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Peak Oil

Victor Lesisz

Understanding Peak Oil

Peak oil is the idea that in a certain point in time, a country, or the world, will eventually maximize its potential to extract and produce oil. After its rate of oil production has peaked, the country, or the world as a whole, would then gradually produce less oil over time, possibly until it could produce no more.

Hubbert's Peak Theory

Peak oil theory was originated by Marion King Hubbert, a geophysicist who from 1943 to 1964 worked for the Shell Oil Company.
In 1956, Hubbert predicted that the United States' overall oil production rate would peak between the late 1960's and early 1970's.

His prediction was accurate, and the oil production of the United States has not since surpassed this peak.

Hubbert's Curve
Hubbert's bell curve follows that production rate rises due to resource discovery rate. Post-peak, the curve declines due to depletion of resources.

Hubbert's curve is used to show the estimated peak oil production of the world.

U.S. Crude Oil Production versus Hubbert Curve

The similarity between factual data for U.S. Oil production and Hubbert's predicted calculations is uncanny.

Data Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Opposition to Peak Oil Theory

Peak oil, as a theory, only demonstrates oil production rates. It does not provide information concerning the amount remaining in the world's oil reserves. Some oil experts, such as David Yergin, argue that despite Hubbert's accurate predictions, world oil production is on the rise. Yergin's graph above may illustrate that a peak in oil production, such as that of the United States, does not necessarily signify a depletion of resources.

What Does Peak Oil Mean For Us?

The idea of peak oil is based heavily on the principle of demand for the product. High demand for oil leads to an increase in oil production. This ultimately increases oil depletion, which must lead to a decrease in oil production. If there is no oil to be extracted, how can it be made into a product?
As more oil is depleted, the cost of finding and extracting oil increases. These costs pass on to the consumers.

Effects on Agriculture
Oil is used in the machinery that harvests crops, and is also used extensively in transporting these goods. Record oil price increases are decreasing overall food production and inflating food prices worldwide.

Efforts to synthesize ethanol fuel from such products as corn do not help the food shortage situation. More and more corn is being made into fuel, which will be used to harvest and transport our crops, which will be made into more fuel. It may end up being a costly and fruitless cycle.

Effects On Population
Depletion of oil resources will have disastrous effects on the world population. As it stands, the population is unsustainable. With problems such as the spiked food prices and the impending food shortage due to lack of oil, wide-spread famine will be an inevitable outcome.

Fishermen near an oil rig.

What Can Be Done?

As time continues, our demand and dependence on oil become greater and greater.

The changes necessary to ensure the sustainability of the world's oil supply would simply have to be drastic. Transitioning to a low-energy world would require a complete upheaval of the way the world currently functions.

Though there is no simple solution, this is no reason why everyone should not do some small part to conserve our oil supplies. Measures such as carpooling and buying locally grown foods make all the difference in prolonging our ability to make use of oilbased products.

Works Cited
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