Deep deposits of hydrocarbons, including varied reservoirs of petroleum and natural gas, represent the most economically important component of the deep carbon cycle. Yet despite their intensive study and exploitation for more than a century, details of the origins of some deep hydrocarbons remain a matter of vocal debate in some scientific circles. This long and continuing history of controversy may surprise some readers, for the biogenic origins of “fossil fuels”—a principle buttressed by a vast primary scientific literature and established as textbook orthodoxy in North America and many other parts of the world—might appear to be settled fact. Nevertheless,...

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