Every time an iPhone is charged or an episode of "Mad Men
" plays on a television, puffs of vaporized carbon join the atmosphere, products of power-plant combustion. And every year the world demands more. That era may be nearing an end, as the world approaches “peak fossil fuels,” a phrased used by Bloomberg New Energy Finance founder Michael Liebreich at the group’s annual conference.
The concept of “peak oil” -- that world oil production will plateau and decline -- was popularized by a Shell Oil geologist named M. King Hubbert, who predicted in 1956 that U.S. oil production would max out in the early 1970s and gradually decline. Globally, the peak oil hypothesis has been consistently undermined by new extraction techniques: deep-water drilling, tar-sands extraction and most recently the fracking boom. The world now has enough of these fuels to last hundreds of years.