Resource Crunch: Why Many Things Cost Much More

By Tom Randall and Eric Roston - 2012-02-06T18:24:40Z

Photograph by Plamen Petkov/Bloomberg

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Peak Oil--No Longer the Right Question

A Shell Oil geologist named M. King Hubbert predicted in 1956 that U.S. oil production would peak in the early 1970s. When it did, Hubbert became the geologist equivalent of a rock star and gave the young environmental movement evidence for something it was seeking: a limit to growth.

When is -- or was -- peak world oil production? It's just not the right question anymore. Deepwater drilling, tar sands extraction, and the shale gas boom have extended the supply of hydrocarbon fuels. The new question: What's the smartest way to use them?

The iconic Peak Oil example has inspired parlor-game questions about other resources. Some, like coal, are finite; others, like water, are renewable but have limits to how quickly reserves can be replenished. Can Earth keep up with our demand? Call it Peak Everything.

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