Why 2004 Will Be Remembered as the Year World Oil Production Peaked
Mr. Hubbert, we should have listened. In 1957 M. King Hubbert (1903-1989) predicted in a publication of the American Petroleum Institute, Drilling and Production Practice (p. 17), that the peak of world oil output would come "about the year 2000." And it has. As Richard A. Kerr stated in "The Next Oil Cirisis Looms Large--and Perhaps Close," Science 281 (21 August 1998): "the gush of oil from wells around the world will peak at 80 million barrels per day, then begin a steady, inevitable decline . . ." (p. 1128).
That prognostication, by way of a paraphrase of a report of the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA), was not expected to come true, however, until sometime between 2010 and 2020, but I believe that the world's oil production peak has been reached in recent weeks. Why? The answer derives from Tim Appenzeller's "The End of Cheap Oil," National Geographic 205 (June 2004): demand for oil globally is "now 80 million barrels a day, [and] continues to grow, . . ." (p. 90). And, from Bhushan Bahree's "OPEC Is Likely to Lift Ceiling of Its Oil Production by 11%," Wall Street Journal (3 June 2004) comes the following: "a world market now consuming 80 million barrels daily" (p. A2). The implication is crystal clear--if the people on planet earth are now consuming 80 million barrels per day--some 29 billion barrels per year--then we must be at the peak in world oil production, as forecast by the IEA back in the spring of 1998, information utilized by Kerr in his article. And, then too, we're back to Hubbert!
But can we accept the predictive worth of the Hubbert Curves, being bell-shaped for plotting the rise, peak, and then inevitable decline of a nonrenewable and finite resource, such as oil? Yes, we can, because the Hubbert model has already been successful in giving the year for the peak oil output in the lower 48 states, as of 1970. Furthermore, the author is not alone in stating that the peak for world oil production was to come in 2004. J. D. Moody, a former president of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, has designated the same year 2004; see John D. Edwards, "Twenty-FIrst-Century Energy: Decline of Fossil Fuel, Increase of Renewable Nonpolluting Energy Sources," in Petroleum Provinces of the Twenty-First Century, ed. Marlan W. Downey, Jack C. Threet, and William A. Morgan, AAPG Memoir 74 (Tulsa: American Association of Petroleum Geologists, 2001), p. 28. Moreover, one Colin J. Campbell, forty years and more in the oil industry, holding a doctorate in geology from the University of Oxford, then having worked for Texaco as an exploration geologist, next for Amoco as its chief geologist in Ecuador, gave 2003 as the peak year for global oil. See for that his "Accessible Oil Reserves Are Running Out," in Opposing VIewpoints: Energy Alternatives, ed. Helen Cothran (San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2002), p. 28:
The lines of discovery, consumption, and extraction are bearing down on one another and will inevitably cross, probably in the year 2003; at that point, the world will pass its peak production of oil, meaning that more than half of the world's finite supply of conventional oil [easily producible] will have been extracted and consumed.