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Peak oil expert launches Frostic environmental series

Jan. 6, 2009

KALAMAZOO--Dr. Kenneth Deffeyes, a famed Princeton geologist who believes world oil production peaked three years ago, will speak at Western Michigan University at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 13.

Speaking in the Fetzer Center's Kirsch Auditorium, Deffeyes will be the first to speak as part of WMU's new Gwen Frostic Environmental Studies Seminar Series. The event is open to the public without charge.

In 2001, Deffeyes made the prediction that within the next decade, global oil production would reach a peak, and nothing could be done to prevent it. He made the assertion in his acclaimed book, "Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage." He updated his book with the 2005 work "Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak," and in early 2006, he announced he believes the world oil production peak occurred in December 2005. Using geology and economics in his writing, Deffeyes details how everything from rising grocery prices to the subprime mortgage crisis have been affected by shrinking crude oil supplies and increased oil prices.

Deffeyes' books take their name from resource estimation work and a theory developed in 1956 by M. King Hubbert, a Shell Oil geoscientist who maintained that for any geographical area, oil production could be plotted on a bell-shaped curve. Much maligned at the time, Hubbert correctly forecast peak oil would hit the continental United States in the early 1970s. Since then, professional and armchair scientists and economists have attempted to accurately pinpoint when the global peak would occur.

Deffeyes is professor emeritus of geology at Princeton University, having taught there from 1967 until his retirement in 1998. Before beginning his teaching career, he worked alongside Hubbert at Shell Oil's Houston research laboratory. His professional background also includes a teaching and research post at Oregon State University.

The series that begins with the Deffeyes lecture is named for WMU alumna Gwen Frostic, a noted artist and naturalist who died in 2001. Her nearly $13 million bequest remains the largest private gift in University history.

Coordinated and sponsored by the University Environmental Studies Program, the Jan. 13 event is also cosponsored by the Department of Geosciences, the College of Arts and Sciences, the WMU Geology Club, the student chapter of the American Association of Professional Geologists and CoreKids initiative in the Michigan Geological Repository for Research and Education.

A reception for the speaker will immediately follow the talk at the Fetzer Center.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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