While the Amazon might be the earth's lungs, Paul Salopek
makes the case that oil is the earth's blood.
In some respects, crude really does resemble blood. It scabs on exposure to air. It is organic and viscous. Some companies warm oil to about 90 degrees to make it slip more easily, with less friction, through pipelines. This temperature approximates that of the human body. Cold oil will coagulate. It coats the inner surfaces of the pipes with waxy buildups, much like arterial plaque. Pipelines must be cleaned regularly with the industrial equivalent of a cardiac balloon: a plastic plug that oil workers call a "pig."Interesting. I did not realize that bacteria and fungi grew in it. You never really think of oil being organic, but it is in the o-chem sense of the word.
Oil is not sterile. It supports bacteria and fungi. Terminal managers tell of draining old storage tanks and finding "vines" of oil-eating algae growing inside--some of them many feet long.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about oil is this: After 150 years of unleashing its explosive power to shrink the world and expand our dominion of nature, and after reshaping it into innumerable useful byproducts--from plastic cradles to vinyl body bags--we still do not understand fully where oil comes from or how it was made.Huh. I am surprised that no one has been able to create oil in the lab. I thought it was an established fact.
The notion that it is the cooked and condensed remains of dinosaurs is at best marginally correct. Most geologists agree that terrestrial life never existed in sufficient abundance to explain the vast amount of crude now lurking in the ground. Instead, many scientists believe petroleum was born in water--as algae and minute life forms called plankton that once drifted in ancient seas. Fed by ancient sunbeams, the plants bloomed in oceanic quantities, died and were buried in sea-bottom silts.
Because of this, some experts call the energy locked inside oil "fossilized sunlight." But this remains a theory. No one has yet synthesized crude from dead plant matter.
via Chicago Tribune