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Peak oil for visual thinkers

Peak oil for visual thinkers

December 1, 2010 By Jonathan Callahan
Some people think that any discussion of peak oil must involve peer reviewed papers and complicated mathematical analyses like the “multicyclic Hubbert model.” Even the non-modelers love to toss around tables of numbers with units of “million barrels per day” or “tons of oil equivalent.”

But there’s another way of explaining and understanding our global oil predicament that doesn’t require a graduate degree in math or science. Instead, it uses pictures to explain things because, for most people, seeing is believing.

The eyes have it
It is surprising how many people don’t know when the US reached its own maximum rate of oil production. Ask around and you’re likely to get answers ranging from 1990 – 2030. You could whip out tables of numbers showing the actual year was 1970, but most people don’t have a visceral reaction to that factoid — numbers and units are simply too abstract and most folks will just zone out.

A million, a billion, a zillion. Gallons, barrels, tons. Per day, per month, per year. Production, consumption, percentage change.

It’s all too complicated.

But show a picture like the chart below from the Energy Information Administration and folks begin to understand what’s meant by peak oil.

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