Happy Thanksgiving; there’s no more oil

As Michael T. Klare explained in “More Blood, Less Oil” (not online) in the current issue of n+1, the geologist M. King Hubbert noticed in the 1950s that an oil well’s rate of production rises and falls in a bell-shaped curve. Thus the sum product of any group of oil wells must also rise and fall in this shape. Reading the data available in 1956, Hubbert guessed that the U.S. production of oil would peak in the early 1970s. He proved to be right.

When will the the entire world’s production of oil peak? There’s no doubt that it will. Klare reports that the Department of Energy estimates the middle of this century but the Princeton geologist Kenneth S. Deffeyes thinks that “The peak will occur in late 2005 or in the first few months of 2006.” In fact, as a post on Mitch Gould’s blog advises, Deffeyes not long ago issued an even more specific date: Thanksgiving 2005.

Deffeyes, who worked with Hubbert at Shell, freely admits that “it is a bit silly” of him to have chosen such a precise date, and no doubt he’s done it to draw a bit of attention to his point, which does not depend on such details. It is, however, sobering to realize that on a day not far from tomorrow, if not tomorrow specfiically, we will have taken as much oil out of the ground as still remains below it, and that the future flow of it will dwindle.