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Oil Might Be a Renewable Resource, and Other Things You Did Not Know


Or, "Thank God there's a North Carolina."

Yep. We have a new governor, which means new secretaries of this and that. Meet John Skvarla, new secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR, to tarheels). To cut to the chase, here’s your takeaway idea: maybe oil is a renewable resource. And he doesn’t mean in the wait-45-million-years-and-we’ll-get-more sense.

“The Russians for instance have always drilled oil as if it’s a renewable resource,” says Skvarla. “And so far they haven’t been proven wrong.

“There’s a lot of different scientific opinion on that.”

Yep. There’s just TONS of scientists out there figuring that maybe oil is like those trick cups Barbies used to drink from, where you tilt them and the stuff vanishes, and then it magically fills back up when you set it down. TONS of scientists.

Except oops, actually not. There’s a crazy theory that crude oil comes from phytoplankton and another that it just sort of trickles up from the earth's mantle (here's a wonderfully simple dismissal of the notion), but you’ll have to work pretty hard to find anybody in mainstream science who buys into it. Here's a very nice summation -- and debunking -- of the theory by the Independent Weekly's Lisa Sorg.

All that said, it’s almost anticlimax to note that Skvarla believes climate science is unresolved: "I have studied this every day for 10 years and there is a great divergence of opinion on this. I’m not ready to say which is right or wrong." Never saw that coming, did you.

We're still waiting for his take on sea level rise.

* Yep -- edited title to change "Natural" to "Renewable." Oh for the days of editors, to save writers from themselves. Thanks, @Robinlloyd99!

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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