Peak Oil Timeline

a short history from 1859 to the Peak

this page is under construction and still very incomplete - additional suggestions and references are welcome

thanks to the Oil Age Poster at and the Center for Cooperative Research at for inspiration.

related page:

One of the popular myths about Peak Oil is that previous predictions about "oil running out" were supposedly wrong and therefore we should not pay attention to concerns about the depletion of concentrated fossil fuels. This fiction ignores the fact that the best estimates about Peak were extremely accurate -- in 1956, the geologist M. King Hubbert stated the United States would reach its peak of petroleum in 1970 and the world would peak in the 1990s. Hubbert's 1956 forecast was correct for the US, and would have been accurate for the world if the oil shocks of 1973 and 1979 had not forced conservation that temporarily reduced the growth of consumption.


Source: Energy Watch Group: “Crude Oil the Supply Outlook”


Source: Energy Watch Group: “Crude Oil the Supply Outlook”


population timeline

1883: 1.5 billion

1957: 3 billion

1984: 5 billion

1996: 6 billion


B.P. (Before Petroleum)

Hunting Gathering societies (the overwhelming majority of human history)

the rise of Agriculture and the development of hierarchical societies

the rise of of metallurgy (Bronze Age, Copper Age, etc.)

large scale use of wood for smelting, especially around the Mediterranean Sea

the rise of Empires

European imperialism (especially after 1492) and the development of capitalism

continued increase in wood consumption, especially in North America

the start of the coal era (18th & 19th centuries)

the rise and fall of the use of whale oil (18th & 19th centuries, in North America)



oil drilling starts in Titusville, Pennsylvania


1861 - 1865

US Civil War



Pennsylvania extracts three million barrels of oil



John D. Rockefeller starts Standard Oil



Shell Oil started



US Congress passes Sherman Anti-Trust Act (to prohibit monopolies), in large part because of the actions of Standard Oil

League of American Wheelman formed to advocate for the interests of bicyclists. This group was among the first to campaign for paved roads (before widespread adoption of the "horseless carriage").



first oil concessions in Persia (Iran)

Spindletop oil field, Texas

Sun, Texaco, Gulf started



Wright Brothers first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina



Ida Tarbell publishes The History of the Standard Oil Company.



first drive in gas station, St. Louis, Missouri

Shell and Royal Dutch merge



Ford Motor Company starts manufacture of Model T car, the first mass produced automobile

oil discovered in Persia, leads to Anglo-Persian (now British Petroleum)



gasoline sales surpass kerosene (used for lighting)

British bureaucrat Winston Churchill shifts British Navy from coal to liquid petroleum, thus fueling increased demand for oil.



US Supreme Court orders dissolution of Standard Oil monopoly.



Federal Reserve created in United States


1914 - 1918

World War I: introduction of mechanized warfare including use of airplanes, first war fueled by oil



Russian Revolution

US produces two-thirds of world oil



British and French draw modern boundaries in the Middle East

poison gas used by British military to suppress rebellion in Iraq



stock market crash and start of Great Depression



East Texas oil field discovered



Kingdom of Saudi Arabia created as a soverign country. First exploration concession granted the following year to Standard Oil of California.



Hitler becomes Chancelor of Germany, Reichstag Fire leads to imposition of dictatorship



US peak of oil discovery -- the US was the Saudi Arabia of its day in 1930s, 1940s

Nazi Germany creates the autobahn system (freeways)



Town of Guernica in the Basque region of Spain is bombed by German Nazi airplanes, about 2,000 civilians killed. Pablo Picasso paints "Guernica" as a protest against this new form of warfare.



oil discovered in Saudi Arabia



World War II started when Germany invaded Poland



Germany invades Soviet Union

US cut off oil exports to Japan, Pearl Harbor happened shortly afterwards (an effort to destroy US Naval forces that could interfere with Japanese efforts to seize southeast Asian oil supplies)



Nazi Germany's forces reach the limit of their eastward expansion - the defeat of Germany at the battle of Stalingrad blocked Hitler from the oil fields of the Caucasus

United States promotes "Victory Gardens" program to promote food resilience during wartime



President Roosvelt of the United States of America and King Abdul Aziz of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia make agreement of military protection in exchange for oil supplies

United Nations established

German and Japanese military machines run out of oil, Germany and Japan defeated and their societies reach near collapse, World War II ends

atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki start the nuclear age and the Cold War



Israel created, first Arab-Israeli war

Ghawar, the world's largest oil field, discovered in eastern Saudi Arabia

“We have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population... Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security.”
-- George F. Kennan, US State Dept, 1948



1,700-km Trans-Arabian Pipe Line (Tapline) is completed, linking Eastern Province oil fields to Lebanon and the Mediterranean.



United States and Britain staged a coup d'etat against the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadeq after he nationalized oil resources.



President Eisenhower announces "Atoms for Peace," a program to convert part of the military nuclear program for civilian electrical generation.



M King Hubbert's speech outlining the science of peak oil, predicts US peak in 1970 and world peak in mid-1990s (the latter might have happened if the 1973 oil embargo had not reduced consumption)

Suez Canal war (Israel, Britain and France vs. Egypt)

Interstate Highway Act in the United States



Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) formed



Iraq makes effort to seize Kuwait, stopped by British military



"During the 1960 presidential election John F. Kennedy gave his support for the oil depletion allowance. In October, 1960, he said that he appreciated "the value and importance of the oil-depletion allowance. I realize its purpose and value... The oil-depletion allowance has served us well."
However, two years later, Kennedy decided to take on the oil industry. On 16th October, 1962, Kennedy was able to persuade Congress to pass an act that removed the distinction between repatriated profits and profits reinvested abroad. While this law applied to industry as a whole, it especially affected the oil companies. It was estimated that as a result of this legislation, wealthy oilmen saw a fall in their earnings on foreign investment from 30 per cent to 15 per cent.
On 17th January, 1963, President Kennedy presented his proposals for tax reform. This included relieving the tax burdens of low-income and elderly citizens. Kennedy also claimed he wanted to remove special privileges and loopholes. He even said he wanted to do away with the oil depletion allowance. It is estimated that the proposed removal of the oil depletion allowance would result in a loss of around $300 million a year to Texas oilmen.
After the assassination of Kennedy, President Lyndon Johnson dropped the government plans to remove the oil depletion allowance. Richard Nixon followed his example and it was not until the arrival of Jimmy Carter that the oil depletion allowance was removed."



June: President Kennedy calls for an end to the Cold War in major speech at American University

end to nuclear testing in the atmosphere by the United States and Soviet Union

November 22: President Kennedy assassinated



peak of world oil discovery

Capitol Beltway highway completed around Washington, D.C. - originally intended as a bypass, it becomes a crowded commuter route



Middle East oil production exceeds United States



April 4: Martin Luther King, Jr. gives major speech about the war on Vietnam

June: Six Day War: Suez Canal closed, as a result, Israel attacks Egypt, Jordan, Syria, seizes Sinai, West Bank, Gaza and Golan Heights



oil discovered on Alaska North Slope

April 4: Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated

June: Robert F. Kennedy assassinated on the verge of winning the Democratic Primary for President



oil discovered in North Sea

Apollo 11: first landing on the Moon



Peak of US petroleum production

US abandons gold standard for the dollar

Powell Memorandum urges corporations to reassert political supremacy in response to the environmental movement and other social change efforts. Powell was subsequently appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Nixon



Yom Kippur war: Egypt and Syria attack Israel

Saudi oil embargo results in gas lines in the United States

Nixon and Kissinger secretly contemplate seizing oil fields

Alaska Pipeline approved by Congressional vote exempting it from Federal law



Arab oil embargo ended

India tests its first nuclear bomb, developed from a supposedly peaceful nuclear power program

President Nixon enacts national 55 mph speed limit to reduce oil consumption

petrodollar recycling of extra profits from Arab oil sales

President Nixon forced out of office.



War on Viet Nam ends

oil drilling in North Sea begins



Alaska pipeline opens

President Carter gives a televised speech declaring that the energy crisis is the "moral equivalent of war"

CIA memo on Peak Oil and how it could be used to undermine the Soviet Union

"Team B" group of militarists seek to undermine normal intelligence estimates process at CIA to encourage major increases in military spending



Three Mile Island partial meltdown near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Iranian revolution hostage crisis

gas lines (again)

What I have to say to you now about energy is simple and vitally important.
Point one: I am tonight setting a clear goal for the energy policy of the United States. Beginning this moment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 -- never. From now on, every new addition to our demand for energy will be met from our own production and our own conservation. The generation-long growth in our dependence on foreign oil will be stopped dead in its tracks right now and then reversed as we move through the 1980s, for I am tonight setting the further goal of cutting our dependence on foreign oil by one-half by the end of the next decade -- a saving of over 4-1/2 million barrels of imported oil per day.
Point two: To ensure that we meet these targets, I will use my presidential authority to set import quotas. I'm announcing tonight that for 1979 and 1980, I will forbid the entry into this country of one drop of foreign oil more than these goals allow. These quotas will ensure a reduction in imports even below the ambitious levels we set at the recent Tokyo summit.
Point three: To give us energy security, I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our nation's history to develop America's own alternative sources of fuel -- from coal, from oil shale, from plant products for gasohol, from unconventional gas, from the sun.
...In closing, let me say this: I will do my best, but I will not do it alone. Let your voice be heard. Whenever you have a chance, say something good about our country. With God's help and for the sake of our nation, it is time for us to join hands in America. Let us commit ourselves together to a rebirth of the American spirit. Working together with our common faith we cannot fail.
Thank you and good night.
-- Jimmy Carter to the Nation, July 15, 1979.

Presidential Directive 59 states US policy is to win a six month long nuclear war

Soviet Union invades Afghanistan



Carter Doctrine - threatens nuclear war over the Persian Gulf oil fields

"Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force."
President Jimmy Carter
State of the Union Address, January 23, 1980

US Rapid Deployment Force created (now Central Command) focused on Middle East

September: Iraq attacks Iran, sought to seize oil rich provinces in western Iran for its own use. The United States encouraged Saddam Hussein to attack iran.

October Surprise deal between Reagan / Bush campaign and Iranian government to delay the release of the US Embassy hostages until after the Presidential election



Ronald Reagan inaugurated, US Embassy hostages released by Iranian government immediately afterwards in secret agreement, start of Iran-Contra scandal



Donald Rumsfeld meets with Saddam Hussein in Baghdad

1980s price collapse

Reagan on Defending American Oil Interests in the Gulf
Nov. 26, 1983
"…we should assign the highest priority to access arrangements which would facilitate the rapid deployment of those forces necessary to defend the critical oil facilities…"



April 26: Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine

Iran Contra scandal becomes public after mid-term Congressional elections



July: Iran-Contra hearings in Congress reveal covert plans for martial law.



peak of Alaskan oil production - Alaskan pipeline maxxed out at three quarter billion barrels a year

Iran / Iraq War ceasefire



fall of the Berlin Wall



July: US Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie tells Saddam Hussein that the US does not have a position on "Arab-Arab" border disputes

August 2: Iraq invades Kuwait. The United States Central Command is engaged in a war game exercise called "Internal Look" at this time that simulated Iraq invading Kuwait.

mid August: United States starts sending troops to Saudia Arabia, Operation "Desert Shield"



Desert Storm: US drives Iraq out of Kuwait, wrecks Iraqi infrastructure

Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA): NAFTA Superhighway law expands Interstate Highway system.

Soviet Union disintegrates



NAFTA Treaty: gives United States some powers over water and fossil energy resources in Canada and Mexico



Mar. 1994 Paul Wolfowitz
“The United States and the entire industrialized world have an enormous stake in the security of the Persian Gulf, not primarily in order to save a few dollars per gallon of gasoline but rather because a hostile regime in control of those resources could wreak untold damage on the world’s economy, and could apply that wealth to purposes that would endanger peace globally.” Wolfowitz concludes, “Given this permanent stake in the security of the Persian Gulf, the Gulf War provided an opportunity to base security on a foundation of credible commitment by the United States and its coalition partners.”



geologist Colin Campbell writes "The Coming Energy Crisis" about Peak Oil

a delegation from the Taliban in Afghanistan visit oil company executives in Houston, Texas to discuss trans-Afghan pipeline proposals



February 12: UNOCAL Vice President John J. Maresca testifies to House of Representatives committee that the Taliban must be removed from power to facilitate the trans-Afghanistan pipeline

March: Scientfic American publishes "The End of Cheap Oil" by Colin Campbell and Jean Laherrere

Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21): another NAFTA Superhighway expansion law

Clinton / Gore administration opens Naval Petroleum Reserve in north Alaska (west of Prudhoe Bay) to oil exploration

“The good Lord didn’t see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratically elected regimes friendly to the United States. Occasionally we have to operate in places where, all things considered, one would not normally choose to go. But, we go where the business is.” Dick Cheney
Collateral Damage Conference, Cato Institute June 23, 1998



Halliburton CEO Richard Cheney publicly admits Peak Oil in speech to the London petroleum club, stating that "by 2010 we will need on the order of an additional 50 million barrels a day ... The Middle East, with two-thirds of the oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize lies.”


2000 / Olduvai Theory

California energy crisis

disappointing returns from Caspian basin, 80% of initial drilling results in dry wells (early projections for over 200 billion barrels turn out to be an exaggeration)

Project for a New American Century states that US control of Iraq transcends the issue of Saddam Hussein, states a "new Pearl Harbor" is needed to accomplish their foreign policy and military goals

November and December: Gore / Bush election rigged by vote fraud in Florida (and other states), Supreme Court ratifies the theft



First cabinet meeting of the new Bush - Cheney administration includes discussion of how they are going to attack Iraq.

Cheney energy task force examines oil fields in the Middle East - where they are and what companies have business in them

“Along with Latin America, West Africa is expected to be one of the fastest-growing sources of oil and gas for the American market.” —->OFFICE OF VP DICK CHENEY, MAY 16th, 2001

May: Taliban in Afghanistan declare that opium growing is un-Islamic and destroy the current crop, which removes many billions from the world economy

Summer: dozens of warnings from US allies are received by the administration in Washington that 9/11 was about to happen - some of the warnings were very specific as to the what, when and where

September 11

October: anthrax attacks on the media and Democratic leadership in the US Senate

USA PATRIOT Act passed in US Congress

Enron collapse

United States invades Afghanistan, seizes control of world's largest opium production center, lets Osama Bin Laden escape into Pakistan

Michael Ruppert presents "The Truth and Lies of 9/11" at Portland State University, Oregon - proves 9/11 was not a surprise attack, identifies Peak Oil as the primary motivation for allowing the attacks

Kenneth Deffeyes, an associate of M. King Hubbert, publishes Hubbert’s Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage



first meeting of ASPO - the Association for the Study of Peak Oil



March: US Invasion of Iraq

ASPO annual meeting in Paris, France

Richard Heinberg publishes "The Party's Over"

Michael Meacher, British Member of Parliament and former member of Tony Blair's cabinet, writes an article stating that 9/11 was used to facilitate seizing the oil fields of the Middle East and that the "incompetence" defense cannot explain the failure to prevent the attacks

Post Carbon Institute formed to help community groups prepare for the end of cheap oil.




APRIL 2004
Jane's Foreign Report - The oil industry has been gripped by scandal since Royal Dutch/Shell twice this year downgraded its proven oil reserves by 20 per cent, or nearly 4bn barrels. Shell may not be alone.

End of Suburbia movie released

Crossing the Rubicon published

Abiotic disinformation campaign increased on the internet

Kerry / Bush "election"

Matt Simmons book "Twilight in the Desert" about Saudi Arabian oil peak



ASPO annual meeting in Portugal

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita damage Gulf of Mexico oil and gas production

SAFETEA-LU transportation law - another expansion of the Interstate Highway system

Congress passes Energy Policy Act of 2005, which removes local control over ultrahazardous facilities such as Liquid Natural Gas terminals and new interstate electrical transmission lines

Thanksgiving Day global peak predicted by Deffeyes

BTC pipeline opens from Azerbaijan to Turkey

Chad pipeline opens through Cameroon, billions invested for about two weeks worth of global oil consumption (increased focus on smaller deposits is a sign of desperation)



Community Solution - Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil film

Peak Oil and Environment conference in Washington, DC brings together environmental groups with peak oil awareness efforts

ASPO annual conference in Italy

November: From the Wilderness ceases publishing



Matthew Simmons publicly says the world has peaked

"Triple Crisis" conference in Washington, D.C. brings together Peak Oil and Climate Crisis awareness groups

ASPO annual meeting in Ireland

National Intelligence Estimate on Iran states that Iranian nuclear weapons development program was stopped in 2003, an enormous obstacle from the US intelligence agencies and military against plans for a US attack on Iran

US Congress passes modest increase in fuel efficiency requirements for cars, to take effect by 2020



Oil reaches $100 per barrel on January 2, the first trading day of the year. Shortly afterwards, gold reaches record prices (not counting for inflation).

January 2008 - International Energy Agency states that this month was a slightly higher than the previous peak production month in 2005
The Record Falls - January 2008 is the New World Record for Crude Oil (plus Condensate) Production
Posted by Nate Hagens on April 11, 2008