Learning More About Oil

Jim Saunders letter criticizing my belief in the availability of oil makes some valid points. "Alternative energy" sources will not easily supplant existing energy supplies. Hydrogen is very expensive to make. How anyone can say it is a potential energy source is beyond me. That is one of the more stupid statements that are being bandied about. I don’t have a particularly high regard for President Bush, but then I don’t have a particularly high regard for any of our recent presidents or presidential candidates, going back at least 100 years, but it is hard to imagine anyone pushing such nonsense.

Nevertheless there are several things wrong with his critique. I was trying to present an accurate picture of our energy situation. There is no doubt that energy is a problem, oil in particular, but it is one that can be managed. It is obvious that the world has ample oil and there would be no problem where it not for the dishonesty and incompetence of the corporate world that specializes in petroleum, the genuinely outstanding dishonesty and incompetence of governments everywhere, and the truly remarkable behavior of environmentalists desperate to create difficult problems or problems for which there is no solution. There are good odds we face a dismal future so long as we acquiesce in government interference in markets; oil being a striking example. There are even stronger odds that we will exacerbate this dismal picture so long as foreign policy decisions, including those of energy, are resolved by sending fleets and armies around the world and bombing civilians indiscriminately.

If U.S. oil production continues its 30-year decline there is nothing wrong with importing more oil. In a trading world it is foolish to attempt to be self-sufficient, and not buy goods where they are the cheapest. But the forecast of a decline is not necessarily true.

He makes a serious charge when he claims that "inorganic energy sources are considered to be "fringe" science. This ignores that using this "fringe" science Russia has gone from being nearly out of oil 50 years ago to producing on a par with Saudi Arabia and ourselves today. They call it the modern Russian-Ukrainian abyssal theory and see basement rock below the earth’s crust as the source of petroleum. The Russians have long since shown that the conventional wisdom, in this case the belief that oil is produced from the detritus of plants and microscopic animals, is questionable if not actually wrong. His "fringe" science comment makes him sound very much like someone stuck on a Kuhnian paradigm, unable to accept new ideas.

It works for the Russians; they claim it will work anywhere. The trick is to not to be too concerned about sedimentary rock and to seek out drill sites where the earth’s crust is thinnest. It is expensive and since our oil companies have ample reserves today, they are reluctant to spend money now for future benefit, and so long as they remain hung up on the false theory of biotic oil they see no point to it.

Our government, in collaboration with big oil (it keeps the price up) and attempting to please environmentalists, appears to be sitting on vast oil fields in the Beaufort Sea. The Gull Island field alone is estimated to contain resources as large as those of Saudi Arabia, probably of abiotic oil that has already migrated upward (upwelling is the expression oil people use), but no one is permitted to explore it, to find out.

It is clear that if we accept the abiotic (inorganic) theory, stick to free market principles and establish the unhampered market as best we can, energy sufficiency can be established worldwide. The oil is there. All it needs is technology and the will to use it.