The Global Hubbert Peak

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Posted by Ammianus Marcellinus on 04/19/02 - 18:26:49
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As far as I can tell, the discussion of whether Alaskan habitat is being endangered is something of a side-show.  It's far more dangerous to the global ecosystem that the coral reefs are shrinking or that the Amazon rainforest is being plowed under.  This is not to say that either you or Paul S. is right or wrong, just that this particular environmental issue is not IMHO critical.

However, I don't really believe, either, that domestic oil production is going to save the US from dependency upon Saudi oil.  Please see

especially where it says:

"Between 1973 and 1980, the total footage of wells drilled increased three fold and the fraction of new capital investment in
the US economy going to the oil industry increased from 2 to 7 percent. What did the nation get in return? During this same period,
US production declined 7 percent and the oil industry's share of GDP declined from 4 to 2 percent."

Oil production in the lower 48 states has been on the decline since 1970.  There's enough oil in Alaska to satisfy the world for maybe three months.  See once again the website I posted.  This story that oil prices will shoot out of sight because the liberals will keep the oil companies from drilling in the ANWR is just not supported by the facts.

On the other hand, there _will_ be a moment in time when the price of oil will shoot out of sight.  Prices, measured in terms that compensate for inflation, will decline until such a time (because of improved drilling technology), so the market will give us no advance warning that this moment in time will approach.  So it will happen suddenly.

When will this price rise happen?  It will happen with an event that will be called the Global Hubbert Peak.  Please see

for a more thorough explanation.  The basic argument is this:  by comparing the bell curve of global exploration to the bell curve of global production, scientists can predict when global oil production will reach its maximum possible level.
The first oil geologist to do this on a less-than-global scale was M. King Hubbert, who predicted, correctly, and in 1956, that oil production in the Lower 48 States would peak around 1970.  That's why it's called the Hubbert Peak.

Soon after the global Hubbert Peak, global oil production will be incapable of meeting oil demand.  The result will be a significant and irrevocable increase in the price of oil.  When will this happen?  Scientists differ, mostly because the calculations are uncertain.  Kenneth Deffeyes, author of _Hubbert's Peak_, puts the date somewhen around 2005.  Jean Laherrere says around 2010, Colin Campbell and Walter Youngquist think a bit earlier or later depending on technological development.  Read the links at to understand the debate.  

At any rate, we can certainly expect the global Hubbert Peak to happen within our lifetimes.  What is the point?  The point is that any REAL solution to America's energy problems is going to have to be accomplished by looking for energy sources _other than oil_, and through energy conservation.  Thus saving the ANWR would be a good mental reminder for America that this is in fact so.

Got it?

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