Dangerous Aussie Ignorance: The Delusion of Outback Oil and its Political Exploiters

The great Aussie outback provides many things; but it won't provide oil to fuel the current Australian lifestyle. Many believe in outback oil; "there's gold, there's iron, there's silver, lead, zinc, uranium so there'll be oil too"; but oil is a qualitatively different thing; oil is organic, outback oil no more exists than does the inland sea that the same types believed in during the 19th century. This should be made common knowledge to stop the great Australian ignorance from carrying on as if the outback will save us from oil prices; but our irresponsible political leaders continue to humour it; they babble about "increasing exploration" and getting cheap petrol that way. Imagine what would have happened if the political leaders of the 19th C had built Australia's future relying on finding the inland sea; the country would have died off as fast as the inland explorers did. But exactly that is what our current generation of politicians is doing with oil! building the place as if there was plenty; when there's almost none. So this is the true story.

  1. Oil is the decomposed form of masses of living things; descended to us over often hundreds of millions of years.
  2. The Cambrian Geological Period is the period when life first flourished on earth.
  3. There are whole areas of the surface of the earth comprised of a shield of rock from before this period, these areas are called the pre Cambrian shield.
  4. Most of inland Western Australian, Northern Territory, South Australia and outback NSW and Queensland are Pre Cambrian Shield.

Most of the surface of Australia has a very thin topsoil, most life that lives there blows away in erosion after it dies, what is just underneath dates from before life evolved. Oil, on the other hand, is made from areas where dying life settles and builds up over a long time, often the beds of old seas; so almost no oil or coal will be found in the outback, any that will be found is on the coast and offshore where the old pre Cambrian Australian plate is riding over younger ones. All the big offshore finds there have probably been made, Gippsland, NW cape, Timor sea. The logic is - oil needs life from long ago - there is none of that under the pre Cambrian shield - there's effectively no oil or coal in outback Australia. You could search the outback till Doomsday and be lucky to cover your search costs with the amount of oil you'd find. The minerals are just that, mineral, made in a star, and they are present and available to open cut mining for the very same reason there's no oil, because the Earth there is made of raw planetary rock virtually unchanged since it cooled after planetary formation.

For Australia to be self sufficient in oil; if we were at war and blockaded, we wouldn't find oil by exploring Australia, but these measures could be implemented by any realistic government that didn't just intend to roll over and die:

  1. Most outback road trains would stop and outback trains would run on rails
  2. Most State capital to state capital freight would be by ship
  3. Most road transport would be converted to gas and supplied from North West Cape
  4. Aviation, Train and ship fuel would largely be synthesized from coal, as Germany did in WW2.

Building our transport or energy system on oil is building in import dependence, and given that oil production is peaking and will start declining soon; while demand is still rising, means that commitment to oil is commitment to almost constantly rising prices. Synthetic oil costs more than "good old days" extracted oil; and isn't a way of reducing the cost of fuel; one of the reasons Germany lost WW2; by the time synthetic oil is cheaper than extracted oil both will be so expensive many won't be bothering about it anyway and it will probably be being restricted to aviation fuel.

Justin Moore, Plympton South Australia, 2005 Dec 18 Sun