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Extreme Fracking Means the End of the Ruble as We Know It?

Did you notice that the NASA’s Curiosity Rover has just seen spikes of methane on Mars? People are already putting one and one together to get five, namely the presumed presence of life on Mars, inferred from the production of methane.

But there’s another possibility. That is, that the methane comes from inorganic, non-biological processes. If so, then Mars has a huge supply of energy underneath its reddish soil, either in the form of methane, natural gas or even oil. So what’s that got to do with Earth?

Ever heard of a guy called Thomas Gold? In 1998 he wrote a book (The Deep Hot Biosphere: The Myth of Fossil Fuels) that basically postulated that Earth is a huge blob of oil, as in hydrocarbons. And no, these did not come from the breakdown of plants and animals, the current theory. They were created as the Earth formed, from natural, inorganic causes.

Of course, the author of a book like this would usually be considered to be a crackpot. Unfortunately that’s not the case here. Gold (who died in 2004) was a famous scientist. He was a professor of astronomy at Cornell University, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and a Fellow of the Royal Society (London). So his views can’t just be dismissed as being on the lunatic fringe.

Basically his theory says that most hydrocarbon production on some planets such as Earth are abiotic. That is, it is produced by non-biological causes. That doesn’t necessarily mean that all hydrocarbon production is abiotic. Some might indeed be biotic in nature but the vast majority is not.

In other words, under this theory the oil and gas we are tapping into in only a tiny fraction of what is actually under our feet. We are actually living on a plant-sized gob of oil. It’s just kind of deep so getting to it is difficult, at least right now.

The theory got a lot of attention at first and then was quietly forgotten. Fracking kind of buried it for a while since once you can frack, who cares if oil and gas are abiotic or any-biotic.

But guess what? Evidence can turn up in the damndest of places. In this case, Mars. After all, there are, it would seem, only 2 ways methane could be produced on Mars. One is through biological causes; the other is abiotic. So far we haven’t seen any four-eyed monsters (or microbes) running around on mars, so abiotic is certainly a possibility. So if there is abiotic production of methane on Mars, it’s far more likely that there is abiotic production of hydrocarbons on Earth.

Now that raises all manner of intriguing possibilities. The least important, albeit fascinating, is that Mars explorer might have a ready source of energy and chemical feedstock’s for local production of lots of stuff, including food. That should get Elon Musk excited.

But the elephant in the room is obviously back at the ranch. If those hydrocarbons on Mars were produced abiotically, then it gives a big fillip to the idea that it’s also the case on Earth. In which case we basically have a massive and inexhaustible source of energy right underneath our Nikes. That might not be good news for the environmentalists but it will certainly give the jitters to alternative energy producers and petro states.

It wasn’t very long ago that there was no such thing as fracking. Even the idea was considered impossible 20 years ago. Now it’s shaking up the global energy situation and pole-axing Putin.

How long can it be that some of our bold and visionary entrepreneurs (Musk, Boone Pickens, Google?) give this one a whirl to see if it’s true? If you can form a company to capture asteroids and bring them into Earth orbit for mining purposes, then you can forma a company to do some deep mining for oil too. Fracking has come a long way in 20 years. It isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that the next phase is extreme fracking,

If you see that as likely, the value of the ruble today could still be regarded as being in its Golden Age. And the future global energy situation could be really out of this world.

 

 

 

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Friday, 15 December 2017

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