Bulletin Board
Rants, Raves, Interesting Science & Awful Puns
October 14, 2004

Abiogenic Hydrocarbons?

Intriguing Results

The section on Velikovsky in Kicking the Sacred Cow touches upon the theory that has been around since the 1960s that hydrocarbons can be produced from inorganic materials under the conditions existing in the Earth's mantle, without involving biological decomposition at all. An article by Gabe Romain at Betterhumans, with a link to the research paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reports recent experimental results that support such a possibility.

The subject has enormous implications, since it would mean that the supply of "fossil" fuels is effectively inexhaustible, negating all the politics, wars, and adversarial economics resulting from its presumed finite supply. Hence, predictably, it provokes fierce ideological debate -- as if the truth or otherwise of a scientific contention could be affected by the perceived desirability of the consequences.

Another line of thought that traces back to Velikovsky is the suggestion that some of Earth's hydrocarbons could be of cosmic origin, transported in the tails of comets, the majority of which he maintained come from Jupiter. Nobody disputes the current planetary models that ascribe enormous amounts of methane and other hydrocarbons to Jupiter and the gas giants. So that ought to answer the question of whether the abiogenic production of hydrocarbons is possible. Sometimes it seems to me that a good definition of "expert" might be a person rigorously trained to be incapable of seeing the obvious.

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