Making Sense II


Making sense of this world is important to me for some reason. Some issues that don’t make sense are the endless wars, global warming, 9/11, and peak oil. I’m grateful to Butler Shaffer for partially settling my mind about 9/11. I’m not any kind of expert on any of these issues; my area of expertise is a tiny niche elsewhere, but in that niche I learned to be a keen observer and a skeptic — medicine has a bad habit of confusing correlation with causation.

I believe I’m sufficiently on record as opposing these insane wars. Global warming evidence is too politicized to make any sense to me. But I’m getting an impression of peak oil that might be of interest. As in medicine, we have here a mixture of science, technology, political power, and a whole lot of wealth riding on the issue. I’d like to look at some of the evidence.

Peak Oil is the hypothesis that oil is a limited resource that will run out after its exploitation reaches a peak of available supplies. The first question is when? Well, prophesies have varied over time and the date keeps moving forward. That bothers me. When the doomsayers keep moving the target, I conclude that either they don’t know or they are lying. Either way, the practice looks like fraud to me.

I do understand that manipulating people by fear has a long history of success, so the constant promise of doom has a certain effectiveness, although it wears thin after a while. Oil companies have a proprietary interest in tending quietly to their business, investment counselors have a proprietary interest in also being quiet about what they know, and politicians wouldn’t know that the truth mattered even if contemplating it from a jail cell. Scientists seldom work independently from an employer, like the state, who doesn’t have a stake in financial results. The overall short-term objective of all interested groups seems to be to keep the price of oil up (except during election cycles).

This whole game rests on the assumption that dead animals and plants buried under mountains of dirt turned into rock became fossil fuels, that is biological hydrocarbons. This has been an appealing hypothesis since the nineteenth century. I fail to see why. I’ve observed dead animals and plants decay and disappear in the open and I cannot imagine millions of tons of dead organic matter suddenly buried under trillion of tons of rock without first decaying in the open; our fossil records depend on isolated sudden burials of individuals, not massive world-wide burial of species. In the twentieth century we discovered that hydrocarbons exist on dead planets and moons that never supported dinosaurs or fern forests, and still the fossil origin is hyped. This is nonsense.

Recently I bought and read an authoritative book on the subject. Thomas Gold makes sense. His hypothesis is that certain planets and moons produce hydrocarbons in the "deep, hot biosphere" if the right elements are present in the initial accumulation of space debris by the object. In other words, hydrocarbons come from deep inside the planet and seep out toward the surface. Why would liquids and gasses seep out? Centrifugal force from a rotating mass. Dr. Gold managed to use his considerable prestige to finance an actual test and proved his hypothesis by deep-drilling where oil should not be found. (I note that Russian scientists claim precedence to the hypothesis, an interesting dispute for a claim to an idea that the pundits say is nonsense.)

One revealing tidbit appeared in the news not long ago. Chevron has been exploring the deep Gulf of Mexico for years and over the past few years planned to bore a test hole in seven-thousand feet of water. They announced success, finding oil and gas at twenty-six-thousand feet underground. What? That’s five miles down! The expense is as impossible for me to grasp as the achievement. They’re hinting at a floating oil production city out in hurricane alley! Oh, woe to the doomsayers. Has Chevron confirmed Gold’s hypothesis? Nobody is saying.

Meanwhile, back on dry land, our kind and generous bureaucrats allowed tests holes to be drilled to a thousand feet in the massive oil shale deposits in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming in order to find a politically correct method of extraction, which was done. It remains to be seen if the mighty pencil pushers approve the method, but my question is why only a thousand feet? How did the oil get there? (I repeat this question for the Canadian oil sands, another vast reserve.) Why don’t they drill down a few miles to find out where it came from? Surely drilling on dry land is cheaper than drilling in the deep blue sea.

Certainly the pristine and impoverished sagebrush deserts of the American West are Holy Ground to urban environmentalists who don’t live there, and they have the political clout to halt progress, for reasons I don’t understand, but when the US state goes to war for hegemony over the middle-east oil states if we are not, in fact, running out of oil, what’s going on?

Smoke and mirrors. No, I don’t believe there is a conspiracy, I believe it’s only political business as usual: Never tell the truth when a lie will do. It’s a mind-set, a habit, a knee-jerk response, and nobody who works for the state or who works for a state-corporate alliance will ever give us a straight answer to any question. But the truth has a way of wiggling out from under tons of sediment, kind of like oil, if we’re trying to make sense of the world.