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February 5, 2013

The 'Peak Oil' Argument Has Finally Peaked as States Embrace the Energy Revolution


It was only a few years ago that the prophets of doom were reviving their warnings about “peak oil.”

That’s the notion, introduced by M. King Hubbert in 1956, that the world would some day reach its maximum level of petroleum extraction. Yields would then begin declining until we had sucked the last drop of oil from the earth.

Hubbert thought the U.S. would reach its peak oil point between 1965 and 1971.

He was wrong, but his defenders have continued clinging to the notion, occasionally opining on when they think we passed the peak.

But with the shale oil and gas boom, along with new extraction techniques such as “fracking,” those peak oil stories seem to have been replaced with stories about economic booms in North Dakota, Texas and Pennsylvania and several other states that have aggressively opened their doors to oil and gas exploration.

Today, we’re seeing stories with headlines like this one in The Diplomat: “America: The Next Energy Superpower?”  The author, Anthony Fensom, writes, “This year [2013], the U.S. will likely surpass Russia and Saudi Arabia as the largest liquids fuel producer in the world.”

Energy giant BP has released a report claiming the U.S. could be 99 percent self-sufficient in net energy by 2030.

Those states that have taken the plunge have been rewarded handsomely for it. Texas, for example, pumped 604 million barrels of crude in 2012, nearly 100 million more barrels than in 2011. That’s the highest level since 1992. And it means about $7 billion in royalties for the state, giving the budget a little breathing room for the first time in years.

If this fossil-fuel energy boom isn’t temporary, and there is no reason to think it is, it means we should be thinking strategically about the long-term implications—for the economy, foreign policy, security policy and the environment.

Some states are beginning that effort, but not Washington, where President Obama’s green energy fetishes are all the rage. With the states leading, maybe the president can be dragged kicking and screaming into the real energy revolution.


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