Have we reached peak oil?
The theory of peak oil — the point at which the Earth’s oil supply begins to dwindle — has become a hot-button topic in recent years. At this point, production of oil no longer continues the upswing that helped create the modern world as we know it. Instead, the upswing becomes a downturn. And if demand continues to grow while production begins to decline, we have a problem.
The basis for the concept of peak oil comes from a graph produced by Shell Oil geologist M. King Hubbert in the 1950s. The graph shows that oil reservoirs follow a predictable trajectory from discovery to depletion. Once oil is discovered, production from the reservoir continues to increase until it reaches its maximum output. After that, production plateaus, then begins to decline. Once it declines, production continues downward until the reservoir is depleted.
The Earth’s combined oil supply should follow this bell curve, and the point where it begins to decline forever is the oil peak. This point will come eventually, since oil is nonrenewable. But exactly how long we have until that happens is a matter of heated debate. In this article, we’ll look at what factors influence peak oil, what effects peak oil could have on people and some arguments against the theory. Read the next page to find out how peak oil works.
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