I mentioned this one…
I mentioned this one quite a while back, but an article today about an experiment in Sept., 2004 has bolsters this claim. There are those that say that oil is not solely a “fossil fuel”, but can be created abiotically in the Earth’s mantle. Seems farfetched, but the results of the experiment give it a little more credence.

In 2004, Henry Scott of Indiana University in South Bend, together with scientific colleagues from Harvard University, the Carnegie Institute in Washington, and the Livermore National Lab, designed an experiment to test Thomas Gold’s theory of abiotic, deep-earth oil as expressed in his 1998 book, titled “The Deep Hot Biosphere: The Myth of Fossil Fuels.” The research team included Dudley Herschbach, a Harvard University research professor of science and recipient of the 1986 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

The scientists wanted to see if they could synthetically produce methane in a laboratory without using organic materials of any kind.

The research team decided to squeeze together iron oxide, calcium carbonate, and water at temperatures as hot as 500 degrees Celsius and under pressures as high as 11 gigapascals (one gigapascal is equivalent to the pressure of 10,000 atmospheres). Simply put, the scientists were trying to see if iron oxide, calcium carbonate, and water would produce methane if they were combined under pressures and temperatures comparable to those experienced in the Earth’s upper mantle.

The article has links to details about the experiment. How did it go?

Remarkably, the experiment worked. The scientists found they could easily produce methane, the principal component of natural gas, at temperatures around 500 degrees Celsius and at pressures of 7 gigapascals or greater. Inorganic chemicals (iron oxide, calcium carbonate and water) had been combined to produce an organic chemical – methane.

They further showed that this methane would be stable in conditions in the mantle. Methane is a hydrocarbon, as is oil. While it is a simpler compound, it does show that hydrocarbons don’t have to come soley from organic matter.

While this experiment generated only methane, not the more complex hydrocarbon structures required for petroleum, the scientists involved stated their conclusion that their results encouraged them to believe that the more complex hydrocarbon structures could also be created in an abiotic manner.

But just because they’ve only done it once (and the article cite a similar inorganic-to-organic experiment in 1828), don’t write them off.

“Fossil-fuel” theorists can respond by arguing that the experiment does not rule out the possibility that methane and other hydrocarbon fuels could be generated from protoplasm and flora. Still, the burden of proof has shifted. Thomas Gold himself made the point on page 85 of his 1998 book: “Nobody has yet synthesized crude oil or coal in the lab from a beaker of algae or ferns.”

Good point. I don’t think there’s a need to take a position one way or the other on this at this point, but it is an interesting area of scientific study. Well, to me it is, but apparently not to the media or the scientific community. Searching Google News for “abiotic oil mantle” returns 7 entries, 5 from WorldNetDaily, which Media Matter consistently pairs with the adjective “right-wing”. It’s time now for the left-wing media to step up and give this science a hearing.

(Cross-posted at Blogger News Network. Comments welcome.)

Welcome denizens of Dean’s World! (And the comments with the referral post are a very good read on the subject as well.)

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