The Journal of History     Summer 2005    TABLE OF CONTENTS

The New Pessimism about Petroleum Resources:
Debunking the Hubbert Model (and Hubbert Modelers)

Summary of the Article

By Michael C. Lynch [1]

This very long article, which debunks the Hubbert Model due to the fact that it misanalyses petroleum data by placing it in a bell curve, also chastises the proponents of peak oil fame since they are perpetuating the myth that crude oil is finite.

Michael Lynch remarks several times throughout this article that Colin Chapman and Jean Laherrere don't provide support (documentation) for their statements. He includes Jean Laherrere's comment that he doesn't know how to interpret their statements.

This article includes Mike Ruppert's exclamation that Colin Chapman is the "world's foremost expert on oil." (See under Ruppert, Michael C. in the Bibliography section below.)

Adelman, M. A. and Michael C. Lynch, Fixed View Of Resource Limits Creates Undue Pessimism, Oil & Gas Journal 4/7/97.
Adelman, M. A., John C. Houghton, Gordon M. Kaufman, and Martin B. Zimmerman, Energy Resources in an Uncertain Future, Ballinger, (1983).
Bentley, R.W., Global oil & gas depletion: an overview, Energy Policy, 2002.
Campbell, C.J., The Essence of Oil & Gas Depletion, Multi-Science Publishing Company, 2003.
Campbell, C. J., Oil Depletion-Updated Through 2001, dated February 2002, located on the web at .
Campbell, C. J., World Oil and Gas Industry: Peak Oil: an Outlook on Crude Oil Depletion,, October 2000.
Campbell, C. J., The Coming Oil Crisis, Multi-Science Publishing Company and Petroconsultants S.A., 1997.
Campbell, Colin J. and Jean H. Laherrere, The End of Cheap Oil, Scientific American, March 1998.
Campbell, C. J., The Golden Century of Oil 1950-2050: The Depletion of a Resource, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1991.
Campbell, C. J., Oil Price Leap in the Nineties, Noroil, December 1989.
Dafter, Roy, Plenty of Life Left in the North Sea, Oil & Gas Journal, 2/24/2003.
Deffeyes, Kenneth S., Hubbert’s Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage, Princeton University Press, 2002.
Hubbert, M. King, Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels, Drilling and Production Practice, 1956.
Laherrere, Jean, Modelling future liquids production from extrapolation of the past and from ultimates, Delivered at International Workshop on Oil Depletion, Uppsala, Sweden, May 23, 2002.
Laherrere, Jean, Forecasting future production from past discovery, presented to OPEC seminar, Vienna, Austria, September 2001. (2001b)
Laherrere, Jean, Estimates of Oil Reserves, presented at the EMF/IEA/IEW meeting, IIASA, Laxenburg Austria June 2001 (2001a).
Laherrere, Jean, Learn strengths, weaknesses to understand Hubbert curve, Oil & Gas Journal 4/17/2000
Laherrere, J. H., Reserve Growth: Technological Progress, or Bad Reporting and Bad Arithmetic? Geopolitics of Energy, April 1999.
Lynch, Michael C., The Economics of Petroleum in the Former Soviet Union, in Gulf Energy and the World: Challenges and Threats, The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, Abu Dhabi, 1997.
Lynch, Michael C., "The Analysis and Forecasting of Petroleum Supply: Sources of Error and Bias," in Energy Watchers VII, ed. by Dorothea H. El Mallakh, International Research Center for Energy and Economic Development, 1996.
Ruppert, Michael C., Colin Campbell on Oil: Perhaps the World's Foremost Expert on Oil and the Oil Business Confirms the Ever More Apparent Reality of the Post-9-11 World,, October 2002.
Schollnberger, W., Security of energy supply in Europe, submitted to the Public Hearing on the security of energy supply in Europe, June 2001.
Smith, N. J., and G. H. Robinson, Reserves: Geology, Technology, Economics OGJ Special, Technology Pushes Reserves ‘Crunch’ Date Back in Time, Oil & Gas Journal,  April 7, 1997.
Stark, Pete, Energy Supply Setting A Synopsis, September 23, 2002 AAPG President's Conference on National Issues, "Energy and Environment: A Partnership That Works", in Washington DC .
U.K. Department of Trade and Industry, Development of UK oil and gas resources, annual.
US Geological Survey, World Petroleum Assessment, 2000.
Wattenberger, Robert A., Oil Production Trends in the Former Soviet Union, in Advances in the Economics of Energy and Natural Resources, John R. Moroney, ed., JAI Press, 1994
Wilson, Carroll L., Project Director, Energy: Global Prospects 1985-2000, Report of the Workshop on Alternative Energy Strategies, McGraw Hill, 1977.

[1]   President, Strategic Energy and Economic Research, Inc., and Research Affiliate, Center for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This article is to be published in Minerals and Energy later this year.
[2]   URR refers to the amount of oil which is thought recoverable given existing technology and economics (price and costs). It includes estimates of undiscovered oil, but is only a fraction of the total resource.
[3]   Deffeyes quotes Henry Groppe as saying world oil production peaked in 2000. Current events, February 23, 2003,
[4]   In Deffeyes (2002), he says Here in the back of the book, where my editor isn’t likely to look, we can derive the equation…. (p. 201). While many editors abhor equations, it seems odd that a university press should be so hard to dissuade.
[5]   While technology has enhanced the production of conventional reserves, it has had little impact on ultimate reserve values. Laherrere (1999).
[6]   Arctic Energy: For Today and Tomorrow,
[7]   Post of 9/21/2002 on
[8]   P50 estimates reflect those which have a 50% probability of being either too low or too high, while P90 are considered 90% likely to prove valid.
[9]   When queried by email as to whether or not he had examined the database for evidence that field size estimates were static, Laherrere replied that he only had access to two versions of the database, for his 1993 and 1997 reports, but that they showed a net increase of 20 billion barrels between the two. In a subsequent email, he claimed that this would be offset, as the field size estimates tended to be eliminated upon abandonment without development. No evidence was provided that would suggest 5 billion barrels a year of recoverable oil is reported by IHS Energy, and then never developed. Post of 9/21/2002 on For an example of the opposing view, see Smith and Robinson (1997).
[10]   This has been the subject of much work by geologists, statisticians and economists, though none of the Hubbert modelers seem familiar with it. See, for example, the section by G. Kaufman in Adelman et. Al. (1983).
[11]   Laherrere (2001a) has the most complete collection of graphs.
[12]   For the US, he gives 30 years, UK 10, France 20, Mexico and Colombia 5, and so forth. Laherrere (2001a)
[13]   Bentley (2002), p. 197, for example criticizes Schollnberger (2001) by saying, This paper has serious weaknesses. Its lines of argument on oil are: Economics dictates reserves. (But see the US experience during the ‘oil frenzy’ following the oil shocks, when some gas, but little extra oil, was found.) In fact, before 1980, oil production in the lower-48 US was declining by over 3% per year, then grew slightly from 1980 to 1985.
[14]   I do not have access to either data on wildcats or pre-1976 rig usage data, but from 1976 to 1980, Iran and Iraq were running an average of 80 rigs each year. After 1980, the typical number was 20. And Oman, Yemen and Syria were probably not the source of most drilling or discoveries in earlier years. The data is from International Energy Statistics Sourcebook, Pennwell, annual.


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