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The Oracle of Oil: A Maverick Geologist's Quest for a Sustainable Future

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


The first comprehensive biography of Marion King Hubbert, the "father of peak oil."

In 1956, geologist and Shell Oil researcher Marion King Hubbert delivered a speech that has shaped world energy debates ever since.

Addressing the American Petroleum Institute, Hubbert dropped a bombshell on his audience: U.S. oil production would peak by 1970 and decline steadily thereafter. World production would follow the same fate, reaching its peak soon after the turn of the millennium. In battles stretching over decades, Hubbert defended his forecasts against opponents from both the oil industry and government.

Hubbert was proved largely correct during the energy crises of the 1970s and hailed as a "prophet" and an "oracle." Even amid our twenty-first-century fracking boom, Hubbert’s underlying logic holds true—while remaining a source of debate and controversy.

A rich biography of the man behind peak oil, The Oracle of Oil follows Hubbert from his early days as a University of Chicago undergraduate to his first, ill-fated forays into politics in the midcentury Technocracy movement, and charts his rise as a top geologist in the oil industry and energy expert within the U.S. government.

In a deeply researched narrative that mines Hubbert's papers and correspondence for the first time, award-winning journalist Mason Inman rescues the story of a man who shocked the scientific community with his eccentric brilliance. The Oracle of Oil also skillfully situates Hubbert in his era: a time of great intellectual ferment and discovery, tinged by dark undercurrents of intellectual witch hunts. Hubbert emerges as an unapologetic iconoclast who championed sustainability through his lifelong quest to wean the United States—and the wider world—off fossil fuels, as well as by questioning the pursuit of never-ending growth.

In its portrait of a man whose prescient ideas still resonate today, The Oracle of Oil looks to the past to find a guiding philosophy for our future.

From Publishers Weekly

Feb 22, 2016 – In this significant, if tedious, biography, journalist Inman chronicles the life of Marion King Hubbert, a geophysicist and energy researcher who attempted to forecast the limits of oil production. Inman begins with Hubbert's time at the University of Chicago and his initial forays into fieldwork. At Shell Oil, Hubbert was in charge of research on exploration and production. Keeping up with the latest studies, he became "a sort of walking library or scientific matchmaker," preparing in-depth analyses of U.S. reserves and calculating both domestic and global trends. As early as the mid-1950s, Hubbert warned companies, government officials, and the public against excess and recklessness; though peak usage "wouldn't mean the end of oil... it would mark a crucial turning point, from an age of abundance to one of scarcity." While others believed the world would have plenty of oil for centuries, Hubbert disagreed and, in a challenge that now seems prophetic, encouraged peers to investigate alternatives. Inman offers a wealth of extraordinary information, but the material is often dense, and sections on Hubbert's papers and reports can blur together. By tightening elements of his narrative, Inman could have broadened his work's appeal to a general audience, but diehard policy wonks and industry insiders will still find the book worthwhile.
The Oracle of Oil: A Maverick Geologist's Quest for a Sustainable Future
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  • $25.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Earth Sciences
  • Published: Apr 11, 2016
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
  • Seller: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
  • Print Length: 416 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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