Hubbert’s petroleum production model: an evaluation and implications for World Oil Production Forecasts


Following Hubbert’s successful prediction of the timing of US peak oil production, Hubbert’s model has been used extensively to predict peak oil production elsewhere. However, forecasts of world and regional peak oil and natural gas production using Hubbert’s methodology usually have failed, leading to the implicit belief that such predictions always will fail and that we need not worry about finite resources. A careful examination of Hubbert’s approach indicates that the most important reasons for his success in the US were stable markets, the high growth rate of demand, ready availability of low cost imports, and a reasonable estimate of easily extractable reserves. This analysis also shows that his model cannot predict ultimate oil reserves and that it should be considered an econometric model. Building on Hubbert’s vital insight, that cheap fossil fuel reserves are knowable and finite, one can state that for world peak oil production, political constraints should be much more important than resource constraints.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Adkins, M., 2004, Quoted in Industry Trends: Oil & Gas Jour., v. 102.19, p. 7.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Ahlbrandt, T. (Project Head), 2000, US Geological Survey, world energy resources, world petroleum assessment (2000): Available at or on CD ROM from the USGS.

  3. API (American Petroleum Institute), 1951, Petroleum facts and figures 1950 (9th edn.): API, New York, p. 117, 490.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Anderson, R. O., 1984, Fundamentals of the petroleum industry: Univ. Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK, p. 23, 235.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Bird, K., and Houseknecht, D., 2001, Arctic national wildlife refuge, 1002 area, petroleum assessment, 1998, including economic analysis: USGS Fact Sheet FS-028–01, Available at

  6. Campbell, C., and Laherrere, J., 1998, The end of cheap oil: Scientific American, v. 278, no. 3, p. 78–83.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Cavallo, A., 2002, Predicting the peak in world oil production: Nature Resources Research, v. 11, no. 3, p. 187–195.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Clark, M., 2004, The Bosporus bottleneck: Petroleum Ecnomist, v. 71, no. 6, p. 28.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Deffeyes, K., 2001, Hubbert’s Peak: The impending world oil shortage: Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, NJ, 224 p.

    Google Scholar 

  10. DOE-EIA (Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration), 2002, US crude oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids reserves: 2002 Annual Report, DOE/EIA-0216(2002): Washington, DC, 47 p.

  11. DOE-EIA (Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration), 2003, Annual energy preview, DOE/EIA-0384(2002): Washington, DC, 376 p.

  12. DOI-MMS (Department of Interior-Minerals Management Service), 2001, Outer continental shelf petroleum assessment: MMS-2001–036: Washington, DC.

  13. Green, D., Hopson, J., and Li, J., 2003, Running out of and into oil: analyzing global oil depletion and transition through 2050: ORNL/TM-2003/259, Oak Ridge Nat. Lab., Oak Ridge, TN, (, 103 p.

  14. Hubbert, M.K., 1956, Nuclear energy and fossil fuels: API Conference, San Antonio, TX, (March 7–9, 1956). Later published as Publ. no. 95, Shell Development Co. (June 1956).

  15. Hubbert, M. K., 1962, Energy resources: A report to the Committee on Natural Resources of the NAS-NRC, Publication no. 1000-D, NAS-NRC: Washington, DC, 141 p.

  16. Ivanhoe, L. F., 1995, Future world oil supplies: There is a finite limit: World Oil, v. 216, no. 10, p. 77–88.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Lorenzetti, M., 2004, Saudis refute claims of oil field production declines: Oil & Gas Jour., v. 102.10, p. 24–25.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Maugeri, L., 2004, Oil: never cry wolf—Why the petroleum age is far from over: Science, v. 304, no. 21, p. 1114–1115.

    Google Scholar 

  19. OGJ, 2004, Editorial: Serious about depletion: Oil & Gas Jour., v. 102.32, no. 23, p. 17.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Weaver, J. L., 1986, Unitization of oil and gas fields in Texas: A study of legislative, administrative, and judicial policies: Resources for the Future: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, Washington, DC, 555 p.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Yergin, D., 1991, The prize: The epic quest for oil, money, and power: Simon and Schuster, New York, p. 536–540.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alfred J. Cavallo.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Cavallo, A.J. Hubbert’s petroleum production model: an evaluation and implications for World Oil Production Forecasts. Nat Resour Res 13, 211–221 (2004).

Download citation

  • Petroleum
  • oil
  • oil peak
  • Hubbert
  • Hubbert’s Peak