'Black Gold' strikes Big Oil 'nerve'
Responding to complaints from customers, a leading petroleum industry website stopped its sale of WND Books' "Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil," which challenges the conventional wisdom on the commodity's origin and supply.
Houston-based Rigzone.com also pulled from its site a related column by a co-author of the book, Jerome Corsi, after receiving about a dozen complaints from subscribers, who include leading figures in the oil exploration community.
Corsi said the incident, along with many ad hominem attacks he and co-author Craig R. Smith have received, illustrate the general unwillingness of opponents to address the book's arguments.
"They don't want to debate us, they want to shut it out," Corsi said.
He added, "It's usually a good indication you're on to something."
Building on the conclusions of Cornell University Professor Thomas Gold, Corsi and Smith argue oil is not a fossil fuel and – contrary to the popular "peak oil" theory – is not running out. Gold's "abiotic" theory asserts oil is a product of a continuing biochemical reaction below the earth's surface that is brought to attainable depths by the centrifugal forces of the earth's rotation.
Smith, CEO of Swiss America Trading Corp., said all he wants is an honest debate.
"The peak oil theorists have a wrap on this," he said. "Show us the science that proves we're idiots and we'll shut up and go away."
Rigzone.com President David Kent told WND he was caught in the middle of a controversy he's not "up to speed on" and discovered just how sensitive the issue is to people in the industry.
"A nerve has been struck," said Kent, who describes his website as the "Yahoo.com of oil and gas."
The e-mail responses came after he distributed Corsi's column in a newsletter last week sent to about 100,000 customers. Kent said if he had to do it over again, he would have included a disclaimer stating the views of the book and column do not represent Rigzone.com.
"I definitely knew it was on the edge," he said of the column. "But I didn't know what kind of response it would get."
Kent said he is considering holding an online forum on the topic.
A man who identified himself as a project engineer posted a copy of his letter to Rigzone on a community Web forum called The Oil Drum, saying, "I just wanted to let you know that with your recent 'insight' article by Jerome Corsi espousing abiotic oil and bashing peak oil and Democrats, you have damaged your reputation with me and others and I will no longer be using your site. That you would give a man with no engineering background, and the man responsible for the swift boat veterans book, space on your website beggars belief."
The letter followed a posting of a column by Stuart Staniford, who claimed Rigzone.com fired the editors responsible for posting Corsi's column.
But Kent denied that, explaining the erroneous report came from a misinterpretation of an e-mail that was meant in jest.
Staniford's column is titled "The Swiftboating of Peak Oil," an allusion to Corsi's co-authorship of "Unfit for Command," the New York Times No. 1 best-seller during the 2004 presidential campaign that challenged Sen. John Kerry's claims about his Navy swiftboat service in Vietnam.
Staniford said Corsi "can perhaps be forgiven for his … allegiance to the abiotic theory which has roughly zero support amongst working exploration geologists. … But what on earth are the editors of Rigzone thinking?"
Secondly, Staniford writes, "given Dr Corsi's recent history of involvement with well-funded extreme right-wing causes, are we seeing the start of a comparable campaign against peak oil?"
On a weblog called Peak Energy, a contributor posted a sarcastic response to "Black Gold": "Good heavens. Saint Jerome Corsi, paid liar and all around greaseball has found a sustainable, non-finite source of oil amongst the seminal soaked pages of Thomas Gold's masterwork?"
A contributor to a forum called Peakoil.com took a swipe at Smith and Corsi.
"Craig Smith is a gold bug. He would much prefer the U.S. dollar to be based on gold, not oil. (For 'black gold' read 'false gold'). Given the combination of authors, this book would seem to be little more than propaganda."
Smith contends the book is based on "rock-solid science" and that his and Corsi's research only serves to strengthen Gold's work.
In a WND column today, Corsi examines "fossil fuel" theory, arguing its assertions never have been scientifically proven.
Smith believes the oil industry has a "vested interest in having people believe [oil] is a very scarce commodity."
"It's only to the benefit of anybody who sells a commodity to have people believe it's running out," he said.
Knowing the origin of oil and its expected supply is crucial to the nation's policymaking, Smith argued, pointing out the U.S. economy is "absolutely predicated on having supplies of reasonably priced energy."
"If in fact we're running out of oil, then we are making good decisions about the political and economic impact that oil will have in our society," he said. "But if in fact it's not running out, we're making bad decisions."
Smith added that on one hand, the nation owes the oil industry a great debt of gratitude for all it has delivered.
"But by the same token, are they telling us the truth about supplies?"
Smith pointed out that from 1970 to 2005, the demand for oil increased 200 percent, yet today, there are at least 1 trillion barrels of proven reserves and as many as 7 trillion, according to one estimate.
"We're finding new oil fields every day of the week," he said.