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Space The Almighty Buck

Titan's Organics Surpass Oil Reserves on Earth 555

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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  • by exultavit ( 988075 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @10:58PM (#22415326)
    Take a gander at: abiogenic petroleum origin [wikipedia.org].

    Unfortunately, or fortunately (depending on your point of view), almost all the evidence is against abiogenic terrestrial petroleum.
  • by milsoRgen ( 1016505 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @11:16PM (#22415566) Homepage
    Actually hydrocarbons [wikipedia.org] are more than just oil, methane for one. Which is believed to be located in several locations in our solar system.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methane#Extraterrestrial_methane [wikipedia.org]
  • by physicsnick ( 1031656 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @11:16PM (#22415568)

    Same is true about Iraq's oil...
    No it's not. The people profiting from Iraqi oil are not the people paying for the war.
  • by bcdm ( 1031268 ) <bcdm999@ya[ ].ca ['hoo' in gap]> on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @11:35PM (#22415728)
    Wow. Someone took his cranky-and-dumb pills this morning.

    The cost of the Apollo program was about $135 billion in today's dollars.

    Here's a reference. [wikipedia.org]

    That's over 12 years, so about $10 billion a year. That was to the moon. I get the odd feeling that a project of this magnitude will cost more - maybe 10 times as much for something of comparable size? If you're exceedingly lucky? So that's 100 billion dollars a year.

    Over 5 years of manned flights, 11 Apollo spaceships made it into orbit and back again. That's about 2 per year. So let's assume the same rate of return with this plan. Oil is $100 a barrel right now, so how much oil would the two ships per year have to carry to break even, running off these assumptions?

    Answer = 500 million barrels each. Depending on the type of hydrocarbon, 6 to 9 barrels make a ton. At 8 barrels a ton, that would be 62.5 million TONS to break even. Per flight. Even if we assume the same cost as Apollo, which is completely impossible, that would be 6.25 million tons per flight needed to break even.

    As a comparison, Apollo 17 brought home 22 kilograms (about 50 pounds) of lunar material.

    So yeah, I think we know who to take seriously here.

  • by SquirrelsUnite ( 1179759 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @11:36PM (#22415730)
    Cassini-Huygens is much more than a 350 kg probe. The main part of the mission is the Cassini spacecraft (weighing over 2 tonnes btw) which has been orbiting Saturn for three and a half years. About half of the cost was actually development, mostly for instruments on Cassini. This doesn't invalidate your argument but I don't want people to think that all we got for $3bn is a lander that worked for 1 hour.
  • Re:so.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by schnikies79 ( 788746 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @11:38PM (#22415758)
    Short-chain hydrocarbons are fairly common in the universe, as has been stated above. Short-chain would be ethane, methane, propane. Basically any carbon chain that is lighter than air.

    As for now, the only source of long-chain hydrocarbons, aka what we commonly consider oil (C20+) is earth.
  • by Ellis D. Tripp ( 755736 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @11:42PM (#22415798) Homepage
    But being carbon compounds, hydrocarbons are, by definition, ORGANIC molecules.
  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @11:54PM (#22415918) Homepage
    Scientists have known about organics in space for a long, long time.

    The reason why Titan has large amounts of methane is A) there's no oxygen to reduce it to CO2 and H2O; B) there's little sunlight, so photochemistry that can make Titan lose its hydrogen is slow; and C) Titan is "freaking cold", and so ices can outgas for a long time and chemistry occurs slowly.
  • Next up -- we'll need to find a planet with enough oxygen to import to earth so we can actually burn the excess imported hydrocarbons.
  • Re:crackpot??? (Score:5, Informative)

    by anagama ( 611277 ) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Thursday February 14, 2008 @12:27AM (#22416216) Homepage
    Finding hydrocarbons on another planet is not the same as finding long chain hydrocarbons on another planet.
  • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @12:27AM (#22416218)

    This is basically Offtopic, but harvesting anything from the moon (He3) seems inherintly dangerous given the whole mass/gravity thing, you'd be playing around with the whole tidal system, messing with countless amounts of animals brains(including our own) and navigation "systems"... plus factoring in things like the impact of landing, and taking off.

    Basically stupid, you mean? If we were to harvest 100,000,000,000 tons of lunar material, we'd affect the lunar mass (and this the whole mass/gravity/tide thing by about 0.0000001%.

    And we don't contemplate harvesting that much material from the moon in the next thousand years or so. So come back with something real, not delusional.

  • by gnick ( 1211984 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @12:27AM (#22416220) Homepage

    harvesting anything from the moon (He3) seems inherintly[sic] dangerous given the whole mass/gravity thing
    I seem to remember a book dealing with the subject... Something about the mining the moon... And about a harsh mistress... And some groovy polygamy... If I could remember, I'd recommend it. [wikipedia.org]
  • by canuck57 ( 662392 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @01:17AM (#22416592)

    So...where did these big extra-terrestrial reserves come from?

    Fantastic question. For if true, they are in fact admitting life is elsewhere. Who would have guessed to, our first possible absolute proof is hydrocarbon gue from another planet/moon in out solar system.

    Actually, we are burning the mostly the old vegetation and not just the dinosaurs. But where there is vegetation there is likely bugs. Maybe even big ones. One must remember that all the oil burned today was alive at some distant part in the past, including carbon in gas form such as CO2. It is just going full circle.

    So where did Titan get all this hydrocarbon from? But at -179C for so long, makes one wonder it if was not related to how life started here on earth. The things we do not know...

  • Re:The sad thing? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Loke the Dog ( 1054294 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:33AM (#22417052)
    Well, most people are just joking around, but you seem to be serious, so let me just put this clearly:

    When it comes to fuel, any oil on titan is completely worthless. First, the reason why there's so much oil there is because of the lack of oxygen. Without oxygen, you can't use oil for fuel. Secondly, lifting the oil off of this moon will never become economically feasible because oil is so incredibly cheap compared to its weight in this context. As of right now, it wouldn't even be profitable to go there if the surface was covered in gold.

    No, don't get your hopes up, no forseeable advances in space craft design will change this, nor will any likely oil price increases. We're hundreds of years away from importing stuff from space, other than for science and novelty.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:41AM (#22417086)

    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.
    Actually it would be a lot easier, as the Sun is at the bottom of a large gravity well. The fact that the Messneger probe is taking so long is because of this fact which means that it picks up speed as it gets closer to the sun and the fact that Mercury has no atmosphere to aerobrake in. Mariner 10 only took two years to reach Mercury.
  • by freedom_india ( 780002 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @04:43AM (#22417652) Homepage Journal

    Corporations pay much higher taxes than normal people! Most large corporations pay 35% taxes
    What about the fact IRS claims that less than 10.1% of total income taxes come from corporations? http://reclaimdemocracy.org/articles_2004/corporate_taxes_lower.html [reclaimdemocracy.org]

    What about http://boston.com/business/globe/articles/2004/04/11/most_us_firms_paid_no_income_taxes_in_90s/ [boston.com] stating GAO report that 61% of US corporations paid no taxes.

    What about which states 71 companies paid ZERO state income tax despite announcing to shareholders that they earned $86 billion in profits!

    What about the fact according to GAO http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0419/p16s03-cogn.html [csmonitor.com] that corporate taxes have falled to less than 1.4 % of GDP? Over a period from 1996 to 2000 (am not including Bush years), corporations that earned $3.5 Trillion in revenues paid ZERO Federal and State income taxes.

    From periods 2001 till 2003, the IRS refunded corporations $63 billions in taxes as subsidies and other refunds. http://www.ctj.org/corpfed04an.pdf [ctj.org]

    During 2001-2003 Pepco Holdings profit was $725 million while its tax REFUNDS were $432m, meaning a negative income tax rate of 59.6%.
    Same years AT&T (our favorite Gestapo spy darling) had a profit of $5628m, and got a refund from IRS of $1389m, meaning a negative tax of 24.7%.

    I guess you get the picture.

    So, before you go ponying up to your corporate boss or talking up corporate support as a paid shill, you, my dear friend, need to check facts.

    You can get amnesty, but you can't be saying the truth.

  • by meringuoid ( 568297 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @06:33AM (#22418094)
    even more so when you consider that the sun is always shining on the day side of mercury

    Mercury is not tidally locked. There is no fixed day side; you'd have to have solar cells planetwide, and only 50% would be productive at any one time.

  • by bestinshow ( 985111 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @08:12AM (#22418518)
    All through this thread I've been seeing people witter on about the patently ridiculous concept of abiogenic hydrocarbons. All I can think about is people trying to justify to themselves that it's okay to own that gas guzzling vehicle, and that oil will never run out. That, or they're really really stupid religious freaks who hate science. Head in the sand, or what?

    There oil - a complex long-chain hydrocarbon, and there's simple, short-chain hydrocarbons. Titan has the latter. There is nothing special, or amazing about this. It's been known for a very long time - since the 70s at least. It has no relation to oil made by biogenic means.
  • Re:Invade! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2008 @08:27AM (#22418584)
    There is nothing there!!! We did not invade Antarctica! We did not invade the moon! We will explore it and exploit the natural resources there to power your 750W power supply gamers rig! The analogy is bullshit.
  • abiotic oil (Score:2, Informative)

    by oldgeezer1954 ( 706420 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:01AM (#22419278)
    There's long been a theory outside of the western nations (and in fact it's supposedly the prevalent theory outside the west) that hydrocarbons are not a result of decayed animal/plant matter but as a result of processes within the earths core.

    While this find isn't proof of such a claim it certainly lends it some degree of credibility.

    Under the abiotic theory we still have many hundreds of years of supply left.

    Here's looking forward to the oil price crash.... I wish...


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