The Deep Hot Biosphere

The conventional wisdom concerning oil, gas and coal, or fossil fuels as they are called is that they originated many eons ago as plants and animals that died and were buried. Deep under the surface, their remains were slowly transformed into the carbon compounds that make up coal and petroleum. The evidence for this view is that fossilized remains of life are generally associated with fossil fuels. The conventional wisdom is also that the surface of the Earth is the place where life originated and flourishes while conditions deep under the surface are too hot to support any life.

What if the conventional wisdom is wrong? What if the petroleum and coal that we depend on did not come from ancient life but instead came from carbon that has been present since the beginning of the Earth? What if under the surface of the Earth there was a whole biosphere of microorganisms? Surface life makes use of the energy of the Sun though photosynthesis. What if the microorganisms under the earth make use of chemosynthesis using the carbon as it is transported toward the surface, and oxygen? In other words, what if fossil fuels are not fossils at all, but a part of the Earth that has been transformed by sub surface life?

This is Thomas Gold’s hypothesis that he presents in his book, The Deep, Hot Biosphere. He makes a very convincing case and his hypothesis, if true, can explain a great many geological phenomena not well understood at present, such as the formation of metal ores in veins, some questions about earthquakes, and others. Gold points out that conditions under the Earth would be far more favorable for the origin of life that the surface. In the final chapter, Gold examines the possibilities of extra-terrestrial life. So far, we have not found life on any other planet of the Solar System, but perhaps we are not looking in the right place. The surface of Mars, the Moon and the satellites of the gas giants are all hostile to life, but maybe we should look under the surface. Perhaps deep within Mars there lies the life we have been searching for.

Is the deep, hot biosphere hypothesis true? I couldn’t say not being an expert in this field. However, I will say that Thomas Gold shows himself to be a first class scientist by asking the questions. There has been a tendency in recent years to view science as some sort of final authority with all of the answers. How many times have you heard the latest study viewed as some sort of message from on high, or heard the phrase settled science? This is a misuse of science. Science is not an authority, but a method for asking the questions. Sometimes the most important work a scientist can do is to ask questions that everyone thinks they know the answer to. In this regard, The Deep, Hot Biosphere is an interesting book that is sure to make you think.

Oil Pipeline Protest

Location of bitumen depoits ("tarsands&qu...
There's oil in them thar hills

From The Hill. Because $3.60 a gallon for gasoline is just not expensive enough. We surely don’t need any more jobs in this economy. That’s one explanation for these protesters outside the White House who do not want President Obama to approve a pipeline to bring oil from Alberta’s oil sands down to the Gulf Coast.

Police arrested 65 environmentalists outside the White House Saturday as they staged a demonstration urging President Obama to block a proposed pipeline that would bring oil from Canada’s oil sands projects to Gulf Coast refineries.

The civil disobedience launched two-weeks of White House demonstrations – with more arrests to come – as activists seek to increase political pressure on Obama over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

The Obama administration is weighing TransCanada Corp.’s proposed $7 billion, 1,700-mile line to bring crude from Alberta’s massive oil sands projects to the Texas Gulf Coast.

The pipeline needs State Department approval to proceed, and the Obama administration plans to make a decision by the end of the year.

The protesters recite the usual litany about environmental damage and global warming (I’m sorry climate change).

But environmentalists oppose the greenhouse gas-intensive oil sands projects due to concerns about global warming and the destruction of Canadian forests, and also say the pipeline could suffer from spills that pollute U.S. water supplies.

We have to get our oil from somewhere, and I like Canada a whole lot better than I like Saudi Arabia. Of course, it would be nice if these people would allow us to extract  more of our own supply, but that’s just crazy talk.

I like this comment toward the end of the article.

McKibben, a key organizer of the protests, calls the Obama administration decision a referendum on the president’s climate change record, noting the decision rests solely with the executive branch.

“He doesn’t have to go through the crazy climate deniers in Congress to be able to do the right thing,” McKibben said in Lafayette Square Saturday morning.

“If Barack Obama mans up, says no to this thing, it will send a surge of electricity through all of the people that voted for him three years ago. It will be the reminder of why we were so enamored of this guy in 2008,” McKibben said.

If Barack Obama really wants to be a one-term president, then by all means he should stop the pipeline. As I said, it’s not like we need to provide more jobs or something.


And, as always, thanks to Instapundit for bringing this to everyone’s attention.