NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

January 18, 2014

Thank you, Mother Nature

(Continued)

So, using the electricity at my fingertips, I went to About.com and learned that, according to the best theories currently available, “microscopic bacteria, and not house-sized dinosaurs, produced today’s oil reserves ... As tiny as the individual bacteria were, bacterial colonies, or “mats,” grew to truly massive proportions ...

“As members of these massive colonies died off, they sank to the bottom of the sea and were gradually covered by accumulating sediments. Over the ensuing millions of years, these layers of sediment grew heavier and heavier, until the dead bacteria trapped beneath were “cooked” by the pressure and temperature into a stew of liquid hydrocarbons”, i.e., oil.

Heartwarming. All those little critters, whose long-ago dying helps keep us alive, allowing other bacteria to live in our bodies, mostly doing good there. Though I usually don’t dwell on these bacteria, I now find myself singing “The Circle of Life.”

Maybe the dinosaurs made coal? “During the Carboniferous, the earth was blanketed by dense jungles and forests; as these plants and trees died, they were buried beneath layers of sediment, but their unique chemical structure caused them to be “cooked” into solid coal rather than liquid oil ... but it’s not inconceivable that some dinosaurs perished in conditions that lent themselves to the formation of fossil fuels — so ... a small proportion of the world’s oil, coal and natural gas reserves can be attributed to rotting dinosaur carcasses.”

I’m glad. As I turn up the heat in the morning for my shower, I’d rather think about rotting dinosaurs than compressed bacteria masses. Well, since my house is heated with natural gas, I actually think about the substance created by the rotting and compressing, the pockets of gas which are byproducts of the bacteria, plants and a few dinosaurs.

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