Peak Possibilities

Signs abound that oil production may be topping out. Is this the end of the world as we know it?

Frans Lemmens / Getty

Shell refineries in Pernis Harbor, Rotterdam, Holland.

In July 2006, the world's oil rigs pumped out crude at a rate of nearly 85.5 million bbl. a day. They haven't come close since, even as prices have risen from $75 to $98 per bbl. Which raises a question of potentially epochal significance: Is it all downhill from here?

It's not as if nobody predicted this. The true believers in what's called peak oil--a motley crew of survivalists, despisers of capitalism, a few billionaire investors and a lot of perfectly respectable geologists--have long cited the middle to end of this decade as a likely turning point.

In the oil industry...

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