M. King Hubbert

M. King Hubbert

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Marion King Hubbert was a geoscientist
Geoscientist
*For the Geological Society Magazine see Geoscientist *For Geoscientist see Earth science...

 who worked at the Shell
Shell Oil Company
Shell Oil Company is the United States-based subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, a multinational oil company of Anglo Dutch origins, which is amongst the largest oil companies in the world. Approximately 22,000 Shell employees are based in the U.S. The head office in the U.S. is in Houston, Texas...

 research lab in Houston, Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

. He made several important contributions to geology
Geology
Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

, geophysics
Geophysics
Geophysics is the physics of the Earth and its environment in space; also the study of the Earth using quantitative physical methods. The term geophysics sometimes refers only to the geological applications: Earth's shape; its gravitational and magnetic fields; its internal structure and...

, and petroleum geology
Petroleum geology
Petroleum geology refers to the specific set of geological disciplines that are applied to the search for hydrocarbons .-Sedimentary basin analysis:...

, most notably the Hubbert curve
Hubbert curve
The Hubbert curve is an approximation of the production rate of a resource over time. It is a symmetric logistic distribution curve, often confused with the "normal" gaussian function. It first appeared in "Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels," geophysicist M...

 and Hubbert peak theory
Hubbert peak theory
The Hubbert peak theory posits that for any given geographical area, from an individual oil-producing region to the planet as a whole, the rate of petroleum production tends to follow a bell-shaped curve...

 (a basic component of Peak oil
Peak oil
Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. This concept is based on the observed production rates of individual oil wells, projected reserves and the combined production rate of a field...

), with important political ramifications. He was often referred to as "M. King Hubbert" or "King Hubbert".

Biography


Hubbert was born in San Saba, Texas
San Saba, Texas
San Saba is a town located in Central Texas. It was settled in 1854 and named for its location on the San Saba River. The population was at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of San Saba County...

. He attended the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

, where he received his B.S.
Bachelor of Science
A Bachelor of Science is an undergraduate academic degree awarded for completed courses that generally last three to five years .-Australia:In Australia, the BSc is a 3 year degree, offered from 1st year on...

 in 1926, his M.S.
Master of Science
A Master of Science is a postgraduate academic master's degree awarded by universities in many countries. The degree is typically studied for in the sciences including the social sciences.-Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay:...

 in 1928, and his Ph.D in 1937, studying geology
Geology
Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

, mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

, and physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

. He worked as an assistant geologist for the Amerada Petroleum Company for two years while pursuing his Ph.D., additionally teaching geophysics at Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

. He also served as a senior analyst at the Board of Economic Warfare
Board of Economic Warfare
The Office of Administrator of Export Control was established in the United States by Presidential Proclamation 2413, July 2, 1940, to administer export licensing provisions of the act of July 2, 1940 . Brigadier General Russell Lamont Maxwell, United States Army, headed up this military entity...

. He joined the Shell Oil Company in 1943, retiring from that firm in 1964. After he retired from Shell, he became a senior research geophysicist
Geophysics
Geophysics is the physics of the Earth and its environment in space; also the study of the Earth using quantitative physical methods. The term geophysics sometimes refers only to the geological applications: Earth's shape; its gravitational and magnetic fields; its internal structure and...

 for the United States Geological Survey
United States Geological Survey
The United States Geological Survey is a scientific agency of the United States government. The scientists of the USGS study the landscape of the United States, its natural resources, and the natural hazards that threaten it. The organization has four major science disciplines, concerning biology,...

 until his retirement in 1976. He also held positions as a professor of geology and geophysics at Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

 from 1963 to 1968, and as a professor at UC Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...

 from 1973 to 1976.

Hubbert was also an avid Technocrat
Technocracy movement
The technocracy movement is a social movement which arose in the early 20th century. It put forth a plan for operating the North American continent as a non-monetary society. Technocracy was highly popular in the USA for a brief period in the early 1930s, when it overshadowed many other proposals...

. He co-founded Technocracy Incorporated with Howard Scott
Howard Scott
Howard Scott was a controversial engineer who had an interest in technocracy, and helped to form the Technical Alliance, Committee on Technocracy, and Technocracy Incorporated.-Early life:...

. Hubbert wrote a study course that was published without authorship called Technocracy Study Course, the precedent document of that group which advocates a non-market economics form of energy accounting
Energy accounting
Energy accounting is a system used within industry, where measuring and analyzing the energy consumption of different activities is done to improve energy efficiency.-Energy management:...

, in contrast to the current Price System
Price system
In economics, a price system is any economic system that affects its distribution of goods and services with prices and employing any form of money. Except for possible remote and primitive communities, all modern societies use price systems to allocate resources...

 method.
Hubbert was a member of the Board of Governors
Board of governors
Board of governors is a term sometimes applied to the board of directors of a public entity or non-profit organization.Many public institutions, such as public universities, are government-owned corporations. The British Broadcasting Corporation was managed by a board of governors, though this role...

, and served as Secretary of education to that organisation.

Research




Hubbert made several contributions to geophysics, including a mathematical demonstration that rock
Rock (geology)
In geology, rock or stone is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids.The Earth's outer solid layer, the lithosphere, is made of rock. In general rocks are of three types, namely, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic...

 in the Earth's crust, because it is under immense pressure in large areas, should exhibit plasticity
Plasticity (physics)
In physics and materials science, plasticity describes the deformation of a material undergoing non-reversible changes of shape in response to applied forces. For example, a solid piece of metal being bent or pounded into a new shape displays plasticity as permanent changes occur within the...

, similar to clay
Clay
Clay is a general term including many combinations of one or more clay minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure.- Formation :Clay minerals...

. This demonstration explained the observed results that the Earth' s crust deforms over time. He also studied the flow of underground fluids.

Hubbert is most well-known for his studies on the capacities of oil field
Oil field
An oil field is a region with an abundance of oil wells extracting petroleum from below ground. Because the oil reservoirs typically extend over a large area, possibly several hundred kilometres across, full exploitation entails multiple wells scattered across the area...

s and natural gas
Natural gas
Natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, typically with 0–20% higher hydrocarbons . It is found associated with other hydrocarbon fuel, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is an important fuel source and a major feedstock for fertilizers.Most natural...

 reserves. He predicted that, for any given geographical area, from an individual oil field
Oil field
An oil field is a region with an abundance of oil wells extracting petroleum from below ground. Because the oil reservoirs typically extend over a large area, possibly several hundred kilometres across, full exploitation entails multiple wells scattered across the area...

 to the planet as a whole, the rate of petroleum
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 production of the reserve over time would resemble a bell curve
Bell curve
Bell curve can refer to:* A Gaussian function, a specific kind of function whose graph is a bell-shaped curve* Normal distribution, whose density function is a Gaussian function...

. Based on his theory, he presented a paper to the 1956 meeting of the American Petroleum Institute
American Petroleum Institute
The American Petroleum Institute, commonly referred to as API, is the largest U.S trade association for the oil and natural gas industry...

 in San Antonio, Texas, which predicted that overall petroleum production would peak
Peak oil
Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. This concept is based on the observed production rates of individual oil wells, projected reserves and the combined production rate of a field...

 in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 between the late 1960s and the early 1970s. At first his prediction received much criticism, for the most part because many other predictions of oil capacity had been made over the preceding half century, but these had been based purely on reserve and production data rather than past discovery trends, and had proven false. Hubbert became famous when this prediction proved correct in 1970.

Between October 17, 1973, and March 1974, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) ceased shipments of petroleum to the United States, causing what has been called the 1973 energy crisis. In 1975, with the United States still suffering from high petroleum prices, the National Academy of Sciences
United States National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine." As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and...

 confirmed their acceptance of Hubbert's calculations on oil and natural gas depletion, and acknowledged that their earlier, more optimistic estimates had been incorrect. This garnered great media attention for Hubbert.

In 1974, Hubbert projected that global oil production would peak in 1995 "if current trends continue". Various subsequent predictions
Predicting the timing of peak oil
M. King Hubbert initially predicted in 1974 that peak oil would occur in 1995 "if current trends continue." However, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, global oil consumption actually dropped , then rebounded to a lower level of growth in the mid 1980s...

 have been made by others as trends have fluctuated in the intervening years. Hubbert's theory, and its implications for the world economy, remain the only factual proof about the case.

Hubbert believed that solar power would be a practical renewable energy
Renewable energy
Renewable energy is energy which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are renewable . About 16% of global final energy consumption comes from renewables, with 10% coming from traditional biomass, which is mainly used for heating, and 3.4% from...

 replacement for fossil fuels, and that nuclear energy in breeder reactors would be able to sustain us for centuries.

Contributions


Hubbert's contributions to science have been summarized as follows:
  • Correct statement of Darcy's Law
    Darcy's law
    Darcy's law is a phenomenologically derived constitutive equation that describes the flow of a fluid through a porous medium. The law was formulated by Henry Darcy based on the results of experiments on the flow of water through beds of sand...

    .
  • Mathematical demonstration that rock in the Earth's crust
    Crust (geology)
    In geology, the crust is the outermost solid shell of a rocky planet or natural satellite, which is chemically distinct from the underlying mantle...

     is plastic, and that the Earth's crust deforms over time.
  • Prediction of migration paths of hydrocarbon
    Hydrocarbon
    In organic chemistry, a hydrocarbon is an organic compound consisting entirely of hydrogen and carbon. Hydrocarbons from which one hydrogen atom has been removed are functional groups, called hydrocarbyls....

    s.
  • Demonstration that the Earth's endowment of crude oil is finite, that the rate of oil production reaches a maximum (i.e., peaks) when approximately half of the original resource remains, and thereafter goes into irreversible decline.

Renewable resources

  • Fisheries: At least one researcher has attempted to perform Hubbert linearization (Hubbert curve
    Hubbert curve
    The Hubbert curve is an approximation of the production rate of a resource over time. It is a symmetric logistic distribution curve, often confused with the "normal" gaussian function. It first appeared in "Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels," geophysicist M...

    ) on the whaling
    Whaling
    Whaling is the hunting of whales mainly for meat and oil. Its earliest forms date to at least 3000 BC. Various coastal communities have long histories of sustenance whaling and harvesting beached whales...

     industry, as well as charting the transparently dependent price of caviar on sturgeon depletion. Another example is the cod
    Cod
    Cod is the common name for genus Gadus, belonging to the family Gadidae, and is also used in the common name for various other fishes. Cod is a popular food with a mild flavor, low fat content and a dense, flaky white flesh. Cod livers are processed to make cod liver oil, an important source of...

     of the North Sea. The comparison of the cases of fisheries and of mineral extraction tells us that the human pressure on the environment is causing a wide range of resources to go through a depletion cycle which follows a Hubbert curve.

Accolades


Hubbert was a member of the National Academy of Sciences
United States National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine." As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and...

 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. The Academy’s elected members are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs.James Bowdoin, John Adams, and...

. He was long affiliated with the Geological Society of America
Geological Society of America
The Geological Society of America is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of the geosciences. The society was founded in New York in 1888 by Alexander Winchell, John J. Stevenson, Charles H. Hitchcock, John R. Proctor and Edward Orton and has been headquartered at 3300 Penrose...

, receiving their Arthur L. Day Medal
Arthur L. Day Medal
The Arthur L. Day Medal is a prize awarded by the Geological Society of America, established in 1948 by Arthur Louis Day for "outstanding distinction in contributing to geologic knowledge through the application of physics and chemistry to the solution of geologic problems"....

 in 1954, being elected President of the Society in 1962, and receiving the Society's Penrose Medal
Penrose Medal
The Penrose Medal was created in 1927 by R.A.F. Penrose, Jr. as the top prize awarded by the Geological Society of America to those who advance the study of geoscience.-Award winners:* 2011 Paul F. Hoffman* 2010 Eric J. Essene* 2009 B. Clark Burchfiel...

 in 1973. He received the Vetlesen Prize
Vetlesen Prize
The Vetlesen Prize is awarded from Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation.-Background:The Vetlesen Prize has been described as an attempt to establish an equivalent of a Nobel award for geophysics or geology...

 from the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation and Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

 in 1981. He also received the Elliott Cresson Medal
Elliott Cresson Medal
The Elliott Cresson Medal, also known as the Elliott Cresson Gold Medal, was the highest award given by the Franklin Institute. The award was established by Elliott Cresson, life member of the Franklin Institute, with $1,000 granted in 1848...

 in 1981.

Citation

  • Our ignorance is not so vast as our failure to use what we know.
  • I was in New York in the 30’s. I had a box seat at the depression. I can assure you it was a very educational experience. We shut the country down because of monetary reasons. We had manpower and abundant raw materials. Yet we shut the country down. We’re doing the same kind of thing now but with a different material outlook. We are not in the position we were in 1929–30 with regard to the future. Then the physical system was ready to roll. This time it’s not. We are in a crisis in the evolution of human society. It’s unique to both human and geologic history. It has never happened before and it can’t possibly happen again. You can only use oil once. You can only use metals once. Soon all the oil is going to be burned and all the metals mined and scattered.

Hubbert on peak oil


1976 video clip of M King Hubbert speaking about fossil fuel depletion.

Hubbert explaining some aspects of world wide 'peak' oil

See also


  • Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas
    Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas
    The Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, or ASPO, is a network of scientists, affiliated with a wide array of global institutions and universities, whose goal is to attempt to determine the date and impact of the peak and decline of the world’s production of oil and gas, due to resource...

     (ASPO)

  • Fred Meissner
    Fred Meissner
    Fred F. Meissner was an American geologist and engineer who contributed to the fields of Geology, Geophysics, Engineering, Petroleum Engineering, Geochemistry, Mineralogy, Physics, Mining, Economic Geology, and Fishing.-Biography:Meissner was an honored exploration geologist, college professor at...

  • Bioeconomics (biology)


External links


  • M. King Hubbert Bibliography
  • M. King Hubbert papers at the University of Wyoming
    University of Wyoming
    The University of Wyoming is a land-grant university located in Laramie, Wyoming, situated on Wyoming's high Laramie Plains, at an elevation of 7,200 feet , between the Laramie and Snowy Range mountains. It is known as UW to people close to the university...

     - American Heritage Center
    American Heritage Center
    The American Heritage Center is the University of Wyoming's repository of manuscripts, rare books, and the university archives. Its collections focus on Wyoming and the Rocky Mountain West and a select handful of national topics: environment and conservation, the mining and petroleum industries,...