Re: Palast Debunks "Peak Oil": Dave McGowan Was First, How About Some Credit.
NEWSLETTER #66 - When 'Peak Oil' Met The 'West Nile Virus'
September 2, 2004
When 'Peak Oil' Met The 'West Nile Virus'
I don't know how much press attention the story has gotten outside of the region, so to bring the potentially uninformed up to date, there has been a series of deaths in recent months in Southern California that have been attributed to the dreaded 'West Nile Virus.' According to the official party line, the virus is being spread by infected mosquitos, which are picking up the disease from infected birds.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that is very unlikely that 'West Nile Virus' actually exists as a specific, identifiable viral agent. And if it does exist, there is no evidence that it is pathogenic. As one illuminating post concludes, after reviewing the medical literature, "It is quite clear that West Nile Virus has never been purified, and that without purification not only is it impossible to say whether it is the cause of the disease that it is associated with, but it is impossible to say whether it even exists."
Even if the virus does exist, and even if it is pathogenic, it seems very unlikely that it has been the cause of death in the Southern California cases. The ten purported victims were, overall, an elderly bunch, and most had preexisting health conditions. The oldest was 91; the average age of the ten was 75. No offense to the surviving family members of the deceased, but these weren't people who needed some exotic virus to finish them off; they were people with one foot in the grave and the other on the proverbial banana peel.
Not surprisingly, this alleged deadly outbreak has been seized upon as a pretext to further advance the police state, and to further blur the line between healthcare and law enforcement. Wholesale spraying of who-knows-what has become all the rage in some parts of town, and there has been talk of greatly expanding the police powers of county health officials, including granting them the power to enter upon any property, at any time, in search of any potential mosquito breeding grounds (as if it is possible to eliminate every drop of standing water in all of Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernadino Counties). Next on the agenda will probably be another round of discussions about the need for mandatory vaccinations.
This is all pretty disturbing stuff, to be sure, but in this post-911 dystopia we live in, it is pretty much par for the course. As anyone with eyes and ears and a few brain cells in between has probably noticed, there are any number of disturbing things happening in the world these days. But the West Nile Virus story took a particularly troubling turn a couple weeks ago.
While idling watching some of NBC's stellar prime time Olympic coverage last Monday night, I happened to catch a brief teaser for the upcoming evening newscast in which it was announced that the 'West Nile Virus' had claimed another Southern California victim. The man was identified only as a "local political activist." Details, of course, would have to wait.
So ... I patiently waited through about two hours of NBC's "thought we were arrogant before? how do you like us now?" Olympic coverage, only to find, much to my chagrin, that when the nightly news finally rolled around, the story of the political activist cut down by 'West Nile Virus' had disappeared. I guess they couldn't fit it in around all the recaps of what they had just finished broadcasting.
So ... the next morning, I turned to the ever-vigilant Los Angeles Times to get the inside story, and ... nothing. Not a word. So I checked again the next day, and still found nothing. The day after that, I apparently did not read far enough into a report carrying the headline "Woman's Death May Be State's 10th W. Nile Fatality" to find what I was looking for. But I did find it when I conducted a web search a few days later. It was in the closing paragraph of the August 26 LA Times report:
Also on Tuesday, a 62-year-old Claremont man who died of complications from the virus was honored as a Green Party activist. Walter Sheasby, whose death from West Nile on Thursday was Los Angeles County's fourth, ran twice for the House of Representatives.
Anyone who has been closely following these newsletters in recent months should recognize the name Walter Sheasby. If not, then here's a reminder: Walter Contreras Sheasby was the gentleman who, late last year, penned a devastating exposé on the real backers of the 'Peak Oil' scam. In March of this year, I posted Sheasby's piece as my Newsletter #55 (http://www.davesweb.cnchost.com/nwsltr55.html). Here are a few of the more provocative snippets:
In fact the coalition that is pushing for a radical new energy policy is largely composed of those who stand to benefit from a revival, not a phase out, of oil and gas development.
"This much is known, Kenneth Deffeyes writes, "the loudest warnings about the predicted peak of world oil production came from Petroconsultants." In a late 1998 merger Petroconsultants became IHS Energy Group, a subsidiary of Information Handling Services Group (IHS Group), a diversified conglomerate owned by Holland America Investment Corp., IHS Group's immediate parent company, for the Thyssen-Bornemisza Group (TBG, Inc.). In the 1920s George Herbert Walker and his son-in-law, Prescott Bush, had helped the Thyssen dynasty finance its acquisitions through Union Banking Corp. and Holland-American Trading Corp.
ASPO has Associate members like Halliburton and financial sponsors like Schlumberger.
ASPO, of course, is the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, a group relentlessly promoted by the 'Peak Oil' crowd. Schlumberger has been described by Ruppert himself as the "world's premier oil drilling firm." And I think we all know who Halliburton is ... I mean, besides being a bedmate of the 'Peak Oil' promoters.
Sheasby had much more to say in his article and anyone who has not yet read it should definitely do so. Especially now that he's dead ... struck down by a nonexistent virus less than a year after exposing a massive scam known as 'Peak Oil.' Hmmm ....
In completely unrelated news, Dr. Thomas Gold, for years the West's most vocal proponent of the abiotic origins of hydrocarbons, dropped dead two months before Mr. Sheasby had a fatal encounter with a mosquito. One of Gold's heretical beliefs was that actual reserves of crude oil could be up to 100 times what the oil companies and oil-producing nations have claimed. The following is from a post-mortem published in the Telegraph this past June:
None of Gold's theories aroused as much anger as one he first outlined in 1980 and elaborated on in The Deep Hot Biosphere (1999): that "fossil" fuels such as gas, oil and coal are not fossil at all, as conventional wisdom holds, but produced by the constant upwelling of carbon-based compounds from deep below the earth's surface where they have been trapped since the formation of our planet 4.5 billion years ago. A corollary of this theory was that, far from facing an energy crisis, the world has a huge reservoir of deep non-biological natural gas that could meet its energy needs for thousands of years, but which orthodox petroleum geology says should not exist.
The theory earned the derision of the world's petrochemists, some of whom refused to appear on the same platform with Gold. But in 1985, to test his theory, Gold persuaded investors to drill for oil in an area of granite in central Sweden. By 1990, 12 tonnes of crude oil had been extracted - not enough to make extraction commercially viable, but an achievement which (assuming the oil had not somehow got into the granite via cracks, as some have suggested) ranks in the same league as getting blood from a stone.
I seem to remember the From the Wilderness team spending a considerable amount of time a couple years ago, in the aftermath of the Anthrax attacks, chasing a story about the mysterious deaths of a number of microbiologists. Since that proved so productive, I would like to suggest a new assignment for the team: looking into the mysterious deaths of leading 'Peak Oil' debunkers just as the 'Peak Oil' scam is picking up serious momentum. I think there might be a story there.
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A number of compelling 'Peak Oil' related postings have been brought to my attention in recent weeks. The most interesting of the bunch is reproduced here in its entirety, as it provides a good overview of the fossil fuel/abiotic petroleum debate for those readers who have arrived late in the game.
Abiogenic petroleum origin
The theory of abiogenic petroleum origin states that petroleum is produced by non-biological processes deep in the Earth. This stands in contrast to the more widely held view that it is created from the fossilization of ancient organic matter. According to this theory, petroleum is formed by non-biological reactions deep in the Earth's crust. The constituent precursors of petroleum (mainly methane) are commonplace and it is possible that appropriate conditions exist for oil to be formed deep within the Earth.
Although this theory has support by a large minority of geologists in Russia, where it was intensively developed in the 1950s and 1960s, it has only recently begun to receive attention in the West, where the biogenic theory is still believed by the vast majority of petroleum geologists. Although it was originally denied that abiogenic hydrocarbons exist at all on earth, this is now admitted by Western geologists. The orthodox position now is that while abiogenic hydrocarbons exist, they are not produced in commercially significant quantities, so that essentially all hydrocarbons that are extracted for use as fuel or raw materials are biogenic.
A variation of the abiogenic theory includes alteration by microbes similar to those which form the basis of the ecology around deep hydrothermal vents.
One prediction of this theory is that other planets of the Solar system or their moons have large petroleum oceans, either from hydrocarbons present at the formation of the Solar system, or subsequent chemical reactions.
That this theory is receiving increasing attention from Western geologists is indicated by the fact that the American Association of Petroleum Geologists scheduled a conference (http://firstname.lastname@example.org/msg00802.html) to meet in Vienna in July 2004 entitled "Origin of Petroleum—Biogenic and/or Abiogenic and Its Significance in Hydrocarbon Exploration and Production". The conference had to be canceled, however, due to financial considerations. Instead, AAPG will be holding a one-day session on the topic at the June 2005 annual meeting in Calgary, Alberta.
Comparison of theories
There are two theories on the origin of carbon fuels: the biogenic theory and the abiogenic theory. The two theories have been intensely debated since the 1860s, shortly after the discovery of widespread petroleum. There are several differences between the biogenic and abiogenic theories.
* Biogenic: remnants of buried plant and animal life.
* Abiogenic: deep carbon deposits from when the planet formed or subducted material.
Events before conversion
* Biogenic: Large quantities of plant and animal life were buried. Sediments accumulating over the material slowly compressed it and covered it. At a depth of several hundred meters, catagenesis converts it to bitumens and kerogens.
* Abiogenic: At depths of hundreds of kilometers, carbon deposits are a mixture of hydrocarbon molecules which leak upward through the crust. Much of the material becomes methane.
Conversion to petroleum and methane
* Biogenic: Catagenesis occurs as the depth of burial increases and the heat and pressure breaks down kerogens to form petroleum.
o Significant advances in the understanding of chemical processes and organic reactions and improved knowledge about the effects of heating and pressure during burial and diagenesis of organic sediments support biogenic processes.
* Abiogenic: When the material passes through temperatures at which extremophile microbes can survive some of it will be consumed and converted to heavier hydrocarbons.
Formation of coal
* Biogenic: Coal is organic material which was buried and compressed but did not undergo catagenesis into kerogens.
* Abiogenic: Coal is organic material which was filled with hydrocarbons which seeped into the deposit. This can happen on the surface, such as in a swamp with methane and petroleum seeps.
Evidence supporting abiogenic theory
Cold planetary formation
In the late 19th century it was believed that the Earth was extremely hot, possibly completely molten, during its formation. One reason for this was that a cooling, shrinking, planet was necessary in order to explain geologic changes such as mountain formation. A hot planet would have caused methane and other hydrocarbons to be outgassed and oxidized into carbon dioxide and water, thus there would be no carbon remaining under the surface. Planetary science now recognizes that formation was a relatively cool process until radioactive materials accumulate together deep in the planet.
Known hydrocarbon sources
Carbonaceous chondrite meteorites contain carbon and hydrocarbons. Heated under pressure, this material would release hydrocarbon fluids in addition to creating solid carbon deposits. Further, at least ten bodies in our solar system are known to contain at least traces of hydrocarbons. In 2004, the Cassini spacecraft confirmed methane clouds and hydrocarbons on Titan, a moon of Saturn.
Hydrocarbon deposits have been found in places which are poorly explained by biogenic theory. Some oil fields are being refilled from deep sources, although this does not rule out a deep biogenic source rock. The White Tiger field in Vietnam and many wells in Russia, in which oil and natural gas are being produced from granite basement rock. As this rock is believed to have no oil-producing sediments under it, the biogenic theory requires the oil to have leaked in from source rock dozens of kilometers away.
Microbial life has been discovered 4.2 kilometers deep in Alaska and 5.2 kilometers deep in Sweden.
Evidence supporting biogenic theory
It was once argued that the abiogenic theory does not explain the detection of various biomarkers in petroleum. Microbial consumption does not yet explain some trace chemicals found in deposits. Materials which suggest certain biological processes include tetracyclic diterpane, sterane, hopane, and oleanane. Although extremophile microorganisms exist deep underground and some metabolize carbon, some of these biomarkers are only known so far to be created in surface plants. This shows that some petroleum deposits may have been in contact with ancient plant residues, though it does not show that either is the origin of the other.
* Fossil fuel
* Fuel's Paradise (Wired) (http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.07/gold_pr.html)
* The Mystery of Eugene Island 330 (Science Frontiers) (http://www.science-frontiers.com/sf124/sf124p10.htm)
* The Origin of Methane (and Oil) in the Crust of the Earth (Thomas Gold) (http://people.cornell.edu/pages/tg21/usgs.html)
* Gas Resources Corporation collection of documents (http://www.gasresources.net/index.htm)
* Abiotic oil debate (http://www.questionsquestions.net/docs04/peakoil1.html)
Gas Origin Theories to be Studied (American Association of Petroleum Geologists) (http://www.aapg.org/explorer/2002/11nov/abiogenic.cfm)
Abiogenic formation of alkanes in the Earth's crust as a minor source for global hydrocarbon reservoirs (Nature) (http://www.nature.com/cgi-taf/DynaPage.taf?file=/nature/journal/v416/n6880/abs/416522a_fs.html)
* Geobiology @ MIT about biomarkers
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Who would have guessed that there were once dinosaurs on one of Saturn's moons?! And on a number of other bodies within our solar system?! Those dinosaurs really got around, I guess. Apparently, they were a little ahead of us humans in the space exploration department.
Of course, even bought-and-paid-for Western petroleum geologists have shied away from arguing that our solar system was once teeming with organic life forms. Indeed, it is just this sort of irrefutable evidence that has forced Western scientists to reluctantly acknowledge the existence of abiotic hydrocarbons:
Although it was originally denied that abiogenic hydrocarbons exist at all on earth, this is now admitted by Western geologists. The orthodox position now is that while abiogenic hydrocarbons exist, they are not produced in commercially significant quantities, so that essentially all hydrocarbons that are extracted for use as fuel or raw materials are biogenic.
What has happened, in other words, is that a huge lie perpetrated by the West became completely unworkable, and so a new, and even more absurd, lie was substituted in its place. Sound familiar?
What the new lie says is this: "Sure, we'll acknowledge, if forced to, that abiotic hydrocarbons exist -- and not just here on earth, but throughout our solar system and likely beyond it. But that really has nothing whatsoever to do with the hydrocarbons that we actually use here on planet earth. Those hydrocarbons are different, you see, than the more common abiotic hydrocarbons, even though they have the exact same chemical structure. So even though we have the more common abiotic hydrocarbons, we don't use them because ... uhmm, that just wouldn't be economically prudent. Fortunately then, we also have these very special hydrocarbons that are only available here on planet Earth, because ... well, because we're special, that's why."
Those special hydrocarbons are, of course, what are commonly referred to as 'fossil fuels' -- and what Mike Ruppert recently described as "the oil God placed on this planet." God, being blessed with perfect foresight, I presume, must have thought to himself: "I'm giving them a planet awash in hydrocarbons, but I don't know if those hydrocarbons will be economically viable, so just to be on the safe side - and because I can, being omnipotent and all - I think I'll also give them some special hydrocarbons. But only enough to last a century or two. After that, they're on their own."
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Before closing, I am wondering if anyone else finds it curious that the landmark "Origin of Petroleum" conference that was to be held this past July had to be canceled due to lack of funding, unlike both the 2003 and 2004 international 'Peak Oil' conferences, which don't seem to have been hampered by any funding problems. I guess it's easier to get financial backing when you are only presenting one side of the story -- and presenting it as absolute fact. And it probably also helps to have friends with deep pockets, like Halliburton and the Thyssen Group.
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