Archive for the ‘Environmental Issues’ category

Foundations in Genesis

February 26, 2014

Student Workbook Cover, Foundations in Genesis

I made this student workbook (Russian) and teacher’s manual (English) to use in seminary classes I’ll teach in March 2014 at the Biblical Theological Seminary of St. Petersburg, Russia. The seminary is the educational wing of the Slavic Reformation Society.

Foundations in Genesis, Student Workbook (Russian)

Foundations in Genesis, Teacher’s Manual (English)

I snapped the cover photo in 2009 at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park, a world-famous grizzly bear viewing area. And speaking of grizzlies, if you would rather just read about them instead of all this deep theology stuff, click here.


The workbook includes a section for students to take notes during lectures, plus selected reading assignments. The two main sources for reading materials already translated into Russian include Chapters 1-3 of my book, Exchange of Truth (translated in 2008), and Creation Ministries International’s Russian page, currently with 134 articles translated into Russian. Praise God for this incredible resource from CMI!

I would also like to acknowledge the following individuals and organizations, and their awesome sermons, films, presentations and papers that are part of this course:

Dr. John K. Reed et. al. and research papers on understanding naturalism here and here.

Pastor Fred Greco and sermons/lessons on Genesis and covenant theology.

Dr. George Grant’s sermon audio on The Cultural Mandate.

Dr. E. Calvin Beisner and The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

Dr. Jonathan Wells and his chapter on Soviet Darwinism (Lysenkoism) in The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design.

Mr. Mark Amunrud, instructor at Montana Bible College, and presentations on the main point of Genesis.

Rousas J. Rushdoony’s book on Genesis, and particularly Chapter 7 on marriage.

Living Waters Ministry and 180 Movie.

American Vision and How to Answer The Fool.

The War on Humans

February 21, 2014

Killer whales suing Sea World for slavery. Laws against the humiliation of plants. University professors, politicians, and environmental extremist groups like Sierra Club advocating for human population control. What’s going on?! I know all this sounds really weird (or I hope it does!), but certain self-appointed important people think YOU (they would never think this of themselves) have no more value than the pile of goo you evolved from. Therefore, YOU (not them) have no more value than a blade of grass, so in order to “save the planet,” it’s okay to manage and control you like so many lawn trimmings.

Foolish thinking like this has its roots in naturalism, the false idea that the material universe is all that exists, and there is no God. Naturalism is supported by the false ideas of evolutionism and billions of years, which can deceive people into thinking that, over the eons of slow and gradual change, humans certainly aren’t any more special than anything else. Unless of course, you are one of “them.” The latest politically correct way to hate your neighbor is about THEM getting rid of YOU. I hope you’re not one of THEM.

Pray that unbelievers and confused Christians would get back to trusting His word, remembering that humans are special, created in His image, and commanded by God to wisely manage His creation (Genesis 1:26-28). Also, here are a couple of resources you can share. First is the new film and e-book by Wesley J. Smith titled War on Humans. You can watch the film below.

Second, show a skeptic the following graph. I used actual data from 222 countries, and sorted them by per-capita GDP. I found the top countries have a per capita GDP almost double that of the bottom half. That means they also have more funds available to properly steward God’s creation. But here’s the shocker for the human-haters. The population density of the top countries is over 5 times greater than the bottom countries.

average gdp vs population density

The biblical mandate to wisely “be fruitful and multiply” plays out in the real world with more people and more funds available for stewardship. The human-hater model, which equates stewardship with massive population reduction of other humans (not themselves), will result in less prosperous countries, and therefore a reduced ability to steward.

Ultimately, environmental issues are not really about human population. They are about human sin. If we reduced human population by 90%, which University of Texas professor Eric Pianka suggests, there would still be plenty of people left to make enough nuclear bombs to commit mass murder, but also environmental havoc, on a global scale.

God wants us to know His creation and use it. And biblical dominion doesn’t mean domination. Not even close. Nor does it mean keep our human hands off of as much of it as possible. Let’s stop rebelling against His commands in Genesis 1:26-28, repeated in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Let’s just trust him instead, humbly repent when we fail, and try a little harder to love our neighbors.

Stop Red Snapper Overprotection in Federal Waters!

May 28, 2012

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This video was taken at an oil and gas platform off Freeport, Texas on May 18, 2012. If you know what a red snapper looks like, you know you are looking at a massive school of them! And there are also multiple year classes visible, with a nice school of 10-15 pounders in view at the end of the clip. Both rigs I dove at that day were loaded with red snapper. In fact, they’ve been loaded with red snapper for years!

This year, the season for red snapper in federal waters is a ridiculously short 40 days, and you can only keep 2 over 16 inches. This is the shortest season ever! I hope there will be a grassroots effort soon demanding better sport fish regulations for red snapper. I don’t mind having a season, but a 40 day, 2 fish minimum is foolish. The season should be extended, and I think the limit should be increased to 5 snapper of any size, with the stipulation that you have to keep the first 5 you catch and then stop snapper fishing. Everybody who has any experience snapper fishing knows that if you send a squid-baited hook to the bottom next to an oil platform in federal waters off Texas, you will have a snapper biting before you can engage the gears on your level wind. It has been that way as long as I can remember, and I am sick of catching 99% red snapper when I bottom fish near an oil platform, and only being allowed to keep certain sizes over an ever-shortening season! Plus, it is just common sense that a red snapper that has been hauled up from 75+ feet deep has a much lower chance of survival upon release than say, a largemouth bass from Lake Conroe. When people go snapper fishing, they are not normally going for a catch and release excursion, it is catch, keep and eat! The current rules are not designed to benefit either the fish,the angler, or coastal economies, and that needs to change.

There are plenty of snapper out there, let’s get the rules changed, now! The majority of fishermen are responsible enough to comply with the foolish regulations we have now; there’s no reason to expect we would have a massive decline in snapper if we had a June 1-Sep. 30 season, with a “keep the first five, any size” limit. If you agree that the rules need changing, share this video with others and spread the word! Here is contact information for the Gulf Council: 2203 N Lois Avenue, Suite 1100, Tampa, Florida 33607 USA. Phone:813-348-1630; Toll Free: 888-833-1844; Fax: 813-348-1711; Email:

Kindly but clearly let them know you want to see improved fishery management strategies for red snapper. Let them know overprotection is not a good management plan!

Annual commerical and recreational harvest quotas are set by the NOAA Fisheries Service. Their Southeast regional office in St. Petersburg, Florida, is responsible for the Gulf of Mexico red snapper quotas. Call them at (727) 824-5301 and let your voice be heard. Their website is

In America, we have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, so if folks at NOAA and the Gulf Council are mismanaging an entire fishery, we can motivate them to do better!  Please don’t hesitate to contact these folks with some new ideas and let them know their current plan is no good, either for the red snapper, or for the anglers who enjoy them.

To learn more about the foolish methods currently used to determine the red snapper sport fishing season, read these articles by Houston Chronicle outdoor writer Shannon Tompkins:

2012 article

2011 article

Also, it should not go unnoticed that the state of Texas, whose waters extend out to 9 nautical miles, has maintained a 4-fish daily limit and 360-day season every year since the federal agencies have been overregulating their waters. The more relaxed Texas limits have obviously not hampered red snapper populations in federal waters!

Do we need the Endangered Species Act?

April 30, 2012

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A complex story about trout and people

My first experience catching cutthroat trout was in 1989 while fishing in Grand Teton National Park.

Snake River Finespotted Cutthroat trout, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 1989. Note the golden color, typical of cutthroats, along with the lack of spots in the middle (medial region), but increasing towards the tail (caudal region).

Since then, I’ve been blessed with opportunities to fish for trout as far away as Eastern Russia, and as close to home as our family’s pond.

Hatchery rainbow trout from Crystal Lake Fisheries in Ava Missouri, stocked in my pond in Texas for the winter of 2006-07. These are “Emerson strain” rainbow trout, registered with the National Trout Registry. Note the more concentrated spots in the caudal region, similar to the finespotted cutthroat pictured above.

Because trout are both fun to catch and good to eat, they are pursued with passion in the United States and elsewhere.  So much passion in fact, that over the last 150+ years, populations of native species, particularly  the so-called “subspecies” of cutthroat trout (referred to after this as “native” trout), suffered major declines and even extinction. The decline of cutthroats native to certain regions of the western and eastern slopes of the Rockies has been a classic example of the “tragedy of the commons”, where demand for a thing greatly exceeds what nature can supply.

In an effort to meet the demand for trout-filled streams and lakes at the turn of the 20th century, private, state, and federal agencies started building fish hatcheries. Today, virtually everywhere in the United States with trout habitat, you will find a hatchery nearby, ready to add more fish to streams and lakes on a “put and take” basis.

So native trout populations in the American West were first reduced primarily through overfishing, but also from habitat destruction. Today, the major threat to native trout populations comes from stocking nonnative trout, primarily brown trout and brook trout which tend to drive out the cutts, but also rainbow trout, with which cutts readily hybridize.

Brown trout from the Jemez River, New Mexico, 2012. The Jemez River is former habitat for Rio Grande cutthroat trout, which now occupy only about 10% of their historic range. Eastern Russia’s lenok trout (see photo below) lack the red spots of the brown trout, and brown trout lack the “cut”, but the two species do share similarities in color and shape with each other and with many other trout populations across Eurasia.

State and federal fisheries managers want to satisfy the great economic incentive of having trout-filled streams and lakes. For example, the value of trout stockings by the Leadville Fish Hatchery in Colorado is estimated at $2.75 million annually. And while many Rocky Mountain hatcheries are moving towards production of native trout, they also feel compelled to satisfy the desire of folks to just catch a trout, especially the highly esteemed (overesteemed?) rainbow. Originally from the McCloud River, a tributary of California’s Sacramento River, rainbow trout have probably been introduced to more places worldwide than any other fish species. They have misplaced and reduced native species time and again. And about the same time Hitler and his army of fools were applying social Darwinism, miles and miles of American streams were being poisoned to remove “inferior” species, replacing them with the “superior” rainbow. An excellent account of the history of rainbow trout stocking can be found in Anders Halverson’s An Entirely Synthetic Fish: How Rainbow Trout Beguiled America and Overran the World.

Greenback Cutthroat Trout, Leadville National Fish Hatchery, Colorado, 2010. Note the bright pink-red patch over the gill and along the side, similar to the Alaskan rainbows(see photos below). The Leadville Hatchery stocks rainbow trout, as well as Snake River and Greenback cutthroat trout.

So while native populations are making a comeback in places, their progress is stymied when government agencies set tight regulations and catch limits on nonnative trout, in effect protecting something that maybe doesn’t need so much protection. But in America, governments are designed to be run by the citizens, so if we want our government to change the regulations, we need to change our thinking about what we want. Do we want to simply catch a trout and have a successful trip and a tasty meal? Or do we want to have a fishing experience unique to a particular area’s natural history and culture? We should want both, but it is obvious enough that we could do more regarding the latter. Communities should work harder to patiently remove nonnative trout and reestablish native trout species. This can be done in a way that also satisfies the desire to simply catch and eat trout, regardless of species.

What is a species?

But what in the world is a “species” anyways? According to the1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA), the term ‘‘endangered species’’ means any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. And the term ‘‘species’’ includes any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which interbreeds when mature. All species classifications are ultimately based on human decisions, driven by our desire to group things using a system that organizes first by kingdoms, then phyla, classes, orders, families, genera, and species. Species are often broken down into subspecies, as is the case with cutthroats.

Clumpers versus splitters

One problem with the ESA’s definition of species is that it pretty-much ignores the idea of Biblical kinds, while introducing the false concept of “fixity of species”, first introduced by Aristotle. The Biblical kinds, also known as “baramins”, are actually a better, yet still imperfect, way to think about living organisms. Populations that readily hybridize, especially naturally, suggest (but do not prove) common ancestry, while those that don’t readily hybridize may be from different baramins. Thinking of life’s diversity in terms of baramins allows us to account for unity while acknowledging that some genetic and epigentic changes are inevitable as time passes.

Taxonomists are usually either “clumpers” or “splitters”. Clumpers think more in terms of baramins, while splitters think more along the lines of how the ESA defines a species. Sometimes “clumpers rule”, while other times it’s the splitters. For example, at the turn of the 20th century, taxonomists had convinced themselves that over 80 sub-species of grizzly bear (Ursos arctos) existed. Today, there are only 2 subspecies, so as far as grizzly taxonomy is concerned, “clumpers rule” (NOTE: Grizzlies hybridize with polar bears, forming “pizzly” bears!)

It is unfortunate that, regarding the ESA, “splitters rule”. By defining a species as a “distinct population segment”, ESA listings slap a false fixity on populations.  But populations are not designed to stay “distinct” forever, so the ESA is actually promoting an impossible dream rather than anything that resembles reality. And for evolutionists who believe there are almost no limits to how much a thing can change, the logical conclusion for them is that all current populations are in danger of extinction!

Of course, neither the ESA’s “splitter” definition of species, or the evolutionist’s reasoning about life’s diversity, are helpful in describing reality. The reality is that organisms are designed to adapt and diversify, within limits, by naturally aquiring some genetic and epigenetic changes over time. This is what both Scripture and science confirm. 

Cutthroats are a prime example of how slight genetic and epigenetic changes over time can result in visibly distinct populations. Scientists have found that of the 16 so-called subspecies of cutts, their genetic diversity suggests they are virtually all identical, with westslope cutthroat populations sharing more in common with rainbow trout than with other cutts (Allendorf and Leary, 1988). In spite of their incredible similarities, 3 are currently listed as “threatened” under the ESA, one may make the list in 2014 (Rio Grande cutt), and the rest are either extinct (two subspecies) or considered to be of conservation concern (Pritchard et al, 2007).

How can this be? If genetics is the key to distinguishing between species, then it says these are all basically the same “kind”, with differences occurring at a few DNA base pairs here and there. To make matters even more confusing, Pritchard et al found that Rio Grande cutts in headwater streams above natural barriers were statistically less genetically diverse than their downstream cousins. So for “splitters”, not only do we have subspecies, we have sub-subspecies! Where will it end? The genetic tools we have for identifying differences in populations are truly amazing, but the information acquired can potentially make things much more complex than necessary, especially if you’re a “splitter” and feel compelled to classify cutthroats as sub-species, and then some.

Genetic drift happens

Salmonids are known to rapidly diversify, in less than 10 generations, into reproductively isolated populations. Applying this fact to the ESA’s species definition of “distinct population segments”, in 50 years or less, and assuming “splitters rule”, we could have dozens and dozens of new candidates for the ESA, possibly resulting in more and more restrictions on habitat use by humans. And then what will we do to maintain partitioning of these new and “distinct population segments”, create manmade barriers to prevent them from interbreeding with other segments? I would hope not! As far as trout diversity is concerned, it would be wise to get back to letting the “clumpers rule”, lest we end up overwhelming ourselves with more classifications, regulations, restrictions, and taxes to pay for the mess we’ve made.

No biologist, whether they are creationists or evolutionists, believe in fixity of species, but here we have the ESA anyways, trying desperately to prevent the natural fact that genetic drift happens.

Prior to the 1973 Endangered Species Act, fisheries managers across the West sacrificed diversity for the sake of unity, stocking the “superior” rainbow everywhere. But now with the ESA, we have a complete reversal, with unity (trout are one big family) sacrificed for diversity ( “subspecies” and “distinct population segments”). There has to be a better way.

Imagine no ESA

So do we need the ESA? No. What Americans need to do instead is stop waiting for handouts from the federal government via ESA listings, and instead encourage communities to responsibly restore and preserve the natural history in their region. And in the case of native trout, we need to work towards stocking them more and nonnative trout less.

Consider the Rio Grande cutthroat, for example. Organizations like the Center for Biological Diversity proudly exclaim that their work resulted in Rio Grande cutts being eligible for the Endangered Species list in 2014. But all this really means is more regulations, taxes, and “takings” of property by the federal government to protect a population that apparently already has many “distinct population segments”, and may have dozens more in 100 years. Instead of waiting around for an Endangered Species listing, what if instead local private and public groups made an effort to remove nonnative trout while also propagating Rio Grande cutts for reintroduction? This could be done slowly and patiently, one stream at a time, all without the help of the ESA.

We also know that all cutthroat subspecies will hybridize with each other, as well as with rainbow trout. And since rainbow trout are so genetically similar to cutts, we shouldn’t get too worked up about them interbreeding and waste tax dollars with over-hyped eradication programs. We just need to adjust the rules and get Rocky Mountain fishermen educated and involved in harvesting more rainbows, plus browns and brookies, while simultaneously restocking with native trout.  And for those interested in catching native rainbows, they should head to Alaska, Canada, or Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, where native ‘bows are plentiful.

Native Rainbow Trout from Lake Creek, Alaska, 2005. Note the reddish-pink patch on its gill cover, typical of lower Lake Creek Rainbows.

Native Rainbow Trout, American Creek, Alaska. 2007. Note the bright red-pink cheek and side, similar to the Lake Creek Rainbow, but also similar to the Greenback Cutthroat Trout. Sometimes, these rainbows have a faint “cut” under their lower jaw, similar to other cutthroat trout.

And speaking of Russia, all the way across the Pacific, near Vladivostok, I have caught lenok trout that display a distinctive “cut” on their throat, and in a way seem similar to both brown and cutthroat trout. It seems that trout really are just one big family, or baramin, containing both unity and diversity.

Closeup of the Lenok trout’s “cut”. Although not as bright as the cut found on many cutthroats, it is a cut nevertheless, and a key identifying trait of all cutthroats.

Lenok trout from stream near Vladivostok, Russia, 2010. Note the golden coloration and large spots, similar to patterns on many cutthroat sub-species.

What is a gene?

Trout were first classified based on phenotype (what they look like on the outside). But now that we also know their genotypes (what their genes look like), we can more readily discern whether a population of cutts has hybridized with rainbows, even if we cannot tell by phenotype alone. But for the people who are most interested in their preservation and restoration, namely fishermen, there is little interest in how much or how little they differ at a few microsatellites (small pieces of DNA a few base pairs in length that are used to distinguish between populations). So now that species and subspecies are being determined by genetic markers, the question of “what is a species?” should be followed with “what is a gene?”

Not surprisingly, scientists are having an equally hard time answering that question, as new information about cell complexity continues to gush forth like water over Yellowstone Falls. Long gone is the simplistic view of genes as neatly arranged beads on a string of DNA. So too is the “one gene makes one protein” idea, as we now know that one gene can code for tens, and in some cases hundreds of different proteins. Not only that, scientists are learning more about epigenetics and things like methyl tags that turn genes on and off. In The Mysterious Epigenome, Woodward and Gills provide a helpful analogy, describing the genes as ships and epigenetics as the captains. Without the captain’s direction, the ship does nothing. But the question remains, from where did the captain get his orders? The self-evident answer is that a Designer gave the orders (Romans 1:20).

And so it seems, the more we learn about cell complexity and epigenetics, the more difficult it becomes to truly define separate trout species based on genetic markers. Genetic markers alone do not tell the whole story of the unity and diversity we see in the trout family. Oncorhynchus mykiss (rainbow trout) and Oncorhynchus clarkii (cutthroat trout) are classified as different species based on pre-Civil War observations of phenotype alone. Today though, 21st Century genetics research and observations of natural hybridization tell us the two are nearly identical. With each passing day, the Biblical idea of a “trout baramin” becomes more appealing. While science can change with time, truth does not.

Trout live in worlds of extremes, of swift currents and lazy pools, flooding spring meltwaters and drought-like autumns, miniscule headwater streams and deep, wide rivers. It is obvious trout were designed to rapidly adapt, as opposed to the neo-Darwinian idea that they were sitting around for millions of years hoping for a gene with a novel function to randomly appear to advance them down the road of evolutionary progress. It seems instead that like other baramins, the trout baramin came pre-programmed with what they need to survive and adapt.

Trout come in many flavors

Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout from Cascade Creek in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 2012.

So what is going on with trout? What scientists are finding is that very slight genetic and epigenetic changes in isolated populations have led to amazing and beautiful differences in phenotype, giving each region a particular “flavor” of trout. One conclusion is that the adaptive radiation we see in trout is partly a result of changes in climate and topography that occurred in the recent past. We’ve already discussed how rainbows readily hybridize with cutts, but by continuing the stocking of rainbows outside their normal range, we are, in essence, driving the formation of new breeds of trout. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but just because it is not inherently wrong, it doesn’t mean it is the best thing to do either. Restoring native trout to their historic ranges is a good idea, but we shouldn’t be “trout racists” either by overreacting to introduced populations. They’re all one big family anyways, right?

Preserving trout’s many flavors

Restoring historic ranges of native trout does not require the Endangered Species Act. In fact, the ESA could be repealed, or simply ignored, and reintroduction efforts could still move along beautifully. As mentioned earlier, the ESA is unhelpful because it promotes a false idea of species fixity, sacrificing unity for the sake of diversity. The best solution is one that seeks both unity (trout are one big family) and diversity (restoring native trout to their historic ranges). Instead of wasting time with the ESA, local communities should do the work needed to restore and preserve the natural history around them, while also managing it in a way that maximizes people’s enjoyment and use of available resources. Restoration can advance through level-headed efforts aimed at removing nonnative trout, while simultaneously restocking with native breeds.

We are learning more about how to maintain genetic diversity in hatchery brood stocks, and this information can be applied to propagate a breed that is unique to a given area, thereby preserving some of the natural history. In Appendix 51: Westslope Cutthroat Trout Hatchery Brood Stock Histories, a procedure is described where, in order to incorporate genetic diversity into the hatchery brood stock, fish are collected from a number of streams.

The native hatchery fish should probably be stocked in areas downstream of natural barriers.This would aid in preventing at least some intermingling with upstream populations, thereby encouraging genetic diversity. Fishing on stretches of headwater streams should be more restricted than on higher order streams, where primary productivity is usually greater and trout populations are naturally higher.

As we work toward better management of native American trout populations, we must realize that genetic drift is inevitable. And regardless of the level of human involvement, the so-called subspecies of cutthroats of 2112 may not look like the cutthroats of 2012, but that’s okay!

Managing natural resources

Human beings are not just part of nature, we are nature’s managers (Genesis 1:26-28). This also means we are part of  the story of natural history. And 100 years from now, I hope my great-great grandchildren will be able to look back and see that our efforts to manage nature paid off in a way that celebrates the unity and diversity He so obviously put into His creation. And I pray that future leaders will not try to discourage unity and diversity through the ESA and its adherence to the fallacy of species fixity, but will instead get local communities involved with restoring and preserving native trout to their historic ranges.

Perhaps in the future, instead of going to New Mexico to fish for rainbows and browns, Colorado to fish for rainbows and browns, Wyoming to fish for rainbows and browns, etc., future generations will live in a world filled with trout that are unique to each region, while understanding the native forms are part of a bigger trout family, just as the evidence from His word and works confirms.

Stewardship Versus Nature Worship

September 15, 2011

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Crying Wolf is an excellent documentary by a homeschool graduate, Jeffrey King, about properly understanding man’s role in nature. It is available to watch free online until December 2011. It does contain some pretty graphic images of animals destroyed by wolves and left to die, but he warns you before the images appear. As one man says in the movie, environmentalism is nature worship, and as Christians, we are supposed to worship the Creator, not the creature (Romans 1:24-25). We are supposed to take what God has given us and make it fluorish. We are supposed to be a part of nature, not just wimpy spectators who feel bad about our “carbon footprint”. Watch the movie and add a comment below if you want to discuss it. Then, get outside and grow something, shoot something, catch something, cut down a tree, etc., but do it responsibly and make good use out of it.

Crying Wolf Movie (HD) from JD King on Vimeo.

Is oil a renewable resource?

May 30, 2011

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Virtually all oil and natural gas reservoirs are associated with salt domes or similar “piercement structures”, such as mud volcanoes and shale diapirs (not diaper, diapir!). A salt dome occurs when unbelievably thick layers of sea salts like sodium chloride (halite) and calcium sulfate (gypsum) are rapidly smothered by unbelievably thick layers of more dense sediments. Add a little shaking from tectonic activity, and the salt finds a gap and oozes its way to the surface. Below is a U. S. Geological Survey seismic image of a mud diapir off the California coast:

Seismic image of a mud diapir. Notice how the mud has pushed through layers above it.

In 2005, deep sea researchers Martin Hovland, Ian Macdonald, and others discovered what they described as an asphalt volcano in the Gulf of Mexico:

Diagram of an asphalt volcano from 1) the channel formed through the salt dome (2). 3-6 are various hydrocarbon products

Since the discovery of the Chapopte asphalt volcanoes, other asphalt volcanoes have been discovered, and while actual samples have not been collected, it sure looks like there is an asphalt volcano on Mars!

Possible asphalt volcanism on Mars. If you have Google Earth on your computer, select "Mars", then "fly to" Hebes Chasma, and you can see it.

Just like the majority of petroleum discoveries man has made, the asphalt volcanoes are associated with salt domes. But why is that? Is there a relationship between the formation of all that salt and all that oil and gas? Well, a theory being proposed by Martin Hovland suggests that both the salt and the oil are being generated next to magmatic heat engines:

Heat from the magma chamber generates warm water, which rises. Cold water rushes in through cracks in the sediments to replace this water. In the process, it reacts with hot rocks, forming petroleum products. It also turns into a supercritical fluid, which causes the sea salts to precipitate out (turn to solid).

Yes, you read the caption above correctly, water + rock + heat = oil! Actually, NOAA has studied it quite a bit at a place called Lost City in the Atlantic:

NOAA image of Lost City, where researchers found clues about serpentinization.

The reaction is usually between a rock called olivine, water, and carbon dioxide. Here is one of many complex reactions referred to as serpentinization:

one of many possible reactions

Below is a graph showing the relationship of trace metals from Brazilian crude oil compared to trace metals in serpentinized rock from the mantle. The research by Peter Szatmari and others was published in 2010 in an online textbook (click here):

Trace metals in Brazilian oil compared to their amounts in serpentinized mantle. Research by Peter Szatmari and others (see above for link to their research)

One conclusion from the graph above is that most of the crude oil in Brazil, and everywhere else (including Mars!) was formed by serpentinization that is still going on today. Oil is not a “fossil fuel”. It was probably not formed by dead dinosaurs, flamingoes, and algae dying and slowly decomposing on the ocean floor over millions of years. And even if dead plants and animals were the source, they would have to be buried rapidly, all over the world, since oil is found all over the world.

Think about what this means. If we can develop drilling techniques that can handle even more high temperature, high pressure (HTHP) situations than they do right now, we just may find more oil and gas than we could ever use! Also, notice that in the reaction shown above, carbon dioxide (CO2) is a reactant, which means that for those who believe excess carbon dioxide is heating the earth, all you need to do is find a way to pump it down to one of these undersea heat engines, and carbon dioxide will be consumed (sequestered). Researchers are already trying to figure out how to do this. And while we are on the subject of greenhouse gases, did you know that water is a much worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide? Think about that while you are thinking about how oil and gas may not be as “evil” as some people try to make them seem.

We should be VERY glad that the formation of oil-trapping piercement structures has slowed down today from a more rapid rate in the past. The tectonic activity (earthquakes) involved as lower density salts, gases, and oils pushed through sediments all over the world must have been tremendous. I would speculate that most of this was formed rapidly during the global cataclysm described in Genesis, and most of the piercement structures moved upward during this time, before sediments had a chance to do much compacting and lithifying (turning to rock). Most of these heat engines have cooled considerably, but they do still carry out the process of serpentinization, and with the right tools, it is something we could manipulate.

If there is really a whole lot more oil and gas than we are led to believe by major media outlets and many government leaders, this also means that gasoline prices should drop once we learn how to get to more of this oil. It also means that America’s current desires to make ethanol from corn could be a waste of time. If you are a person who thinks we should halt all oil drilling to “save the planet”, I encourage you to think again. Think instead about encouraging better and safer technology to extract oil and gas from deeper, hotter sections of salt domes in places like the Gulf of Mexico. We don’t need to “save the planet”, we need to manage the planet wisely, and we all need to think harder about how to do that.