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

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

by Mason Inman


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

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393239683
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 04/11/2016
Pages: 432
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Mason Inman is an award-winning journalist who focuses on energy and climate issues. He has written for National Geographic News, Science, Nature, and The Economist, and has reported from Bangladesh and Pakistan. He lives in Oakland, California.

Table of Contents

Prologue xi

Part 1 Chicago, 1923-1929

1 The Journey 3

2 Pioneers' Eyes 11

3 Bugged Out 14

4 Complete Rebellion 20

Part 2 New York City and Washington, Dc, 1930-1943

5 The Meeting 35

6 The Fad 46

7 Lessons 55

8 Borderlands 64

9 The Swiftest Decline 70

10 Fighting Mad 75

11 Total Mobilization 81

Part 3 Houston, 1943-1956

12 No Doubt 97

13 The Million-Dollar Lab 103

14 A Precarious Position 108

15 The Parley 114

16 Stampede 122

17 A Magical Effect 126

18 Sweeping Under the Rug 132

19 Jolted 138

Part 4 Houston, Texas, And Washington, Dc, 1956-1973

20 Guesstimating 149

21 The Beer-Can Experiment 160

22 Presto! Chango! 164

23 The Rich Texans 176

24 A Grand Survey 181

25 Penny Pinching 198

26 Returning Home 202

27 The Zapp Hypothesis 207

28 Ruthless 217

29 Energy Crisis 224

30 Limits 229

31 The Republican Ethic 236

Part 5 Washington, Dc, 1973-1989

32 180 Degrees 249

33 This Sacred Thing of Growth 256

34 Blueprints 264

35 Buoyed Up 273

36 Incomprehensibly Large Numbers 278

37 The Prophet 282

38 Hubbert Factors 286

39 Heroic Dreams 293

40 Things We Could Do Tomorrow 304

Epilogue: 1990-2015 315

Sources 337

Notes 339

Bibliography 375

Recommended Reading 385

Acknowledgments 387

Credits and Permissions for Figures 389

Index 391

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