Skip to comments.The Oil Glut At The End Of The Universe
Posted on 09/01/2006 3:01:17 AM PDT by Texas Jack
Last Gas Before Pluto The Hydrocarbon Lakes of Titan - Courtesy of the European Space Agency
The Hydrocarbon Lakes of Titan - Courtesy of the European Space Agency
The Oil Glut At The End Of The Universe
By Russell Seitz
The Rolling Stones are not alone. This summers nostalgia binge includes The Beachboys and the return to TV of Paul Ehrlich, of population bomb fame . At the height of the last energy crisis, the great Neomalthusian sage predicted that Mick Jaggers 40th birthday party would be attended by global starvation and the implosion of natural gas supplies . No such luck, so Ehrlich recently turned to joining Al Gore in warning of a mass extinction of Republicans . But before most could heed the call to mend their ways by trading limos, Lear Jets and Escalades for Segways and Amtrak seats, a space probe landed on a smog shrouded moon of Saturn. Everything has changed, again. Civilization is about to clash with a Titanic oil glut.
The Huygens Lander has found Titan uninhabited, but awash in liquid hydrocarbons, which means finders keepers for NASAs proprietors , which means us. Early camera returns show a planet-scope so stunning that it might have been painted by Albert Beirstadt to decorate the board room of Standard Oil. Sure it's cold outside, but theres some kind of atmosphere on Titan-- a mixture so rich that the rain on the plain is mostly methane.
Right now its merely drizzling, for spring is in the air on Titan, where spring lasts about seven years. But sure as Vivaldis four seasons, there will be some serious thunderstorms when summer rolls around and temperatures in Titans southern hemisphere soar into the minus one hundred and seventies. Ten years from now, Titian red thunderheads will let loose a barrage of propane hailstones and torrents of LNG will fall, filling Titans great lakes with enough unleaded High Test to float a supertanker. If all the methane condensed Titan would be thirteen feet deep in gas, not counting sea level rise due to global warming.
Eat your heart out, Ibn Saud. Theres more oil on the South Slope of Titan than a Nigerian politician could steal 150 million barrels per capita for every man woman and child on earth, Texans included. Glory be to NASA, we have seen OPEC, and it is us.
This leaves Gore fans in the Oil Patch feeling conflicted and Halliburton execs very glum indeed. Houston, we have a problem - oil too cheap to meter. So great is the extraterrestrial gas glut that were everyone in China and India combined to acquire two Hummers and a Rolls , the supply would still last for millennia . Needless to say such a gas glut would worsen the CO2 problem - not the Greenhouse effect, but how to get oxygen enough to burn it all. It takes loads of oxygen to run a car. What use millions of tons of alien oil per capita when Earth only has a tenth the oxygen needed? Before we haul our jet skis to the balmy beaches of Hudsons Bay to celebrate global warming in earnest, we have to figure out how to keep them idling smoothly.
At last inspection, there was about a million tons of air per Earthling, which works out to only about 200 thousand tons of O2. Thats scarcely enough to let us emulate Al Gores gas consumption, even though hes downsized from a 747 to a non -presidential Lear Jet to advertise his small is beautiful bookman has already told Letterman: Were filling the sky with CO2, but how are we going to live long enough to oblige him when 10% CO2 will asphyxiate a lab rat?
Literally driving oxygen to extinction would give vegetarians cause to rejoice, for plants would inherit the earth. But carnivores would face what Greens style the Tragedy of the Commons. The porterhouse consuming classes would be caught between gas heap enough to cruise all summer in a Hummer, and the difficulty of lighting charcoal enough to grill out in an atmosphere rendered incombustible by conspicuous consumption. Where will the nation find air enough to grill out? Be of good courage -- Ronald Wilson Reagan knew what he was about in signing the Montreal Protocol into law-- ozone may be good for something after all-- it can light a barbecue in a trice without sacrificing trees to make newspaper for kindling. Since pungent ozone is constantly replaced by stratospheric sunshine, not a drop of Titan's bounty need go to waste.
The best is still to come. When the Huygens Probe scrunched down on a beach of hydrocarbon sorbet last winter, the sound of breaking waves was distinctly audible in the background.Providence has so abundantly endowed the Titan Pipeline scene with the smell of napalm in the morning that few doubt tit is the manifest destiny of our nations dudes and dudettes to check out the break.
Why wait for earthly seas to boil dry as the sun goes nova in a billion years when Titan beckons today? It may be a trifle chilly just now, but before the sun goes postal, the place will rival Bondi Beach , and surfers will doff their space and wet suits amidst the endless summer at the end of the solar system. Who wants to colonize Mars when body surfing beckons in the LNG crashing on Titans gnarly shore O brave new world that has such octane in it!
Now I'm confused... Does this mean that long ago dinosaurs roamed one of Saturn's moons, died when... err ah, a meteor hit the Gulf of Mexico right off the Yucatan, and then decomposed into what we now call "fossil fuel"?
Or could it be that the liquid hydrocarbons we call "fossil fuels", aka non-renewable energy, are really a product of the earth's molten core and we have a never ending supply of it?
It's so confusing. Next, we'll probably find out that there is not such thing as global warming. I suppose I'll just have to wait to see what Al Gore says about this.
Zactly! Wonder where Titan got all those fossils?
Oh, but there were decomposing plants, too! ...must've been really crowded on Titan. Lefty could probably come up with some sort of piled life theory to explain that.
Landing there could pose a problem.
For REAL Americans...it's just "a challenge".
MIT Freudian typo? Also, it should be "nation's". Oh, well. At least they can do science.
Thirteen potential feet of condensed hydrocarbons certainly would seem to indicate it didn't come from plants and animals.
well i think they have gas and methane can be made a lot of ways..
also i have aproblem with this...titan isnt exactly next door now is it..so i think shipping it might be a tad more expensive....
Funny you use the term Challenge, almost like Challenger.
For who? It's impossible to bring it back here.
"...150 million barrels per capita for every man woman and child on earth..."
I need that number expressed in terms I can understand - how many chickens and green peppers would that barbecue on my propane grill?
Think leave it on all the time so you could grill up a midnight snack! :)
Good line, caught my attention, but it seems the rest of the article did not meet my expectations.
The guy makes it sound like atmospheric oxygen is lost forever when used in combustion.
Mars has an abundance of oxygen in its soil. Its the carbon and hydrogen that are missing. Adding CO2 and hydrocarbons to Mars' atmosphere might warm the place up a tad. Time for some creative terraforming innovations!
The professor slips in a reference to the theme song to Red Dwarf. Sweet.
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