Peak Oil News: The Peak of World Oil Production and the Road to the Olduvai Gorge

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Peak of World Oil Production and the Road to the Olduvai Gorge

Abstract  – Click for full text

The Olduvai theory has been called unthinkable, preposterous, absurd, dangerous, self-fulfilling, and self-defeating. I offer it, however, as an inductive theory based on world energy and population data and on what I’ve seen during the past 30 years in some 50 nations on all continents except Antarctica. It is also based on my experience in electrical engineering and energy management systems, my hobbies of anthropology and archaeology, and a lifetime of reading in various fields.

The theory is defined by the ratio of world energy production (use) and world population. The details are worked out. The theory is easy. It states that the life expectancy of Industrial Civilization is less than or equal to 100 years: 1930-2030.

World energy production per capita from 1945 to 1973 grew at a breakneck speed of 3.45%/year. Next from 1973 to the all-time peak in 1979, it slowed to a sluggish 0.64%/year. Then suddenly —and for the first time in history — energy production per capita took a long-term decline of 0.33%/year from 1979 to 1999. The Olduvai theory explains the 1979 peak and the subsequent decline. More to the point, it says that energy production per capita will fall to its 1930 value by 2030, thus giving Industrial Civilization a lifetime of less than or equal to 100 years.

Should this occur, any number of factors could be cited as the 'causes' of collapse. I believe, however, that the collapse will be strongly correlated with an 'epidemic' of permanent blackouts of high-voltage electric power networks — worldwide. Briefly explained: "When the electricity goes out, you are back in the Dark Age. And the Stone Age is just around the corner."

The Olduvai theory, of course, may be proved wrong. But, as of now, it cannot be rejected by the historic world energy production and population data.


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