For years, geologists, oil men, and environmentalists have warned that the amount of oil humanity can pull out of the ground can only decrease from what we are getting now–a concept called “peak oil.” But despite warnings that “peak oil” is right around the corner, it has never come to pass. A new piece at The Wall Street Journal tells us why.
For the Journal Russell Gold reports that the perennial claim that we are just about to hit “peak oil” has proven an empty threat because the theory never took technology into account. The warning assumed that we would forever be drilling for oil the same way we did in 1965 when the idea was dreamed up by its inventor, M. King Hubbert.
But technology has changed the calculation.
The technology in question, of course, is fracking, a technology that has greatly improved the ability of oil companies to coax oil from the earth. This is a technology that has helped grow oil exports, making the U.S. a greater oil exporting nation. It is also a technology that Hubbert’s theory never foresaw.
The innovation of fracking changed the picture, Gold writes. “In 2008, the U.S. produced five million barrels a day,” Gold says. “In 2009, U.S. oil production began to rise–at first slowly, then quickly. It is still rising today. Through the first half of 2014, it averaged 8.3 million barrels a day.”
It shouldn’t be surprising, though, that the doom-saying Hubbert didn’t see the human ability to adapt and innovate. The inventors of Earth day, for instance, said in 1975 that by now the oceans would be dead and millions of people would be starving to death each year because of the inability to raise enough food to feed them all.
Oil may go the way of wood as the fuel that drives our world, certainly. There may be new technologies that emerge to replace oil and could kick it off its pedestal.
“There will be peak oil, but it will be [because of] peak consumption,” Michael Shellenberger, president of the Breakthrough Institute, told WSJ. And that may also help us to never reach “peak oil.” But in the meantime, there are still more technologies and more advanced sciences helping oilmen continue to wring the black gold from the earth.
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