+ / 0-)

        "But if it take 100 million years to create organic oil or 100 million years to create abiotic oil, I don't see how either case is much different."

        Oh... well I tend to agree that the abiotic oil hypothesis simply doesn't have much effect on present day public policy debates for various reasons, but there is a practical difference between the two.

        If the hydrocarbons are all "fossil", they're the result of decacying plant matter and such from the surface of the earth.  If the hydrocarbons are of cosmic origin, they can potentially be distributed throughout the planet's volume, and may still be gradually bubbling upwards.

        If you think "high prices" are the biggest problem with burning hydrocarbons, that sounds like good news to you; if you're worried about what happens to the biosphere after it's burned, then not.

        And this stuff all has some practical bearing deciding where you try to drill for things like natural gas -- as I remember it, early on, Thomas Gold made a guess about a good, unusual place to look for methane, and there was an attempt at drilling there, but they gave up on it after awhile.

        •  Problem with "Bubblig Out" Theory... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          If abiotic oil were seeping up toward the surface, at just fast enough a rate to supply human industrial needs, and had been doing so for all of the Earth's history, it would appear that the Earth must be composed of at least 10% or so hydrocarbons. This would have been noticed by now...

          "Cause 5 in every 4 just don't amount to nothin' more, so watch the rats go 'cross the floor, and make up songs ' bout bein' poor." F Zappa

          by GearRatio on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 01:04:22 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  oil wells "refill" (0+ / 0-)

            There's a factoid going around about abandoned oil wells appearing to "refill" after they've been left alone for awhile.  Some people take that as a point in favor of Gold's thesis.

            I think your model has a number of odd features: there could be reservoirs that we're draining faster than they refill, but that doesn't shoot down Gold.  

            Gold's ideas have been adopted by oil enthusiasts, but the dependency doesn't go the other way... you can think Gold called it right, and still think we need to give burning hydrocarbons a rest.

  •  Oil is not a fossil fuel but even worse . . . (4+ / 0-)

    Gravity is artificial!!  A means that certain socialistic forces use to keep the people PINNED DOWN . . . unable to SOAR!!!!!

    I want my wings back!!!!!!!!!!

    Hard to have a government when one-third of your representatives are insane and the other two-thirds have been sold to the highest bidder.

    by Rikon Snow on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 06:45:35 AM PST

  •  modern ignorance is no accident. (12+ / 0-)

    it's an invaluable synthetic if you're trying to manipulate millions.

    ecstatically baffled

    by el vasco on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 06:46:15 AM PST

  •  How do you "compromise" with crazy people? (8+ / 0-)

    Seriously ... how can you run a country when 25% of its legislators are CERTIFIABLY insane?

    "Looking back over a lifetime, you see that love was the answer to everything." — Ray Bradbury

    by We Shall Overcome on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 06:49:59 AM PST

    •  the actual percentage of legislators who believe (5+ / 0-)

      this horseshit is probably under 5%.  But they're willing to play the game.

      ecstatically baffled

      by el vasco on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 07:03:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It doesn't really make any difference (5+ / 0-)

        ...whether they believe it or not, as long as they act on it.  And they do act on this horseshit.

        Only the most cynical and disciplined of people won't come to believe what it is they have to say and do to make a living.

        My own guess, going back to the nadir of George W.'s polling numbers, is that roughly half the Republican base (of 25 to 28% of the population) is downright crazy.

        •  the percentage of crazies is across the board (4+ / 0-)

          uniform, methinks.  But the percentage of gullible/manipulated/racist/sanctimonious in the GOP base is astounding.  

          ecstatically baffled

          by el vasco on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 07:59:59 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Crazy and well funded. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          These right wing bats#$t nuts have the rest of the Republican Party in deathly fear, lest the wrath of the wackos rain down upon them. The likes of Limbaugh being able to make any moderate Republican "apologize" to him is ridiculous. These RWNJs are nothing but bullies, that includes the TP, Limbaugh (whose Clear Channel has lost money, HOORAY), Hannity, Savage and many others. If the moderate Repubs would call their bluff and speak up against them, they would back down. Yes, they are loud, yes, they are well funded, but their numbers are not as large as they would like you to believe.

    •  It is called Checks and Balances (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Liberal Protestant

      The original idea was how to get decent government from crooks and adherents of local interests by setting them against each other in a divided legislature with power over law and money but not force; a multi-level court system with power over law, but neither money nor force; and an administration that can sometimes be held in check by either or both, with power over force but neither money or law; all embedded within a Federal system where some powers are reserved to the states and the people. It is a highly imperfect system that can be described, following Churchill, as

      the worst system of government known to man, excepting all of the others that have been tried from time to time.
      We have withstood larceny on the grand scale, massive stupidity, civil war, and every kind of demagoguery, and in spite of the extraordinary amount of damage done from time to time, the country frequently prospers, and we tend to get better about human rights, the rule of law, and all that good stuff.

      Currently the Angry White Guy faction is going down for the third time, with the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement as the first two. They lose millions of their children and grandchildren every year, and will continue to do so for as long as the current generation gap persists.

      That means that the current Red state gerrymanders are doomed, and with it the Republican Party as a national political force.

      Factional infighting in the Republican Party has erupted into open warfare against each other and everybody else in sight. Every brilliant strategic move they come up with turns out to dig them deeper into the hole. There is no segment of the population that they are willing to recruit to their cause by promising them something of value to them, as they used to be able to do with racists, bigots, misogynists, and other haters.

      Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

      by Mokurai on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 10:11:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Seems to me I remember some kind of (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aunt Pat, GreyHawk, Silina

    "religious University" that kept on insisting - and presently keeps on insisting, in spite of absolute lack of evidence - that it had "found/invented/proved/whatever" the answer to "cold fusion" in one of its laboratories.  And thus, we could "harness the power of the sun" in . . . our own homes(?) . . . or wherever else fantasy and nonsensical imagination might wander.

    Science - being rather strictly insistent upon the kind of PROOF for such "theorems" that includes the ability to reproduce the results on demand - has managed to laugh this particular fiction to scorn, at least insofar as the REAL WORLD be concerned.  But, Brigham Young U does keep coming up with the ridiculosity, regularly.  Fits somewhere in the very poorly written fiction old Jos. Smith Jr. wrote back in the early 19th Century, I guess.

    Ah!  Young Earth Creationism, wishful thinking, and willful ignorance!  I prefer reading the intelligent writers, such as Heinlein, Bradbury, et. al. myself.

  •  Abiotic hypothesis, short -"Jesus will make more (8+ / 0-)

    oil for us because He loves America and knows we're Special! Hooray!"

  •  It's a good thing for Muslims that climate change (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aunt Pat, GreyHawk, ontheleftcoast

    is a hoax, because if it wasn't, they wouldn't be allowed to escape to Mars.

    Allah hu akbar indeed.

    "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

    by kovie on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 07:14:04 AM PST

  •  Stephen Hawking proves he's still got it (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aunt Pat, GreyHawk, ontheleftcoast

    Ive been critical of H at times for failing to resist bloviating on things he knows nothing about, or at least no more than the man on the street, as if his opinion is special. But in his area of expertise he's still a Master.
    This is a few weeks old, but if it was mentioned here earlier I overlooked it.

  •  "Nanophononic metamaterial" (4+ / 0-)

    I can hardly wait to drop that one into conversation at at cocktail party.

    “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing
    he was never reasoned into” - Jonathan Swift

    by jjohnjj on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 07:20:23 AM PST

  •  I live in the Southeast (5+ / 0-)

    I have lived in the Southeast forever.  In the past 10 years (of my 70 years here), the climate has changed more than the previous 60 years.  

    Only a complete idiot would argue our climate is not changing.  Here, we are getting more and more industry because of the low wages and low taxes and incentives states are giving companies to move to our neck of the woods.  That has brought pollution, lots of pollution both on the ground and in the air.  

    It is not difficult to see how that is affecting the climate.

    •  Just to add a Non-North American POV: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Liberal Protestant

      In Belgium winters have been colder and drier than say in the 70's or 80's. The summers have been  warmer but also drier. What's worse, the weather has gotten much more extreme (not that weather is extreme here, bt still). More floods, more dry spells, more days that are unusually warm or cold. Not good for our resevoirs and farmers.

      And espescially worrying for us at the heat-dumping end of the Gulf Stream, it seams to be getting weaker. See an article in the Guardian or one from the BBC website.

      I'm not going to bother to add more links but google Gulf stream, cooling and Daily Mail, Telegraph or Independent (none of which is lefty-greeny-feely and you can find similar articles.

      Basically melting ice in the north stops dense seawater from sinking and returning towards the equator by diluting this dense seawater with lighter freshwater. This has happened in the past.

      This isn't only a problem for NW Europe however. The Gulf stream warms much of the Eastern seaboard as well, and because the current draws water away from the coast there, it reduces sea levels by a few feet. [To see this for yourself use a detachable showerhead or hose in a bucket to cause a 'stream' in a certain direction; close to where you cause the current, the water level will be lower than in the rest of the bucket; it's a great way to explain the phenomenon to kids or CTers]. Further south a slowing Gulf stream means more heat and humidity. And those two fuel tropical storms and hurricanes. Bad news all round.

      As an ex-resident of Australia, I would also point out that they have had heat waves, droughts, bush [forest] fires and floods at unprecedented levels (certainly when  taken together) in the last ten years or so.

      I ride the wild horse .

      by BelgianBastard on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 09:04:29 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Are El Ninos predictable? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreyHawk, Aunt Pat

    Making some progress:

    An English scientist named Goldstein did research on this in 1929 but no one followed up on it because the computations were way too difficult without the aid of you know what.

    •  Yes, they're the anchorson babies of teh Messicans (2+ / 0-)

      You just have to find someone that looks tanned but not orange enough, if they have kids they are either La Ninas or El Ninos. And there are more and more because the communist Fascist Kenyan Usurper Blah man in the Blah house has angered God.

      (open captions for the hard of understanding: snark)

      I ride the wild horse .

      by BelgianBastard on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 07:52:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Anyone who goes to a Science site... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aunt Pat, ontheleftcoast, Naniboujou

    with a comments section will not be surprised.

    Atlantians built the pyramids (and somehow despite being far more advanced than us, built their civilisation on an active volcanoe that was doomed).

    Aliens built any number of ancient monuments (because, you know, helping humans stack rocks atop one another would be very important to them).

    Bigfoot can't be found because of a cover-up (they are apparently much cleverer than we are because they not only never leave a carcass, a bone, a tooth or even an identifiable hair behind, but not even any poop or dna. My guess is they are all masquerading as CSI's. Probably by pretending to be Nazi's).

    GHOSTS ARE REAL (because someone has seen something they can't explain).

    Evolution and climate change are evil plots (well obviously. Getting hundreds of thousands of scientists to commit to a conspiracy at a rate of 95% or more is easy peasy, especially considering what insanely generous wages they get).

    The Knights Templar hid the Holy Grail in Minnesota(... or maybe Rhode Island or... God knows where - but it's there).

    The moon landings were faked, the Earth is less than six thousand years old, vaccines are dangerous (and the Government, well presumably all governments everywhere for all time REFUSE to tell you!!!!1!1!!1) or maybe they are a plot to reduce fertility in Muslims or something. Anyway it's clear they are evil, all preventing disease and everything. AIDS is not caused by HIV and you can cure it with some raw onions and a few herbs. And it goes on and on and on.

    All of these things are easily debunked;  however (and I won't attribute this quote - I'm not about to get in the middle of a Swift v. Twain piefight), roughly; you can't reason a man out of a position he wasn't reasoned into.

    I ride the wild horse .

    by BelgianBastard on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 07:43:55 AM PST

  •  Methane of Natural Gas (4+ / 0-)

    The argument that the abiotic guys use very often is that methane is found on other planets such as Mars, where there is no biotic history.

    The counter-argument is that methane is a very simple hydrocarbon molecule CH4, carbon with 4 hydrogen atoms, and this can be formed from physical mechanisms of pressure and heat under the right circumstances.  However the complex hydrocarbons that constitute crude oil are impossible to create just by chance.

    •  methane vs complex hydrocarbons (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Yes, and while Gold was willing to go all the way and argue that oil was abiotic, it is indeed easier to make a case for abiotic methane.. but that's already a pretty radical idea-- or at least it was, for geology circa 1980, I haven't been keeping up-- I gather that Gold's secondary idea about a "deep hot biosphere" populated by extremophiles has become more-or-less orthodox opinion.

      Gold's claim was that geologists early on latched on to the idea that if it's a hydrocarbon, it must have to do with life, but since then they'd found spectroscopic evidence for cosmic hydrocarbons... so why keep assuming that it all has to be biological?

      Though, as I keep saying: this all has little bearing on present-day pubic policy issues-- were oil abiotic, it would still not smell any sweeter.

      •  Gold had a valid point (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        doomvox, rduran

        His whole idea was that the Universe was made up of 92% Hydrogen, 7% Helium and 1% everything else.  It makes sense that, in great amounts of time, a single carbon atom (or sulfur, or oxygen or nitrogen or any other atom) would bump into hydrogen atoms according to the laws of chance and form simple fully-reduced molecules, where all binding sites would be occupied by a hydrogen atom.  Molecules like methane, water, hydrogen sulfide, ammonia.  And those molecules would be included in the material earth formed from.  Gold postulated that those gaseous molecules would try to get to the surface and would accumulate in underground reservoirs.  

  •  After spending 45 minutes on the Wiki ref (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SaulYoussef, rduran

    I still don't see how you can scoff at the abiotic hypothesis.

    But your chemistry may be better than mine.  All I've got is a BS in biochem. And that's 45 years old. (I took a lot of chemistry in the 60's, heh, heh.)

    I don't see that it makes much difference either way.

    GOP: Bankers, billionaires, suckers, and dupes.

    by gzodik on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 07:51:48 AM PST

    •  Thomas Gold and Abiotic Oil (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gzodik, rduran

      I heard Thomas Gold give a colloquium on this subject at Cornell University in the 1980s.  The sub-title of his talk was "Why Did all the Dinosaurs go to Saudi Arabia to Die?".  It was a wonderful and very convincing talk.  He was a brilliant guy and a great scientist and it's a shame for TRMS to imply that he was a quack (see his Cornell Chronicle Obituary)

      He pointed out in his talk that the whole Middle East is rich in oil, whether it is mountainous or desert or undersea and that the composition of the oil is the same in all these regions.  If it was organic, surely the composition would be different for different kinds of organic matter.  He said that the oil is associated with completely inorganic compounds that come up through the earth in the same place.  He said that the oil industry uses these to look for oil.  One example, was the town of "Cement" Oklahoma where the ground is rock hard from these same inorganic compounds.  

      I don't know whether this all turned out to be right or not, but I haven't seen anything disproving his ideas, actually.  

      I have a lot of respect for TRMS and generally agree with their point of view and with the overall point of their piece, but they offer no evidence against this particular idea.  They are just pretending that it is obviously ridiculous.  It is not.

      •  Yes, Thomas Gold was a brilliant guy... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gzodik, SaulYoussef, rduran

        Yes, Thomas Gold had a really brilliant carreer, and Rachel Maddow's dismissal of him as an "adorable astronomer" who wrote "lengthy blog posts" on the subject of abiotic oil is more than a little offensive.  (One might call Rachel Maddow an adorable entertainer who can handle making fun of right wing crank cases but notthing more serious than that).

        Gold's abiotic oil thesis is no doubt a minority opinion to say the least, but it's far from a stupid idea, and if you're interested in it you might read his book "The Deep Hot Biosphere".  

        But this all has next to no bearing on any public policy debate: burning hydrocarbons will not stop causing global warming if they're abiotic hydrocarbons.  You don't even need to postulate that Gold's theory is right to argue against "peak oil" people-- just point to the untapped oil in the Caspian Sea region.

        And I've got more to say on this, I guess, maybe I'll stick it in a diary...

        •  Thomas Gold = not brilliant (0+ / 0-)

          Thomas Gold was as stupid as they get.

          Scientists don't get second chances and he had a lot of bonehead theories, including one in which he claimed the Moon was covered by soft dust and that the Lunar Lander would sink without a trace if it tried to land. Needless to say it didn't and Gold was mocked.

          One strike and you are out in science, and Thomas Gold whiffed a lot.   The reason he was taken seriously was because he had an English accent, and people in the USA equated that with intelligence.

          •  "One strike"? (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            SaulYoussef, gzodik, rduran

            "One strike and you are out in science"


            Try reading "The Case for Blunders", Dyson reviewing Livio's "Brilliant Blunders" for the New York Review:


            And about Thomas Gold:

          •  The vast majority of scientists get second chances (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            and thirds, and fourths, and fifths, and as many times as people are willing to collaborate and journals are willing to publish.  

            He didn't say the Lunar Lander would sink without a trace.  He said astronauts would sink into the dust, and he corrected himself.  And what does any of that matter?  It wasn't a published finding, it was work product from his days consulting on Apollo.  Honestly, if you want an example of a strike out, start with the steady state hypothesis.  And as far as strike outs go, it ain't bad.  It helped refine the math and was totally consistent with all the evidence available until the discovery of the CMB.

        •  Thomas died in 2004. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          At the ripe old age of 84, too.  How much blogging could he have done? Maddow should stick to her strengths, none of which involve science.

  •  Nazi Librul Recyclers. (0+ / 0-)

    The story about the crackpot conspiracy theorists who believe that Nazi Germany represented a glorious Athenian age of energy production would be much better if it mentioned the origin of their dumb conspiracy theory.  The crackpots are obviously thinking of the fact that Nazi Germany, desperate for any kind of fuel, ended up pursuing the use of biomass in order to limp along.

    While biomass use may be somewhat okay as a recycling activity, I believe the problem is that it simply can't be scaled up to produce vast amounts of energy.

    Anyway, other more expert people are welcome to comment on the types of fuel that biomass produces and its limitations, but I think it certainly is remarkable--and stupid and dense, as always--for Republicans to not know what they're talking about and accidentally embrace the sort  of recycling they would otherwise abjure.  I guess they think it's okay if the Nazis did it.

  •  Science theories (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Next time someone tells me that evolution is a theory I will tell them gravity is a theory.  Go up to a 20 story building and test the theory and jump off.

  •  Technology isn't magic (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "Despite all the microchips and wireless devices, we still ultimately rely on a steampunk-like energy infrastructure. If a 100 million electric cars start going on the grid, we're going to need even more. It would be good to find a much better, more fundamental way to convert one energy source, like heat or sunlight, into electricity."

    The problem with burning hydrocarbons isn't that it's old-fashioned-- though it certainly is-- the problem with it is that it's real effects are incredibly nasty.  Even before you start considering global warming, the coal burning habit in the US alone kills thousands of people a year...

    If there's a reason to like solar power, it isn't because it seems to super-whizzy neato... it has to be justified in terms of costs and benefits, and it really does have costs, even environmental costs: they don't go away just because there's no smokestack you can point to in the immediate vicinity.

  •  Abiotic oil seems nuts, but we effectively do ... (0+ / 0-)

    have an infinite supply of fossil fuels, because long before we manage to burn all of the fossil fuels that have been stored in the ground for millions upon millions of years, we will have degraded conditions on Earth so much that we will be extinct.

    The really pressing problem isn't running out of fossil fuels, but the rate at which we're degrading our air and water.

    Bin Laden is dead. GM and Chrysler are alive.

    by leevank on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 10:33:37 AM PST

  •  Peak Oil (0+ / 0-)

    There is some confusion about what the term "peak oil" means.

    It doesn't so much mean "running out of oil". It means that at some point production will not be able to keep up with demand.

    There's no shortage of oxygen, but try breathing through a straw sometime.

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 11:52:06 AM PST

    •  Actually, no (0+ / 0-)

      Peak oil means the maximum rate of production of oil.

      You are right that we will never run out of oil.  Humans will never get the last drop of oil out of the ground.

      The demand side of the equation is relevant, but peak oil theory assumes that there is sufficient demand that all production will be burned/used.  We will never put it back in the ground to produce again later.  (SPR's notwithstanding.)

      Think of it as water coming out of garden hose.  As you turn on the faucet the flow rate increases.  When the faucet is all the way on you have peak flow rate.  Then you turn the faucet off and the flow rate decreases.

      Peak oil is like the water coming out of that hose, but the control of the faucet is a combination of geology and economics.

      •  Well OK (0+ / 0-)

        but the only reason you would be at maximum production is if the demand was there.

        There would be no point to produce oil there was no demand for.

        If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

        by Major Kong on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 04:33:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  yes (0+ / 0-)

          Peak oil theory assumes that there is sufficient demand that the oil will be burned instead of poured out onto or put back into  the ground.

          However, history shows us that there has been sufficient demand since the Drake well to avoid both those scenarios.  There is no reason to believe that will change.

          If you produce it, someone will burn it.

          Where demand has a much bigger effect is in determining what oil resources will be developed and produced.  High demand equals high prices and that makes unconventional sources - like tar sands and corn ethanol - economically viable.  Without the high prices those sources can't last long.  That's when "economics" turns off the faucet.

          From an economic perspective we are always trending toward "maximum production".  When geology caps the flow rate, despite the economic incentive, that's peak oil.

          A complicating factor is, what is oil?  Conventional crude has already peaked.  Now the questions are when "all liquids" will peak, and then when will "barrels of oil equivalent" peak.  Those questions get into areas that are exceedingly complex.

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