‘Peak oil’ is a 500-pound gorilla hiding in plain sight. We will summarize the concept as follows. To all appearances humanity either has or will soon reach a maximum sustainable pumping rate for oil, the life-blood of the global economy. In 1956 the Shell Oil geologist M. King Hubbert predicted that the US would reach a maximum, or ‘peak’, in its oil production capability in 1970. This did in fact occur in December of that year, but was only recognized in its aftermath.
In 1974, working for the US Geological Survey at that time, he again made a prediction, this time that global oil production would peak somewhere around the year 2000, give or take 5 years. His reduced certainty of the timing was due to factors like the world being a large place with some potentially large reserve still left undiscovered, coupled with the fact that data on ‘proven reserves’ is far less trustworthy on a global scale than it was in dealing with the reporting of US corporations.
The ramifications of peak oil are immense since nearly every aspect of modern society is based upon a continual supply of cheap petroleum oil. It is estimated, for instance, that behind every calorie of food we eat the United States lies 10 calories of energy generated from petroleum. Potential constraints on the supply of oil to industrialized nations have already lead to global geo-political maneuvering, neo-imperialism, ‘regime change’ and war.