M. King Hubbert
Born Marion King Hubbert
October 5, 1903
San Saba, Texas, U.S.
Died October 11, 1989(1989-10-11) (aged 86)
Nationality American
Occupation Geologist
Known for Peak Oil Theory, Hubbert's Peak

Marion King Hubbert (October 5, 1903 – October 11, 1989) was a geoscientist who 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".


M. King Hubbert (outlined in blue) and other prominent leaders of the technocratic movement

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 also an avid Technocrat. He co-founded Technocracy Incorporated with Howard Scott and contributed significantly to the Technocracy Study Course, the precedent document of that group which advocates a Non-market economics form of Energy accounting,[1] in contrast to the current Price System method.[2] Hubbert was a member of the Board of Governors, and served as Secretary of education to that organisation.[3]


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 most well-known for his studies on the capacities of oil fields and natural gas reserves. 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 the late 1960s and the early 1970s.[4] 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.[5] 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 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".[6] 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.[4]


Hubbert's contributions to science have been summarized[7] as follows:

  • Correct statement of Darcy's Law.
  • Mathematical demonstration that rock in the Earth's crust is plastic, and that the Earth's crust deforms over time.
  • Prediction of migration paths of hydrocarbons.
  • 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) on the whaling industry, as well as charting the transparently dependent price of caviar on sturgeon depletion.[8] Another example is the cod of the North Sea.[9] 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.


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.


  • Our ignorance is not so vast as our failure to use what we know.

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


  1. http://telstar.ote.cmu.edu/environ/m3/s3/05account.shtml Environmental Decision making, Science and Technology
  2. Cutler J. Cleveland, "Biophysical economics", Encyclopedia of Earth, Last updated: September 14, 2006.
  3. Hubbert investigation (1943), p41 (p50 of PDF)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels, M.K. Hubbert, Presented before the Spring Meeting of the Southern District, American Petroleum Institute, Plaza Hotel, San Antonio, Texas, March 7–8-9, 1956
  5. Script error
  6. "Oil, the Dwindling Treasure" National Geographic, June 1974
  7. http://www.energy.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2006/10/HubbertCycleLecture%20Patzek%20UWMadison%20Oct%202006.pdf
  8. http://www.aspoitalia.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=34&Itemid=39
  9. http://www.hubbertpeak.com/laherrere/multihub.htm

External links