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( Talking about “peak oil” can feel very last decade. In fact, the question is still current. Petroleum markets are so glutted and prices are so low that most industry commenters think any worry about future oil supplies is pointless. The glut and price dip, however, are hardly indications of a healthy industry; instead, they are symptoms of an increasing inability to match production cost, supply, and demand in a way that’s profitable for producers but affordable for society. Is this what peak oil looks like?

Back in the early years of the current millennium, I was among a handful of authors warning that world petroleum production rates would soon hit a maximum level and start to decline, and that the eventual result would be economic mayhem. But it’s now the latter half of 2016 and, according to the United States Energy Information Administration, world production of crude oil hit a new high in 2014 of almost 78 million barrels per day , while 2015’s average number was almost certainly higher still.

Yet something strange and ominous is indeed happening in the oil industry. And I’d argue that only those versed in peak-oil discourse are prepared to understand what that is, and what the likely emerging trends will be.