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As more and larger oil and natural gas deposits are found throughout the world--some in unlikely places--it becomes increasingly difficult to continue to believe that those hydrocarbons originated drop by drop through the transformation of the remains of minute animals and plants that were locked in marine sediments in relatively recent years. This "organic theory" of petroleum genesis was propounded many years ago when the number and extent of oil and gas discoveries were relatively small and when knowledge of cosmology, chemistry, and other sciences was far less sophisticated than it is today.
It is now suggested that oil and natural gas could have been formed in much larger quantities than was ever considered plausible before, through chemical reactions among components of the atmosphere that existed billions of years ago when the earth was still hot--long before there was any plant or animal life.
During the period 3-4 billion years ago, when the earth's surface was cooling from 1,000°F to about 400°F, the formation of hydrocarbons through the reaction (on catalytic surfaces) of atmospheric hydrogen and carbon monoxide seems inevitable. During that period, when the surface was still too hot for water to exist as a liquid, the earth probably was surrounded with dense clouds of hydrocarbons which literally "rained oil." This oil together with the sediments that it carried with it filled all the surface depressions that existed at the time.
Through this same kind of reaction, it is probable that several simple oxygenated compounds formed simultaneously. These acids, alcohols, aldehydes, etc. could well have been the source of amino acids, nucleic acids, and proteins, the precursors of cells and life itself.
The recent discovery of amino acids on a meteorite lends credence to this hypothesis and further proof may not be far off. If it can be confirmed that the clouds around the planet Venus are truly hydrocarbons, as many scientists have suggested, and if further exploration of the surface of Venus, which is reported to be at 720-885°F, discloses evidence of "oil rains" there, then the theory of petroleum genesis now proposed will be lent very strong support.
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