In 1956, a geoscientist named M. King Hubbert formulated a theory which suggested that U.S. oil production would eventually reach a point at which the rate of oil production would stop growing. After production hit that peak, it would enter terminal decline. The resulting production profile would resemble a bell curve and the point of maximum production would be identified as Peak Oil, a point of no return.
The original peak oil curve
Image Source: Cornell University
Hubbert first predicted that U.S. oil production would peak in 1970 and then start declining rapidly. His prediction turned out to be partly true, as U.S. crude oil production peaked that same year, not to be eclipsed again until the shale boom began.
Annual crude oil production (in thousands of barrels per year) for entire United States, with contributions from individual regions as indicated.
“The end of the oil age is in sight, if present trends continue production will peak in 1995 — the deadline for alternative forms of energy that must replace petroleum in the sharp drop-off that follows.” This is what Hubbert had to say in 1974, based on 628 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. However, his prediction didn’t turn out to be true, as global oil production continues to surge, thanks to new oilfield discoveries and improved exploration and drilling technology.
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