Oral History Transcript — Dr. M. King Hubbert
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M. King Hubbert; February 3, 1989
ABSTRACT: Born in Texas in 1903; influence of remote, rural environment on his upbringing and early education. Attended Weatherford Junior College until 1923; studies at University of Chicago, B.A. in 1926, M.A. in 1928, and Ph.D. (formally awarded) in 1937. Comments on courses, teachers and fellow students at Chicago, including J. Harlan Bretz and Rollin T. Chamberlin. Summer research at Amerada Petroleum Corporation (Oklahoma), Illinois State Geological Survey, and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), late 1920s to early 1930s. First teaching position at Columbia University; research on ground-water motion; involvement in Technocracy Movement, 1930s. Marriage to Miriam Graddy Berry, 1938. Senior analyst on staff of Board of Economic Warfare, 1942-1943; deepening commitment to issue of natural resources. Thoughts on limited interactions between geologists and geophysicists; work in advisory committees on geophysics education, 1930s to 1940s. Theory of scale models, 1937; related research involving strength of solids. Career at Shell Oil Company and Shell Development Company, 1943-1964; directs research laboratory at Shell, perspectives on industry environment for scientific research. Lecture tours to geological, industrial, and policy groups, 1940s to 1960s; involvement in Atomic Energy Commission, National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council, advisory committees. Research with W. W. Rubey on overthrust faulting. Deepening interest in oil and natural gas reserves; responses from officials in petroleum corporations and federal government to his predictions of local, national, and worldwide reserves, 1950s to 1960s. Research geophysicist at USGS, 1964-1976, after retirement from Shell; studies of natural resources and conflicts over his conclusions involving other scientists at USGS. Visiting professorships at Stanford University, Johns Hopkins University, University of California, Berkeley, 1962-1977. Continued involvement in issue of geophysical education at American universities and in studies of natural resources, 1950s to 1970s.
Doel:We've been talking about your involvement in oil and gas reserve research. I was curious about the decision that you made to join the Geological Survey in 1964. It was also the time that you were retiring from Shell.
Hubbert:Yes. Really, it goes back earlier than that. I was with the Geological Survey back in the mid-thirties. I took part in field party work, and tried to build geophysical work in Southern Illinois and in Kentucky and Alabama.
Doel:Right. That had at first been part of the Illinois Survey and then moved on to the USGS.
Hubbert:That's right. It started in Illinois. They ran out of money and it was transferred over to the USGS, which had a block of WPA money. I was an associate geologist with the Geological Survey and in charge of a field party that was continuing work that I had been doing for two or three years before. Anyhow, I had very good relations with the Geological Survey. In the thirties my principal intellectual friends that I had talked with were in the Geological Survey rather than in Columbia, and I frequently came down to discuss problems I was working on with friends in the Geological Survey.
Doel:Down to Washington?
Hubbert:Yes. I mean, not a special trip, but if I was coming to Washington, I'd make an appointment to have time with some of my friends in the Survey. Just for background, I had a very very high regard for the Geological Survey as a scientific organization at this time. In fact, it must have been in the mid-fifties, I don't remember the exact date, there was a vacancy in the directorship of the Geological Survey. There was a committee of the National Academy of Sciences whose responsibility was to review the possible new directors and make their recommendations. And I didn't know anything about the work of this committee, except that I learned about it on one of these trips to Washington, and I found out that by that time, if we can put a date on this, this was — well, I don't, but it was sometime around early to middle fifties, as I recall.
Hubbert:This recommendation went to the Secretary of the Interior, and the three candidates were recommended, one of whom was Tom Nolan. That recommendation had gone in, and no response to it had been received in something like six months.
Doel:Who had the recommendation gone to?
Hubbert:The Secretary of the Interior. And so the Geological Survey people were a little bit disturbed over the situation. They had three men, and the Secretary had not responded at all. Well, having learned what the situation was, I went back to Houston and wrote a letter to the Secretary, pointing out that the Geological Survey was one of the great scientific institutions not only of the government but of the country, and I reviewed these three nominees and recommended Nolan for the job. I pointed out that although I was writing from a Shell Development Company, I think it was, and was myself a petroleum geologist, that Nolan was primarily a mining geologist or metal geologist, that that did not enter into the considerations that I thought he was the proper man for the job. A very short time after that letter — I never received a response to it — Nolan was appointed.
Doel:That's very interesting. Do you know why the decision had been held up?
Hubbert:No. It could be expected, the explanation would be that none of these nominees were politically agreeable to the Secretary of the Interior, and he may have got a lot of other static from other sources, recommending or pushing somebody else for the job. But anyhow he was undecided. He hadn't done anything.
Doel:Do you recall who the other two candidates were?
Hubbert:I recall but I won't mention their names. It's one of those things. I think I'd better not.
Hubbert:But anyhow the appointment was announced shortly after this letter. Whether the letter had anything to do with it, I have no idea. I got no reply to my letter. But the stalemate was broken up. Tom has been the assistant director since the middle thirties. No, middle forties, I guess, when William Wrather was the director, and Tom was assistant director or some such title. So he had about ten years of experience in the management of the Geological Survey, and he was eminently qualified to take over the job, and better so than the other two candidates, in my opinion, and so he was in due course appointed. So that hasn't answered your question yet.
Doel:Has that been standard procedure, that the Academy review the possible candidates for the Survey?
Hubbert:It still is. They've done it recently. OK, that's background. And here I was with Shell, and Shell had a statutory retirement date of age 60 years. Well, that's too early to retire, when you're still vigorous and going places. So the question was, what do I do when I retire?
Doel:Did you discuss with anybody at Shell the possibility that you might stay on longer, to work around there?
Hubbert:No. No. In fact, I didn't particularly want to. I was perfectly happy to sign off at this stage. I'd done at Shell what I was capable of doing except more of the same, and I wasn't averse to a change. So where do I go from there? Well, fortunately I was kind of like a wheel with three hay stacks. Well, to back up a little more to the Geological Survey in 1956 was when I gave this AAPG paper. I was at a meeting in Denver, I told you, shortly after that. I gave a preprint copy of that to the geologist M. H. Bradley of the Geological Survey. When he got back, he was enthusiastic about this and asked could I give him 150 copies to distribute to the members of the Geologic branch of the Geological Survey. The following year, the Geological Society of America met in New York. At that meeting I was approached by Preston Cloud who was the head of the Paleontology Division, whatever it was called, branch or something. But he was an emissary for Bradley with the following proposition, that the Geological Survey by recent legislation had two slots for the top grade of supergrade appointments, grade 18, which is the highest ever. One of these slots was for Bill Rubey and the other one was offered to me. I had to turn it down, for two reasons. One was the pay was only about half what I was getting with Shell. Secondly, I was within seven years of retirement with a permanent pension from Shell and financially I couldn't afford it, to sacrifice financially to that extent. So, to my deep regret, I had to say no. All right. When I did retire from Shell, I still had an offer to come back to the Geological Survey, but that particular slot was no longer available. But I'd been invited out to Stanford. There was a play, actually, to try to set me up permanently, two years before retirement.
Doel:This was in 1962, at Stanford?
Hubbert:About, I forget. Then they offered me a job to take over the petroleum geology work at Stanford. Maybe they asked me for advice or something of the sort on filling this vacancy, and I wrote back and said that I would recommend filling the vacancy in petroleum geology, only I thought that the type of thing ought to be much broader than that, of which this was only a detail but not limited to that. I also got a letter indicating that they wondered if I'd be interested myself, or something of the sort. Well, my work at Shell was such at the time that I could spare a quarter — 3 months — pretty much without upsetting anything, I could go out and teach for one quarter at Stanford and help them out in their transition period, but subject to the constraints or conditions that I was still working for Shell full time and Shell was paying my salary, and subject to, prior to that, if the president of Shell and the president of Stanford agreed to this, and on whatever financial arrangements between them they wanted to make, that I was simply on loan from Shell. Stanford could pay Shell or whatever. Well, there was such a conference and word came back, OK. And part of the arrangement was, Shell would simply loan me to Stanford and Stanford paid my living expenses and that was it.
Doel:Were there any other arrangements that came about between Stanford and Shell at that time?
Hubbert:No, it was just a temporary one-shot affair.
Hubbert:So I was a visiting professor, and then the question of what title did I want. Well, the same as I had in Shell when I was asked what kind of consultant was I, and I said general geologist. At Stanford I said, "Geology and Geophysics." Professor of Geology and Geophysics. The reason for it was that I didn't want any barriers as to what I might do. So I went out there as a visiting professor of geology and geophysics. But their idea of what I would do actually, the dean of the school, was that I would sit around and bull session with the students. Well, I had no intention of sitting around and bull sessioning with the students. I was perfectly willing to do that on the side but not as a part of my occupation.
Doel:Did you have a discussion with him about that?
Doel:Once you got out there?
Hubbert:Yes. Well, before. I said, "What I propose to do is give a course on the physics of underground flow — an advanced course." That kind of jolted him but they agreed to that. And so that was my primary responsibility for that quarter. And my students were petroleum engineers, general geologists, geophysicists, groundwater.
Doel:Was this on the graduate and undergraduate level?
Hubbert:Senior undergraduate and graduate. It was that level. Well, it presumed an amount of physics and mathematics, say mathematics through calculus, and certainly general physics. More or less I carried on from there.
Doel:Right. I'm curious about how much work had already been done at Stanford in geophysics?
Hubbert:They had a Shell geophysics department. In their setup, there was the School of Mineral Sciences, I believe they called it, and they had about three different departments. They had a geology department, a mining department, and the geophysics. All those were under the blanket of the School of Mineral Sciences or some summary title, and the dean was the dean of the school and the separate departments had their department chairmen. So OK, we did that, and we repeated it again the following year. Then it was coming to the time, the end of 1960 when I was due to retire from Shell. And they were all poised that I would just come on out to Stanford. Well, that wasn't exactly my opinion. But at the same time, I was propositioned in the late fifties about coming to the University of California at Berkeley.
Doel:This started in the late fifties?
Hubbert:Yes. 1958 or so.
Hubbert:Well, when Rubey and I had written these papers on overthrust faulting, Rubey took a job at the Institute of Geophysics and the Department of Geology at Stanford, and he transferred out there about 1959. It was about the same date or about — I think before Rubey had got there — I was invited to come out as a regents' professor at UCLA. That would be for three months.
Doel:Was that the Institute for Geophysics at UCLA?
Hubbert:No, it was the department of geology. I'd be a guest of the entire UCLA.
Doel:Were your sponsors in the geology department?
Hubbert:I don't really know. It came to me from the geology department but it may have involved the Institute of Geophysics.
Hubbert:As well. I was a good friend of Louis Slichter and so on. Well, I couldn't accept that. I couldn't afford the time. Not only that but the pay was less than I was getting and it would cost me a fair amount of money. So my reply was that I couldn't afford the time, the three months. But a secondary thing that was called a [unclear] Instructorship and that was only I think three weeks. So I agreed to the instructorship, and I went out for three weeks. During that three weeks, they put the heat on me to join. Rubey was going to be there. He wasn't there yet, I believe, but he was coming, and they'd have the pair of us there. We'd just been working together on a paper, this faulting thing, and the heat was on pretty strong.
Doel:Outside of the financial constraints, did it seem very tempting to you?
Hubbert:Well, I'd say there were enough negative things about it that I probably would have turned it down. One of them was the climate. My asthma and what not, the foul climate there, I was very scared of it.
Hubbert:A second was that I've got more relatives, more family in the LA area than any other place in the United States, and my family is a pretty clannish group. They do an awful lot of family socializing, here at somebody's house, and somebody else's house, on Saturdays and Sundays, and I don't like to do that kind of thing. I mean, once a year or something of the sort, but not every few weeks. And I was very very leery about getting involved in a situation where I was surrounded by relatives. So those two things together practically blanked out UCLA. So what I had then was Berkeley, Stanford and UCLA. Any one of them was a top ranking professorship at a top ranking university. Stanford was just sure I'd come there, I'd been there for two years, and surely I'd stay on. Well, in the meantime, I hadn't agreed to that, but I had a standing offer from the Geological Survey, and on their board of advisors to Stanford was Tom Nolan. The dean of the school there was Charlie Park, who was an ex-Survey man. So apparently when Tom went out there for a meeting of the advisory board or committee, they had a little private powwow between them, and agreed to continue the arrangement between the USGS and Stanford that I'd had the last two years between Shell and Stanford, and that was that I'd continue teaching one quarter of the year, but I was nominally a full-time employee of the Geological Survey. I think they both considered that I would be right next door to Stanford, as Menlo Park was the original headquarters of the USGS. So I think they both thought that I would be in Menlo Park. But that wasn't my idea.
Doel:Had you talked already with Tom Nolan about these possibilities?
Hubbert:Not particularly, no.
Hubbert:But the whole thing was that I would continue my interests, the interest in these energy and mineral resource things. The whole country was in a mess over the thing with misinformation all over the place. And especially with the performance of the USGS following in parallel through the 1960's. So I would be where I could have possibly some influence. National influence. And I could do that far better in Washington than on the Pacific Coast.
Doel:Right. Did you talk about that with Tom Nolan?
Hubbert:Well, not in those terms. So I had this standing offer from the Survey. They didn't have a grade 18 anymore but they could give me a grade 17. And the arrangement was that I would be full time at the Geological Survey, but there was a provision for a leave of absence without pay, without sacrificing your employment status, up to a maximum of six months a year. So this was three months. That was a perfectly satisfactory arrangement. And so that's what I did. I took the Geological Survey appointment here and at Stanford then, I was no longer a visiting professor, I was a full professor with tenure.
Hubbert:In geophysics. Well, in the meantime, I had to have a place to live in Washington. I'd been camping in temporary railroad apartments, with most of my things in storage. When I first came there, I thought I'd look around and pick a house and buy it and move in. Well, it turned out not to be that easy. Any house I'd be willing to live in cost more than my entire salary. And the houses that were available were these little dinky houses, that I think they're Georgian design, anyway they call them Georgian. Well, this little house here was one.
Doel:Right, the original house where we are now.
Hubbert:Yes. So — small rooms, no garage — central heating but no air conditioning — etc. Well, I wanted year-round air conditioning and I wanted a two car garage, and I wanted large rooms, including a place to work. A study. And so on. Well, I hunted for about a year, unsuccessfully. I knew this street because my friend Bill Rubey lived at the end of the street.
Hubbert:And he by this time had just gone to California and sold his house. I would have bought his house if I'd been here at the time. But I knew the street. It was a quiet dead-end street. These houses were all built about 1935 by the same builder who did not bulldoze all the trees down. And so the woman I had searching for a place to live—she actually went down this street and rang doorbells.
Doel:Is that so?
Hubbert:And on this one, the owner was a man who was here from Stanford, and he'd just been offered a job at Stanford, in the Stanford administration, had to do with foreign students or something. So the house was for sale, or would be, within the year. I looked it over. There was room behind here to build this extension. There's room on the side for a two car garage. The garage they had was about right for a Model T Ford. They parked the car in the drive and used that for storage. I had an architect look it over, about what it would cost to build an extension, and he gave a figure of about 50 thousand dollars.
Hubbert:Yes. Plus the cost of the house. Well, the house and lot were available for 50 thousand dollars, and the lot itself, vacant. There are very few vacant lots in Washington, but those that were available would have cost 50 thousand dollars without the house. I would have paid 50 thousand dollars for the lot with no house. I didn't want the house, I wanted the lot. But it had a house on it. So I looked it over and said, no, and hunted some more, and then I said, well, maybe, and finally we said, "What the hell, let's move, go to Washington and buy it and build, build onto it." So that's what we did. We drew the basic plans, the floor plans and everything, before we ever talked to an architect. When we did get an architect he said, well, he'd make some sketches and show them to us, and so he cut my living area up there and this area here [large ground floor study, where interview took place] down to about half and had Miriam's kitchen back in what is now the space between the garage and the kitchen, which had been a bedroom, and looking out a window into where the garbage cans would be put, instead of a picture window looking out into the woods here, and so he brought that in. We looked it over. We said, "When we came with these plans, we meant it." Well, he kind of backed up, jolted, said, "You'd better reconsider." So then we went ahead, and that slanting roof upstairs, I think I told you that we got the idea from the Dulles Airport.
Doel:That's right, you had mentioned that.
Hubbert:So the only thing the architect did, as far as the planning goes — I mean he did the detail, the drafting, the specifications, but as far as the floor plan goes, the only modification he made of any significance was this stairwell and the front door. He moved the front door, which was a little narrow space, a little narrow stair going down to this level, and this was an 8 x 8 maybe a study or something, small office, and took that out, made an open stairwell, and moved the front door over to a proper entry, and that was the only architectural change that he made. All the rest was what we specified.
Doel:Right. The roof that you have is very distinctive.
Hubbert:Anyhow, I don't know how we got off on this, but we were talking about Geological Survey.
Doel:Right, and problems of moving into Washington.
Hubbert:Yes. OK, in parallel to that, here I was going out three months every winter out to Stanford. Actually, we bought — this little house, and it was almost a year certainly one winter — before we could get started on contracts and construction and so on. Vandals were throwing rocks through the windows and so forth. Kids across the street were shooting with a hand gun in the windows. So it was perfectly obvious it wasn't a good idea to leave a house unattended in Washington, even if it was unoccupied at that time. So after we built this and we moved in about '65, and we continued to go out to Stanford then for the next couple of years or so, but it was not good. For example, if the heat went off you could freeze all the pipes in the place, and you could wreck the place with water, or you could have a fire or you could have vandalism. And so that being the case, I'd done about all I could do at Stanford and it came time to sign off. So I simply signed off at Stanford and was full time here.
Doel:Right. I want to turn back to that when we've talked a little more about the oil and gas work that you've done and talked some more about your university experiences. When you started with the Survey, did you discuss the kinds of work that you'd be doing with them?
Hubbert:No, I didn't. I should have but I didn't. But I took it for granted that I would be continuing work of the kind that I'd been doing before. When I got on the Survey, then I found out that there'd been a little politics behind the scene to try to keep me out of oil and gas.
Doel:This had been at McKelvey's urging?
Hubbert:McKelvey was in charge there.
Doel:This was the time that McKelvey was already the chief geologist?
Hubbert:The chief geologist. So when I got here and looked over what my work assignment was, it didn't have anything to do with oil and gas or energy resources.
Doel:What was your title?
Hubbert:I think my title was Research Geophysicist, to be working on structural geological problems and things of that sort. I had no objection to that, but it wasn't what I was primarily interested in doing. Well, however, in parallel with that, see, I was signed off of…well, in 1963, I'd been propositioned by the Research Council, my predecessor in charge of Earth Science Division of the Research Council. His term of office would end at the end of '63, and so the successor ought to be on for about a year as an understudy before taking over. My predecessor was Jim Gilluly, and it was he who proposed me as a successor, and I was duly appointed. So I was at Stanford in the winter quarter, and was en route to Houston and then to Washington, for the spring meeting of the Academy and the Research Council. That was when I was going to start my apprenticeship. Well, en route I stopped in Denver, as a matter of fact in Glenbury or somewhere west of Denver the night before, and called Jim Gilluly on the telephone to see if I could see him on Sunday.
Doel:Right. Of course Gilluly was stationed out in Denver.
Hubbert:He sounded kind of gruff and grumpy, and didn't sound as if everything was quite right, but he did agree that I could come in at 10 o'clock in the morning to his house for a visit. When I got there, his wife met me at the door and said that Jim had had a heart attack two days before. He didn't tell me that. She was very very concerned about him, of course. And so she wanted me to make this visit very quick and get out. Which I did. So he went immediately to the hospital after that, and I went on to Washington.
Doel:Did you talk with him about the Survey or the NRC during that meeting, or was it very very brief?
Hubbert:No. It was entirely related to the Research Council. But when a man's just had a heart attack, you don't talk about many things, you get the hell out.
Hubbert:So I came on to the meeting, and I was supposed to have a year's apprenticeship, but I was put in the position of having to take over at once. And not only that, but the experienced executive secretary who really did all the work — it was a continuous thing in the office. Len Hoover had just taken a job with the Geological Institute. So he was leaving. Here I was coming in as a total neophyte, and hired couple of guys maybe Len Hoover may have been at that meeting, propping me up at the meeting of the Research Council, and more or less telling me what to say or at least what the situation was. So I formally responded to questions, but these guys had been briefing me in advance and were standing by to amplify.
Doel:I'm curious about that. What kinds of issues were coming up at that Council meeting?
Hubbert:I can't tell you exactly, but it was a whole raft of things — nuclear waste problems, hydraulic problems, resources, energy resources were involved.
Doel:Certainly you were well acquainted with certain of those.
Hubbert:Yes. So as I say, I had to take over at once. I had no executive secretary. And Jim was writing letters from the hospital, giving me background on this, that or the other question. He was much concerned about it. He mentioned the possibility that he'd learned that Earl Cooke who was the dean of the School of Mines at the University of Idaho was a possibility for this job.
Doel:As a substitute for Len Hoover?
Hubbert:As his successor. Well, I never heard of Earl Cook before, but I called him on the telephone and talked with him, and he was interested, and I invited him to Washington. Well, I wasn't in Washington when he came, so he was interviewed by other people on the staff who were (??) anyway and we hired him. Well, he turned out to be a very very competent guy. One thing that I was the most nervous about was that he was a total stranger to the East Coast and East Coast universities. He was a West Coast man, he'd been to the University of Washington, University of Idaho, and he was the dean of the School of Mines at Idaho, but he didn't know the East, and we were having to build some very sensitive committees, on very sensitive questions.
Doel:Right, political, largely.
Hubbert:Yes, and all of those committees, we had a list of people who would just love to get on the committee for reasons of their own, and those were the ones that you had to keep out. So, since a good deal of that legwork had to be done at the various universities, all up and down the East Coast of the United States and interviewing people and so on, I was a little apprehensive. I get back here and there was a meeting here at…I forget the name of it, where all these conferences and meetings were held and so on, and that was a several day conference. There came in late in the afternoon or about dinner time a great big guy. He was the type that I call a bulldozer personality, and he was from the University of Michigan, and he'd seen Earl Cook a few days or a week or so before, and he was very very interested in being on this committee. Well, I looked him over and talked with him, sat next to him at dinner, and saw that I wouldn't have him on the committee under any conditions. So after that meeting I saw Cook. I said, "I met this man from Michigan. I understand that you talked with him about this. What's your opinion of him for this committee?" Thumbs down. [laughter].
Doel:You felt better about him then?
Hubbert:He came to the same conclusion. Neither one of us wanted the guy. Anyhow, Cook and I hit it off very well indeed. In fact, he did his doctor's degree under Macken also.
Doel:Is that so?
Hubbert:Under Hoover Mackin, who had also been a field assistant in the summer. I'd called with regard to Cook, before we'd made any move at all. I talked it over with Macken, and he kind of hesitated. I found out, whether he told me on the telephone or later, I don't remember, but his misgiving about it was that he was afraid Earl Cook and I would fight like cats and dogs.
Hubbert:Actually we hit it off very well together.
Doel:Yes. How well did you know Hoover Mackin?
Hubbert:I knew him when he was a graduate student.
Hubbert:At Columbia. OK. Well, he took over as an outsider, stranger, teaching at universities and so on, very very able. And to carry this a step further, I only served two years, that was the normal period. I would normally have been there from '64 to '66 but it was '63.
Hubbert:1965. I didn't want to go on any longer than that. Shortly after, about a year later, I was in the Cosmos Club one day for lunch, and I encountered the head of meteorology at the University of Chicago. Oh yes, prior to that, I'd been offered the dean of the school of earth sciences or geosciences at Texas A and M, which I'd turned down, and this man from Chicago was given the job. We ran into each other at the Cosmos Club. And he said that he was looking for an associate dean, and whether he'd talked to Earl Cook I don't know but anyhow he had Earl Cook's name. I gave him a little rundown of the things I'd just told you, that he was a very able administrator with very good judgment of people. The man said, "OK, I'll go right out and see him." He did and hired him. So Cook wound up as his successor dean of the school, and also a professor of geology and geography.
Hubbert:Yes. He was also interested — well, I practically educated him in mineral resources, and he was up to his ears in that and related things ever after. So he did a magnificent job. But he died of a heart attack about four years ago. OK, we digressed, let's get back on the subject.
Doel:You're doing fine. These digressions are very interesting, and I wouldn't want to lose them. When you were addressing the division of the earth sciences during the two years that you were on the committee, what were the principal questions? What things required immediate attention, that you spent the most time on?
Hubbert:Oh, no question, it was waste disposal. Nuclear waste.
Doel:Which of course you'd worked on earlier.
Hubbert:We had the committee, a continuing committee on that subject from 1955. In fact, the committee was winding up, because they had been so critical of the AEC that the AEC wanted to get rid of them. So they'd sat doing nothing for about two years. I called in my AEC representative and I said, "Look, I'm not going to have a committee staying on and doing nothing. Either this committee is active or we'll discharge it." So they said, "Well, let's make one more round of Oak Ridge, Savannah River, Hanford, and so on, and write a report on that. Then we'll decide what to do." So that was the last go-round of that committee. We did make these rounds. Earl Cook was on all of these, and the principal author of the committee's report. The committee was discharged, and they then got a new committee that was more amenable, more what they wanted.
Doel:The AEC's concern at that time was to find a relatively easy way, painless way of disposing waste?
Hubbert:No, what they really wanted was to have a disposal site at each one of these places, and we told them emphatically that these places weren't located with regard to waste disposal. There was no place to dispose, no suitable waste disposable site at any one of these major institutions. The last go round was Savannah River, and at Savannah River, you have Tertiary, young sediments, to roughly a thousand feet. The bottom of that was a thick sand, Tuscaloosa sand, of two or three hundred feet thick, which is one of the major fresh water bearing aquifers on the Eastern seaboard. Immediately under that were these basement rocks. And they were proposing at the time to mine out a tunnel, about a quarter of a mile long or so. And they were going to put these nuclear wastes in this tunnel under the assumption that they wouldn't leak.
Doel:Where was it to be located? Underneath the plant and below the bedrock?
Hubbert:Yes. But just by the Savannah River plant. These rocks were full of cracks, fractures going like this, and I recommended to them that they send men to go down into mines on the Eastern seaboard. The water is coming in all these cracks, if you get a lot of rain you flood the mines. I don't think they ever did. But that's a long story all by itself.
Doel:We've covered that already in part. What I'd like to do is talk again about the work that you were doing in the mid-1960's, after you'd already completed the NAS report on oil and gas reserves.
Hubbert:OK, let's get back to the NRC again, National Research Council.
Doel:There's one thing that I was curious about that we haven't covered yet. In 1965 C.O. Moore had presented research to the Operations Research Society of America, I believe, in Boston, on estimates of oil and gas reserves. Had you been in contact with him?
Doel:About those estimates?
Hubbert:Well, we've got a different subject here. We'd better take them one at a time. The National Research Council, and then Pres Cloud, who was at the University of Minnesota — he had been with some group or other, with the recommendation that emerged that they ought to review the energy and oil resource things about every five years or so, keep them up to date.
Doel:Right. This wasn't principally because of the disagreements about the research methodology?
Hubbert:What all was behind the scene, I don't exactly know, but Pres Cloud and McKelvey were jointly advising the Secretary of the Interior at that time about the energy balloon book, commenting upon that period. All right. So, what politics were back of this, I don't know. Anyhow, they wrote a very persuasive proposal that we ought to set up a committee to review again mineral and energy resources. Well, we passed it along to the machinery of the Research Council and it was agreed. No sooner has it been agreed to, before Pres Cloud disappeared for a solid year into thin air and left the committee high and dry when he'd just been appointed. Well, he'd got a Rockefeller fund award or grant or whatever it was, and he had at the same time a sabbatical leave from the Survey. So he made this trip around the world all of a sudden and left the committee stranded.
Doel:There was no way of delegating the authority?
Hubbert:Pres Cloud is not inclined to delegate the authority. OK. When he did get back, we finally did get started on this. That was the final result, and it was published in 1969, I believe, as a — it was written as a report of this committee. The names of the members of the committee and the various committee members wrote various chapters of this.
Doel:Right. We're talking about Marston Bates and John Chapman.
Hubbert:All right. Marston Bates was an ecologist, biologist. Chapman was a geographer, University of British Columbia. Nathan Kafitz was a demographer, but apparently without anybody else's knowledge or consideration, Pres Cloud fired him off the committee.
Doel:Is that so? What reason was there for doing that?
Hubbert:I don't know. But this was the arbitrary manner of Pres Cloud, and what went on between the two of them, I don't know. Run down the index, you find internationally prominent scientists, physical chemists, meteorologists and so on. William E. Ricker was a biologist from a marine laboratory in Canada. I don't remember the location but it's somewhere in the Pacific region. Tom Lovering was with the USGS, and mineral resources from the land, and Pres Cloud, mineral resources from the sea.
Doel:And yours, of course.
Hubbert:I didn't intend to serve on this committee.
Doel:How did that come about?
Hubbert:Well, my colleagues on the NIAC practically tortured me to serve on the committee, said I had to serve on the committee, to look after the energy resources. And I did this, and very promptly ran into friction with Pres Cloud. At one of our meetings, I was saying that the evidence only supports so much oil and gas. Pres Cloud said, "That's your opinion, but everybody doesn't agree with you." That type of thing. The result was that somebody else, not a member of the committee at least, was doing the work on oil and gas.
Doel:There was to be a separate section on that, but Pres Cloud had concerns about your writing the report?
Hubbert:Yes. So all right, I gave ground and I said, OK, I'd like to have Hollis Hedburg, the Vice President of Gulf. Well, Hollis Hedburg wasn't available. So I got one of the chief experts of Standard Oil of New Jersey to handle the crude oil. For natural gas I got the chairman of the gas committee. There had been a committee on natural gas of the American Gas Association. And sometime around the middle sixties, the news came out that this Committee had been, well, not fired, but they had written a report which in the opinion of the Gas Committee was too low. [laughs]. They had in effect fired the committee, or at least they refused to accept the report and the committee resigned, and got a new base in the University of Colorado, Colorado School of Mines. Their report at the time predicted, oh, I think, 1100 or so trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Doel:What method were they using, this committee?
Hubbert:I don't know. Not being on the committee, I don't know.
Doel:OK. You didn't have much contact with them?
Hubbert:I never heard of the committee until I read about it in the GAS JOURNAL somewhere. But anyhow, the chairman, I did know the chairman, I'm trying to remember his name now. So I proposed him for natural gas, and the Standard New Jersey man for oil. The New Jersey man was named L. P. Wyman.
Doel:OK, we're on page 194, of resources report.
Hubbert:Table 2. The potential gas committee. B. Warren Beebe. He was chairman.
Hubbert:So I got him for natural gas and as I say they had come up with a figure of somewhere around 1250. The best figure I could justify was somewhere in the neighborhood of 1000 or 1050. So I gave a table and cited their figures, but I also pointed out there that it looked as if they were about 200 trillion too many.
Doel:About 20 percent too many.
Hubbert:Yes. And Wyman gave his breakdown: He was primarily for the world, different areas and so on. Anyhow, this report came out about the end of 1969, and Pres again saying a higher rate.
Doel:This volume was published by W. H. Freeman?
Hubbert:That's right. Well, Pres again without consulting the committee promoted the deal with the Freeman Company to publish the report as a book.
Doel:You had no inkling that that was under way?
Hubbert:I don't think we had. We weren't consulted.
Doel:What expectation did you have for it?
Hubbert:Pres was one of the most arbitrary people in the world. I mean, when he's charming he's very very charming, and he can also be very very dogmatic and inclined to be high handed individually. Now, this was a good thing. Fortunately the Academy had a copyright on the report, so a contract was made between Freeman and the Academy giving Freeman the right to publish it in English and also in translation, for foreign countries. Well, Freeman did a beautiful job by printing the report as is, and with a little bit of introduction by the president of the Academy and different things of that sort. They then distributed the thing free with hundreds of copies to schools and universities, so that the report was put out as a thousand copies maybe and how many, a hundred copies maybe would be more likely for the Academy. Freeman printed a thousand and distributed hundreds of copies free to educational institutions. So it had a tremendous effect. But the next thing was Pres Cloud's arbitrariness. I got a copy of a German book already published in German in which this report had been seriously butchered.
Doel:How is that?
Hubbert:Parts of it had been taken out. I don't remember whether there was any rewriting. They were mostly deletions. Who did that? Pres Cloud.
Doel:Taken directly out?
Hubbert:I was so mad about it that I objected strongly. I wrote to members of the committee over this business, and to the publisher. And so they got a little high-handed, that after all they had a contract to distribute this thing. I got a copy of the contract, and all the contract said was that this report could be distributed. No authorization for changing in the report. This was a Research Council of the Academy report. Nobody could change it without the permission of the people who wrote it.
Doel:Were there serious misconceptions in the one printed in Germany?
Hubbert:It was so bad that I wouldn't want to see it in print. I've got a copy of it on the shelf over there. Well, I raised so much hell about this and my clincher was finally that they were being very arbitrary, the Freeman people were being very arbitrary, that after all they had a contract to do this. So I read their contract, and I pointed out to them that the contract said that they might reproduce the report but not alter it. And they killed it.
Doel:That was the end of that translation in German?
Hubbert:Of that expurgated edition. But Pres Cloud never apologized or anything. But that was done without consultation among the members of the committee.
Doel:How much interaction did you have with Preston Cloud outside of the committee? Did you know him well from earlier times?
Hubbert:Well, I knew him quite well. I'd been a guest at his house in Minnesota. And we had very friendly relations. But this arbitrary side of him I didn't run into until we got on this committee. And he was pretty insufferable. So much so that I've had very little dealings with him since.
Doel:Did you have much contact with other members of the committee? How often would all of you be meeting together when this book was put together?
Hubbert:Two or three times in the entire period, two that I can remember. One was in Seattle and one was here at the University of Maryland. Those are two that I recall, but there probably was another one. Oh yes, we had one out here at this place in West Virginia. We had three meetings that I can remember.
Doel:Were there any discussions that were particularly memorable from those meetings?
Hubbert:Well, there were mostly early reviews of reports that were in preparation. And the one in Maryland, I remember, there was one distinctive item that I recall. They had this man Barnett who was one of the invited participants, people presenting a presentation at that meeting. Well, I had met Barnett once before but this was the first time that I ever heard him give an account of…I don't know how far you know his work. Do you know anything about it?
Doel:No, I'm not familiar with Barnett.
Hubbert:Does the name mean anything to you?
Hubbert:Well, that goes back to the very early days of Resources For the Future. He and another man wrote a book, published by Resources for the Future.
Doel:Published under their imprint?
Hubbert:Yes. Johns Hopkins University Press printed all these books from Resources for the Future. I suppose they still do. But the editing was done and the writing was done by the Resources for the Future people.
Doel:What was Barnett's connection with Resources for the Future?
Hubbert:He may have been a member of the staff at that time. I'm not sure. He had a miscellaneous career. He'd been some time in the Bureau of Mines, in Washington, back in the—I don't know just when, right after the war, I think. I don't recall. By this time, the time of which I'm speaking, he was a professor at the University of Missouri, as I remember, economics. But anyhow, that book is one of the more amazing books that I have ever read. This was the first time I had an eye witness look at what this was all about. It was called SCARCITY AND GROWTH. The whole argument amounted to this. He took the production of mineral resources in the United States from some early date, I don't remember when he started, but he ended in 1957. And what he did was to plot this up on a log scale in terms of the cost of production. All this thing was written in economics hieroglyphics, and so it was a little hard to know precisely what was meant. But he had labor costs and various other things all put together in some kind of a god awful index, but this index then was plotted. The index was plotted against time for individual things…say pig-iron.
Doel:And what was the other axis?
Doel:Time and —?
Hubbert:The other one was this index of the cost of production. He had this thing going like a saw-tooth pattern down about a 45 degree angle, and everything in the book did practically the same thing. The whole thesis was, in the first place, that the classical economists back in the middle of the last century, had argued that as minerals became more scarce the price would go up. The cost of production and so on would go up. And so, here the cost was going down, expressed in these indexes or whatever, man hours, labor and a few other things. Here was this thing going down exponentially. So what did that prove? If the minerals weren't becoming more scarce, they would become more abundant. The whole damned book was written on that thesis! And this thing was taken seriously and had tremendous influence among economists.
Doel:When was that book first issued?
Hubbert:In 1961, I believe.
Doel:OK, so right before your own report.
Hubbert:I've got it over there. Well, that's the first time I had a good look at it, was this meeting. Later on, in the early seventies, I was at a meeting of this Institute of International, what they call the OSSA, the International something or other in Oxenburg, with Austria, and he gave a summary paper on this same thesis. He had a little thing in a summary form, at this meeting. And I challenged him on it, and I later wrote up my challenge for the record. When the PROCEEDINGS of that meeting came out — I certainly wrote a draft of it at that meeting, but I polished it off and sent in a print copy to them, and I never got any acknowledgement from the staff. Then when the PROCEEDINGS of that meeting came out, I understand that Barnett's paper was not in it, and of course neither was my discussion. But I think I killed the paper. Also I heard that Barnett had died a year or two ago. But that was one of the most incredible performances that I've ever seen in print, this book, except that he wrote a little paper published in an obscure journal somewhere a year or two later, summarizing the same theme. And among the minerals he cited was anthracite. He cited a number of products. Well, that's a different proposition. But anthracite. Well, the record on anthracite is this. Maybe there's a picture here. I don't think so. Well, US anthracite begins about 1800 and goes up to around 1919 and is now almost back to zero. And at that time it was more than halfway down. And yet he uses this as an illustration that instead of being scarce it's becoming abundant.
Hubbert:More abundant. It's incredible. OK.
Doel:Was that same feeling shared among other people in the Geological Survey, Tom Nolan for example?
Hubbert:They never even read the book.
Doel:Were they aware of it?
Hubbert:They were not interested in such things.
Hubbert:At least, you can't say "they" in general. Individuals may have been, but I never heard it discussed. All right, you asked what the committee did. They had the Barnett synopsis of this thesis at one of those committee meetings. Nothing came out of it. It didn't show up in the report anywhere, but he was there and that was the first time I ever heard an exposition of the thesis by the man responsible.
Doel:Did you have a chance to talk with him then about it, at that meeting?
Hubbert:Not particularly, no. Thing of that sort, there's very little ground for talking.
Doel:True. I understand.
Hubbert:Well, we're still off the subject. What is it we were going to talk about?
Doel:Well, let's just go back a little bit earlier than that period, to 1966. One thing we haven't covered was the exchange that you had with the estimates about oil and gas reserves with John Ryan, who was at that time with Standard Oil.
Hubbert:All right. Let's take a part of the story. In parallel with this Academy committee, which was meeting in '61, '62, in this same period, the Senate Committee on Interior and National Affairs was also holding hearings on energy policy. Well, from reading the record and from memory, when that committee was about to go to work on this, they sent out letters to various groups in the oil industry and various others asking their advice about the idea of having these hearings. To my memory, Morgan Davis of Humble strongly objected to the committee — there was no point in it.
Doel:No point in even having the committee hearings?
Hubbert:No. They didn't need it. Well, the coal people wanted it. So when the committee decided to go ahead, then was when Morgan Davis and like-minded people said, "OK, if they're going to do that, we're going to run it." And so that running it took the form of the staff of the Senate committee. Most petroleum groups, not corporations but societies. I can't remember all their names now but there's Interstate Compact Commission and the Independent Producers and so on, various several things, AAPG AIME and so on, were involved. So what it amounted to was that the committee staff, practically all these people had a hand-picked man on the staff. Humble had Ryan. The chairman of the staff, incidentally, the director of the staff was Sam Lasky. Now, Sam Lasky earlier had been for 17 years a member of the Geological Survey. In the 1950's, this big group appointed by Truman, the chairman of CBS…What's his name? …was the chairman of this commission. He just retired. He just retired from CBS. About a year ago. OK, that commission is normally known by his name as the X Commission.
Hubbert:Right, W. S. Paley. That committee did the most remarkable job of any committee up to that time, and they did deal honestly with the limitations of finite natural resources, and they got good input from the Geological Survey among others.
Doel:Good input from Lasky in particular?
Hubbert:Well, Lasky was very active with respect to that commission. But from that time on, Lasky then was more or less permanently in the Secretary's staff over at Interior. He became their fair-haired boy and principal spokesman on things like minerals, energy etc., and he was throwing his weight around rather freely and vigorously during this period. And this McKenney Commission on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, there was anonymous input from the Interior Department that held out for 300 billion barrels, as I remember. There's no authorship but almost certainly that report was written by Sam Lasky. So when this report of the Senate committee came up; the Senate committee was authorized by resolution or so to hold these things, and so Sam Lasky was borrowed from the Interior Department to be chief of staff. During the hearings, the staff came up with a thick staff report about so, primary staff report which was circulated to again these various petroleum groups and others, inviting comments.
Doel:And up to that point, you hadn't been involved in that committee's work?
Hubbert:I had nothing to do with the committee. But this report was circulated, in mid 1961, early 1962.
Doel:In 1962, I believe.
Hubbert:OK. So I had an acquaintance with the president of a middle sized oil company, headquartered in Houston, who called me on the telephone one day and asked had I seen this report. I had. I had a copy of it. I had studied it. I told him there were a lot of things that were seriously wrong with it, but I would have to have some time with it, we'd have to go over it together.
Doel:You had been personally sent a copy?
Hubbert:I don't remember where I got the copy, but I had one. That I'd like to go over it with him, because he was asked, he was part of the group that was asked to send in comments about this preliminary draft. And so we made a date to have lunch together. I said I'd be glad to discuss it and go over the details with him. There were a lot of things that were quite seriously wrong with it. Well, it turned out that when this luncheon developed, it was held in a private club, at an Ramada Inn I believe in a private dining room, and who was there, not just me and — I can't remember this man's name. Thompson, somebody Thompson as I recall.
Doel:We can get that. That's fine.
Hubbert:OK. When I got there, who did they have? Well, they had one of the principal lobbying groups for the oil industry, state-wide, can't remember the name of that now. They had both Richard A. Gonzales and Ryan from Humble. And they had the API people, I believe. So they had a group of about a half a dozen people, all of that nature. Well, hell, with this group, I didn't propose to go into this report. There was no opportunity with this whole group. I wanted to talk with the chairman privately about the thing, and since he'd made a to-do of it, I resolved to keep my mouth shut, at least play it cautiously. So they went in and reviewed the report and commented. Well, I pointed out…oh yes, Sam Lasky, as I learned also later — in fact, I got this from Ryan himself, I believe — that the staff members really had almost no input into this thing and Sam Lasky ran the whole show and wrote the report. They were largely window dressing. Well, anyhow, so it was Sam Lasky's report. But in that, Sam Lasky devotes three or four pages of print to ridicule the API estimates of the committee on crude reserves. Somewhere in that summary, he said that reading the API estimate of reserves was like eating a mouthful of mashed potatoes. It was that kind of thing. Well, what goes on there? For two or three years or more before this, Sam Lasky and Vince McKelvey and others of like mind had been promoting in the government that you couldn't trust oil industry figures, that they were all biased, and that the government should check over this matter of oil industry statistics.
Doel:What the API had been compiling?
Hubbert:What the API had been compiling annually for years, and it is still the most authoritative sources of information in that period. They had a committee on crude reserves and a similar committee from the gas association, and also the Canadians.
Doel:So you and your colleagues certainly had no doubt about the API figures?
I had a chance to look into that very specifically. With regard to a sound-off of the President of Humble at the API in the fall of 1957, I think, they were having a meeting in November of '57 or '58, in which they proposed that the API redefine the crude reserves. I had pointed out that crude reserves were approaching their peak and that this had such and such implications. They were going to get out of that by redefining crude reserves. Well, also, at the end of that year, crude reserves dropped a billion barrels from the preceding year. This is 1958 or so. And I thought, oh oh, Morgan Davis is messing with the reserve committee. So the next time I went to New York, Shell had one of their engineers who was a member of the committee. When I saw him, I said, "Look, is Morgan Davis messing around with the reserve committee?" He said, "No, he isn't and he can't." I said, "Well, how do you account for that speech he just made to API in November, and then the reserves drop a billion barrels right after that?" First time they drop like that, ever, maybe. He said, "Well, there were 2 or 3 coincidences, they added up to that drop." One was that the big field in north central Texas, Snyder Field, had put into operation their secondary recovery waterfront operation that year.
The reserves that would be added by that operation was a fairly big block of a billion barrels. And that didn't show up—by rule of the committee you don't add reserves of that kind until it happens, until it's operative. Another thing was that Shell had made some big oil discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico, but they hadn't disclosed the nature of those discoveries for competitive reasons, because the bids were — big lease sales were coming up, and so they held that information close to their chest, for the lease sale. After the lease sale, Shell then released their reserve estimates, which was again a sizeable block. Taken together they were a billion barrels. Morgan Davis had not messed with the committee and he couldn't, as the man said. So, OK, Morgan Davis then was trying to mess with it in another way, by redefining crude reserves. Oh yes. What I was getting at was that Sam Lasky and Vince McKelvey and others of that mentality had been pressuring the government for two or three years before that, that you could not trust the oil company figures, they were biased, and the government should take over.
So here in this report, Lasky is devoted four or five pages to ridiculing the API reserves as being unreliable. Well, my considered opinion, after reading all these things, was if the reason they didn't like these reserves was because they were standing squarely between them and the conclusions that they were trying to put over to the public and to the government. If the figures were reliable, their propositions weren't reliable. And so they were trying to get rid of the reserve figures so that they'd have free rein in doing whatever they pleased. So that was involved in this report. Not only that, but Sam had been dabbling around with some of these graphs somewhat similar to mine only much cruder, for several years, and he was making quite a play out of this. He had some other in this report. As I remember, the one on proven crude reserves was a graph, an L-shaped graph that leveled off at the upper level. So you had a turning around mathematical form that had nothing to do with what we were talking about, and that graph is in there, hand drawn. Crudely drawn.
Hubbert:So OK, there's a lot of things, and you had to piece together with bits and parts in order to come out with some sort of a figure. I just reread my summary of it a little bit ago, and as I recall, you could get a figure ranging from 407 to 507 billion barrels, as the ultimate for all 48 states for crude oil. That is from the bits and pieces of that report.
Doel:It was never clearly stated?
Hubbert:Well, it wasn't clearly stated. You had to take this fragment and that fragment and piece them together. OK. So that was this draft of the report. The committee met, and I pointed out — well, they thought the report was pretty good, were going to report back to the chairman of the Senate committee with their approval. So I said, "Well, what do you make of this thing, Lasky and this statement about the proven crude reserves and so on?" "Oh well, no, he shouldn't say bad things about the Reserve Committee," type of thing. So I said, "Well, gentlemen, he comes out here with this figure four to five hundred billion barrels, and you approve of that?" "Well, now," I said, "suppose that we do report and you approve these figures, and this is coming out of the oil industry. Suppose those turn out to be seriously in error?" There were glances around the table and people said, "Well, I'll be retired by then."
Doel:Won't be responsible?
Hubbert:"I won't be responsible." Well, when I raised this question, with people — for instance, Gonzales of Humble — I got one of the dirtiest looks I've ever seen. I think that guy could gladly have knifed me at the time. Well, his stooge Ryan was there also, and Ryan was his personal assistant at Humble. In fact, I had talked to Ryan on the telephone, when this report first came out, and I said, "Look, you're a member of this committee. There are a lot of things that I think are wrong and ought to be corrected. Why don't we get together and discuss this thing?" While I was talking, he said, "Just a minute." He said, "My boss just handed me a note that I'm not free at that time"…or something of the sort. So here he was, apparently in the same office, and the boss was overhearing this end of the conversation, and "Oh no, you don't, you don't have that luncheon."
Doel:That's interesting. So you never did have a meeting with Ryan about this?
Hubbert:No. So OK, I was so mad over this luncheon that I went back to my office immediately and wrote a detailed account, or record of that meeting, who said what and so on. I was just furious about it. Well, it was about the following week when we were having our review committee in June of '62.
Doel:Right, this your first meeting with them.
Hubbert:Yes, it was the Academy committee. So when I got up there, I already told you that I found that there was politics going on behind the scenes, and that it was beginning to pop up in this little incident or that. So in comes Roger Revelle, "Have you seen this report?"
Doel:Holding the Senate report?
Hubbert:I said, "Yes. I've read it." And then, "What do you think of it?" I handed him a copy of that memorandum that I'd written on it. And, well, after he'd read it he put on fake "that it was shocking," because other things the whole conversation was about "that asshole being in the White House." That type of thing, in so many words, and that was the general tenor of the comments.
Doel:What was the cause of that particular anger with Kennedy at the time?
Hubbert:I don't know. No idea.
Hubbert:I can't account for other people's opinions. But Roger Revelle read this and "Oh well, that was shocking that they'd said things like that"…etc. So well, again I lost my train of thought. How did we get onto this?
Doel:You mentioned reactions to API report.
Hubbert:Oh yes, you asked about the Ryan thing. OK. The Senate report came out, and after all the hell and high water degree it finally was published and sent on to the President.
Doel:Right. This is your report?
Doel:Right. Was there already interaction between the Senate, the House, and the NAS over the differences in the reports? Was there much contact at all?
Hubbert:No. None that I had anything to do with. If there was, it was done by Roger Revelle and Det Bronk and so on. OK, so as I told you, after my report came out, was released, which was in January, about, Stuart Udall told me years later this account. In fact, we had lunch together some time in the early 1970's. And he told me this. He said, "You know Roger Revelle?" I said, "Yes, I know him very well indeed." "Well, you know he was my science adviser." I said, "Yes, I know that too." He said, "Well, in January of 1963, Roger Revelle came into my office with a copy of your report in his hand, saying 'We have to block it with Wiesner.'" Who was the science adviser to the President. Now, that was the same time they called in Vince McKelvey — but this then led to getting McKelvey in to write this report for Wiesner, the one that I think I showed you the other day, of which I got a copy, couldn't get a copy at all. That's how all hell broke loose over this thing. I got one two years later in the post from a company in Oklahoma. OK. So this thing, this McKelvey thing came out in the OIL AND GAS JOURNAL in two parts. One was the US, the second was the world part of it, in October or so or September of 1963. And Tom Nolan was livid — there was no authorship, no names mentioned in the report, and yet it was all USGS, and essentially USGS versus Hubbert. And so by 1963 then, I don't know whether the paper showed up in print or whether it was sent to me in manuscript form for discussion, but Ryan submitted it to the AAPG. The whole thing was an attack on the Academy report that it was thoroughly unreliable and wrong and so on. So I made a review of some of the background, the history, and an update about two or three years of more data, everything still clicking right on the money. One thing had been charged was that he congratulated the committee for having repudiated my report. The committee as a whole, that little summary report. Because they had given a vague figure that this quantity was within a larger bracket.
Doel:The larger bracket than you were comfortable with?
Hubbert:Yes. And so I said, in the first place, we were dealing with a committee of 12 men, only two of them having first-hand experience with oil. Yet this committee of 12 men was supposed to be advising the President, and so it was understandable that they were vague on their oil figures. In fact not only did I approve of that statement, I helped write it. The real estimate went into the report, the hell with what the committee said. Well, we got it turned around then and wrote another report for the AIME, The Society of the Petroleum Engineers. And we went through that all over again. Well, I was told later by Wallace Pratt that the various men in Humble, working guys in Humble had written to him saying, "Can't you do something about Ryan in New Jersey? Shut this guy up?" See, after Gonzales was fired, why Ryan then transferred to the head office of Standard of New Jersey.
Hubbert:These dispatches were written from New Jersey.
Hubbert:He was former personnel assistant to Gonzales in Houston. They fired Gonzales. Ryan goes on up to the New Jersey office, and he still is acting as a stooge for Gonzales. Both those discussants were Gonzales-motivated, both of them. So Wallace Pratt told me that he had letters from people in Humble saying, "Can't you do something about shutting this guy Ryan and these vicious attacks on Hubbert?" This came from Humble. [laughter].
Hubbert:And then I think I told you, Carl Ashley succeeded Morgan Davis. And expressed his admiration for that the studies I'd made on oil and gas.
Doel:Was that was the last conflict that you really had with Humble?
Hubbert:I never had any more. There hasn't been a serious statement out of Humble since. And at that time, nobody except these two men was allowed to open his mouth.
Doel:Right. And as you say, we did get a chance to talk about a bit on these issues.
Hubbert:All right. Well, you asked about Ryan and there's the background on that.
Doel:Right. I wanted to make sure that we had covered that.
Hubbert:Well, we hadn't gotten around to this discussion, hadn't discussed any of this.
Doel:That's right, this is new. I was curious, too, though, it was also in 1966 that you had presented the history of petroleum geology and its bearing upon present and future explorations. That was the keynote address of the Gulf Coast Association meetings in Houston, as I recall.
Hubbert:Well, that was a kind of a sound-off, and not very important. But the chief provocation of that was, as I remember, the chairman of the education committee of the AAPG was proposing that they ought to concentrate on, oh, things like porousity and rock geometry and what not. I simply reviewed the background history of the whole development of petroleum geology from the early days up to then, and pointed out that for the last 50 or 75 years, they'd been mostly dealing with rock geometry and rock geology and ignoring the fact that the oil was a combination of rock, oil and water, and ignoring the oil and water part that is under the rock. So I sounded off. It was of no great importance, and that was that.
Doel:Given that there was naturally a lot of controversy at the time over methods and models that one would use to make an accurate estimate of the reserves of oil and gas, I'm curious if that and this paper that you wrote and published in '67 had been part of any kind of strategy to reaffirm the historical basis of your arguments.
Hubbert:— well, the paper in 1967 was a direct outcome of the McKelvey policy in the Geological Survey where all the estimates are. So the question is, how reliable is their hypothesis? Their calculations were based…if you grant the premises, why, the conclusions have some degree of validity. But how valid are the premises? Well, when I first read Zapp's thing it was very obscurely written. I never could understand exactly what the guy was doing. It was kind of piecemeal, disconnected. In his volume the whole thing was dragged in by the tail when he was writing on a different subject.
Hubbert:So it wasn't clear to me when I wrote this report exactly how Zapp had got his figures. But in stewing over it for the next two or three years, it became finally crystal clear. What he'd done, if he'd followed through with evidence, was really a very superior method of analysis. That is, instead of plotting the various things as you ordinarily do versus time, the discovery, say, that if you plot it in terms of a cumulative drilling, you've got rid of a lot of the economic disturbances and so on and got down to things that were tied almost entirely to technology. Furthermore, it incorporated the cumulative technology of the period up to the final time, this thing was an integral of the technology up to any given date. So having realized that, then the question came, well, now, if we put data into this system, you have the oil found per foot not versus years, but versus cumulative discovery. Well, Zapp, in fact, had done that. He said in 1959, that there were just 100 billion barrels of drilling but he based that on an anonymous figure that he picked out of a Petroleum Council report of 1953 and then he added statistical data on top of that, so the question was how accurate was that figure. Well, in principle it was OK. So what he'd done there, he'd said, was that he brought it up to 1961. He said by the end of '61, we will have found 1.1 billion barrels of oil in the United States, 130 billion barrels of oil estimated about in the United States, with 1.1 billion feet of drilling. So then he said, within less than 2 billion more feet drilling, we should find another 170 billion barrels. Then he signed off.
Doel:Right. That was the extent of his analysis at that point?
Hubbert:Yes, right there. Here it is. This report was dismantled I was using part of it to put in my report. So all I have is fragments of it. I don't have all the report. It was never reassembled.
Hubbert:So there's the title of the report.
Doel:"Domestic and World Resources of Fossil Fuels, Radioactive Minerals and Geothermal Energy." He's covering it very broadly. That was from the Survey.
Hubbert:Yes. Preliminary estimates by members of the Geological Survey.
Doel:That's right. Prepared for the subcommittee of the Federal Science Council, November 28, 1961.
Hubbert:Here is the complete text of that report.
Doel:It's a fairly thin text. Perhaps 25 pages.
Doel:Is that all that Zapp contributed?
Hubbert:Look it up. Read it.
Doel:OK. We might want to bring this in as part of the document if you like, rather than my reading it in now.
Hubbert:Read what it says.
Doel:In this '61 estimate, he raises the tentative figure of 300 billion barrels. He does so by saying —
Hubbert:Yes, he has 130 already discovered.
Hubbert:170 to be found by probably less than two billion more feet of drilling. All right, that's 300 billion, and he signs off.
Doel:That's it. Right.
Hubbert:Now, all right, the first item here, 170 barrels already discovered and 1.1 billion already drilled. That's 118 barrels per foot up to 1961, the average for the whole industry up to that time. And there he signs off.
Doel:That's it. That's right.
Hubbert:OK. Then in another part of the report, you have this table.
Doel:OK, this is Table 1, Summary of the United States Recoverable Resources of Fossil Fuels and Radioactive Minerals and Geothermal Energy.
Hubbert:Now, this is actually a summary of the whole report, because these are all the different subjects covered in the report.
Doel:Right, coal, petroleum and whatnot.
Hubbert:That table was obviously not made by any individual of these separate things. That table was put together by Vince McKelvey. Nobody else could have done it. So anyhow, when I saw this report and I read this, petroleum here 32 times 109 that's actually proved crude reserves as of that date, of the proved reserves. Then this figure of potential reserves, 235. You add those two together, and that, not counting past production, adds up to 267. Then you skip on down here, and you come to this potential marginal resources, 290 billion barrels.
Doel:The point is that isn't included in the original Zapp estimates.
Hubbert:That was added by McKelvey. So, OK, now, this doesn't add up according to the figures that are in the text over there, but this, McKelvey in his letter to me very emphatically says that Zapp's estimate was 590 billion barrels. Well, how did he get that 590? What I get in this table here is a little different figure, 624 including past production. How do you get to 590? You assume that future discoveries and drillings will yield 118 barrels per foot. Zapp had estimated that about 5 billion feet of hole would be required, this was in the published report, before you'd approach the limit of exploration.
Doel:Right. But you need for that to have a constant rate of return for the amount of feet drilled.
Hubbert:All right. So then, assume that you will be discovering 118 barrels per foot clear on out to 5 billion feet of hole, five times 118 is 590. That's how that figure was derived. And so that was emphatically stated by McKelvey to me in the letter that this was Zapp's figure. Somewhere along the line, in '65 or so, Tom Hendricks was in Washington. He came in to see me and he was disturbed over the fact that I had credited Zapp with this 590 billion barrels, because he said that Zapp was working with him — Zapp died either October 1962 or '63, I forget which, of lung cancer — and he didn't believe that Zapp had any such figure.
Doel:Hmm, that's interesting.
Hubbert:And I said I got it from McKelvey. He didn't believe that Zapp had any such figure. Well, that was interesting all by itself. So when you put these two things together, what he said here and what's in this table, that 290 had to be McKelvey's.
Hubbert:So the reasoning in this thing was, that Zapp's figure of 118 barrels per foot up to 1961 would hold clear on out for five times the amount of drilling, and that would be 590 billion barrels. OK. When that was perfectly clear to me, I began to say, well, now what would happen if we put some data in this graph, of the oil found per foot versus cumulative drilling, which Zapp hadn't done? Zapp only had two figures, 130 billion barrels and 1.1 billion feet. Now, in the past years, did that figure begin low, go over a peak, start down, or what did it do, what did it look like?
Doel:Right. You had no information on that curve.
Hubbert:No information on it. So that's when I undertook a study to find out. The results of that study was my paper in 1967.
Doel:OK. Right. This is the Degree of Advancement paper? M. King Hubbert, "Degree of Advancement of Petroleum Exploration in the United States." AAPG Bulletin, vol. 51, no. 11, 1967: 2207-2227.
Hubbert:The Degree of Advancement. The question I posed was, are we approaching the peak of oil production, in other words the low figure, or do we have this high figure on the order of 600 billion barrels? It makes a hell of a lot of difference how far along we are in our petroleum exploration. Are we halfway nearly or are we only 20 percent? And so we need some information on this. So I then reviewed the stuff that was credited with Zapp and the figures of McKelvey and McKelvey and Duncan had published a whole series of papers almost annually or every two or so during the sixties.
Doel:That's right, in the sixties, yes.
Hubbert:And they would up and tailor these figures a little bit with new statistical information. So I did this study, and I came out with that figure, where we were down to 35 barrels per foot by this time.
Doel:Right. In the data that you reviewed, there was a clear indication that the return of oil per foot drilled was decreasing, from the API information.
Hubbert:Yes, unmistakably. Now, to be fair, these figures were subject to other factors. The answer is in how you have to estimate the amount of additional oil, but that was done with the best information that was available at the time.
Doel:Right, that was the API data, wasn't it?
Hubbert:API, yes. And going back to the petroleum administration of the war. They did this study originally in 1945. The updating of it was a whole series of API reports. Several successive ones, and those were the ones that I reviewed. So each one of those included a considerable slab of oil, because each one extended across several years of production. So they were lump type figures. OK, so I wrote that report then, and it again came out and indicated a figure of around 170 billion barrels. And so—I don't have the report in front of me —
Doel:I have a copy with me, if it will help if we can refer to it.
Hubbert:Well, I can go and get one, but you've read it.
Doel:I have a copy of "Degree of Advancement."
Hubbert:Well, this is a preliminary review of what the questions were in the previous estimates.
Hubbert:These various figures, McKelvey and Duncan for example, Hendricks turned around and tailored this thing off, and then threw away this last part and said this amount, which was 400 and…600, would be a thousand, yes, he's drilling oil in place, so he allowed 40 percent of that would be 400 billion barrels, 20 percent recovery. This is my own estimate of the drilling. Average depth of drilling. Going back to the old literature, clear back to the early days of the oil industry. So then here I come out with this, which is negative exponential decline, and at the time my method of analyzing this, under the curve here is the cumulative production. So I said, all right, let's pass through this last point with the negative exponential curve, this area beneath the curve is the same as this actual cumulative up to this date, so that will give you the constants of the equation, and also will present an estimate of this featured rate of decline.
Doel:The featured behavior of the curve.
Hubbert:I tried. Here's an actual plot of these points, and these last points are very unreliable because they're right up to the last year. The question is, how much of this was simply unreliability of the data, or how much is the fact that this was modeled when big discoveries were beginning to be made in the Gulf?
Doel:Those are the large fields that you discussed.
Yes. In other words, this may be real, if so, it's due to the Gulf discoveries. So I said, all right, plotting this in a semi-logarithmic paper this should be a straight line. I didn't do all these questions here, but I took one like this and one like that, and I estimated how much, what the ultimate would be in either case. And it came to 166.7. I get 160.4, and then 160.3, 153.1, depending on which way the curve is drawn. But the conclusion hear says, when the statistical data on the exploratory drilling, production proved crude preserves and discoveries of crude oil, deployed by their year of discovery and examined analytically, I get results which are consistent with the hypothesis and discovery of natural gas and crude oil in the continental United States and adjacent off shores has passed its culmination and is well advanced in its decline. And I discuss that in some detail. OK. Now, instead of 118 barrels per foot we're down to 35 barrels per foot. So look at that graph there for a moment. So there is this curve up to now and then carrying it into the future, see. This is 35, and — well, it ought to be higher than that. So Zapp's figure, the average up to this date, was 118. So, what you see in here, is measure of the over-estimate. I did a little more careful figuring of this and got 167 at a later date, and came to same figure. And so, this would be five times 109 and if it's equal to, 118, 90 times 10 to the 9th.
This all together clear out to infinity, this figure in here is only about 167, see. So the difference of those two figures is the magnitude of the over-estimate. Now, the question of course is, is it not precise but how wrong is it? It might vary. The uncertainty of these figures, here's the magnitude we're looking at here, three to one or so. Now, let's consider then that this paper was published in 1937, and from the development of technology and this casualty of the increasing scarcity, you would not expect this curve to continue to decline. So here, whereas for the Zapp hypothesis it would require 118 barrels per foot, and we're now down to about 35. Now, what's the chance of going back up here, even to this figure? And you just can't support any such thing. This has a very real bearing on McKelvey and the USGS. In fact this was published in 1967 and was ignored. They continued putting out these and even larger figures into the future. I could only interpret this as inexcusable dishonesty. In the early stages, I think there's no doubt that McKelvey was self-deluded, in other words, he believed his figures. From this time on, he was trying to prove he was right the first time, and completely ignoring the evidence.
Doel:You never had any discussions with him directly on that after '67?
Hubbert:Well, when this report came out, a little before that, he came in and handed me a report about this size. [holds fingers apart several inches]. Again, it was written for this interdepartmental thing. And his office was down the hall from mine. He was plainly conveying to me that this was the official figure of the US Geological Survey and you'd better pay attention to it. When this report came out, I gave him a copy of it. I got a kind of a growl type of thing, that I'm not sure what he said but was something like, "I'll fix you!" It was a nasty response.
Doel:Was it already hard to maintain a personal relationship with McKelvey?
Hubbert:Yes. Absolutely. No basis whatever. And so he persisted. He went on up the ladder and became director. He had the whole staff, they got out this big tome about so thick, and that was the thing he was working on to try to get a published book, and had actual people write several chapters of it, but it never went through. I don't know whether they didn't have a publisher or what happened, but it wasn't printed.
Doel:This was before he was director?
Hubbert:Yes, this was in the sixties, or earlier. But it was the same kind of thing, I mean, there was building up this kind of thesis. So then it was his first official act of any significance was getting out this big tome on mineral resources, this great big publication, you've seen, haven't you?
Hubbert:And then I read you a fraction of the introduction, where they recommended that authors use their imaginations?
Doel:Yes. That's right.
Hubbert:Whatever they have a mind to, they gave them carte blanche to write any damned thing they wanted to, they didn't have to bother with facts. Well, most of them didn't abide by that, but nonetheless, that was their essential instructions. And then McKelvey's lecture was reprinted in the introduction also.
Doel:Right. This is the one he gave at Harvard?
Hubbert:Right. And where he made this phenomenal statement about the use of resources created by the use of the imagination. And my comment to that, somewhere in this report here, was that it wouldn't be wholly unjustified to regard the resources created in that manner as being themselves imaginary.
Hubbert:So, from this time on, there was no trace of honesty in this whole deal. Up until the mid-sixties, I think McKelvey really believed his own hallucinations, but there was no basis for it thereafter, and all he was out really is to prove he was right the first time.
Doel:After the '67 paper appeared, what was the reaction among other petroleum geologists, those outside the Survey, or even those within the Survey who weren't connected with McKelvey and his group?
Hubbert:I don't remember very much.
Doel:It wasn't very hotly discussed?
Hubbert:I don't know. Not with me. Of course, I discussed it. I went out on these lecture tours and what not. I had many slides of all this stuff. And not only of the original figures but the significance of them, like this over-estimate figure, I had a slide on that. And these were used over and over again, all over. After all, I was on the six weeks lecture tour.
Doel:This is the one within the United States?
Hubbert:Yes. I had a nine weeks lecture tour for the AAPG, in the early seventies, all across the US and Canada. So this had plenty of airing, and I wasn't in any doubt — there may have been a lot of people who didn't like what I was doing, but I wasn't getting any more static of any consequence from anybody.
Hubbert:Except the Geological Survey. So, all right. What next?
Doel:We'd probably best move into 1969, when there was a report that proved reserves of natural gas were beginning to decline. It was the first time that that had been the case since 1947. I'm wondering what you recall of the reaction to that announcement? And the role that you played following that?
Hubbert:I don't recall anything other than this. During the whole of the sixties, McKelvey — incidentally, for these historical sequences, the best summary of this material is in this same report.
Doel:Right, which we haven't gotten to yet.
Hubbert:All right. This is the summary of estimates of the US Geological Survey clear back to the earlier days, and right on through this whole sequence, with references.
Doel:Right. We will make that a part of the record right now. It is your US Energy Resources Review as of 1972, Part 1.
Hubbert:Yes. Pages 170 to 183. Well, this figure was going up and there was no advice to the uninitiated or to the uninformed that there was anything impending that this thing was on its way up. So one figure to them, 500 billion barrels, was just as good as any other. Because they didn't know anything about it.
Doel:Were there any other colleagues in the Survey at the time that you could talk about this with?
Hubbert:Most of them who might have talked to were pretty well scrammed up. I'll give you one illustration. There's a man who volunteered this to me at some meeting at the Cardinals Club, Geological Society meeting of Washington at the Cardinals Club. I happened to bump into him. His name is Conan and he was retired from the Survey. He volunteered this piece of information, and this was maybe some time in the seventies. He said that at the time of this directive from President Kennedy in 1961 to the Survey, for input to this Academy committee, and that of course reached in a little while the Gas Group in Denver, chaired by Jim Gilluly as the temporary chief of that group, whose experience in these things was practically nil. He is a field geologist, that was his principal work. So this thing came up, and Conan said that the staff said, "OK, let's go to work on this, do a job on this." Gilluly says, "You don't have to, we know the answers, they are published." And so he cancelled the whole thing. Zapp has got the answer to this thing and that's what we'll give them. And he gave that of course to the director Tom Nolan, who had the greatest confidence in Jim Gilluly. Tom Nolan got—well, he was pretty far involved in this thing before in another way, because he had had Vince McKelvey as a speech writer.
Doel:Is that so?
Hubbert:Prior to this. That is, in the fifties.
Doel:In the fifties. OK.
Hubbert:He didn't have clean hands, but he had great confidence in Jim Gilluly. So as I say, this whole thing was a combination in the early stages of naiveté, people messing with things they didn't know much about, but being honestly deluded. And then you had operator's like McKelvey and Lasky who were pushing it. And getting away with it. So we went through the sixties, when McKelvey was publishing three or four times in various things, in government publications and outside journals.
Doel:What was the experience like for you, being in the Survey at that time, with the director and the others in the Survey accepting a very fundamentally different point of view?
Hubbert:Well, as I told you, there was an attempt to fire me.
Doel:I think we ought to have this on tape.
Hubbert:Well, you said it's remarkable that I was in the Survey and was disagreeing with the director and the assistant chief geologist and so on. And that is true. But the Survey also has a tradition of respecting their scientific personnel, in a way. But even so behind the scenes, there was pressure when my Senate report came out. McKelvey was by this time Director.
Doel:Right, we're talking about the report in the early 1970's.
Hubbert:'74. So the very first thing that was done there was to send this out to a whole group of people in the Survey for review to tell them what was wrong with it. Also, there was a discussion — I didn't know it then: I was informed later by Nolan because he was called in on it — as to whether they should take action to have me fired. And Nolan advised them, if they really wanted to get themselves in hot water that was the best way to do it.
Doel:Do you feel it was Tom Nolan's intervention that caused that to back down?
Hubbert:Well. [laughter]. But earlier than that, a request came up from the Senate Committee to the Interior Department, the Secretary of the Interior, and again there was a behind-the-scenes discussion as to whether they should refuse to comply with this request. Nolan was involved in that too, and he advised them very strongly that that would be extremely unwise, and they backed down out of that one. I was told this by Horace Dole who was assistant director for the mineral resources and so on. I saw him in the cafeteria, in the lunch room shortly after that, and he had by this time signed the letter. He said, "I signed that letter very reluctantly."
Doel:He told you that?
Hubbert:Yes, in just so many words.
Doel:We should perhaps be talking about that right now. This is in '71 when Henry Jackson as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, had asked another committee to be formed with the Survey and other agencies and specifically requested your participation.
Hubbert:No. That isn't quite right.
Hubbert:The Interior and Insular Affairs Committee had been authorized by resolution of the Senate to hold new hearings on energy and our policy. In connection with that, the chairman of the committee, Senator Jackson, addressed a letter to the Secretary of the Interior stating this fact, that the committee had been empowered to hold these hearings, and they were also empowered to request the assistance of various people in the executive departments. In that connection they would like the assistance of M. King Hubbert from your department to help with the staff-work of the committee. That was the nature of the letter. I have it somewhere but I'd have trouble finding it. And that was a letter that had to be replied to, and they had to say yes or no. So they had these discussions behind the scenes, Nolan told me several years later, and he was called in on it, and they were considering whether to decline this request. Nolan advised them very assertively that they had better not decline it or reject it. It would be highly inadvisable. So Horace Dole, the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Minerals and Energy, which was oversight of the Geological Survey, did sign the letter, of which I have a copy, and I saw him shortly after that in the interior lunch room, staff lunch room, and he said, "I signed that letter very reluctantly."
Doel:Right. OK, good to have that down clearly. What expectation did you have for the committee at that time, when you were asked to join it? Do you recall the discussions, ideas?
Hubbert:I couldn't even talk to the committee until that letter was answered. It was forbidden. So I had to sit and wait until the committee got a reply, the chairman of the committee got a reply. Only then could I go and say, "All right, what do you want me to do?" So I did, and the person I dealt with was not Senator Jackson but his chief of staff, whose name I've forgotten now.
Doel:We can check that.
Hubbert:Maybe you can dig it up. And he said what they wanted me to do was to update my previous studies on oil and gas for the committee, on energy for the committee, and so I said, "Fine. But I am barehanded. I have no help. I have a secretary, but this requires a large number of man-hours of work, and I need somebody to do a lot of this legwork and computing and so on." The man said, "Well, now, McKelvey," who was Under Secretary of Interior by this time, "We'll talk to McKelvey, that shouldn't be a problem at all." Not this time, I'm not quite sure of the dates here, but McKelvey had been nominated to be director of the Survey. Pecora had gone politically up the ladder to become Under Secretary of the Interior. He formerly had been director of the Survey since 1965. Actually McKelvey and Pecora had been a team in this whole operation right along.
Doel:They were close with one another?
Hubbert:They were both operating in collusion, I mean in collaboration with each other, but McKelvey doing most of the overt activity. This letter had been signed—somewhere about the 1st of November. I think it was on Friday. No. As I remember, McKelvey was confirmed as director of the Geological Survey on Friday. On Monday morning, I received a preemptory telephone call from my then branch chief, now director of the Survey, saying, "Sorry, but we're taking your secretary away from you."
Doel:That was Dallas Peck?
Hubbert:Dallas Peck. I said, "Well, look, Dallas, you know that I've been requested to do this job for the Senate committee and I need help." "Well, for secretarial work, we'll have the Survey pool take care of that, typing and so on."
Doel:Did Peck give you a reason for why your secretary wouldn't be available for you?
Hubbert:Somebody else needed her more than I did, it was so stated.
She was being transferred to somebody else. OK. I said, "I also am going to have to have technical help, and I haven't got any." And so he in effect shrugged his shoulders and said, "Well, now, you'll have to go higher up for these things, I can't do anything about it." So plainly he was operated from higher up himself and had been told what to do, from the top. I said, "All I can do is report this back to the Senate committee. I've got to have help, and I'll just report to them what the situation is here." That's where he in effect shrugged his shoulders that he was powerless to do anything about it. It was from higher up. So I did. I reported back to the chief of staff of the committee just what had happened, and well, he would look into it. He said he'd talk to McKelvey. This thing dragged along until somewhere around March. I had no secretary. I was barehanded. And still they were dragging their feet and sabotaging me. So I reported again, "These guys haven't done a damned thing and apparently don't intend to." "Well," he said, "I will talk to McKelvey." Later on, same day or shortly thereafter, he reported back that McKelvey will see you, I think it was on Monday or something of the sort. So at the appointed hour about 11 o'clock I got a preemptory telephone call from the secretary saying that the Director wished to see me at 11 o'clock or so, and when I got there, there were two people in the room and one was McKelvey and the other was Dick Sheldon; I didn't even know he was the new chief geologist. He used to work for McKelvey in the field.
He'd kind of come up as a student from Stanford under McKelvey. But he was in the room, and he was the new chief geologist. McKelvey was at his desk fumbling with papers, pretending to be busy, and he let me wait a while, before he got around to discussion. So when he did, he started to give me hell for going over his head to the Senate committee. Well, he knew damned well he was lying, because that hadn't happened, and I showed him that I hadn't done anything of the sort, and the committee had asked for this request in writing and I didn't have any help. Well, the pretense there was that there'd been a freeze on hiring and they couldn't hire anybody any more. But I knew that Bernardo Grossling, who had been elevated to McKelvey's staff as science advisor, had a half time, a very able student he had hired from the university on a half time basis, so I said, "All right, let me hire one of these students, graduate students on a part time basis." That was agreed to. So then I proposed to go out to the universities and talk with the faculty and hand-pick a first class person. And I did. I got recommendations at American University of their top student in mathematics, graduate student, man by the name of Jerry Karaganis, a Greek name. So I hired him, and he was very very able. He was well informed on computers, although we didn't have a computer, but he used one out at GW occasionally. No, American. But anyhow, when I was working on this report why I'd have him doing a lot of the work of…working on tables of data, computing and so on. And that's how I could get this thing done.
Doel:Was his help sufficient? Did you achieve what you wanted to do with this '74 report?
Hubbert:Well, he was actually serving the role as a high level technician, because of his knowledge of mathematics and so on. He could do things that you couldn't do with a high school student. But I was doing the report, and as far as typing was concerned, in view of the mess they had of this I wouldn't have dared let the draft of this report be in the hands of anybody else. In fact, my wife typed the entire thing at home. Nobody in the Survey except my immediate assistant had ever seen it.
Doel:That's an enormous undertaking.
Hubbert:Somewhere along the line, I got my secretary back. A man from California had been brought in by McKelvey especially to oversee a kind of reorganization. They broke the Survey up into several pieces. The geological part of it, I can't remember what they called it, one had to do with energy another with metals and so on. And Pecora was brought in from California to kind of supervise this energy thing. He and I knew each other before, since I'd been out to UCLA, and we were pretty good friends. And so he saw what the situation was with regard to the Senate report and he said, "Well, I'm going to get you a secretary." What he did was get me the same one back again. But she wasn't a very good secretary to begin with, and I wasn't letting anybody touch this report till it was in the hands of the Senate committee. My wife typed it at home. The Survey did the drafting but that's just a small part of it. They never saw the report till it came out in print.
Doel:Right. In 1974.
Hubbert:That's when they began to push it out and say, what's wrong with this stuff? So, then along about that same time, see, McKelvey was in very hot water the minute this thing turned out. See, all during the sixties, everything was going smoothly up. McKelvey could play his game and telling everybody what they wanted to hear and get away with it. And the first reversal came at the end of, I believe in report of 1969, maybe '69, the annual report on proved reserves which came out. The date of this thing varied somewhere around March, April each year. And when that report came out, natural gas proved reserves had dropped 5 trillion cubic feet in a year's time, and that's when the alarm went up. The next year it dropped 10 or 12 trillion cubic feet and continued to do so for the next two or three years. So that was a warning that there was something wrong here. That's when Stuart Udall along about the same time first woke up to the fact that he'd been had.
Doel:He was Secretary of the Interior.
Hubbert:Secretary of the Interior. He told me he'd believed everything the Geological Survey told him, during his first term and part of the second in office, before they began to get uneasy.
Doel:When did you first have contact with Udall?
Hubbert:I told you that once before. I never met the man when he was Secretary of the Interior. Along about 1971 or '71, I was a member of the board of trustees of a small non-profit group here called the Population Reference Bureau, and about that time, Udall came on as a member of the board of trustees, and at one of meetings I had a little brush with a man from the Brookings Institution who had this limited resource bee in his bonnet. This happened at a luncheon, and Udall was present. So not long after that, Udall called me and wanted some information on oil, and I said, "Well, I can give you quite a lot but I can't do it over the telephone. If you'll have lunch with me and will allow for a couple of hours, I can give you quite a lot of information." So he did. I had this report with me. And that's when he told me, he said, "You know, during my first term and toward the end of my second term, I believed everything the Geological Survey told me, and I began to get uneasy." And that was about the time when this gas crash then he realized that had been had. This is apparently all the Secretary's reports, and he couldn't undo them. That's when he wrote this book.
Hubbert:He was working on this book at that time. And he was bitterly critical of the misadvice he'd been given by the Geological Survey. But he didn't tell me the Revelle story — I think he was approaching it and backed out. He asked if I knew Roger Revelle and I said, "Yes," and then he changed the subject and went on to something else. But he asked that same question at a later luncheon and he told me this whole story.
Doel:That's when you heard about Revelle's maneuvers.
Hubbert:Yes. Well, that was pretty serious. I knew what had gone on in a general way, but I didn't have the details, and least of all that I'd get them from the Secretary of the Interior. I knew what was going on and who was doing it.
Doel:Right. It's different from having a confirmation.
Hubbert:Yes. So all right, this thing turned over in 1970. The peak date of oil was 1970. I had estimated the peak date to be between there and in the late sixties, or '70, with an uncertainty of about three years. Natural gas, I'd estimated about mid-1970 for the peak. Well, gas hadn't happened yet when I wrote this report. It still hadn't happened but as I pointed out it was imminent. It could happen any time now, just about. It happened in '73. So when I was writing this, the evidence hadn't come out yet, that wouldn't be till a year later. So however, the amount of oil turned over. The reversal occurred well, the peak was 1970, but the evidence was not till the next year or two or three when we were on the way down.
Hubbert:And so from that time on, McKelvey was in very very hot water, because the realization had spread through the government that the Geological Survey had been misinforming them for the last decade or so. And McKelvey was the most visible, overt person involved in the thing. And he was very much on the defensive. Somewhere along that time somebody asked me what McKelvey was doing. I said I thought he was hiding in a bomb shelter. And he was very very jumpy. I was called, I got a telephone call one day from the — oh, a woman on the staff of the House Interior National Affairs Committee which is perhaps the single most powerful committee in the House. And she said, "We're holding hearings at such and such a date on the overall energy situation, and we'd like you to testify before the committee." I said, "Well, I'll look in my little black book here and see if I'm clear that date." She said, "Never mind your little black book, you'll be here!"
Doel:That was putting it forcefully.
Hubbert:So I explained either on that occasion or another I said, well, I talked to a staff member, and I said, "Yes, I'm very happy to testify before this committee, but I want this understood, that I'm not going to agree with the Geological Survey, so if the Geological Survey attempts to interfere with what I am telling you, I will not testify. I want to testify, provided that I can do so with no interference."
Doel:Was that assurance given? Did you get assurance from the committee?
Hubbert:Yes, I had assurance from the committee. That's all I needed. They understood it. For these committees, you have to write a draft of what your testimony is to be, and you have to deliver umpteen number two-three hundred of copies, a specified number, two or three days before the committee meeting, so the staffers are supposed to have a chance to go over it, and presumably also members of the committee if they're interested. When you are there in person, you don't read this report, but they question you and there's discourse back and forth. But that report is the official document of your presentation to the committee. They have transcript of this committee questioning, as part of record. So when I submitted this draft, of course I submitted it to McKelvey.
Doel:Which you had to do, to get official survey approval.
Hubbert:— yes, well, which is the record of this. He suggested I have a footnote saying that these were my personal opinions and did not represent the official views of the Geological Survey. I said, "Of course, happy to do so." That was all he had to say. But at this meeting it turned out this was an all day meeting, and they had altogether either four or six, I forget which, different people morning and afternoon, all on the one subject of the energy situation. And one of them was McKelvey. He was also on the program.
Doel:That's interesting. That was in an adjoining session, as I recall. You were in the morning.
Hubbert:I don't remember, morning or afternoon. I think I was on in the morning but I don't now remember who all was on that program. There was an economist from Duke University, and I know McKelvey was on it. And maybe somebody from Resources for the Future, I don't remember. So also at that meeting with McKelvey was the chief geologist. Now I've forgotten his name. Sheldon, Richard Sheldon. And he was very busily taking notes on whatever I said, and that wasn't accidental. He was there for the purpose. In other words, if I made a slip or said something wrong, they could nail me. So again, I was out on some kind of a lecture tour, not a very long one, but that may have been a nine weeks lecture tour. I think it was now. Well, that of course was approved by the Survey.
Doel:Now, was this coming before or after the testimony that you gave to the committee?
Hubbert:Well, I testified before three or four different committees intermittently along in here and I don't remember the dates. But I think it was in the early seventies, '71, '72, as I remember, that I was involved in the APG lecture tour, and that's a local option. The way they do it, once they pick their speakers, they send these speakers around and what you've got is local sections of the AAPG, and also the Federated Universities, and so these various people can say, "I'll take Joe" or "I'll take Bill," an eeny meeny miny mo kind of thing. Well, when the exchanges came in I was signed up for nine weeks. So they broke this thing up into three week sessions. Nine weeks of one night stands is a man killer. I'd done the six weeks with no interruption, but the nine weeks, they broke at the end of the three weeks and had about two weeks in between. One of those stops was in the University of Minnesota, at Duluth, and the local committee had me signed up for a luncheon with the local press. Well, everybody in the press row was OK except one guy who was belligerent as hell, and he was mean and nasty, and so much so that — well, this was an adversarial situation, and I finally just refused to talk with them, so he left. Of course he could write any damn thing he wishes once he gets away. But the local people apologized to me for the man's behavior. There were three or four or five people there. Well, a week or two after that meeting — maybe I'm mixing things up, maybe that meeting wasn't part of this lecture tour. I guess that's right, I guess this Duluth meeting must have been closer to '75.
Doel:OK, after the testimony before the committee.
Hubbert:Yes. This was an earlier date. Unrelated, I don't know how — just an invitation, apparently to come out there. But this happened, and two or three weeks later I got a preemptory telephone call from McKelvey's office, saying that Dick Sheldon was coming to see me, and he came in in a few minutes' time like a bull in a china shop, waving some piece of newspaper clipping. I said, "What is it?" Well, it was a clipping from—I'm still mixing my stories. The Duluth thing, apparently this came in the mail from Denver, a clipping from a Duluth newspaper, this nasty reporter had written something, and it got to Denver, and there was a demand that I explain this situation. What had I said, and this kind of thing. Then the other incident was related, subsequent to this, not very much longer afterwards, when I was invited to give the inaugural lecture on a series of lectures that the University of Colorado was opening up, in cooperation with the local outside business community. There was some kind of a cooperative committee between the university and the business community for this series of lectures. On the recommendation of Pete Rose, who was the head of the oil and gas branch of this new organization, in Denver, he recommended me for the opening speaker. So with proper approval I accepted the invitation, but the subject was so large I couldn't handle it in an hour. It was an evening meeting, and we broke it up into two one hour sessions with a 15 minute recess between. There was a Survey man in Denver whom I knew back from Columbia days — I'd known him at Columbia—by the name of Frank Stead. Frank Stead had been Survey liaison with the Atomic Energy people, for all these underground tests and so on. He was an expert on that.
Doel:He was coordinating work between the two agencies?
Hubbert:Yes, between the Survey and the AEC. These underground blasts and what not. Well, I'd known as I say Frank Stead from Columbia days. In fact, he'd been one of my students, graduate students, that was his background, and so he apparently knew the science writer for the local Denver paper, DENVER POST, I think, and he'd given him some of my papers, and maybe some other USGS things, as background. And so this reporter was there at the meeting. He'd written up the account in the Denver paper. So that was the time that Sheldon came in waving this piece of paper, "Have you seen this?" "Well, what is it?" "This clipping from the DENVER POST" or something. I said, "No, I haven't seen it. What does it say?" And he read some. "What made you say that?" So there was some bit of unpleasant conversation, and that I'd been badmouthing the Survey, and hereafter they were going to have a monitor on me any time I talked to a public audience. He wanted me to go over this thing and answer these questions in detail, and oh yes, he was going to—I was not hereafter to discuss Survey policy. Well, I don't know what Survey policy is. I was just discussing technical questions. Well, he'd give that to me, "That's an order!" he says. "And I'll give it to you in writing." I said, "Well, I'd very much like to have it in writing."
Doel:Did you think there was still a possibility that you might be removed from the Survey, or that something might come about?
Hubbert:Well, this was in the eye at the time. I was prepared for it. So, all right, maybe the next day, I got a very nasty little note asking if I'd please read and comment on this document.
Doel:Also from Sheldon?
Hubbert:Yes, from Sheldon. This thing. Well, I spent the weekend with this thing, and there were statements in there that I had made, things I hadn't made, things that were misinterpreted and so on. And so I just went through this, I got a copy of it, and clipped individual statements out of it, and then I commented on these paragraph by paragraph or sentence by sentence. And one statement that was made was credited to McKelvey. The man had apparently read something of McKelvey's in this connection. And some things that were essentially what I had said, and I said, yes, I said that, it's true, I can back it up. Well, I spent the weekend on that, with this several page memorandum and got it ready, and when they got it back, I got a little note that they were entirely satisfied. Well, I didn't know it, but I got in the mail from Pete Rose a few days after that, that he'd been through the same go-round with them. He'd made a talk in Houston, and they'd apparently given Masters who was his boss in the Survey hell for what Pete Rose said in Houston.
Doel:Excuse me, did Pete Rose share the same point of view on energy reserves as you? Was it related to that issue?
Hubbert:Well, not originally, but he was coming around to it pretty fast, because by this time he'd been through his own study and come out with results that were in substantial agreement with mine, and highly contrasting with the McKelvey thing. So it's very pertinent to the story. Anyhow, I just re-read this Pete Rose thing, and there was a newspaper clipping about this big, and Pete Rose's notations from the various parts of it. The date was almost identical with my meeting at the University of Colorado. I think they were within a couple of days of each other. So what I'm getting at is that these guys were getting very very jumpy.
Doel:Right. What was morale like in the Survey at that time?
Hubbert:Morale was — I don't know, I wasn't there.
Doel:Well, in general during those years.
Hubbert:Well, everything was mixed up in this thing. This is 1975 in September.
Hubbert:So the first item here was, about 2:30 my secretary relayed the information that Mr. Sheldon wanted to call on me. He came in with the news item from the Denver paper that pertained to my lecture at the University of Colorado at Boulder on the evening of September the 9th. He charged that I'd been going around "running down" the Geological Survey, and he read a statement by the reporter that certainly I had not said. I told him that I had never seen the news item before, that it was customary for reporters to attribute statements that were never made and to commit various errors. After some discussion, he said that he would send this to me and would like to receive my written comments. I promised to give them. I told him that the Survey was in trouble solely because of its own fault. For the last 15 years the Survey had been putting out estimates of oil and gas to the government and the country which could not be justified by any known data in the oil industry, and had been repudiated by the evolution of circumstances. So this was the way the Survey had gotten itself into very hot water. It had not been my doing.
Doel:And you underlined that in your memo.
Hubbert:In fact, my principal objective throughout had been to uphold the scientific integrity of the Survey, and at that I'd had some degree of success. At one point Sheldon said, "I hereby give you orders not to involve yourself in any matters of policy." Well, this is a fair sample of the kinds of things that were going on.
Doel:Had you considered leaving the Survey at any point?
Hubbert:No. No. I told him I didn't think I was dealing with policy, in fact I'm not sure that I know what matters of policy are. What I had been doing is making the most accurate estimates of energy resources of which I am capable. This had been published and my invited lectures had been based upon these publications. In my analysis, I had to deal with historical data, and these have unavoidably involved former estimates by the Geological Survey. He said, "But you too work for the Geological Survey." I replied that I also used to work for Shell, and my Academy report of 1962 was not a Shell report. In fact, no one in Shell ever saw the report until it actually was released by the President. Similarly, none of my subsequent writings have ever been Geological Survey reports. My 1974 report was a staff report for questions by the chairman of the Senate Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, with the approval of the office of the Secretary of the Interior. In regard to his order to desist, Sheldon said that he would give it to me in writing. I told him that that would be agreeable to me and that I would give it appropriate consideration. I added, "I'm not entirely helpless, you know." Somewhere in the conversation he got onto the subject of a Survey review of reports. I remarked that I found it disturbing that the text of circular 725 had been "doctored" without the author's approval. He said that all Survey reports are subject to such treatment. I asked him who had reviewed Bernardo Grossling's recent bulletin, 1411, in which he stated that no evidence whatever, that the figure of 20 billion barrels of crude already known and about 10 more estimated for South and Central America was over two orders of magnitude two low, which was his opinion, what he stated. In other words, Latin America had over 3000 billion tons of coal or as much as the United States.
Doel:Now, is the circular 725 that you mentioned a moment ago one that you had written?
Hubbert:No, I didn't write any of these circulars. We'll come back to that. He said that that report was not from the Geological Division. He was head of the Geological Division, and said it hadn't been reviewed by the Geological Division. I replied that it was a Survey bulletin just the same, and that it was in keeping with other estimates during the last 15 years. There were other details, such as my wasting Survey time and money accepting lecture invitations. I told him that my first loyalty was to the American taxpayer and I did not feel I'd wasted taxpayers' money. I told him that — in fact, that I had also upheld the honor and integrity of the Survey as well. At one point Sheldon asked whether the Survey had ever tried to censor my work. I told him that it definitely had. When I was about to begin work for the committee, they took my secretary away from me. It took about three letters and several summonses to the director of the USGS from the Senate committee to break it up. He said that it was all the work of Dallas Peck. Well, it was. I showed him that I knew that the trouble came from on high. I also pointed out that my wife had had to type every word of my Senate report at home. I also pointed out — oh yes, at 3 PM Sheldon left for a conference with the director. The next chapter is awaited with interest. During the conversation, Sheldon also stated that hereafter the Survey intended to monitor, have a monitor present every time I gave a lecture to a public audience.
Doel:Would that be the first time in the Survey's history, do you think?
Hubbert:I have never heard of such things before.
Doel:Did you find that you had to write or wanted to write memoranda of this kind very frequently during the —
Hubbert:Well, these are memoranda I wrote for my own records.
Hubbert:But here's the next thing, October the 10th.
Doel:This is less than a month then after the one we just discussed.
Hubbert:From me to Richard B. Sheldon, chief geologist. Newspaper article by H. Peter Metzger, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, not Denver, September 16, 1975, copy attached, appendix. "This is a response to your request of October 3, 1975," and the request was, "Would you please review for me as to accuracy, thanks, Dick." October the 3rd, after that September meeting I just read you. Then I go on from there and review this thing in detail, what the lecture was all about and the circumstances, and then the breakdown of that newspaper item, a sentence at a time, what Metzger said and my response.
Doel:That's extending over several pages. That took a weekend's worth of work?
Hubbert:That's right, I spent Saturday and Sunday on this. And then the attachments here, from the newspaper article, I clipped. And let's see what else. There's some writing here, September 20, 1975, confidential memorandum. A reporter for NATIONAL JOURNAL sent me the galley proofs of an article he has written for publication next week in the NATIONAL JOURNAL. The NATIONAL JOURNAL is a subscription thing that cost several hundred dollars a year, and is widely read in the official Washington. He wanted me to check this for errors. Upon reading it I found enough errors and mixed up statements that I asked him to meet me at home at 5 PM and we would go over it together. This was done and he promised to rewrite various passages before going to press today. One item not in error that was discussed was a box with a caption, "Report Tampering Charged." This itemized the changes made in the recent circular 725. That's the Miller Thompson Report. This itemized the changes made in the recent circular 725 by McKelvey and Jack D. Carson, Assistant Secretary of the Interior. The information was given by the authors of the report who asked not to be identified. Arthur J. Magida told me that he had subsequently interviewed McKelvey about this. McKelvey told him that this was standard procedure and that all the reports published under the USGS imprimatur were subject to such treatment. He had his secretary bring in an example showing the errata and review procedure being followed in some current example. It was true that such system does exist, but there may be considerable flexibility in the way that it's carried out, and under no circumstances, however, is anyone justified in altering or rewriting a scientific report without the author's concurrence. As an example of the laxity of this system, I cited the recent report by Bernardo F. Grossling whom I did not name but referred to as a person close to the throne: "Latin America's Petroleum Prospects and the Energy Crisis" was the title of the report, USGS Bulletin 1411, 1975. I mentioned that in this report, the author had cited a recent coal estimate for South America by the Survey's coal expert Paul Averitt. He then stated dogmatically that there was no evidence whatever, that in his opinion the coal resources of South America were at least two orders of magnitude greater.
Doel:So these second guessing of estimates were not limited to the work that you had done?
Hubbert:Well, this was right out of the director's office. I wondered what competent review this paper had received. A xerox copy of page 4 of this report containing the above statement is attached. Averitt in the report coal resources in the United States are again in Table 8. World estimates, based upon published data, by region for coal in place, c.f. copy of this table in pages 8 are attached, including are the following: world 16,830 trillion tons, North America 4,600 billion tons, South Central American 30. Well, so, here was the director's office putting out unreviewed statements on South America that contradicted the coal division's figures by two orders of magnitude. They're putting on this act that "all our reports are reviewed" and so on.
Doel:How was the Survey's scientific reputation affected at that time? Was it fairly widely known?
Hubbert:The Survey's scientific reputation was going down like that, including in the oil industry. Questions they were asking: what the hell has happened to the Geological Survey?
Doel:You would hear that from people, colleagues?
Hubbert:Oh yes. Absolutely. That's right. A lot of people. This was an example of what was going on at the time.
Doel:Would you like to make this part of the record, of the discussion?
Doel:OK, fine. I'll make a note of that. I'll be glad to make a copy of this and return the original to you.
Hubbert:Now, the thing yes, there it is. There's the attached note. Now, Pete Rose, the head of the oil and gas operation —
Doel:This is dated as you say also in October of 1975. Yes. There's one other publication that I wanted to ask you about, the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN report, one of the first times that it seems your own interpretation reached a very wide audience. How did that come about?
Hubbert:By invitation. Of the editors.
Doel:Do you have any feeling for what caused them to issue you an invitation at that time?
Hubbert:Well, at that time, I don't know whether it's still so or not, but they reserve the September issue for a single subject.
Doel:That's continued, right.
Hubbert:And with invited papers. So they started to work on that September issue nearly a year in advance, and they invite their authors and SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN has this method of having a staff of skilled writers, and so they essentially rewrite the paper as it is submitted, but subject to the approval of the author. So it was perfectly straightforward. That September issue was going to be on energy, and so I was invited to write this paper.
Doel:Right. What kind of an impact do you feel that it made?
Hubbert:Well, I don't know. It was widely read. I was asked to autograph a copy in Turkey by a professor at the university there.
Doel:Is that so? There are just a few more questions that I wanted to ask you here on your oil and gas work, and perhaps we'd better bring this session to a close. It was in 1974, the time that you prepared a statement on industrial growth, the interest rate and monetary inflation. That had been prepared at the request of the Senate Subcommittee on the Environment House of Representatives.
Doel:That was Udall's committee. Was there a discussion between you and Udall about making the presentation itself?
Hubbert:No. I received the invitation as usual through the staff. And what it was, the principal thing as I remember had to do with a bill to try to keep growth within a limited range of about not more than 2 percent a year or so. And so after preliminary remarks about the bill, I proposed we should discuss the whole fundamental relationship of industrial growth and the monetary implications including interest rates and so on, inflation and interest. And so this study was an essay on this relationship.
Doel:Was there a great deal of reaction to that?
Hubbert:Well, there was discussion by members of the committee. But these things don't get read very widely, you know.
Hubbert:They come out at the time and very few people read very much of it, but it is in the record of the legislation. When they're hearing a bill, the accumulated record bears upon the broader question of court decisions and Supreme Court and so on. And the Supreme Court places, I'm told, a great deal of weight on this record leading up to the bill, as to what was the intent of the bill.
Doel:And was that one of the factors that influenced you to actually put the effort into doing the presentation?
Hubbert:Well, it was just an attempt to explain to the committee what some of these relations were. My whole point was that this growth business is a temporary thing, and nobody seems to know it, and so there was a discussion of the type of thing that, minerals are non-replaceable, they go up, they go back down again, and so you have about three different kinds of growth. One kind that is a non-replaceable, exhaustible resource. Another is a thing like, say, water power that can go up and level off, stabilize at a maximum, not indefinitely but at least for a long time, quite a period. You have the same thing with biological populations. Biological populations can stabilize, they can go up or down depending on the ecological mix, but they have the properties or behavior of being an exhaustible resource. Then there is the example of an unrestrained type of growth, a sum of money at compound interest. So by the compound interest it grows exponentially and there's no fixed upper limit. So then the question is, when your physical growth levels off and you have a zero rate of growth or a negative one, what are the financial implications of that situation? Growth is a sacred cow in the economists' language: "we must sustain growth!" Well, they can't sustain it, but they don't know it. So that's why the economists assume unlimited resources, and that became a part of the economic dogma around the turn of the century. I've never seen the record, but I'd be willing to bet that Vince McKelvey had a strong dose of economics as an undergraduate, because all his phony arguments elements were all economical in nature.
Doel:That's an interesting observation.
Hubbert:I've never had a chance to see his academic record, but I'd bet money that he had a good dose of undergraduate economics, and he hasn't got over it. He's dead now. But he never got over it.
Doel:Of course you raised a very similar issue of that kind when you were chairman of the — I want to be sure that I say this right — the Resources on Man Committee back in '63. I believe you addressed a letter to Carl Hoffman.
Hubbert:Oh yes. Well, it's the same thing. I mean, this is not a new subject.
Hubbert:It's a subject I've been working on for years.
Hubbert:It's all interrelated, the biological thing, the ecological thing and minerals, it's all part of a single complex. So what you've got is a contract between the physical, biological world and the monetary world.
Doel:Right. Of course, you had written Hoffman after he requested ideas on possible collaboration between the division of behavioral sciences and your own committee.
Hubbert:Well, that was the very same thing, that if they honestly wanted to work with us, we might accomplish something. They didn't.
Doel:Right. You never got a reply to that?
Hubbert:No. That was never acknowledged. But as I told you, I had a friend that I used to know at the University of Illinois who reported to me what had happened in the meeting.
Doel:We don't have that on the tape.
Hubbert:Well, I wrote this. When I came in as the chairman of the Earth Sciences Division, as I told you before, the former chairman had a heart attack and I came in on an emergency basis in April, 1963, I think it was. And not only that, but I'd lost the former executive secretary, and there was no executive secretary, and we hadn't yet hired one, didn't get one till that fall, and so the affairs of the office were in rather a state of confusion. And we didn't get out of it till October or so. I found this letter from Hoffman who was the chairman of the newly established division of the behavioral sciences, and he wrote this letter, apparently the same letter to all the existing divisions, proposing the possibility or raising the possibility of a mutual or joint committee between our respective divisions, to consider problems of mutual interest. Well, the letter had been received in the spring and hadn't been replied to, and I did not reply to it promptly but I gave it very serious consideration. And when I wrote a reply, why, I regarded it as one of the most important letters I ever wrote in my life. It was a very thoughtful letter in which I stated that there was real opportunity, I thought, and I briefly outlined the state the world had entered into, with this growth problem, we can't keep up growth although we might keep it up to the state of catastrophe but physically it can't be kept up.
Hubbert:And we're unaware of that fact. We're still operating on our primitive folkways with regard to it. And so the natural resources were within the domain of the Earth Sciences Division, and folkways and cultures and what not were within the domain of the behavioral sciences, and I thought that one of the greatest things we need in this connection is to examine the folkways and related things to see whether or not it is possible to control this situation short of a catastrophe. And I therefore proposed their consideration of a joint committee that dealt jointly with these basic resource problems in connection with the social folkways that are in overriding control at the present time. Anyhow, the letter was never replied to, and some months later, I encountered a gentleman, political scientist whom I used to know at the University of Illinois, and who was at this time a professor at Louisiana State University. He told me that he was a member of the committee and was present when my letter had been read by the chairman to members of the committee, and that the reaction of those present was essentially one of shock and incredulity that anybody could write such a letter, or was foolish enough to think such a thing.
Doel:And there wasn't any reaction or positive response by any member of the committee?
Hubbert:No. No response whatsoever. The only word of response I ever had was this friend of mine who told me the whole story.
Doel:What is his name? We ought to have it for the record.
Hubbert:I can't remember it.
Doel:We'll check that later.
Hubbert:I don't have it in writing any more. We might find him in the catalogue of 20 years ago. Louisiana State University. I think he was a political scientist, and if I saw his name I would recognize it, but I don't remember it now. I don't have it in any form of writing.
Doel:OK. Don't take much time with it. You've given me a copy of that letter and I wonder if we might also include that as part of the record.
Doel:OK, good. I've got one final question related to the USGS. It was 1978 that to replace McKelvey, that William Menard was nominated and then became director of the Geological Survey. Were you involved in any way in nominating or approving his choice?
Hubbert:No. It was an Academy committee that made the recommendation. There was another Academy committee recommended Pecora and I don't know about McKelvey. But an Academy committee recommended Menard. I had nothing to do with it. Of all the people I'd thought of, he was not one of them.
Doel:In that he did not seem likely to come over to the Survey?
Hubbert:Well, he just hadn't occurred to me. Of the people that I may have thought of as possible directors, he was not on the list.
Doel:What kind of a director was he?
Hubbert:Well, I don't know. I wasn't around. But I do know that there was almost a rebellion on the part of the Survey people. They almost rode him out of town on a rail.
Doel:Is that so? Because of the policies he enacted?
Hubbert:I don't know. I don't know. I just know that they didn't like him, and let it be known that they didn't like him. Why, I don't know, I wasn't there.
Doel:We've been talking for close to four hours. Perhaps this is time to bring this session to a close. We thank you again.
Hubbert:Well, let me say this. There's one important development here that we should not overlook in the future. And that is, the Geological Survey's attempt in 1975 to get out of the situation by setting up a new staff and new studies on oil and gas.
Doel:Do you want to talk about that at the beginning of the next session?
Hubbert:I think we'd better postpone it, because it's a rather large subject. We've talked about it. We've mentioned it, but a direct discussion is in order.
OK, fine. We'll make that the first item then in our next session.
Appendix is available at the Niels Bohr Library & Archives.