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The Resources in Shortest Supply

By Hugh Ross - March 1, 2012
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One of the ways a creation perspective differs from an evolutionary perspective may be seen in its explanation of humanity’s arrival time. Evolutionists say we humans showed up after 3.8 billion years of Earth history because natural processes required that amount of time to transform the first relatively simple life-forms into immensely complex human beings. As I read Psalm 104, I encounter a different story. It’s a message of God’s thoughtful provision of layer upon layer upon layer of life, all to benefit human existence and, specifically, our development of civilization, even advanced technology.

To those who claim biodeposits are in short supply, geoscientists would say, “Look again.”

While it is obvious we humans have depleted a large fraction of traditional fossil fuel resources (coal, oil, and natural gas),1 which once stood somewhere between 9 and 13 trillion tons,2 these easily accessible fossil fuel resources comprise just a small fraction of the usable residue from once-living matter. The major components are these: (1) kerogen—remains of diatoms, spores, plankton, bacteria, and pollens embedded in sedimentary rock; (2) clathrate—the crystalline combination of natural gas and water formed under either below freezing temperatures or high pressure conditions (thus, under oceans and in permafrost); and (3) limestone—largely composed of calcium carbonate from skeletal fragments of coral, mollusks, ooids, peloids, intraclasts, extraclasts, and foraminifera (marine life), plus silica from diatoms, sponge spicules, and radiolarians.

Geochemists estimate the total quantity of kerogen in Earth’s crust at somewhere between 100 and 10,000 times the total quantity of traditional fossil fuel resources. (Note: These estimates do not account for the enormous quantities of kerogen consumed by bacteria throughout the past 3.8 billion years.3) As for the quantity of natural gas trapped in clathrate, estimates range from 742 quadrillion cubit feet to perhaps 360 times that amount.4, 5 Marine organism skeletal fragments comprise 80–90 percent of all Earth’s limestone and marble.6 Limestone and marble make up at least 6 percent of the total volume of Earth’s sedimentary rock,7 which, in turn, makes up 7.9 percent of the total volume of Earth’s crust.8 Given the continental crust averages 40 kilometers in thickness and oceanic crust, 7 kilometers,9 biological material in Earth’s limestone adds up to at least 75 quadrillion tons.10

The minimum quantity of Earth’s biological material—not counting topsoil, phosphates, or sulfate-reduced metal ores—equals at least 76 quadrillion tons. The maximum quantity stands at 217 quadrillion tons.

For comparison’s sake, this amount of biological material exceeds Earth’s current living biomass11 by 122,000–348,000 times. The fossil fuel component exceeds per annum solar energy capture by photosynthetic organisms by 12,000–1,255,000 times.12 What a wealth of usable material! God packed Earth with as much life as possible for as long as possible, and then He commanded humanity, through Adam and Eve, to manage it wisely for the benefit of all—the biggest benefit, of course, being the spread of the Gospel and fulfillment of the Great Commission.13 It seems the greatest shortage facing humanity is not a shortage of resources, but rather a shortage of wisdom and goodness in the ways we use them, riches available in Christ alone.

Endnotes
  1. Thomas S. Ahlbrandt and Peter J. McCabe, “Global Petroleum Resources: A View to the Future,” Geotimes (November 2002); USGS, “USGS Reassesses Potential World Petroleum Resources: Oil Estimates Up, Gas Down,” released March 22, 2000; Wikipedia, s.v. “Oil reserves,” last modified May 2, 2012; Nick A. Owen, Oliver R. Inderwildi, and David A. King, “The Status of Conventional World Oil Reserves—Hype or Cause for Concern?” Energy Policy 38 (2010): 4743–4749; Amy Myers Jaffe, Kenneth B. Medlock III, Ronald Soligo, “The Status of World Oil Reserves: Conventional and Unconventional Resources in the Future Supply Mix,” James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy of Rice University (October 2011); US Energy Information Administration “International Petroleum (Oil) Consumption,” accessed May 2, 2012; .docstoc “Total World Petroleum Consumption,” accessed December 30, 2011; Paul Averitt, Coal Resources of the United States, January 1, 1974, U.S. Geological Survey Publication , bulletin series number 1412 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1975); Ground Truth Trekking “Coal Terminology: Resource & Reserve,” accessed May 2, 2012, Source Watch, s.v. “Coal reserves,” https://sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Coal_reserves, last modified April 16, 2012; US Energy Information Administration, “World Coal Consumption by Region, Reference Case,” accessed May 2, 2012; Index Mundi, “World Coal Consumption by Year,” accessed May 2, 2012; World Coal Association, “Coal Statistics,” August 2011; Wikipedia, s.v. “List of countries by natural gas proven reserves,” last modified March 25, 2012, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_natural_gas_proven_reserves; Index Mundi, “World Natural Gas: Consumption,” accessed January 1, 2012.
  2. Paul Averitt, Coal Resources of the United States; Ground Truth Trekking “Coal Terminology”; Source Watch, s.v. “Coal reserves”; Index Mundi, “World Coal Consumption by Year”; World Coal Association, “Coal Statistics”; Wikipedia, s.v. “List of countries by natural gas proven reserves,” last modified March 25, 2012, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_natural_gas_proven_reserves; Ahlbrandt and McCabe, “Global Petroleum Resources”; https://www.rice.edu/energy/publications/EF-pub-WorldOilReserves-101911.pdf; Energy Information Administration Natural Gas 1998: Issues and Trends (Washington, D.C.: Energy Information Administration, 1998), 73; https://www.eia.gov/pub/oil_gas/natural_gas/analysis_publications/natural_gas_1998_issues_trends/pdf/chapter3.pdf (accessed 1/1/12); Jaffe, Medlock, and Soligo, Status of World Oil Reserves, 11–12; Richard Nehring, “Traversing the Mountaintop: World Fossil Fuel Production to 2050,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B, Biological Science 364 (October 27, 2009), 3077.
  3. Leslie Mullen, “Eating Kerogen,” NAI News Archive (November 28, 2011), accessed January 11, 2012.
  4. Energy Information Administration, “Future Supply Potential of Natural Gas Hydrates,” in Natural Gas 1998: Issues and Trends (Washington, D.C.: EIA 1998), 74; accessed January 11, 2012.
  5. Ibid.
  6. C. Michael Hogan et al., “Limestone,” The Encyclopedia of Earth, ed. Cutler J. Cleveland (Washington, D.C.: Environmental Information Coalition, National Council for Science and the Environment, October 16, 2011), accessed January 7, 2012.
  7. Kurt Buchner and Rodney Grapes, Petrogenesis of Metamorphic Rocks, 8th ed. (Berlin: Springer, 2011), 24.
  8. Ibid.
  9. British Antarctic Survey, “Earth’s Crust,” accessed January 8, 2012.
  10. Natural-Stone.com, s.v. “Limestone,” https://www.natural-stone.com/limestone.html, accessed January 8, 2012.
  11. Brian Groombridge and Martin Jenkins, World Atlas of Biodiversity: Earth’s Living Resources in the 21st Century (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2002), 10–11.
  12. Kazuhisa Miyamoto, ed., Agricultural and Consumer Protection, “Energy Conversion by Photosynthetic Organisms,” in Renewable Biological Systems for Alternative Sustainable Energy Production, FAO Agricultural Services Bulletin – 128 (New York: FAO Corporate Document Repository, 1997): chapter 2, section 2.1.1.
  13. Matthew 28:18–20; Acts 1:8 (NIV).

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