by Kerstin Pritchard, University Of Vermont

An interactive WebQuest, pertaining to the timely issue of Peak Oil.



Exploring the Issue of Peak Oil

The concept of Peak Oil is relatively simple. Imagine that the entire world's supply of oil were located in one big tank. At some point in time, half of this oil would run out. Peak oil theorists estimate when this mid-point or peak will occur, and how rapidly the decline in oil will be after the peak has been reached. 

Some businesses and governments speculate that peak oil is still many decades away, but independent researchers and analysts disagree. They argue that peak oil will happen any day. Nobody actually disagrees that we will eventually run out of oil; the big question is when?

Oil production follows a bell shaped curve when charted on a graph, with the peak of production occurring when approximately half of the oil has been extracted. This is true for one well, a whole oil field, an entire region, and even the world. The reasons are many and beyond this basic introduction, but it is enough to say that oil becomes more difficult and expensive to obtain as a field ages past the mid-point of its life. 


In the United States for example, oil production grew until 1970 and declined after that.  

In 1956 M. King Hubbert, a geologist for Shell Oil, predicted the peaking of US Oil production would occur in the 1960's. He was the first to show that oil production followed a curve during its lifetime. This analysis is known as the Hubbert's Peak. 

  • 40 years later, US oil production had peaked, and has been falling ever since.
  • The amount of oil discovered in the US has dropped  since the late   1930's
  • Today we use around 4 times as much oil as we discover. 

      If we apply Hubbert's Peak to world oil production we estimate that    approximately half of all oil that will be recovered, has been recovered, and oil  production may reach a peak in the near future, or perhaps already has.

    This is an extremely important issue for everyone on the planet and the subject of much debate, with  global and local implications.

    We will begin exploring  this topic by watching this groundbreaking film:


    Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream

    Watch the promo trailer here!  

    And delve into a virtual reality experience to live Peak Oil firsthand at

    World Without Oil