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Beyond Oil

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Beyond Oil

The View from Hubbert's Peak

Hill and Wang,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

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Would you like to chat with a well-informed scientist about what will happen when the oil is gone? Pull up a chair.

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Geologist M. King Hubbert gained renown by predicting an end to the era of abundant energy. His 1956 projection that U.S. petroleum production would peak in the early 1970s and then decline has come true. Production leveled off and has never gone up again. So, if you are betting against global projections based on Hubbert’s metrics, you are, in a very real sense, betting against history. Author, professor and geologist Kenneth S. Deffeyes is a leading proponent of Hubbert’s theories. His pleasant, very conversational book thoroughly examines why Hubbert appears correct: He explains how and why – unless public and private powers begin to react and plan – the energy shortage will change everyone’s life, and could lead to famine and beyond. This book is similar in tone to Deffeyes’ earlier work, Hubbert’s Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage. Some messages bear repeating and – particularly since this iteration is so clearly presented and rich in updated information – getAbstract believes that this is one of them.


Black Gold

In 1901, near the once sleepy southeast Texas town of Beaumont, oil gushed forth from the Spindletop well and made history. Spindletop ushered in the Texas oil boom and the modern petroleum industry.

Today, a short drive from Spindletop, you can visit the heart of America’s refining capacity on the Gulf Coast. The refineries are getting old. In fact, despite prodigious oil profits, not a single new refinery has been built in the U.S. since 1976. The mammoth oil tankers in U.S. ports are as impressive as ever, but older tankers are being retired faster than new ones are being built – despite the fact that all the tankers are booked.

What accounts for this unwillingness to increase capacity even in the face of strong demand? The oil companies know production has peaked. Why build new tankers and new oil refining capacity when you know that oil production is inevitably trending down?

The idea that oil production passed its peak and is now declining really shouldn’t come as a surprise. Back in 1956, M. King Hubbert, an obscure American geologist, predicted that oil production in the U.S. would peak in the early 1970s. His theory, which later became...

About the Author

Kenneth S. Deffeyes is a professor emeritus at Princeton University. In 2001, he published Hubbert’s Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage.

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