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Space The Almighty Buck

Titan's Organics Surpass Oil Reserves on Earth 555

Posted by samzenpus
from the black-gold-titan-tea dept.
jcgam69 writes "Saturn's orange moon Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth, according to new Cassini data. The hydrocarbons rain from the sky, collecting in vast deposits that form lakes and dunes."
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Titan's Organics Surpass Oil Reserves on Earth

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  • Mars? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by __NR_kill (1018116) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @09:45PM (#22415140)
    I think we chose the wrong planet for a mission. We need to go to Saturn..
  • Big deal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the_humeister (922869) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @09:54PM (#22415276)
    By the time the cost of technology required to go to Titan falls to a reasonable level, we should have already passed the need to use hydrocarbons as our main source of energy.
  • by Doppler00 (534739) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @09:58PM (#22415322) Homepage Journal
    Maybe another way to think of it is that earth used to be like Titan and had a vast sea of hydrocarbons too until life evolved to metabolize it and turn it into living things.
  • by ROMRIX (912502) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @09:58PM (#22415324) Homepage

    Hrm... It would be interesting if the cost of harvesting it outweighted the investment to build the infostructure to bring it back to our planet.

    It does.
  • Re:Invade! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Duhavid (677874) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @10:00PM (#22415360)
    You don't get it.

    This is all my plan to get the human race into space.
  • by x2A (858210) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @10:11PM (#22415510)
    And where do you think it's going to go? People will be paid with it to put their time into collecting the resources and developing the rocket to go into space. Just because the result of the work is going into space, doesn't mean the money is. The money will stay on earth, in the pockets of eg rocket engineers who will spend it on food 'n housing. So it's nowhere near as bad as it sounds.

  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @10:12PM (#22415522)

    And your basing that on...?

    The Cassini-Huygens mission cost more than $3 billion to land a 350 kg probe on titan. If the probe were made out of 100% gasoline, that would cost $30,000,000 per gallon, and that's not even factoring in the cost of a (currently technically infeasible) a return trip.

    So you've got at least 7 orders of magnitude of cost reductions to work through before you're competitive with terrestrial fossil fuels.

  • Thank you (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Max Littlemore (1001285) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @10:14PM (#22415544)

    I was reading through all of the crap about how much energy it would take to go and get the hydrocarbons, how our technology isn't quite efficient enough yet, etc, etc, and just hoping that someone on this site would be intelligent enough to realise that, given the problem we already have releasing our own carbon stores into the atmosphere, what kind of absolute stupidity would lead anyone to deliberately import carbon from elsewhere?

    I suppose that burning it in orbit and beaming power back to Earth could work, providing we could find a good source of oxygen, but then would that cost less than setting up orbital solar plants?

    So in general my reaction to this story is "Wow, Titan's got hydrocarbons - wtf does that have to do terrestrial energy consumption?"

  • Re:Mars? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cassius Corodes (1084513) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @10:14PM (#22415546)
    As an aside, I think finding extremophiles on Earth doesn't really support the notion that life could occur in extreme environments. All it says is that after life has originated it can adapt to extreme environments - the requirements for abiogenesis are likely to be much more stringent then for post abiogenesis-adaptation.
  • by hardburn (141468) <hardburn@@@wumpus-cave...net> on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @10:28PM (#22415656)

    If we had the technology to haul hydrocarbons from another planet economically, we'd have the technology to do away with hydrocarbons completely. Once you have cheap access to space, a bunch of different energy source open up. Take your pick: solar satellites, He3 from the moon for advanced nuclear reactors, hydrogen from Jupiter's atmosphere, and probably a bunch of others that nobody's thought up yet. Cars will either need to become electric or run on Fischer-Tropes produced gas.

    This announcement is interesting scientifically, but has no relevance to energy problems.

  • by burtosis (1124179) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @10:29PM (#22415676)
    But where am I going to get enough oxygen to burn it all?
  • crackpot??? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PuckSR (1073464) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @10:34PM (#22415712)
    It isn't exactly crackpot, especially when applied to hydrocarbons on Titan.

    We know that oil can be created without 'dead dinosaurs'. It is rejected because of evidence on Earth that points towards the idea that oil is the byproduct of biomass.

    However, if most geologists were told that oil had been discovered on another planet then they would probably assume it was non-organic. We only assume it is organic because of other factors.

    So, quit confusing people. It is crackpot to think that oil on Earth is abiogenic. It is perfectly sane and rational to think that hydrocarbons on another planet are the result of abiogenic processes.
  • by x2A (858210) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @10:44PM (#22415822)
    "Just because it's a different problem doesn't make it any less relevant"

    No, just means it's not as simple as first stated. You have to look at things like:
    A - Ratio of money spent that ends up in pockets of engineers/etc who will respend as opposed to trapped in massive corporate reserves.
    B - How this ratio compares to other things the money could be spent on (eg, how much of the police force's budget go on energy costs that end up in the same place? Okay police are quite important, this is just an example).
    C - Whether there's any way of [part] paying for the project out of trapped corporate reserves by [part] commercialising the project.

  • by WhiplashII (542766) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @10:53PM (#22415912) Homepage Journal
    Those costs will end up in corporate coffers which are largely untaxed.

    What utter BS! Corporations pay much higher taxes than normal people! Most large corporations pay 35% taxes. In fact, the three largest oil companies paid $44.3B [taxfoundation.org] in taxes in 2005. In comparison, the bottom half of all income tax payers combined was only $28.7B [taxfoundation.org] in 2005!

    The US you live in is payed for by corporations and rich guys. And you wonder why they end up with all the power?
  • by emjay88 (1178161) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @11:12PM (#22416076)
    Statistics in context, please. $44.3B is what percent of overall profit/revenue?

    And you're comparing that to the BOTTOM half of all income tax payers? I don't know about the US tax laws, but in Australia they have a "Tax free" bracket (if you earn X per year). Meaning that some of the bottom half of all income tax payers are paying absolutley no tax at all.

    I'm not trying to say that the oil companies aren't paying tax, it just doesn't make sence to throw numbers around with no reasonable benchmark.
  • Re:All we need now (Score:5, Insightful)

    by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @11:15PM (#22416104) Homepage
    Works for corn.
  • by Planesdragon (210349) <slashdot&castlesteelstone,us> on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @11:25PM (#22416182) Homepage Journal

    You do realize the government doesn't produce anything, don't you? They merely take money and spend money.
    Sure. If you ignore the actual issuing of currency, or the funding of new ideas, or the develop-for-us industries of aerospace, the internet, etc...

    And that's not counting the power companies that exist essentially because of government development. Or the farmers who produce grain on the government's dime.

    So by "doesn't produce anything", were you just talking about literal production of shrink-wrapped widgets? Because yes, the US Government doesn't mass-produce anything. But the federal government has had a considerable hand in the creation of wealth, in economic terms, for over a century now.
  • This isn't news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Swampash (1131503) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @11:38PM (#22416324)
    We've know that Titan was drenched in carbon compounds for decades. What next, a headline reading Sun's hydrogen surpasses hydrogen reserves on Earth?
  • by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @11:38PM (#22416328) Homepage
    Life doesn't create hydrocarbons, hydrocarbons are the basis of life. The interesting part is how short chains turned into long chains, and then into self replicating groupings of long chains, who eventually realize that decomposed long chains from previous iterations will chemically react with oxygen to make cars go.

    Aside from that, all hydrocarbons are organic in the chemical sense. Maybe not in the "organic gardening" sense -- but gasoline is just as organic as pesticide free carrots.
  • Re:pointless (Score:1, Insightful)

    by timmarhy (659436) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @11:44PM (#22416382)
    "Arctic ocean will be free of summer ice by 2013"

    consider the following:

    either i'm wrong and tree huggers ARE serious environmentalists, in which case they are totally useless and wasting their life if the arctic is indeed free of ice by 2013, having failed completely to convince the world that this impending disaster is real....

    .... OR they aren't serious and just bangwagon jumpers, clinging to the lastest catch cry of the righteous, and the sea ice is still going to be there in 2013 (as i'm most positive it would be)

    take your pick, because it's one of the two.

  • by anwyn (266338) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @11:47PM (#22416402)
    To get it off Titan you need propulsion. OK, you've got fuel, where is the oxidizer? Without the Oxidizer, no way to move the stuff off Titan.

    I suspect the reason there is so much fuel in one place, is that there is no oxidizer to burn it.

  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @11:50PM (#22416428)

    Why exactly is the return trip "technically infeasible"?

    The rocket that sent the Cassini probe to Saturn was 200 feet tall and filled with hundreds of tons of oxidizer and fuel. Even so, it took almost 10 years of bouncing around the solar system to leech additional energy from Venus, Earth and Jupiter to get a couple of tons of spacecraft in orbit around Saturn.

    The return trip would require just as much effort. Going towards the sun is no easier than away from it; that's why the Mercury probe is taking almost a decade to reach its destination.

    Even if you could get a huge rocket to Saturn to launch back to earth, unlike earth there's no oxidizer readily available. So you'd have to send hundreds of tons of that from earth, thereby increasing the size of the effort by 30X or more. The rocket you'd have to send from earth to carry all that oxidizer would make the Apollo mission launcher look like a bottle rocket and would need a supertanker's worth of fuel to make the trip. All of this to obtain less than 1 truckload of gasoline from Titan.

    You probably are thinking "then we'll just use a more advanced propulsion system to send back the fuel". But if we had that mastery of energy technology, then why in the hell would we need to get piddly fuel oil from outer space in the first place?

    The hardest part about sending something heavy to another planet is getting it out of our atmosphere.

    That's not hard at all. Thousands of V2 rockets had gotten "out of our atmosphere" by 1945. Maybe you should look into getting an MBA, because you sure ain't making it as a rocket scientist.

  • Re:pointless (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @11:57PM (#22416474)

    and the sea ice is still going to be there in 2013 (as i'm most positive it would be)

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071026095001.htm [sciencedaily.com]

    p.s. You need to see a therapist about your personality disorder.
  • Re:And... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JonathanR (852748) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @01:32AM (#22417044)
    Peak Oil is not about running out. It's about a geologically-imposed limit on production rate. Our current manner of use will be curbed/modified significantly by the resulting price increases.

    Yes, coal can be used to substitute, but the infrastructure to do this chemical trickery is not in place, and will not sufficiently supplement the dwindling oil production. Additinoally itw will suck up enormous amounts of captial.
  • Re:Invade! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gbobeck (926553) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:26AM (#22417308) Homepage Journal

    You mean screw.

    Some prefer to tap it.
  • by Gorimek (61128) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @03:01AM (#22417480) Homepage
    It's true that Mars can't hold an atmosphere forever, but it'll do fine for several million years. Humanity would just need to refill it occasionally.
  • Re:Mars? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Fëanáro (130986) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @03:48AM (#22417688)
    These atmosphere-stripping processes work on a timescale several orders of magnitude larger than any reasonable terraforming process.

    If we find a practical way to generate a habitable environment on mars, one that does not take longer than a few million years, then we also can replenish the atmosphere much faster than it leaves.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2008 @05:57AM (#22418218)
    There appears to be some confusion regarding people's opinions of the hydrocarbons likely present on Titan. They are not conventional oil, coal, or gas, they are most likely to be methane, the simplest hydrocarbon. Normally a gas, but remember Titan is frigging freezing. Methane can be released by volcanic activity, as well as fermenting biomass. All this talk about Abiogenic petroleum is applicable in that case only. If this all adds up, then odds are that's how its been formed on Titan.

    Earth's situation is totally, totally different. And earth used to have a lot more methane in its atmosphere in its early volcanic history...
  • by NickFortune (613926) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @06:28AM (#22418328) Homepage Journal
    It turns out that the other point the anti-peak-oil lobby keep hammering is also correct: There is indeed plenty of oil out there. It's just that the remaining untapped reserves are rather harder to get at than the ones we've already tapped...
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @07:56AM (#22418722)

    Real Men watch Star Trek.
    Star Wars is for the weenies and titanic-sentiment gals amongst us. Those who can't digest a whole rich deep universe of threads like DS9, Quark, etc.
    Star Trek universe is much more rich and diverse. Each culture has its own dilemma and issues and there are never right and wrong answers. Federation itself is never always right like when they assasinated the Romulan Ambassador. Similarly, not all bad guys are bad: Quark, Horta, Klingons and even the Borg.
    Star Trek universe revolves around two characters: The ones with the Force and ones with the Light Saber.
    And Babylon 5 pwns them both. ;)
  • Wrong target (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chemisor (97276) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @09:50AM (#22419854)
    Then perhaps it would be better to mention Jupiter's 1.6E27 kg of hydrogen. Compared to those measly hydrocarbons on Titan, Jupiter is like an ocean to a raindrop.
  • Space Is Too Big (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gallenod (84385) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:13AM (#22420168)
    We can't mine Titan or any other intra-solar or interstellar body as long as we're bound by three dimensions. Until we figure out a way to either fold space or create wormholes and use them to establish direct connection between here and other places, we'll be slower than snails (or even glaciers) as far as space travel is concerned.

    Call me when you've evolved a Third Stage Navigator or found our StarGate.

  • by JesseMcDonald (536341) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:35AM (#22420448) Homepage

    The money will stay on earth, in the pockets of eg rocket engineers who will spend it on food 'n housing. So it's nowhere near as bad as it sounds.

    The cost of such a feat isn't actually in money, on a macroeconomic level; it never is, since moving money from one person to another results in no net change in the overall supply of money. As you say, money isn't actually consumed through spending. The real cost is the productive capacity -- labor, material, capital -- required to design, produce and launch the rocket. These are the scarce resources which will have to be diverted from other areas toward rocket-production. The supply of goods which compete with the rocket project for factors of production must decrease; prices of such goods will increase, and people will be unable to afford as much as they used to.

    If this were the result of voluntary action the result would still be an overall increase in wealth, with the value of the rocket making up for the reduction in other areas; if the project can only be funded involuntarily, however -- e.g. through taxes -- then the consequence must be a net loss, since there are other, higher-valued uses to which those resources would have been put were the funds not forcibly redirected.

  • Re:Invade! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @11:45AM (#22421516)
    And the US invaded Iraq in order to steal its oil, but oh wait, none of Iraq's oil is being sold to the US, and no US companies are profiting from it.

    Have you seen the oil companies profits lately? They are setting records for most net income in successive quarters for any company *ever*.

    While the oil companies aren't profiting from selling Iraqi oil, they most certainly are profiting from the run up in prices caused by the chaos that masquerades as Iraq. And we won't talk about how much money Haliburton has made just being in Iraq or supplying the troops.


  • Re:Invade! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ATMD (986401) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @11:52AM (#22421656) Journal
    Your assertion that Iraq was not invaded for its oil because America isn't profiting from it assumes that the orchestrators of the war are/were in some way competent.

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