Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Fossil Fuel?


The immigration officer at Sheremetyevo took my passport and studied it for some time. He didn’t say anything; he just thumbed through the passport and then looked at a computer screen for a couple of lifetimes before stamping it and grunting me on to customs.

The KGB was still manning the borders the first time I went to Moscow shortly after the fall of Communism. Letting Americans walk freely into Mother Russia without official surveillance was driving him crazy but he had to keep a lid on it.

In fact, Communism had been officially dead for only a few months when the shock troops of capitalism started storming the gates of opportunity in the former Soviet Union. The ghosts of Marx, Lenin and Stalin stalked the halls of the Politburo in horror as entrepreneurs from the United States, Japan and Western Europe tried to cut deals for every asset in Mother Russia that wasn’t nailed down. Banking, hospitality, timber and precious metals came under assault by peculiar partnerships of western capitalists and thugs from the once mighty KGB. During those early years, when Yeltsin (God love him) and his vodka were in office, it was a free-for-all.

The Oklahoma land rush of the 1890s had nothing on Moscow in 1992.

But even then, the oil industry stayed under control of the state—directly or indirectly. In fact, as recently as 2003, the bare-chested former KGB colonel and current premier—soon to be president of Russia . . . again—Vladimir Putin squashed a buyout deal between Russia’s Yukos and Exxon, the largest company in the world.

To understand the reason for this, we return momentarily to the early days of the Cold War when an isolated Soviet Union tasked their top scientists to identify the actual source of oil. Not a weekend homework assignment. After considerable research, in 1956, Russian scientist Professor Vladimir Porfir’yev announced that “crude oil and natural petroleum gas have no intrinsic connection with biological matter originating near the surface of the earth. They are primordial [originating with the earth’s formation] materials which have been erupted from great depths.”

If your eyeballs didn’t pop out when you read that, you might want to read it again.

He said oil doesn’t come from anything biologic, not, as conventional wisdom dictates, from the fossilized remains of dinosaurs and/or ancient plant matter. It comes from very deep in the earth and is created by a biochemical reaction that subjected hydrocarbons (elements having carbon and hydrogen) to extreme heat and intense pressure during the earth’s formation.

Russians referred to this oil (any oil, really) as “abiotic oil” because it is not created from the decomposition of biological life forms, but rather from the chemical process continually occurring inside the earth.

I know, easy for Porfir’yev to say. But it turns out it was more than just a theory.

Because shortly after the Russians discovered this, they started drilling ultra-deep wells and finding oil at 30,000 and 40,000 feet below the earth’s surface. These are staggering depths, and far below the depth at which organic matter can be found, which is 18,000 feet.

Interesting, eh?

The Russians applied their theory of abiotic deep-drilling technology to the Dnieper-Donets Basin, an area understood for the previous half a century to be barren of oil. Of sixty wells drilled there using abiotic technology, thirty-seven became commercially productive—a 62 percent success rate compared with the roughly 10 percent success rate of a U.S. wildcat driller. The oil found in the basin rivaled Alaska’s North Slope.

Let’s say they had a good day.

But it doesn’t stop there, not by a long shot. Since their earlier discoveries, the major Russian oil companies have quietly drilled more than 310 ultra-deep wells and put them into production.

Result? Russia recently overtook Saudi Arabia as the planet’s largest oil producer.

Maybe they are onto something.

Though there were papers written on this early on, almost all were in Russian and few made it to the West. And those that did were laughed at.

Click to enlarge.

No more. With Russia’s rejection of the Exxon-Yukos deal (Putin did not want this technology and their abiotic oil experts exported to the West) and the access to information now available on the Internet, the word has begun to spread rapidly to the West. Still, it hasn’t taken hold yet.

Why not? This is huge. Oil is not a fossil fuel! And it’s renewable! Wow!

There are a couple of factors at play here.

Big oil has a vested interest in pushing the idea that oil is scarce, hard to find, and thus costly to produce—all of which, of course, means increased revenues and profits. This is a story in itself, but not the primary focus here.

More relevant to our story is the fact that a cornerstone of the environmental movement is this: oil is a fossil fuel, a fossil fuel that is scarce, and is in limited and ever decreasing supply. Moreover, its production creates carbon dioxide. Therefore its use, for virtually all productive purposes—agricultural production, real estate construction, auto, truck, train and air transportation, utilities, heating, cooling, communication, ad infinitum (all of them)—must be curtailed.

According to the thirty-year update of the book The Limits to Growth,

“A prime example of a nonrenewable resource is fossil fuels, whose limits should be obvious, although many people, including distinguished economists, are in denial over the elementary fact. More than 80 percent of year 2000 commercial energy use comes from nonrenewable fossil fuels—oil, natural gas, and coal. The underground stocks of fossil fuels are going continuously and inexorably down. . . .

“Peak gas production will certainly occur in the next 50 years, the peak for oil production will occur much sooner, probably within the decade.”

Scary stuff. Frightening. But as false as a hooker’s smile.

Oil is not a fossil fuel.

And it is “renewable.”

While I have never been a fan of Putin the Macho, the Russians have demonstrated the accuracy of their theory in the only place it counts—the oil field. Oil is not only abiotic, it continues to populate fields that were understood to be as dry of petroleum as a desert wind. In fact, some scientists believe it is the centrifugal force of the planet’s rotation that forces abiotic oil toward the planet’s surface on a continuous basis.

“There are some things the general public does not need to know, and shouldn’t. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.” —the late Katherine Graham, owner of the Washington Post

And so, the way the narrative goes is that oil is a fossil fuel (which it isn’t), that it is scarce and being depleted (which it isn’t), that it is nonrenewable (which it isn’t), and that, as a result, catastrophe looms (which it doesn’t) unless we drastically curtail our use of petroleum.

Do I buy into all of this? I don't know. My own cognitive dissonance is kicking in. However, how do you explain what the Russians claim? As well as their status as the #1 oil producer in the world? It is certainly something to think about. If you can. If you can't, that's all right. Just go back to the couch. The football play-offs will be on soon.

2 comments:

  1. this is crazy enough to be true

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good Lord! I looked it up and you know what? It's true! I never thought about it before.

    ReplyDelete