Monday mirth: Ken Ring reinvents botany, geology, and the oil business

By Gareth Renowden 16/12/2013


Sometimes the best way to start the week is with a good laugh — an eruptive bellow, in my case. Do not read any further while handling or consuming hot drinks, because it’s that man again: NZ’s favourite astrologer, “moon man” Ken Ring, reinventing science (again) in service of his weird view of the world. As regular readers will recall, Ringworld is a place full of oddities, but even as a connoisseur of Ken’s creative interpretations of physical reality I was reduced to fits of giggles by a couple of his recent articles, as published at his Yahoo News blog. Here’s what set me off — the fourth paragraph of an extended rant about scaremongering:

Volcanoes throw CO2 into the air and it drifts slowly down. Rain brings most CO2 back into the sea, with the rest combining to form weak acid carbonates which embed in rocks. Earthquakes enable rocks to reach the sea and eventually underneath new volcanoes, the cycle taking millions of years. There are enough volcanoes every day beneath the sea and above to keep CO2 at a constant average of 350 parts per million of the atmosphere, across many centuries.

A constant average of 350 ppm? The planet has spent most of the last few million years in a series of ice ages, with CO2 levels around 180 ppm. During the short interglacial periods, CO2 peaked at about 280-300 ppm — until we came along and started liberating fossil sunshine and boosted that to 390+ ppm. Ken’s just making stuff up, again. There’s much more to amuse in the piece, as Ken reinvents developmental psychology, but for the real fun, you have to dig a few weeks further back in his blog archive…

Back in November, when the Oil Free Seas flotilla was protesting about Anadarko’s drilling off the west coast of the North Island, Ken felt it necessary to expound on oil production. But not in any ordinary way, not our Ken. Here are the opening paragraphs. If you can get through this without fits of giggles, you’re a better man than I am, even if you’re a woman (pauses to wipe tears from eyes):

Andarko’s deep sea drilling off the southeast of NZ has again brought out the debate about depletion of earth’s oil reserves. As ever, it is emotionally charged nonsense.

If you put a tiny seed the size of a grain of rice in the ground and wait, it will grow into a sizable plant, even a tree. Taking the products of ANY plant or tree and compressing them, yields oil. The miracle of gardening is that you can end up with a bucketful, all from that one tiny seed. The world is not running out of seeds, so we can ask where the oil in every plant came from.

It is impossible to get a bucketful from a seed, so the oil comes from hydrocarbons in the ground before the seed was planted. The cycle is germination, bloom, rot and decomposition: hydrocarbons create plants which create oil which breaks back down to hydrocarbons.

Where do the buckets come from? Which came first, the bucket or the oil? But wait! It gets better:

The fossil fuel argument says there are hydrocarbons in the earth due to the decomposition of plants and animals. But the argument omits explaining where the plants and animals came from.

There are two possibilities. Either hydrocarbons came with the formation of the earth 4.5 billion years ago and vegetation evolved later (geological science), or plants and animals were created at the same time as the earth (religion), and upon dying put hydrocarbons into the earth which eventually became oil fields.

If plants and animals came first, created by God, then by consumption and proliferation the end result is Doomsday. If hydrocarbons came first and created life then sustainability is assured. Geology says vegetation did not evolve until 4.5 million years ago, which is only within the last 0.1% of earth’s geological history. As for animals, the prokaryotes are the simplest form of cell-life, and appeared about a billion years after the earth was formed.

Vegetation only evolved 4.5 million years ago! Utter lunacy, of course, but Ken ploughs on. For him, the answer lies in the soil.

So how can oil be a fossil fuel? We should be discussing if we are running out of hydrocarbons in soil, and soil on the planet, for which of course there is no evidence.

Ring’s thesis appears to be that oil is made in the soil, and is entirely renewable. This is not what oil exploration geologists believe, but that is if of no matter in Ringworld:

There will always be oil where there is soil and even where there is not. […] Crude oil is renewable and is being renewed naturally right now. Oil fields are commonly found around volcanism, because the explosive pressures of eruptions can and do fuse hydrocarbons together.

And there’s me thinking that oil and gas were normally found in sedimentary basins — geological structures not normally associated with volcanism. But what do I know? In Ringworld, all things are possible. It’s just a pity that only one man lives there…