Almost synonymous with the term “peak oil” is M. King Hubbert, perhaps the foremost geophysicist of the 20th century, who first theorized about the eventual decline of oil production in the 1930s. Hubbert and his work have once again come into the public eye as a result of the 2008 oil price spike and the highest ever daily average prices for oil from 2011 through 2014. His life has now been chronicled by science writer Mason Inman in a new biography entitled The Oracle of Oil.
Depending upon whom you speak with, peak oil is either a catastrophe waiting to happen or a far-off concern that has already been solved or will be soon. Frequently, peak oil is referred to as a myth. What you rarely hear is that peak oil is an empirical fact having already occurred in more than two dozen oil-producing countries. Making the list are names that will surprise many including Iran, Venezuela, and Russia, three of the world’s top oil exporters.
The term “peak oil” simply means that crude oil production for any field, region or country eventually reaches a peak or plateau from which it inexorably declines. Because the amount of oil in the Earth’s crust is finite, it is logical to assume that one day peak oil production will occur worldwide. The concern is that we as a global society are so accustomed to rising oil production that we have built an entire world around that assumption. Will we be ready when oil production begins to decline?