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Rock Doc: Natural Oil Underfoot

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By The Staff

Natural Oil Underfoot

By Dr. E. Kirsten Peters

More than a couple of times in the long history of personally changing the oil in my 1987 pickup, I’ve misjudged how vigorously the dirty fluid will flow out of the oil pan.

I don’t have any good equipment for the task, just a small plastic pail and my father’s old wrench. Because the dirty oil gushes strongly out at first, but only dribbles out near the end, I’ve got to slide the pail around quickly to adjust as the process goes along. If you’ve done this kind of work yourself, you might not condemn me for creating oil spills on the ground from time to time.

My little slicks don’t last many days, but when they first occur they remind me of oil seeps that come naturally to the surface of the Earth.

Petroleum has always bubbled up to the surface of our planet under its own power. Just for example, according to the Bible story, when Moses was a baby his mother launched him afloat on the Nile River in a basket she waterproofed with material that’s translated in scripture variously as tar or bitumen – material we would call natural asphalt and heavy crude.


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