Peak Oil is You

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Peak Oil: A Lesson in False Prophecy


As recently as 10 years ago, we were told that the world was running out of oil soon. Horrors! Then, directional drilling and fracking opened up the prolific resource of “tight” oil shale. New production records are being set daily; the U.S. now leads the world in oil reserves, ahead even of Saudi Arabia.

Hubbert’s Peak

Geophysicist and noted pioneer of ground water flow in aquifers Dr. M. King Hubbert was being celebrated as a prophet. He had predicted that U.S. oil production would peak around 1970 – and it did! Of course, the price of oil was then only around $2 a barrel; it is now around $75, and will surely go higher.

The National Petroleum Council [NPC], made up of the leaders of the oil industry and other experts, told us, in 1970 as I recall, that if oil prices ever reached $3 a barrel, the vast resource of the Colorado kerogen would become commercial. Some oil companies actually mined some kerogen and retorted it to extract the locked-up but uneconomic oil. The world oil price is now around $75 a barrel — and sure to rise further.

Hubbert also predicted that world oil production would peak by mid-century, at the same unrealistic low price; it gave a boost to the anti-growth movement and to the general feeling that we would soon deplete most of the world’s resources.

Those were the years of the “Malthusians,” mostly geologists, opposed only by a few brave “Cornucopians,” mostly resource economists, who preached that prices would rise, encourage conservation, recycling, and substitution for scarce metals.

This was also the time of Prof. Paul Ehrlich’s “population bomb” and Zero Population Growth [ZPG]. Impressionable young women were taking vows not to have any children; abortions were popular.

I was a Malthusian — until my eyes were opened by organizing an AAAS conference in 1969, titled “Is There an Optimum Level of Population?”

Optimum Population Level?

I later edited a book on the same topic; it included contributions by nuclear pioneer Alvin Weinberg, Chauncey Starr, EPRI president and RFF president Joseph Fisher.  (Of course, Prof. Julian Simon was way ahead of me; but I only met him much later, around 1980.)

Noted Malthusians participated: geologist Preston Cloud and ecologist Garrett Hardin; agricultural experts gave talks on overpopulation and predicted world famine to occur a few years hence.

The Club of Rome and Limits to Growth

The Malthusians even had their own loose international organization, called the “Club of Rome,” founded by Aurelio Peccei, retired chairman of the Italian auto firm that produced the Fiat car. I knew him and believed in his cause — until I edited the book and “saw the light.”

I remember critiquing, in Science and EOS, their first report, “Limits to Growth” [LTG] and debating its main authors Dennis and Donella Meadows, who were spreading the LTG “gospel.”

Their book also made me a skeptic about computer models. They used no real data and simply assumed functional relationships between key variables. For example, pollution would kill world population, but people also created pollution. As a result, world population would swing wildly between maximum and zero — signifying complete collapse. However, LTG made a huge impact at high government levels and supported the mantra that “economic growth was bad.”

Forecasts of overpopulation and world famine were very popular in those days. There was even a book published, by the two Paddock brothers, titled Famine 1975! — just a few years away.

This was really the beginning of the environmental movement. The whole atmosphere of doom and gloom was ripe for that. Naturally, it boosted the craze for solar and wind energy and ethanol gasoline additive, which were said to be inexhaustible resources, unlike fossil fuels, and made “peak oil” very believable.

Anyway, those days are over — or so it seems — although some of the after-effects are still with us.

I was not impressed by all this noise. King Hubbert was my colleague then at the Department of Interior, where I was responsible for water research and also for estuarine preservation.

I had lunch with King, a convinced Malthusian, and told him to consider future changes in the price of oil and a possible development of new technologies. I also told him to forget about “peak oil” and go back to his pioneering work on ground-water flow. After that lunch, he never spoke to me again. He was a very austere gentleman, with no sense of humor.

In 1972, soon after our lunch, the world price of oil jumped to $12 a barrel. But U.S. production was impeded by price regulation and the general feeling that oil supplies would soon peak. President Ronald Reagan finally removed the artificial price controls. Public debate about “peak oil” resumed, as oil became available to anyone willing to pay the world price.

I should note that, the $2 price was a result of the infamous “oil import quota program,” which had been set up years earlier to ration oil imports to favored importers — essentially a program to reward “cronies,” and to keep prices low for a while for U.S. consumers. Those were the days of 20-cents-per-gallon gasoline that our fathers keep telling us about.

The situation has changed drastically — mainly because of new technologies and the free market. President Donald Trump has just announced the official end of the oil crisis. He also hinted at the end of the miles-per-gallon [MPG] restrictions on cars and trucks.

American Thinker

17 Comments on "Peak Oil: A Lesson in False Prophecy"

  1. Plantagenet on Wed, 5th Sep 2018 3:18 pm 

    Interesting to hear from someone who knew Hubbard personally. Unfortunately, the author of this piece is such a thicky he never understood what “peak oil” means. He thinks it means running out of oil, when it means maximum production of oil. SHEESH!

  2. bob on Wed, 5th Sep 2018 3:36 pm 

    what is this article doing here?

  3. MASTERMIND on Wed, 5th Sep 2018 5:16 pm 

    American Thinker a right wing outlet..Right wing and thinker are total oxymoron’s..

    Peak oil was just slightly delayed a decade..

    Oh well..We should all be thankful it was or we would all be dead right now.

  4. GregT on Wed, 5th Sep 2018 6:27 pm 

    “Peak oil was just slightly delayed a decade…be thankful it was or we would all be dead right now.”

    Sounds like somebody else doesn’t understand what ‘peak oil’ means either.

  5. MASTERMIND on Wed, 5th Sep 2018 7:09 pm 

    Nike to debut “Just Do It” commercial feat. Colin Kaepernick during NFL’s regular-season opener Thursday

  6. makati1 on Wed, 5th Sep 2018 7:21 pm 

    Peak oil was not delayed. They just started to call any liquid that would burn, oil.

  7. Cloggie on Wed, 5th Sep 2018 10:35 pm 

    “Peak oil was just slightly delayed a decade..”


    A messy age with no price guarantees. Just that the energy is there and recoverable in EROI terms. We have enough fossil fuel left to build ourselves a new renewable energy base, resulting in a society that somewhat resembles the old one, but not BAU. It is going to be a big fight to maintain what we have. The challenge is to do the same with less energy and energy demand control.

  8. Cloggie on Wed, 5th Sep 2018 11:08 pm 

    “Nike to debut “Just Do It” commercial feat. Colin Kaepernick during NFL’s regular-season opener Thursday”

    When is Karpernick going to kneel to protest again the vastly larger violent crime rates among blacks as compared to whites?

    Black violence and police violence against blacks are two sides of the same coin.

    “In 2013, a black was six times more likely than a non-black to commit murder, and 12 times more likely to murder someone of another race than to be murdered by someone of another race.”

    “a black person was 27 times more likely to attack a white person than vice versa.”

    The only thing these millionair jungle bunnies achieve is bringing America closer to the brink of a major conflict, leading to the breakup of the US.

    If you can’t keep into one country:

    – Ukrainians and Russians
    – Sunnis and Shia
    – Croats, Serbs, Bosnians
    – Russians, Baltics, Khazaks

    etc., etc.

    than there is not a beginning of a hope you can keep the US together once the economic downturn begins in earnest.

    The kosher run deep state has been waging war against white people in Europe, but most of all in North-America (thanks Adolf). In Europe the organizing of the populist defense against the third world has been underway for decades and is meanwhile resulting in taking over of ever more governments and slowly disassociating Europe from the US and moving towards 90+% white Russia (minus Britain, wave-wave, bye-bye!).

    The West is heading for a crash of society and a 1989-style downfall of its own, without which a post-libtard segregated new start won’t be possible.

    From this perspective I say a big “thank you” to blackballer Kaepernick and his service to whites in general.

  9. MASTERMIND on Wed, 5th Sep 2018 11:15 pm 


    Your data is bullshit and your region is going to collapse sooner.You dont have the worlds reserve currency..And you are the worlds second largest oil importer..Which a global shortage headed your way..


  10. makati1 on Wed, 5th Sep 2018 11:22 pm 

    Cloggie, MM doesn’t see the US collapse happening all around him as he types. For Americans, it is always “someone else” who will suffer more. They like to point a finger at others, but don’t realize that four are pointing back at them.

    Well, that may have been true in the past as they destroyed one country after another, but blow-back is going to be a nasty bitch when she comes to America. That “someone else” will be themselves. No country deserves what is coming more than the US, and it is coming soon.

  11. Cloggie on Thu, 6th Sep 2018 12:57 am 

    “Your data is bullshit and your region is going to collapse sooner.You dont have the worlds reserve currency..And you are the worlds second largest oil importer..Which a global shortage headed your way..”

    Reserve currency? Eurasia is busy pushing the dollar out of the door. The euro is meanwhile the most used currency in terms of transaction volume and is not so negatively tainted like the imperial dollar is.

    We have Russia to rely on for oil and are the world #1 installer of new renewable energy capacity: 90% new capacity is renewable.

  12. Dredd on Thu, 6th Sep 2018 8:17 am 

    As recently as 10 years ago, we were told that the world was running out of oil soon.

    Then “we” is an illiterate group who need to trust but verify.

    You should have listened to those who said “conventional cheap (e.g. $25 bbl) oil has peaked and is in decline.”

    No biggie, oil is a finite resource and has been diminishing in quantity for a couple hundred years now.

    And remember, orgasm isn’t all there is to sex brother.

    Here is some more current news (Mysterious Zones of The Arctic).

  13. Anonymous on Thu, 6th Sep 2018 8:19 am 

    Here is what Jean Laherre predicted for Bakken ND production in 2014:

    An almost immediate peak and then a fast decline. He has ND Bakken in JUN18 at ~400,000 bopd.

    If you look at the actual JUN18 data, it was almost 1.2 million bopd (three times his estimate):

  14. Anonymous on Thu, 6th Sep 2018 8:21 am 

    There is a long history with Campbell, Laherre, Simmons, Berman, Hughes, of always estimating faster/worse peak oil. And they just change their forecast when wrong to a new “peak is around the corner” estimate. It’s like a nutter cult. Not serious analysis. These people don’t learn from being wrong and don’t adjust their methods.

  15. Sissyfuss on Thu, 6th Sep 2018 3:40 pm 

    It’s a matter of timing, not theory, Analmist.

  16. Free Speech Forum on Fri, 7th Sep 2018 9:37 am 

    Americans are hypocrites.

    Americans say that they are all victims. Americans say that they are not responsible for anything and blame everyone except themselves for the collapse of the US.

    Americans hate Obama because he supported wars, debt, and tyranny, but Trump does, too.

    Americans scream that North Korea has nuclear weapons and is a police state that tortures, but the USA also has nuclear bombs and is a police state that tortures.

    White people say niggers are criminals, but white people are, too.

    White people say Jews are evil, but white people are, too.

    Men say chicks are immoral, but men are, too.


  17. PeterEV on Fri, 7th Sep 2018 11:10 am 

    Exxon-Mobil publishes a yearly energy outlook: A View to 2040.

    One of the graphs in that outlook shows oil production peaking in the 2040 time frame. That’s page 35 (of 63). You can even see the “peak oil” that Deffeyes and others were talking about occurring in 2005.

    If you want to argue with Exxon-Mobil and can make an appointment, I’ll bring the popcorn. I’d like to hear what they say about that graph.

    On a further note, I’ve been following this same graph in prior year outlooks and 2018 is the first year I’ve noticed that the top of the Tight Oil curve has has reached a peak prior to 2040. If this graph is correct, peak oil is coming sooner than later.

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