NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

What If Oil Is A Renewable Energy Resource?

April 16, 1999

National energy policies could be profoundly affected if a curious phenomenon deep in the Gulf of Mexico proves to be for real. At an old oil field known as Eugene Island 330, production has suddenly shot up when it should have continued to decline.

Scientists are speculating that the reservoir is rapidly refilling itself -- perhaps from some continuous source miles below the Earth's surface. If that is what's happening, oil may not be the limited resource it has been assumed to be.

  • Following its 1973 discovery, Eugene Island 330's output peaked at about 15,000 barrels a day, then declined to about 4,000 barrels a day -- as is normal.
  • Suddenly, however, production started increasing and now stands at 13,000 barrels a day -- while probable reserves have rocketed to more than 400 million barrels from 60 million.
  • Stranger still, scientists say crude coming out of the pipe is of a geological age quite different from the oil that gushed 10 years ago.
  • If oil does indeed migrate, as some scientists are beginning to suspect, it would "turn the world view upside down," in the words of noted petroleum expert Daniel Yergin.

Moreover, Middle East oil reserves have more than doubled in the past 20 years -- despite half a century of intense exploitation and relatively few new discoveries. Worldwide, estimated oil reserves grew 72 percent between 1976 and 1996.

Thomas Gold of Cornell University has held for years that oil is actually a renewable, primordial syrup continually manufactured by the Earth under ultrahot conditions and tremendous pressures. As this substance migrates toward the surface, it is attacked by bacteria -- making it appear to have an organic origin dating back to the time of the dinosaurs.

Source: Christopher Cooper, "It's No Crude Joke: This Oil Field Grows Even as It's Tapped," Wall Street Journal, April 16, 1999.


Browse more articles on Environment Issues