Peak Oil

Time to Get Serious

Marion King Hubbert

Hubbert made several contributions to geophysics, including a mathematical demonstration that rock in the Earth's crust, because it is under immense pressure in large areas, should exhibit plasticity, similar to clay. This demonstration explained the observed results that the Earth' s crust deforms over time. He also studied the flow of underground fluids.

Hubbert is most well-known for his studies on the capacities of oil fields and natural gas reserves. He predicted that the petroleum production of a reserve over time would resemble a bell curve. At the 1956 meeting of the American Petroleum Institute in San Antonio, Texas, Hubbert made the prediction that overall petroleum production would peak in the United States in the late 1960s to the early 1970s. He became famous when this prediction came true in 1970. The curve he used in his analysis is known as the Hubbert curve, and the peak of the curve is known as the Hubbert peak.

Between October 17, 1973, and March 1974, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) ceased shipments of petroleum to the United States, causing what has been called the 1973 energy crisis. In 1975, with the United States still suffering from high petroleum prices, the National Academy of Sciences confirmed their acceptance of Hubbert's calculations on oil and natural gas depletion, and acknowledged that their earlier, more optimistic estimates had been incorrect. This gathered great media attention for Hubbert.

Originally convinced that solar power was too diffuse to be used, by 1988 at age 85 Hubbert had reversed his position and believed that solar power would be a practical renewable energy replacement for fossil fuels.

Hubbert Peak Theory

The Hubbert peak theory posits that for any given geographical area, from an individual oil field to the planet as a whole, the rate of petroleum production tends to follow a bell-shaped curve. It also shows how to calculate the point of maximum production in advance based on discovery rates, production rates and cumulative production. Early in the curve (pre-peak), the production rate increases due to the discovery rate and the addition of infrastructure. Late in the curve (post-peak), production declines due to resource depletion.

The Hubbert peak theory is based on the fundamental observation that the amount of oil under the ground is finite. The theory is named after American geophysicist Marion King Hubbert, who created a method of modeling known oil reserves and production rates. Hubbert's theory was initially greeted with skepticism by many in the oil industry, but oil companies now routinely use Hubbert's methods to predict future yields of existing oil fields.

Hubbert's peak can refer to the peaking of production of a particular area, which has now been observed for many fields and regions. "Peak Oil" as a proper noun, or Hubbert's peak applied more generally, refers to a singular event in history: the peak of the entire planet's oil production. After Peak Oil, according to the Hubbert Peak Theory, the rate of oil production on Earth will enter a terminal decline. Based on his theory, in a paper he presented to the American Petroleum Institute in 1956, Hubbert correctly predicted that production of oil from conventional sources would peak in the continental United States around 1965-1970 (actual peak was 1971). Hubbert further predicted a worldwide peak at "about half a century" from publication. Many observers such as Kenneth S. Deffeyes, Matthew Simmons, and James Howard Kunstler believe that because of the high dependence of most modern industrial nations on inexpensive oil, the impending post-peak production decline and resulting severe price increases will herald grim implications for the future global economic outlook.

Marion King Hubbert


Hubbert Peak Theory Wikipedia


The End of Oil

Jean H. Laherrère (Petroleum Engineer)

Jean H. Laherrère is a petroleum engineer and consultant, best known as the co-author of an influential 1998 Scientific American article entitled "The End of Cheap Oil". Laherrère worked for 37 years with Total S.A., a French petroleum company. His work on seismic refraction surveys contributed to the discovery of Africa's largest oil field.

Since retiring from Total, Laherrère has consulted worldwide on the future of exploration and production of oil and natural gas. He is an active member of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, and continues to contribute detailed analyses and projections of the future of world energy production.

Laherrère is an advisor for the Oil Depletion Analysis Centre.


Colin Campbell (geologist)


Colin J. Campbell, Ph.D., is a retired petroleum geologist who predicts that oil production will peak by 2007. The consequences of this are uncertain but drastic, due to the world's dependence on fossil fuels for the vast majority of its energy. His theories have received wide attention, but are disputed by the oil industry and have not significantly changed governmental energy policies at this time. In order to deal with those problems he has proposed the Rimini protocol.

Influential papers by Campbell include The Coming Oil Crisis, which he wrote with Jean Laherrère in 1998, and is credited with convincing the International Energy Agency of the coming peak; and The End of Cheap Oil, which was published the same year in Scientific American. He was dubbed a "doomsayer" on the front page of The Wall Street Journal in 2004.

Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas founded by Campbell is gaining recognition in the recent years.


Colin Campbell (Wikipedia)


Roscoe Gardner Bartlett (Ph.D.) (Republican)

Roscoe Gardner Bartlett, Ph.D. is a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives, representing the 6th district of Maryland since 1993. He often refers to himself not as a lawmaker but rather as a "citizen legislator."

Official website

Roscoe Gardner Bartlett (Wikipedia)


Thomas Robert Malthus (Population Growth)

Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus, FRS, usually known as Thomas Malthus, although he preferred to be known as "Robert Malthus", was an English demographer and political economist. He is best known for his pessimistic, often false, but highly influential views on population growth.

Thomas Robert Malthus (Wikipedia)


High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space

Rocket man, I think it's going to be a long, long time. When Princeton physicist Gerard K. O'Neill published the first edition of High Frontier back in the mid 1970s (just four years after "Rocket Man," to be exact), he just assumed that some of us would be living in orbit by now. Or as the Space Studies Institute's George Friedman puts it in a new essay for this third edition of O'Neill's pioneering work, the L5 society's slogan "L5 in '95!" certainly wasn't referring to 2095.

In High Frontier, O'Neill had mapped out a straightforward, manifestly doable path to putting humans into space permanently and sustainably, using 1970s materiel and current-day Zubrin-style know-how. But O'Neill died in 1992 seeing humanity no closer to fulfilling his bold vision. Freeman Dyson points out in a new introduction to this edition that in many ways we've actually backslided, that the International Space Station (and the current role of NASA) is "not a step forward on the road to the High Frontier. It's a big step backward, a setback that will take decades to overcome."

But O'Neill's idea of pursuing an inexhaustible energy supply (solar power in space) and endless room to expand remains tantalizingly attractive. The science has only gotten easier, and the moral imperative has only become more pronounced, with the planet's resources ever steadily squeezed and the recent knowledge that a mass-extinction event on Earth is nearly inevitable. (O'Neill calls the High Frontier the only chance to make human life--perhaps all life in the universe--"unkillable.") The High Frontier is as exciting a read as it ever was, and six new chapters provide context for the advances made in the 25 years since O'Neill's original manifesto. But perhaps the best addition to this printing is the chance to see and hear the soft-spoken physicist himself, in more than an hour of MPEG video included on the CD-ROM. --Paul Hughes

Gerard Kitchen O'Neill (Wikipedia)


Amazon (High Frontier Colonies Space Apogee)