Peak oil

Peak Oil: What Ever Happened to Hubbert's Peak?

Next year U.S. oil production will exceed its 1970 peak.


Price of Oil

Crude oil production in the U.S. will reach an average of 9.9 million barrels a day in 2018, the Energy Information Administration projects in its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook report. This would surpass the previous record of 9.6 million barrels per day, set in 1970.

So much for Hubbert's Peak.

In 1956, geologist M. King Hubbert famously predicted, in a presentation to the American Petroleum Institute, that oil production in the U.S. would peak no later than 1970. To make his estimates, Hubbert added up all the plausible extrapolations of domestic crude oil reserves. His more conservative calculation assumed the ultimate production of 150 billion barrels, in which case production would peak in 1965. But if ultimate production could rise to 200 billion barrels, the peak would be delayed until 1970.

M.K. Hubbert

Many people thought Hubbert's predictions were vindicated when U.S. production began dropping from its 1970 peak. In fact, domestic production of crude reached a nadir of 5 million barrels per day in 2008. (Had Hubbert's calculations been right, the U.S. would have been producing only about 2.5 million barrels a day that year.) As global oil prices began rising toward their highest levels ever, peak oil doomsaying had its heyday.

My 2006 article "Peak Oil Panic" detailed many of those predictions of an impending petroleum catastrophe. The Princeton geologist Ken Deffeyes suggested in 2001 that global oil production would peak on Thanksgiving Day, 2006. Petroleum geologist Colin Campbell warned in 2002 that dwindling oil supplies would soon lead to "war, starvation, economic recession, possibly even the extinction of homo sapiens." In his 2004 book Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil, the Caltech physicist David Goodstein asserted not just that peak production was imminent but that "we can, all too easily, envision a dying civilization, the landscape littered with the rusting hulks of SUVs." In 2007, the German Energy Watch Group declared that the world had reached peak oil, and that this could soon trigger the "meltdown of society."

At the peak oil alarmist website The Oil Drum, one prominent analyst declared in 2009 that global oil production had peaked at 82 million barrels per day in 2008 and would thereafter begin declining at a rate of 2.2 million barrels per day. Had that estimate been correct, world oil production would have fallen by now to about 62 million barrels per day. Instead, the International Energy Agency reported this month that global production now averages around 97 million barrels per day. Keep in mind that this level of production is taking place despite the political and economic chaos afflicting such major oil-producing countries as Venezuela, Libya, and Iraq.

Peak oilers greatly underestimated the power of markets and human ingenuity to solve problems. (Think fracking.) The Energy Information Administration reports that the U.S. has cumulatively produced more than 200 billion barrels of oil. (So much for Hubbert's "ultimate production" calculations.) During that time, proven domestic oil reserves have never fallen below 20 billion barrels; they are now estimated at 32 billion barrels.

A decade ago, at the peak of peak oil hysteria, I wrote that "the peak oil doomsters are probably wrong that world oil production is about to decline forever. Most analysts believe that world petroleum supplies will meet projected demand at reasonable prices for at least another generation." That's still true.

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  1. It’s not that they are underestimating the market, they are simply willfully ignorant.

    1. Peak oil is so 20th century. All the cool kids are talking about peak phosphorus.

      1. CMN1: Did that 7 years ago. Stupid then, stupid now.

        1. Peak unobtanium… Now THAT is REAL!!! I challenge y’all to prove otherwise…

          Also peak matter-energy… Matter and energy being inter-convertible, you know… Matter-energy is at a finite supply, and always will so remain… So y’all need to listen to MEEEEE and MYYYY policy prescriptions, or else, all is DOOOM-DOOOOM-DOOOOOM, AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE!!!!

  2. Peak Oil, Global warming, etc. I’m tired of sky-is-falling hysteria. Here’s some truly sad news:

    “June Foray, the voice of “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show’s” Rocky the Flying Squirrel and his nemesis Natasha Fatale of Boris and Natasha fame in the early 1960s and a key figure in the animation industry, died Thursday. She was 99.”…

    1. Now for something you REALLY won’t like!

      1. ^Thread winner

    2. LOL Faux News blocked at work

    3. Best cold war show of all . Commander McBragg has a sad.

    4. It looks like June…


      …is making a Foray to the other side.

      1. No doubt about it, you need to get another pair of sunglasses.

    5. story like that’ll ruin a guy’s morning.

  3. But don’t worry…the environmentalists claim of oncoming catastrophe are totally accurate and won’t be proven wrong.

  4. The proggies must have their “end of days”:

    1960s-overpopulation and starvation
    1970s-peak oil and a new ice age
    1990s-present-climate change
    2000s-peak oil

    Looks like ice age is due for a return…

      1. The model has shown to have a 97% accuracy when mapping the past movements of sunspots

        What the fuck is it with these people and 97%?*

        *I know the significance of 97%, honest.

    1. Assign a catastrophe to a number on a die. Roll it. That is the next catastrophe.

    2. you forgot the nuclear cowboy who was going to get everyone killed in the 1980s

      1. I still remember my parents discussing a move to New Zealand after Reagan won the 1980 election because it would be safe from a nuclear blast.

        1. Only a democrat like kennedy could keep us safe.

      2. Nuclear Cowboy was my stripper name.

    3. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if an ice age is what brought down civilization?
      We are actually way overdue for a major volcanic eruption that could cool the planet substantially for a few years. Several overdue volcanoes are capable of eruptions larger than Krakatoa.

      1. “Overdue” ha. Nature does things on its own schedule. Your “overdue” is the scientific equivalent of street corner preachers adjusting their time tables for the end of the world.

      2. I vote for Baekdu (on the North Korea/China border).

    4. It has been pretty chilly the past few nights.

  5. The world will never reach “Peak Oil”.

    Reason though sadly reached Peak Libertarian some time in the early 2000s, and production of honest, intellectual libertarian thought and support of freedom has been on a gradual downward sloping curve ever since then.

    1. You should probably stop commenting here then.

      1. Mike is the last of the real libertarians. He should be kept in captivity where he can be professionally cared for and gawked at by curious tourists.

        1. It’s true that most of the libertarians abandoned this place a while ago (understandably so), but I’m not letting the Obamafags like Citizen Crusty push me out.

          1. What a relief!

            1. I sort of want to meet up with Crusty and roadtrip out to Chicago or wherever the fuck Mikey is and blow his mind with the fact that we’re two different people. He’d probably stroke out. Which, let’s be honest, couldn’t but improve his cognitive function.

              1. You’re one stupid idiot who gets your jollies posting under multiple screen names, and meeting me is the last thing that you would ever want. You would look like the Jack Nicholson Joker by the time the emergency room got done reconstructing your face, and I suspect that it’s already more than ugly enough as it stands now.

                1. Ooh, threats of violence. Nice move.

                  1. He went full Internet Tuff Gai in defense of his retarded delusions, and that is special!

                2. Stupid AND blustery. You’re a real cool guy, Simple Mikey.

          2. Mike knows that the glory days of Reason are long gone. But still he visits every day?despite knowing that every editor voted for Hillary, in some cases millions of times each?hoping against hope that somewhere among the cucks, fags, and cuckfags, he’ll find one other person who believes in real libertarian values like whatever bullshit is in the President’s twitter feed that morning.

            Every day he visits, every day he is disappointed. That’s why we call him Lonesome Mike.

            1. That, and he long ago outlived everyone who knew him before he became a crazy piece of shit.

  6. I believe this to be the appropriate response to the image/alt-text (*cues up Ride Of the Valkyries*).

  7. Oh, as soon as we finally reach peak oil you know they’re going to finally release that engine design that runs on water.

    1. Pretty sure we’ve already hit peak water, so u suck.

      1. I wish. There’s this one area on my property that is on a spring and my mower always slides in the mud there even when it hasn’t rained for a few days.

        1. But that’s fossil water and not renewable.

    2. We already have engines that run on water, more or less. We use them to get off of the Earth. Probably not a great idea for ground vehicles though, what with Hydrogen being explosive and relatively dangerous. ^_-

  8. OilPeakalypse Now: “Charlie don’t drill.”

  9. At the increased rate of oil production and consumption shouldn’t there have also been a proportional temperature change at a similar rate far outpacing what has has been claimed or even dreamed of happening.

  10. Peak oilers greatly underestimated the power of markets and human ingenuity to solve problems.

    They also overestimated something as well.

  11. Hubbert: It’s just that I think this might be peak oil.
    Bailey: 2017?
    Hubbert: Yeah.
    Bailey: What makes you think that?
    Hubbert: You just know. When it happens to you, you’ll know.
    Bailey: You said 1965 was peak oil.
    Hubbert: Yeah, that was peak oil.
    Bailey: You said 1970 was peak oil.
    Hubbert: Yeah, that was another peak oil.
    Bailey: So you get more than one peak oil?
    Hubbert: Some people are unlucky. I’ve had a few peak oils.

    1. Bailey: That’s not… I mean, what… That’s not mathematically possible.
      Hubbert: You think you’re so clever, young man, but it’s peak oils all the way down.

      1. Hypothetical:

        Who would win in a professional wrestling match, Bailey or Hubbert?

        1. Bailey’s got that wiry Rick Steves strength, but you know Hubbert would cheat. Tough call.

          1. Absolutely. You can tell he would cheat. Just look at his hair.

          2. wiry Rick Steves strength

            Does not compute. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Rick Steves struggle with an overloaded backpack and a car that lacked power steering. I thought maybe you had Rick Steeves and Steve Reeves confused. But that doesn’t make sense either. Then I realized that we’re talking about wrestling match between Ron Bailey and the zombie M King Hubbert and that you probably meant Steve Reeves.

            1. Ronald Bailey’s head on the body of Steve Reeves would totally pummel zombie Hubbert.

          3. Virginia Postrel would be the diva.

            Sequined cape. Knee-high florescent green boots. Skull & cross-bone logo on her ass. Etc.

  12. Hubbert was right — 1970 was a peak in oil production in the USofA. Except it was just a local maximum.

    1. I was told that Ehrlich was right in general, but he just got some particulars wrong.

  13. Peak Oil was popular because people like the thought of living in apocalyptic times. It’s probably our Christian prophecy and revelations heritage.

    1. Interesting theory. I wonder if predictions of doom are as popular in places that are not dominated by apocalyptic religions or if it’s just human nature. Hadn’t really thought about it that way before.

      1. You better get right with Gaia, Zeb, or you’ll roast in whatever town you live in!

      2. My atheist friendsAtheists I know and converse with inform me that the majority of Christianity is cribbed from prior religions, some of them even seemingly outside Christianity’s future/past time cones (e.g. Ragnarok and/or G?tterd?mmerung). I would say that without doom or apocalypse, the meme of primitive or native peoples practicing virgin sacrifices and the notion of eclipses as portending doom make much less sense. I see no reason to believe that our Christian prophecy instilled doom into our psyche any more than our lizard (but social) brains constantly fear that death is stalking us. All of us.

        1. Hey, not all atheists are tiresome assholes (and some of my best friends are Christians).

          There’s a reason I didn’t specify Christianity. There are lots of religions outside of and preceding Christianity that have apocalyptic prophecies too.
          Then there are some religions that don’t seem to look at the world that way. I’m thinking particularly of some eastern religions particularly. I’m no expert, but it seems like a lot of Hindus and Buddhists take a much longer and more detached view of things and aren’t too concerned with the end of the world and things like that. Everything always comes back around again.

  14. We will have peak oil, but it’s gonna be peak demand, not supply. I’d guess 2025.

  15. At the increased rate of oil production and consumption shouldn’t there have also been a proportional temperature change at a similar rate far outpacing what has has been claimed or even dreamed of happening.
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  16. Hysteria is not ideal but just using logic here, it’s got to peak at some point, no? Might not be a bad idea to try to figure out when that is and plan for it.

    It seems to me like the oil is getting dirtier and more expensive to extract and process. So that does not bode well.

  17. If the oil is so plentiful why do we have to drill offshore? Why can’t we produce all of our oil? I think we have another 100 years of plentiful oil and few experts argued that we would not Particularly if you include our 2 trillion barrels of shale rock and the plentiful reserves of heavy oil in venezuela. However cheap reliable sources of oil are going to be a continuous problem because the source of cheap oil is from so many unstable countries

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  19. Hubbert predicted that U.S. conventional production would peak in 1970 and it happened.

    He predicted in 1976 that global conventional production would peak after 2005 and the IEA confirmed that in 2010.

    The only thing not mentioned is oil production per capita, which is a logical metric because oil is used by a growing human population. That peaked back in 1979.

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