Survey of World Energy Resources

CIM Bulletin, 1973

M. KING HUBBERT, Research Geophysicist, United States Geological Survey, Washington, D.C., U.S.A.

The present large-scale use of energy and power by the human species represents a unique event in the billions of years of geologic history. Furthermore, in magnitude, most of the development has occurred during the present century. In the United States, the peak in the rate of petroleum production occurred in 1970 and that for natural gas is imminent. The peak in the world production of crude oil is expected to occur at about the year 2000 and that for coal production at about 2150 or 2200. For other sources of energy and power, water power, geothermal power and tidal power are inadequate to replace power from fossil fuels. Nuclear power, based on the breeder reactor and utilizing lowgrade deposits of uranium and thorium, has a larger potential than the fossil fuels, but it also constitutes a large perpetual hazard. The largest source of energy available to the earth is solar radiation. This source has a life-expectancy of a geologic time scale, is non-polluting and is larger in magnitude than any likely requirements by the humans pecies. In consequence of the large supplies of available energy, the period since 1800 has been one of an unprecedented exponential industrial growth. This also has been accompanied by a world-wide ecological disturbance, including that of the human population. It can easily be seen that such a period of growth must be ephemeral in character and, in fact, is now almost over. One aspect of this transition from a state of exponential growth to a state of non-growth is the present alarm over an "energy crisis." Actually, the world's present problems are by no means unmanageable in terms of present biological and technological knowledge. The real crisis confronting us is, therefore, not an energy crisis but a cultural crisis. During the last two centuries, we have evalved what amounts to an exponential- growth culture, with institutions based on the premise of an indefinite continuation of exponential growth. One of the principal consequences of the cessation of exponential growth will be an inevitable revision of some of the tenets of that culture.
Keywords: British Petroleum Company, continental shelf, natural gas, United States, World Production of Coal, Coal, Cycles, energy, Growth, Oil, Oils, Petroleum, Production, United States