Planning For The Peak In World Oil Production

Boston University Center for Energy & Environmental Studies

You will never wake to the headline, “World Runs Out of Oil.” Rather, global oil production will rise, reach one or more peaks, and decline. Well before production declines to very low levels, the peak will mark a point of no return that will be a watershed in the economic history of the 21st century. For the first time, industrial economies will be forced to a lower-quality energy source. And this decline will affect every aspect of modern life.

The notion of a world speeding towards a peak in oil production was made famous by the geologist M. King Hubbert. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Hubbert used a simple bellshaped curve to forecast the annual rate of production in the lower 48 U.S. states (see figure). At a time when oil production was increasing rapidly, Hubbert forecast that it would peak in…