right-wing activist Jerome Corsi claims oil is not a fossil fuel but "a natural product the Earth generates constantly."


 Let's take a brief tour of some claims worthy of tabloid headlines.

"Oil is not a fossil fuel!"

What is oil?  A wealth of evidence shows it is a fossil fuel derived from ancient marine microorganisms.  Essentially, oil comes from plankton fossils that have been covered by sediment at the bottom of bodies of water.  Occasionally in such settings -- when there is no oxygen around and the temperature stays between about 120 and 210 degrees for up to a couple of million years -- these fossils become heated into oil.

        I've never heard of Corsi, so I can't be hampered by any political prejudice against or for him.
        What I will point out is the strong emphasis by Sir Robert Robinson PRS, a giant of organic chemistry (insofar as there were any outside Germany in his day  ;-) :  the chemical composition of oil is very difficult to reconcile with the idea that it is decomposed organisms.
        Many physical scientists have heard of Hoyle, and most of them probably have heard of the less famous but more consistent Bondi; well the other member of their triad of very bright lads @ Cambridge was Gold, who died 2004 but not before a distinguished career as prof of physics, Cornell  -  see that institution's obit, and an outline of his successes in propounding heterodox theories
        Gold's U.S.G.S. Professional Paper 1570, IMHO a tour de force in marshalling facts and reasoning scientifically from them, propounds two connected but distinct ideas:
(1)  methane in the Earth's crust is mainly primordial, not fossil.
        His 'popular' version was the later ppbk 'The Deep Hot Biosphere'.
(2)  some of it is converted to petroleum as it seeps upwards thru rock-dweliing microbes 10^1 km deep.
        Gold estimated that the carbon in the biosphere is approximately accounted for by simply extrapolating the recent rate of emergence of methane at the surface in phenomena called mud volcanoes.  He pointed out that 8 - 10 km wells in many places have struck huge lodes of methane.  I believe hypothesis (1) is very plausible.  It underwent a very stringent test at Gold's instigation  -  giving you some idea of how good a scientist he was, he provoked the expensive drilling to 8 km in the Siljan Shield, a granite monolith in Sweden not suspected of containing fossil anything.  Methane was struck  -  but to learn how much takes one into a fog of PR.  If anyone has a reliable scientific source on that, I'd be particularly grateful; I hav e come across everything from 'astronomical' to 'negligible'.
        BTW some geothermal brines contain quite a lot of methane, &/or CO2 - greenhouse gases which get released into the atmosphere when these brines are exploited for their heat (usu in steam turbines to generate electricity).  Geothermal is therefore not, in general, much superior to fuel-fired generation.

        Some on this list judge ideas by the apparent political position of their proponents.  I conspue that approach.  The reliability of USGS 1570 is scarcely affected by Gold's political values (which are unknown to me)  -  or by those of Corsi, whoever he may be.  Word may or may not have emanated from Castro about Gold's theory; meanwhile, please judge it on the science, not politics.

        My reading is that the deep primordial gas theory is highly plausible.  Oil biosynthesised from it relatively recently  -  idea (2)  -  is harder to judge.  What exptl tests are proceeding (as distinct from political snipings)?
        If Gold's idea (1) is right, then we are heading into a period of a century or so of oversupply of natural gas, which on the record so far will not be wisely managed.  Those who can afford to drill the 8 - 10 km wells will presumably use it directly as an industrial fuel, and for electricity, and for CNG, the cleanest vehicle fuel (in which NZ was for a period a world leader).  What it will not readily provide is the lubricants which, more than fuels, are needed for a modern civilisation.
        If Gold's idea (2) is right, that won't make nearly so much difference to our future.  Oil will still be extracted from the types of rocks where we have always found it, and production will decline very soon.  But the gas glut will affect design & operation of refineries.