Wednesday, February 9, 2011

M. King Hubbert

In terms of human history, the episode of fossil fuels is a very brief epoch.

                                                                       M. King Hubbert

Marion King Hubbert was a geologist whose life spanned from the year the Wright Brothers first flew at Kitty Hawk to the collapse of the Soviet Union. A native Texan, Hubbert received his BS, MS, and PhD from the University of Chicago, and worked for Shell Oil from 1943 until 1964, was a research geophysicist for the US Geological Survey, and taught at Columbia University, Stanford, and UC Berkeley.

In 1956, Hubbert ssuggested that production in a geographic area -- ranging from a single oil field to the planet -- will follow a bell curve, and predicted that production in the United States would peak around 1970, which proved to be the case. Later he predicted a global peak around 1995, a little earlier than what happend, but close. The so-called Hubbert Curve is based on historical trends rather than estimates of reserves and consumption. Subsequent researchers have found similar curves in fisheries.

Hubbert also showed that rock in the Earth's crust is plastic -- it changes shape under pressure -- and formulated the correct statement for Darcy's Law, which describes the relationship between the rate flow of a fluid through a permeable medium and permeability, area, pressure drop, viscosity, and length.

He was a Technocrat, a founder of a Depression-era movement that advocated that scientists and engineers, not politicians, coordinate the economy. Hubbert believed in an economy in which goods and services were priced according to the energy consumed in their production.

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