This morning's New York Times featured an article "Methane in Deep Earth: A Possible New Source of Energy" reporting on new research that partly confirms the claim in this book-- that the methane deep in the earth's mantle is primordial (not due to decayed buried vegetation) and is the source of petroleum. The article showed how methane can be generated from water and carbonate rock when the applied pressure is equal to that found in the mantle.
Gold's book describes research done largely by Russians and Ukrainians on the origin of oil, which has been shamefully discounted and ignored in the West. The Western dogma, he claims, is just another one of those things that nearly everyone believes, but is wrong.
I love books like this. It opens up a whole new world of important ideas and questions that need to be addressed, and make the scientific dogmatists who have "proved" their hypothesis by superficial reasoning from the most meager of data, coupled with proof by endless repetition, look as foolish as the geologists who rejected continental drift, or the idiots who still revere Freudian psychoanalysis.
Evidence that he presents is pretty convincing and is a good example of how many diverse lines of evidence can make the convergence on the truth inevitable. Many of the pieces of evidence were quite unknown to the formulators of the "fossil fuel" dogma who emphasize the limited reserves available for extraction. The composition of the gas giant planets with their tremendous quantities of methane can be used to plausibly argue for primordial gas on earth as well. The increasing realization among petroleum geologists that at least some petroleum reservoirs are being filled from below is startling news to many readers. The biological "markers" seen in petroleum are introduced by bacteria to petroleum on its migration toward the surface provide an alternative and plausible explanation of the facts. That Ukraine generates a third of its oil from reservoirs below all sedimentary rock is astounding.
As a physicist at the corporate research labs of a major oil company, I've sat through many presentations of petroleum exploration experts with their tables of C13 data, interpreted as signs of age and origins of oil, and I even then recognized the signs of smoke and mirrors. I only wish I'd read Gold earlier...
Gold's book is also concerned with many other aspects of the consequences of the presence of biology deep within the earth that are just as intriguing. That microbes exist deep in the earth and have a life style entirely independent from photosynthetic energy from the sun is an idea that is only now beginning to be accepted by some of the more daring Western petroleum engineers. Russians have known this for more than fifty years. The idea that better earthquake predictions can be made, and that fossil fuel reserves are much greater than publicized in the popular press, are big, important ideas that would have tremendous political impact if true.
I very much enjoyed Gold's style of writing, which is clear and straightforward, and the story he tells is a very important one, deserving of much more attention and research. The book has a gratifying number of illustrations and is well organized. The notes give a good introduction to the scientific literature on the subject, but I think some criticism can be leveled at Gold for writing as though he had been a major discoverer of many of the pieces of evidence, when he is actually playing more of a role as a popularizer for the findings of the Russians and others. But reviewers, and even popularizers, are not to be sneered at. They play an important and honorable role in the progress of science--Gold does an outstanding job here. Well worth reading.