Deep Hot Biosphere?
Observatory - Evidence of Prokaryotes Far Below the Ocean Floor - NYTimes.com:
"The latest evidence for such a huge undersea biosphere, and a depth record of sorts, is reported in Science by R. John Parkes of Cardiff University and colleagues. They have found living prokaryotes 5,335 feet below the ocean floor off Newfoundland, about twice as deep as the previous record.
Intact cells were found in cores drilled through sediments up to 111 million years old, although the age of the prokaryotes themselves is an open question. The researchers were able to amplify genetic material, which strongly suggests that the cells are living, feeding on trapped methane, other hydrocarbons and organic carbon."
Wired 8.07: Fuel's Paradise: (highly suggested reading)
Buried deep in the Earth, says Gold, lies a second realm, a bacterial biosphere greater in mass than all the creatures living on the surface.
"Today, Gold sees other evidence of the deep hot biosphere. There's life on the floors of the oceans, making use of the chemicals gushing out of volcanic vents, and there have been bacteria turning up in deep holes all around the world - in the Columbia River basalts of Washington, in oil wells in the North Sea, in South African gold mines, and in the Swedish drilling program Gold set up. And though most planetary scientists are unconvinced by the claims made in 1996 that a Martian meteorite had fossils in it, thinking about the Mars rock focused people's minds on the possibility that a planet with a lifeless surface need not have a lifeless interior."
"The whole story of the deep hot biosphere is that oil coming up from below, without biology, will be food material for microbiology when it gets to a relatively shallow level where the temperature is not too high. For the microbes to use that oil as food when there's no atmospheric oxygen, they have to find oxygen in the rocks. There is plenty there, but there is not all that much in an easily removable form."
And the kicker :
"I knew something that, to this day, the petroleum geologists in this country don't seem to know - that astronomical observations had detected large amounts of hydrocarbons on various planetary bodies in our solar system. We didn't have the very good results that we now have from Titan showing seven different hydrocarbons. But I knew that there were perfectly sound astronomical observations showing hydrocarbons to be common on planetary bodies. So it seemed natural that there should be similar hydrocarbons within the Earth, slowly seeping out."
But if we aren't going to run out of hydrocarbons, how can we have high prices ???