The End of Fossil Fuels

by Thomas Joseph Brown

“To the writers of books upon meteorites, it would be as wicked–by which we mean departure from the characters of an established species–quasi-established, of course–to say that coal has fallen from the sky, as would be to something in a barnyard, a temptation that it climb a tree and catch a bird. Domestic things in a barnyard: and how wild things from forests outside seem to them. Or the homeopathist–but we shall shovel data of coal.”

Charles Fort, The Book of the Damned

The End

With a title like The End of Fossil Fuels you may think that this is an article about alternative energy or “free” energy, but alas, it is not. It is an attempt to describe the inadequacy of the term “fossil fuel” and to prevent its further usage in the English language through education in the mysteries of the hydrocarbon structures in the earth. I can’t blame people for having used this misleading phrase, being guilty myself. We are regularly taught such misconceptions in school. But one should always be ready to learn new ideas and concepts, especially once the evidence is investigated.

The term “fossil fuel” is a standard phrase used in reference to hydrocarbons in their various permutations as petroleum, coals, and natural gas. The argument to be presented here is that hydrocarbon deposits are not “fossilized carbon” at all in the sense implied in the modern usage of that term, that there is a larger “carbon dynamic” eventuating in the earth process. The standard response to this is “well, they FIND fossils in the deposits”. This is scientific fact and will not be disputed, fossils certainly are found in SOME deposits, many of them being quite curious–coal balls and roof balls–and will be discussed in turn as they will further our argument. There are also serious fossil anomalies, evidences of human intelligence which crop up in various coal beds supposedly laid down hundreds of millions of years before humans are supposed to have existed. But we will first look at the hydrocarbon structures themselves.

Universal Carbon

There is a curious picture to be gleaned by considering the diverse distribution of carbon throughout the universe. Carbon is ubiquitous, being the 4th most abundant element in the solar system, along with oxygen, hydrogen and helium. Hydrocarbons have been detected in interstellar gas clouds, in the atmospheres (as methane, CH4) of the superior planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and in various forms on several moons of these planets and Pluto. A significant percentage of the asteroids exhibit certain optical reflective properties of tar, as was also measured in the core of Comet Halley.

There is such a universal abundance of carbon that it may be reasonably considered that during the formation process of the earth vast amounts of elemental carbon were integrated into the deep earth structure, and cosmic carbon is still being deposited on earth in interplanetary dust grains. Numerous meteorites with carbonaceous content have been reported, including lumps of pure coal, though these are not prominently promoted in science, as their references are usually common rather than scientific. After all such things as extraterrestrial coal simply can’t exist, so why would a scientist bother recording it?

Carbon exists on earth with a dual physical nature as the hardest (diamond) and the softest (graphite) of mineral deposits. Carbon is also a fundamental ingredient of carbonate “sedimentary” rocks (limestone, chalk, graphite, dolomite, etc.), some deposits exhibiting curious and fantastic features which bring into question the normal concepts of sedimentation. Atmospheric and biospheric carbon are integral to our very structure and existence, and it is the acclaimed residue of past biospheric activity, which is the alleged source of earth’s vast and generally pure hydrocarbon deposits.

Carbon is everywhere permeating the earth—in “depositional” structures well studied due to the immense economic and political value of usable hydrocarbons, and as rarefied migration and transformation through much of the earth to the surface, where it slowly but constantly outgases. Hydrocarbon deposits are vast and diverse: oil, coal, natural gas, methane hydrate, etc. They appear in all geological strata from Precambrian (pre-life!) to Recent (too young for “fossil” process), and include igneous rocks (deep earth origins, allegedly no life due to heat and pressures involved), with some hydrocarbon deposits completely enclosed in basalts. Oil is also found in bubbles in crystals and geodes.

What could be the source of all this carbon? One current theory is that depositions are resultant from the carbon cycle in the biosphere, which imposes an incredible and curious stability on earth’s chemistry, as oxygen breathing fish are found since the early Paleozoic. Calculations of the carbon budget of the earth indicate that on average 20 kilograms of carbon have been deposited per cubic centimeter (20kg/cm2) over the age of the geological column. That is quite an astounding bit to come from purely biological processes, and the curiosities of the deposits are astonishing as well.

Dinosaur Dung

Geographic distribution of hydrocarbon deposits in the Middle East. Chemical signatures specific to this region are found in all these deposits, regardless of geological “age” and rock type. Black dots indicate location and relative size of deposits.

If hydrocarbon deposits in the earth are not formed from distilled fossils, then what? There is an alternative viewpoint in the abiogenic–non-biological–theory of hydrocarbon deposits (Mendeleev, Sokoloff, Vernadsky, Kudryavtsev, Gold, and others), and that is that the carbon–a primordial earth substance–is constantly upwelling as methane from the deep earth where it was deposited during the original planetary coagulation. In this theory the primordial carbon, deposited from cosmic origin during the formation of the earth, is transformed into petroleum and coal by chemical and bacteriological action in its upward migration from depth. This abiotic theory has been well advanced in our current times by Thomas Gold, a noted and erudite scientist, but is still not provided a fair hearing in the courts of science. Gold has done extensive research, including drilling into Precambrian igneous rocks for hydrocarbons, to prove his theory.

In what is known as Kudryavtsev’s Rule “any region in which hydrocarbons are found at one level will be seen to have hydrocarbons in large or small quantities, but at all levels down to and into the basement rock.” Where oil and gas deposits are found, there is often a concordant coal seam or seams above them. Where the vertical stacking of hydrocarbon deposits is found such as in Iran, Java and Sumatra, and Oklahoma amongst other locales, drill shafts for oil and gas wells penetrate shallower coal beds. Gas is usually the deepest in the pattern, and can alternate with oil. All petroleum deposits have a capstone generally impermeable to carbon’s upward migration, and this capstone provides the damming mechanism allowing accumulated deposition.

Under the oceans methane hydrate has accumulated in a semi-stable “frozen” state. This may be the result of the great masses of oceanic water acting as a capstone/reactor with the methane, and methane hydrate is also found under permafrost associated regions. The methane hydrate deposits under the ocean floors are estimated at a staggering one billion cubic kilometres of carbon gas! There is twice as much carbon in this frozen gas under the oceans than in all the land based hydrocarbon deposits (coal, oil, etc) combined.

In considering in our imagination how these deposits are structured in the earth, we can see how one has cause to build a picture of carbon gas migrating up from deep earth sources globally. How and in what form it deposits–if it doesn’t work its way to the surface like much of the gas–depends on geological and chemical structures of both large and small areal extent.

Signposts and signatures

Petroleum and Tectonic Map of Southeast Asia. The relationship of the hydrocarbon deposits to the geological area in whole, independent of geological age and rock type, is easily seen. A common chemical signature links these oils of diverse geological, but close geographical location. The relationship of the deposits to both mountain and volcano formation zones indicates upwelling hydrocarbons as the primary driving force for such diverse geological phenomena.

Oil deposits are claimed to be of marine fossil origin, migrating from fossiliferous shales into other geological strata, generally only sedimentary. One major but little publicised problem–outside of the fact that no actual fossils have ever been found in petroleum–is that there is no known exact chemical process for conversion of biological debris into petroleum! Biological markers are claimed as the proof of biological origins, but perhaps they are contaminants. Some of the “biological markers” in oil are present in cosmic hydrocarbons. Here we find a major scientific belief–that of the biological origins of oil–without the fundamental and most necessary mechanism ever having been accurately described! And you thought it was all figured out, I’ll bet.

Common chemical signatures, based on trace element content ratios, are found in oil from particular regions, such as the Middle East, regardless of geological age of deposit. In fact most oils can be analysed in this fashion to provide information on their regional source. The hydrocarbon deposits of Southeast Asia are found in an arc running from the Himalayas through the volcanic regions of Indonesia, cutting quite a geological swath. Yet the oil from any deposit in this region possesses a characteristic chemical marker, an affinity thus indicating a common regional source. Another dimension is added in that of the common chemical signature of oil found in Ordovician layer source rocks worldwide, said to be caused by a specific microfossil.

Coal and oil are considered to be of differing origins, oil from marine deposits and coal from vegetative land deposits. The two types of deposits are often related, and oil and coal also have significant chemical affinities. Oil and volcanic products have close chemical affinities as well, and it has been proposed (Coste) that hydrocarbon deposits have been injected into the geological column through volcanic solfataric action.

Earthquakes, like volcanos, may also be related to upwelling hydrocarbons. The shifting of large subterranean gas volumes could easily account for earthquake action and could also provide a workable model for tsunamis. Numerous eyewitness accounts over the centuries indicate curious natural phenomena related to earthquakes: lights, sounds, flames. In countries such as China, where pragmatism has the ability to overcome theory, ground gas measurements have been used successfully to predict earthquakes (Haicheng, 1975). A whole range of curious natural phenomena such as earthquake related lights and booming sounds may well be connected to upwelling hydrocarbon gasses.

Gas is produced in commercial quantities from the sides of Mount Taranaki, New Zealand’s largest active volcano, so volcanos and hydrocarbons are known to be directly related.

Diamonds are formed in volcanic pipes, from materials brought from extreme depth in the earth. This shows that pure unoxidised carbon (diamond) and methane, which has been detected as gas bubbles in diamonds, exist at great depth, providing the source material for the abiogenic theory.

While Thomas Gold has promoted a modern scientific approach to the relationship between hydrocarbon gases, earthquakes and volcanos, we can also thank James Churchward who proposed this link as the cause for the sinking of the hypothetical lost Pacific continent of Mu: it was the collapse of massive gas bubbles in the earth’s crust. Two things to consider here: 1. such gas bubbles exist (commercial gas fields), are related to volcanos in some geographical areas as mentioned, and are being poked to extract the gas–like pins in admittedly thick skinned balloons–with little comprehension of the tremendous power being played with for short term commercial gain; and 2. perhaps many of the mysteries of global geological structures and earth history–mountains, crater remains, mass extinctions, etc–can be explained by the upwardly migrating gas bubble theory. It may well be a major cause of geological activity.

Churchward’s hypothetical geological structure of hydrocarbon gases underlying the lost continent of Mu. It was the rupturing of these immense gas pockets which Churchward claimed caused the destruction and sinking of this alleged Pacific continent.

Vast as an inadequate word

But even if the biological theory is true, some of the petroleum reserves are incredibly vast, and one wonders where the even larger accumulations of source rock could possibly be. This “source rock” simply has not been found in many cases.

Prudhoe Bay in Alaska has an estimated retrievable reserve of 15 billion barrels–one of the largest reserves of oil known. However, the oil and tar sand deposits are astounding giants in comparison. The Orinoco heavy oil belt in Venezuela and the Canadian oil sands of the Athabascan deposits both contain estimates of over 1000 billion barrels of oil each. These are deposits of heavy oil completely intermixed with sands over thousands of square miles. There is no way that this extremely vast amount of heavy viscous–flowing only when heated–hydrocarbon material could have formed, “migrated”, and become completely intermixed, into the present sand beds from any “fossil” deposit.

What could be the origin of all this heavy oil? Upwelling transforming carbon? Perhaps, a strong contender. But the trials and tribulations of the carbon element cannot explain the many curiosities and anomalies of the geologic column, of which petroleum and coal are but mere pieces of the puzzle.

The Athabascan sands, which date from the Cretaceous, overlie extensive Devonian bitumen deposits bearing a chemical affinity thus indicating a common origin! It is curious to note that in this general geographical region, there is an unconformity of other Cretaceous rocks conformably overlying Devonian rocks, with outcrops for over 150 miles in one direction. This is quite a bit of the geological column to be missing as though nothing had happened during those vast stretches of time: the carbonaceous Carboniferous itself, the great die-offs of the Permian, the initiation of the age dinosaurs in the Triassic, the dinosaur fluorescence in the Jurassic, all as if not a day had passed. This unconformity, like many others, are best left alone, or cherished notions shall be lost, forever.

Near Banff, Alberta Lower Cretaceous beds are overlain conformably with Lower Carboniferous. Some of the rock consisting of this dual formation is so similar as to be easily mistaken for the same deposit, save for the difference in fossil content. That is, that if it weren’t for the fossil differences it would appear to be the same bed of deposits, completely lacking Pennsylvanian, Permian, Triassic and Jurassic activities. There are many such anomalies and curiosities in the structure of the earth, some of which make us question the true nature of the geological column, whether or not it truly represents a linear time line of deposits. But for the point at hand we will refer to the accepted layerings and names, and perhaps at another time delve more deeply into the questions arising out of the complex structures of sedimentary deposits.

The Carboniferous period–comprising the Mississippian and Pennsylvanian– is named after the vast amounts of coal and other hydrocarbons found at this horizon level of the geological column. The coal deposits are certainly not limited to the Paleozoic, appearing in progressively younger strata into the Tertiary, but the Pennsylvanian beds are vast and persistent, both in thickness and areal extent. It has been assumed and acclaimed that these vast deposits are merely the remains of ancient forests and swamps, compacted and transformed over time. As a reference, it has been estimated that the present Amazon forest, if compressed into coal, would only comprise a couple inches or so of coal. I shall quote the ever eloquent Velikovsky on the subject:

“Seams of coal are sometimes fifty or more feet thick. No forest could make such a layer of coal; it is estimated that it would take a twelve-foot layer of peat deposit to make a layer of coal one foot thick; and twelve feet of peat deposit would require plant remains a hundred and twenty feet high. How tall and thick must a forest be, then, in order to create a seam of coal not one foot thick but fifty? The plant remains must be six thousand feet thick. In some places there must have been fifty to a hundred successive huge forests, one replacing the other.”

What about an 800 foot thick coal seam in Australia? How many miles thick must the plant matter have been to form such massive pure carbon deposits? What, pray tell, causes these multiple layers and exceptionally thick coals? While peat bogs do have a chemical congruence with coal beds, there are questions of size and structure which leave the fundamental question of origin still open. Would successions of peat bogs and marshes continually be deposited at the same flat area, dozens of times, cycling with shales and limestones, and adding in clays, sands and gravels in more recent deposits? Velikovsky postulates catastrophe spawned hurricanes sweeping burnt forest debris with successive tides sweeping in marine layers and fresh layers of burnt organic materials. Yes, some of the evidence supports his line of thought, but not all of it.

Somehow I think something more organic–or more properly, organised–has happened, or is happening.

Sequential Somethings

An idealised Cyclothem from Illinois. Not all layers occur together, but this chart shows the sequence that is followed in general. What is the origin of these curiously organised layerings in the earth?

Cyclothems are rhythmic sediments, repeated layerings of alternating strata, such as coal, limestone, shale, etc. They are not to be confused with annual, or “varve”, deposits, which indicate seasonal variations. No, the cyclothems are boggling curiosities. The Pennsylvanian cyclothems, which in this case include coal measures in the sequence, cover over 50,000 square miles in areal extent in North America, and further persist in outcrops around the globe. Some of the associated layers are very thin shales less than half an inch thick bedded in layers with pure coal of varying thicknesses, all perfectly dead level and flat, with known continuous segments of over 15,000 square miles! How can these finely layered strata be explained? Certainly not by sedimentation, especially when the fossils are considered. And when we consider that these same coal seam sequences are found in Europe, then their amazing persistence truly boggles the mind. Methinks more than giant hurricanes at work here.

Fusain, or “mother of coal” is a charcoal-like geological layer that appears in coal beds mostly, but not always. Fusain contains “woody” characteristics, indicating a potential vegetative origin, however the exact mechanism has yet to be scientifically described. It is persistent globally, and it has been suggested is the remains of conflagration. What sort of conflagrations create perfectly thin flat carboniferous layers of questionable origin and of great areal extent?

Vein-like deposits of coal have been described, such as the Canadian type known as Albertite, suggesting the possibility that the coal was at one time liquid. This is a further nail in the coffin for the increasingly tenuous conjecture that the coal beds are merely ancient swamps & peat bogs. It is almost a certainty that the coal was injected as a liquid into the fissures. In the case of Albertite, a vein coal from New Brunswick, Canada, liquid petroleum is found in cavities, as well as in cavities of related shales.

Vein-like Coal. Surely this sort of deposit cannot be considered as “sedimentary”. Common sense indicates an injection in a liquid state. Liquid petroleum is found in pockets within such formations, suggesting a common origin of coal and petroleum.

Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup!

Fossils are certainly found in coal, but these raise far more questions than they answer. Actually the greater curiosity is the general absence of fossils and source material patterning in coal, save for reports on some Tertiary coals such as the Geiseltal of Germany which has been described as a “veritable graveyard” of flora and fauna of globally diverse geographical and climatological regions deposited in a mixed and disarticulate fashion. Such large deposits of mixed biological debris are not limited to coal beds, and are quite indicative of global catastrophe such as postulated by Velikovsky. Deposition of the Geiseltal must have been quite rapid, as chlorophyll is still found preserved in leaves in the coal, thus indicating that the coal itself is not the leaves! Perhaps it had rained as fire from the sky during or causing suggested catastrophe. Or was squirted wholesale from the bowels of the earth, to punish and extinguish the trees and animals of paradise.

In general however, what fossils that have been found in coal beds are replacement fossils, that is they bear the patterns of the original flora or fauna, but consist of coal itself, or often pyrite and other minerals. Most fossils that do occur are at the top or above the seam, leaving the seam bodies pure. That is, the fossils are found in the non-coal roof or floor rocks!

Coal is amazingly pure carbon, often 90% or more, with mineral contents as low as 4%, and ash residues of less than 3%. Curiously, erratic boulders and rock fragments are found in coal, though soils which the vast coal-forming forests supposedly grew upon are fully absent. It is claimed that the so-called “fireclays” found underlying many coal beds are the soils upon which the vast forests once grew, but in Nova Scotia there is a coal measure three miles thick, whose structure contains 76 coal seams and 90 fireclay layers. The fireclays are occasionally found without related coal as well.

Proceeding into the continually more curious we come across the polystrate (multiple strata) intrusions such as fossil trees. These can penetrate from a carbonate layer–e.g. limestone–into one or more coal layers. This raises the question of how those trees could have stood through successive aeons of forest accumulation and destruction. Shouldn’t the tree have become part of one mere layer of coal, along with its tree brethren? Examples of such trees are described in the literature as “coalified where they are within the coal seam, but are not coalified where they are in the carbonate” (Gold) leaving exact origin open to question. Seriously, how could a tree stand through the complex and long term activities which supposedly caused the finely laid, flat, consistent coal beds and end up partaking of the mineral substance of that and the alternating oceanic layers? There are many examples of polystrate fossils, they are not limited to coal beds, but they raise some important questions. Common sense indicates a new picture must be built.

Coal balls and roof balls are another curiosity. Coal balls are spheroids of plant materials residing in the body of the coal seam and described as “remarkably well preserved” (Corliss). They range in diameter from several feet down to an inch or so. Roof balls are a similar phenomenon, though occurring in the shales overlying the coal beds, and consisting of marine fossils. These two phenomena appear to be related, as they both indicate motionally active, rather than passive, formative processes in the creation of the spheres. The polarity between plant and marine animal indicates a alternation of origin, but yet they are structurally related. Is the formation of the shale directly related to the coal? Can we afford to overlook some wider ranging indications of organised patterning in geological formations? Organised… organic… am I allowed to think in this direction?

Now, for my next trick

But beyond curious and into the really weird we must consider some of the more bizarre objects which have been discovered in coal. Coins and spoons, stone walls and ancient mine tunnels, all have been reported from ancient coal beds. While stone walls and tunnels can be written off as “natural” formations, this is not so easy with the manufactured metal artefacts. A gold chain was found in a lump of Carboniferous coal by Mrs S.W. Culp of Morrisonville, Illinois in June of 1891. Whilst breaking up coal for heating Mrs Culp discovered the chain still partially imbedded in the coal chunk she had just broken. According to standard dating of geological strata, the chain is approximately 300 million years old. An iron cup was found in coal by an electric plant worker in Arkansas in 1912, the coal having come from Oklahoma and being dated at about 312 million years ago. These dates are vastly previous to any accepted human occupation of this planet–dinosaurs had yet to walk the earth–yet fully human remains come from related strata! In 1862 in Macoupin County, Illinois, human male bones were discovered in a slate covered coal bed 90 feet underground. The bones were crusted with a carbonaceous deposit which was easily scraped away to reveal white bone underneath. A similar skeleton found in a coal bed in Leicestershire, England, was reported in 1829. But people didn’t exist when the coal was being formed, so you will not learn of these anomalies in school or encyclopedia, yet.

While bizarre finds such as these are certainly not limited to coal beds, we’ll keep our focus to make our point. When we consider the rhythmic successions of finely layered, perfectly flat, persistent facies of coal, and then further add into our consideration the unique character of fossils actually found in and around coal beds, from the coal and roof balls and polystrate trees to the evidences of humans, then we find cause to disbelieve that these deposits are the remains of ancient forests. Which is further confirmed by deposits such as the vein-like coals.

The Beginning

Perhaps the entire geological column is a fortean event, or series of events, and if so we would expect the unexpected, and that is what we find, upon scrutiny. If the vast hydrocarbon deposits are the remains of some ancient global life process, then we must work to build a picture of life through forensic examination of the residue: i.e. the geological column. It would not be life as is presently conceived and pictured in numerous books–dinosaur infested swamps, or seas filled with strange flora and fauna. Well researched scientific evidence has given cause for such pictures, but the gaps in the pictures are ignored, to the detriment of knowing the real past. We are left to conjecture over the origins of the earth’s layers, that ancient and wonderful residue so highly appreciated in rugged mountain and desert canyon.

But is not all physical substance the residue of previous life activity? But what sort of life, planetary singular? A planetary being that rains single species deposits of dinosaurs or fishes along with carbonate cements. Why not, such deposits exist. But so do jumbled deposits of diverse animals mixed together as if by massive global turbulence, or single deposits such as the Cambrian Burgess Shale that contains more types of life than the rest of the geological column put together. No easy answers.

Perhaps as Rudolf Hauschka has proposed, carbon is the primal Earth element itself (in the series with Water, Air and Fire), given life and form through the instreaming of cosmic forces when they meet at the earth’s surface. And as this earth element wells up from deep underground on wings of fiery hydrogen, rather than being the residue of life, perhaps it is a necessary precursor. If so, what toll do we take on the future life waves of planet by our abuse of, and degeneration into, hydrocarbon technology. For everything that can be made in “organic” or coal tar chemistry can also be made from plant carbohydrates, from textiles to plastics, dyes to fuels, we can grow it all from the ground without rupturing earth’s vital fluid system. Not only should we stop calling hydrocarbons “fossil fuels”, but we should also stop sucking them out of the earth. And then, perhaps, the natural order of intelligent progress will have cause to eventuate.


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