Fuel Follies: Petroleum Theory and its Impacts

A Comparison of the Biogenic and Abiogenic Theories of Petroleum Production


This research paper explores two competing theories of petroleum production and focuses specifically on the little-known abiogenic or abiotic theory. The stance is taken that the abiotic theory is actually more scientifically valid than the common “fossil-fuel” theory.


Petroleum powers the modern machine of civilization. From the earliest prospectors who struck oil using simplistic drills to twenty-first century, multi-million-dollar drilling operations, petroleum has defined fame and fortune. Daily, petroleum transfers its wealth to industrialized countries by powering automobiles, sailing ships, flying planes, and lubricating the cogs of industry. Today, many scientists warn that the world’s supplies of oil face extinction and that the country must alter its energy supplies. Nevertheless, the fears and uncertainties surrounding petroleum production are not justified, thanks to the abiotic theory of petroleum production. The abiotic theory directly challenges mainstream America’s view that oil will soon disappear, and it offers a powerful view of the future for those who approach its claims scientifically. In contrast to the Western scientific establishment's theory that petroleum derives from decayed fossils, the abiotic oil theory not only holds more scientific credence but also demands consideration and response from the American media, government, and consumer.


Preliminary understanding of the basic science behind petroleum and its production is necessary. Petroleum is a molecule consisting of hydrogen and carbon atoms, otherwise known as a hydrocarbon.1) Many hydrocarbons exist in the universe besides petroleum, but petroleum is by far the most well-known. Petroleum, also known as crude oil, “exists in liquid phase in natural underground reservoirs and remains liquid at atmospheric pressure…[It] is refined to produce a wide array of petroleum products, including heating oils; gasoline, diesel and jet fuels.” 2) Scientists do agree on petroleum’s importance and location, but the debate hinges upon the origin of petroleum.

Two scientific theories attempt to account for the production of petroleum. The biotic, or fossil-fuel, theory of oil currently dominates mainstream science. According to Thomas Gold, the scientist whose book The Deep Hot Biosphere first synthesized the abiotic theory of oil in the United States, “The [biotic] theory holds that biological debris buried in sediments decays into oil and natural gas in the long course of time and that this petroleum then becomes concentrated in the pore space of sedimentary rocks in the uppermost layers of the crust.” 3) Most Westerners, including Americans, know of the biotic theory in the following terms: ancient primeval forests and dead dinosaurs decayed over long periods of time, and the forces of the earth gradually pressurized and fossilized their remains into hydrocarbons such as petroleum.

Though little-known, the abiotic theory of oil does have supporters, but the supporters often struggle to be heard by the majority of Western science and society.4) As J.F. Kenney, Ph.D., states, “The modern Russian-Ukrainian theory of deep, abiotic petroleum origins recognizes that petroleum is a primordial material of deep origin which has been erupted into the crust of the Earth. In short, and bluntly, petroleum is not a ‘fossil fuel’ and has no intrinsic connection with dead dinosaurs ‘in the sediments’.”5) Summarily, the abiotic theory links the production of petroleum hydrocarbons to natural processes which occur deep within the earth’s crust.6) At great depths, great temperatures, and great pressures, carbon and hydrogen atoms combine to form hydrocarbons, which rise towards the surface of the earth because they are less dense than the surrounding rocks.7) No dead dinosaurs help the abiotic process.

The Arguments

Since scientists cannot enter the earth and observe the production of petroleum first-hand, determination of how the earth produces petroleum must rely upon logic, reasoning, and inference from scientific principles. Both the biotic and abiotic theories of oil claim to satisfy scientific examination. As Thomas Gold says, “Arguments have been advanced for each of these two viewpoints, and although they seem to conflict, each line of argument has its strong points.”8) The strong points of the two theories, when examined, will demonstrate which theory ought to earn the trust of scientists and citizens alike.

The Biotic Theory

The biotic theory’s only real support comes from the presence of small traces of biological material which garnish petroleum extracts. Often, scientists find microbes or bacteria in crude oil. Gold explains, “The subsequent discovery of molecules of clearly biological origin in all natural oils greatly strengthened the biogenic theory.”9) In other words, because scientists discovered biological material in oil, it was assumed that oil comes from biological sources.

The biotic theory’s lack of scientific support makes sense in light of the theory’s unscientific origin. Authors Jerome R. Corsi, Ph.D., and Craig R. Smith trace the fossil-fuel theory “back to an eighteenth-century Russian natural scientist [Mikhail V. Lomonosov] who, in 1745, became the first professor of chemistry at St. Petersburg’s Academy of Science.”10) However, Lomonosov’s scientific status did not insulate him from making mistakes. Corsi and Smith explain: “Under some leap of imagination, [Lomonosov] tied together fossils that are biological remnants…with oil that contains biological remnants…Lomonosov’s process of deduction seems no more sophisticated than this leap of imagination and conjecture.”11) Despite the unsound origin of the fossil-fuel theory, the majority of Western scientists accepted it.

Furthermore, the biotic theory relies upon circular reasoning to support its claims. Circular reasoning is a logical fallacy which occurs when an argument or idea assumes itself to be true, then uses its assumed truth to support its conclusions. In the example of the biotic theory, circular reasoning works thus: Oil comes from fossils, and fossils come from sedimentary rocks, so scientists drill in sedimentary rocks. When the rocks produce oil, the scientists claim that proof for the abiotic theory has been provided. Thomas Gold states: “Belief in the biogenic origin of petroleum thus led to a self-fulfilling prophecy.”12)

The Abiotic Theory

In contrast, the abiotic theory enjoys a plethora of scientific support, even from the field of astronomy. According to Gold and his fellow astronomers, hydrocarbons exist in indefinitely enormous quantities in the other bodies of our solar system. As Gold reasons, because “hydrocarbons are major constituents of bodies great and small within our solar system…It is therefore clear that the occurrence of hydrocarbon molecules within the earth is in no way an anomaly.”13) Therefore, scientists should not expect hydrocarbons to act any differently on Earth than they do on Mercury, Jupiter or Pluto. The other planets in our solar system do not support biological surface life, yet the extraterrestrial bodies contain hydrocarbons, including petroleum, in abundance. Earth thus has no need of dead trees and dinosaurs to produce petroleum.

Though a surprise to modern-day citizens, the world’s petroleum reserves refill themselves regularly, providing strong support for the abiotic theory. Even though anticipated to run dry in the 1970s, the Middle Eastern oil fields continue to produce more and more oil today, a phenomenon which prominent scientists link to the earth’s abiotic production of oil.14) According to Robert F. Mahfoud, Ph.D., and James N. Beck, Ph.D., “The continuous formation of hydrocarbons by [the abiotic] process…would account for the continuous increase in oil reserves… Hydrocarbons should be continuously forming in the Persian/Arabian Gulf area to account for the annual increase in oil reserves.”15) The fossil-fuel theory, on the other hand, could never account for refilling oil reserves.

Perhaps the strongest proof for the scientific legitimacy of the abiotic theory lies in recent laboratory experiments which replicate the production of hydrocarbons in the earth. By creating an environment resembling earth’s deep crust, petroleum scientists from the National Academy of Sciences created the hydrocarbon methane, which closely resembles petroleum.16) The ability to create hydrocarbons under crust-like conditions provides extremely strong support for the abiotic theory: if the earth can create methane, it can create petroleum as well.17)

Why the Confusion?

Given the solid scientific support for the abiotic theory, the American citizen might wonder why the fossil-fuel theory dominates mainstream science. The answer lies more in politics than in scientific truth. According to Corsi and Smith, “Reading through the huge volume of literature and litigation generated by the environmental and conservation movements, one comes to the conclusion that they are politically invested in maintaining the ‘truth’ of the fossil-fuel and global-warming theories together with all the subsequent conclusions of these theories.”18) In other words, environmentalists and conservationists have ingrained the fossil-fuel theory into mainstream America to advance a well-known political agenda. Thus, fearing a lack of energy, America hesitates to wean itself off foreign oil, a dangerous condition which “[pushes] us into alliances with countries whose interests are not necessarily our own.”19) American oil dollars flow directly into the hands of our enemies, as Robert Baer, a former CIA case officer, explains: “Washington fiddles…watching passively as [oil]-wealthy Saudis channel hundreds of millions of dollars to radical groups in hopes of buying protection.”20) Clearly, the security of the Western world rests upon a proper understanding of petroleum science.

In contrast, the abiotic theory of oil offers an optimistic future for the United States if more citizens, scientists, and government leaders adhere to its truths in daily decision-making. If oil truly will never run out, then America does not need to rely upon any sources of oil besides its own. Corsi and Smith remind all Americans that “America still has available huge, possibly unlimited reserves of oil yet to be discovered.”21) Thus, Americans need not jeopardize their national security for the sake of a consumer product. Instead, American citizens, scientists, and policymakers must realize the danger of accepting theories like the fossil-fuel theory before other possibilities such as the abiotic theory have been examined. The United States can proceed with confidence: petroleum will provide prosperity for many years to come.

Science Politics Energy

1) , 2)
“U.S. Energy Information Administration Glossary,” U.S. Energy Information Administration, (accessed October 11, 2011).
3) , 9)
Gold, Thomas. The Deep Hot Biosphere (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1999), 40.
Kenney, J.F., Ph.D., et al. “The Genesis of Hydrocarbons and the Origin of Petroleum, ”Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 99, no. 17 (August 12, 2002). http://cli.gs/rcycvs (accessed October 1, 2011).
Kenney, J.F., Ph.D. “An introduction to the modern petroleum science, and to the Russian-Ukrainian theory of deep, abiotic petroleum origins,” Gas Resources Corporation, http://www.gasresources.net/index.htm (accessed October 8, 2011).
Kropotkin, P.N. “On the history of science: Professor N.A. Koudryavtsev and the development of the theory of origin of oil and gas,” Earth Sciences History 16, no.1 (1997). http://cli.gs/p9aee4t (accessed September 1, 2011).
7) , 8) , 12)
Gold, Thomas. The Deep Hot Biosphere (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1999), 41.
10) , 11)
Corsi, Jerome R., Ph.D, and Smith, Craig R. Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil (Nashville: Cumberland House, 2005), 31.
Gold, Thomas. The Deep Hot Biosphere (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1999), 46.
Proskurowski, Giora, et al. “Abiogenic Hydrocarbon Production at Lost City Hydrothermal Field,” American Association for the Advancement of Science (February 1, 2008). www.sciencemag.org (accessed September 19, 2011).
Mahfoud, Robert F, and Beck, James N. “Why the Middle East oil fields may produce oil forever,” Offshore, (April 1995). http://cli.gs/3txhnis (accessed September 24, 2011).
Scott, Henry P. et al. “Generation of Methane in the Earth’s Mantle: In Situ High Pressure Temperature Measures of Carbonate Reduction,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 101, no. 39 (September 28, 2004). www.proquest.org (accessed August 29, 2011).
Corsi, Jerome R., Ph.D. “Discovery backs theory oil not fossil fuel,” WorldNetDaily (February 1, 2008). http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=45838 (accessed September 12, 2011).
Corsi, Jerome R., Ph.D, and Smith, Craig R. Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil (Nashville: Cumberland House, 2005), 181-182.
Ibid, 219.
Baer, Robert. See No Evil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2004), 166.
Corsi, Jerome R., Ph.D, and Smith, Craig R. Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil (Nashville: Cumberland House, 2005), 263.

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