M. King Hubbert

M. King Hubbert
Born Marion King Hubbert
October 5, 1903
San Saba, Texas, U.S.
Died October 11, 1989(1989-10-11) (aged 86)
Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.[1]
Nationality American
Occupation Geologist, geophysicist
Known for Hubbert peak theory
Awards Penrose Medal (1973)
Vetlesen Prize (1981)
Elliott Cresson Medal (1981)

Marion King Hubbert (October 5, 1903 October 11, 1989) was an American geologist and geophysicist. He worked at the Shell research lab in Houston, Texas. He made several important contributions to geology, geophysics, and petroleum geology, most notably the Hubbert curve and Hubbert peak theory (a basic component of peak oil), with important political ramifications. He was often referred to as "M. King Hubbert" or "King Hubbert".


Hubbert was born in San Saba, Texas. He attended the University of Chicago, where he received his B.S. in 1926, his M.S. in 1928, and his Ph.D in 1937, studying geology, mathematics, and physics. 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. He also served as a senior analyst at the Board of Economic Warfare. 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 for the United States Geological Survey until his retirement in 1976. He also held positions as a professor of geology and geophysics at Stanford University from 1963 to 1968, and as a professor at UC Berkeley from 1973 to 1976.

Hubbert was an avid technocrat. He co-founded Technocracy Incorporated with Howard Scott. Hubbert wrote a study course[2] that was published without attribution called the Technocracy Study Course,[3] which advocates a non-market economics form of energy accounting,[4] in contrast to the current price system method.[5] Hubbert was a member of the board of governors, and served as secretary of education in that organisation.[6]


Further information: Oil depletion
A bell-shaped production curve, as originally suggested by M. King Hubbert in 1956

Hubbert made several contributions to geophysics, including a mathematical demonstration that rock in the earth's crust, because it is under immense pressure in large areas, should exhibit plasticity, similar to clay. This demonstration explained the observed results that the earth's crust deforms over time. He also studied the flow of underground fluids.

Hubbert is best known for his studies on the size of oil fields and natural gas reserves, and the limits these impose on rates of oil and gas production. He predicted that, for any given geographical area, from an individual oil field to the planet as a whole, the rate of petroleum production of the reserve over time would resemble a bell curve. Based on his theory, he presented a paper to the 1956 meeting of the American Petroleum Institute in San Antonio, Texas, which predicted that overall petroleum production would peak in the United States between 1965, which he considered most likely, and 1970, which he considered an upper-bound.[7] 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 usually been based on the reserves-to-production ratio, had not taken into account future discoveries, and had proven false.[8] Hubbert became famous when this prediction proved correct in 1970.

Between October 17, 1973 and March 1974, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) ceased shipments of petroleum to the United States, because of the U.S. giving relief to Israel during the Israeli–Arab war, thus causing what has been called the 1973 energy crisis.

In 1974, Hubbert projected that global oil production would peak in 1995 "if current trends continue".[9] Various subsequent predictions 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 replacement for fossil fuels, and that nuclear energy in breeder reactors would be able to sustain us for centuries.[7] He also states that "provided world population can somehow be brought under control, we may at last have found an energy supply (uranium) adequate for our needs for at least the next few centuries of the 'foreseeable future'."[10]


Hubbert's contributions to science have been summarized[11] as follows:

Renewable resources


Hubbert was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was long affiliated with the Geological Society of America, receiving their Arthur L. Day Medal in 1954, being elected President of the Society in 1962, and receiving the Society's Penrose Medal in 1973. He received the Vetlesen Prize from the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation and Columbia University in 1981. He also received the Elliott Cresson Medal in 1981.

Unsourced quotes

Hubbert on peak oil

Hubbert explaining some aspects of worldwide peak oil. 1976 video clip of M King Hubbert speaking about fossil fuel depletion on YouTube.

See also


  1. Narvaez, Alfonso (October 17, 1989). "M. King Hubbert, 86, Geologist; Research Changed Oil Production". New York Times. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
  2. retrieved August-4-2011
  3. http://www.aip.org/history/ohilist/5031_4.html Interview with Dr. M. King Hubbert By Ronald Doel January 17, 1989 retrieval August-4-2011
  4. Environmental Decision making, Science and Technology
  5. Cutler J. Cleveland, "Biophysical economics", Encyclopedia of Earth, Last updated: September 14, 2006.
  6. Hubbert investigation (1943), p41 (p50 of PDF)
  7. 1 2 Hubbert, M. King (June 1956). "Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels" (PDF). Shell Oil Company/American Petroleum Institute. Retrieved 2014-11-10., Presented before the Spring Meeting of the Southern District, American Petroleum Institute, Plaza Hotel, San Antonio, Texas, March 7–9, 1956
  8. Deffeyes, Kenneth S. (2001). Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage. Princeton University Press. pp. 1–13.
  9. "Oil, the Dwindling Treasure" National Geographic, June 1974
  10. M. King Hubbert (June 1956). "Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels 'Drilling and Production Practice'" (PDF). American Petroleum Institute. p. 36. Retrieved 2008-04-18.
  11. http://www.energy.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2006/10/HubbertCycleLecture%20Patzek%20UWMadison%20Oct%202006.pdf
  12. http://www.aspoitalia.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=34&Itemid=39
  13. http://www.hubbertpeak.com/laherrere/multihub.htm
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