M. King Hubbert: Co-Founder of Technocracy, Inc. vs. The Oracle Of Oil

M. King Hubbert (left), Howard Scott (middle), co-founders of Technocracy, Inc. in 1934

TN Note: This book review (and perhaps the book itself) indirectly discredits Technocracy as a tinfoil hat operation from the 1930s. When Hubbert and Scott co-founded Technocracy, Inc. in 1934, the author claims,

“Hubbert fell under the spell of a magnetic charlatan named Howard Scott, who envisioned a revolutionary future in which the ‘price system’ would be replaced with ‘energy certificates’ and scientists and engineers would manage government and industry across a North American ‘Technate.'”

This is a material misstatement of a historical fact. As one who has conducted exhaustive original research on Technocracy, I can assure the reader that Hubbert was no victim of Scott or anyone else. In fact, Scott was Hubbert’s roommate in Greenwich Village because Scott was dead broke. Both signatures appear on the incorporation papers in New York, where Technocracy, Inc. was incorporated. In other words, Hubbert was 100% complicit in the founding and operation of Technocracy, Inc. Furthermore, Hubbert was the principal author of the Technocracy Study Course published as the movement’s “bible” in 1934.

(via WSJ) On March 8, 1956, Shell Oil research geologist Marion King Hubbert delivered a keynote speech at an American Petroleum Institute meeting in San Antonio, Texas, and predicted that U.S. oil production would peak within 10 to 15 years. The reaction was dismissive. Hubbert was challenging an entrenched belief in American petroleum abundance. Fifteen years later, however, U.S. oil output did begin to decline, and Americans’ reliance on foreign oil soared.

The confirmation of his 1956 prediction transformed Hubbert from iconoclast to visionary. In the mid-2000s, as global oil production appeared to have peaked, he became the idol of environmentalists who dreamed of an end to the oil era.

A man who likened himself to Galileo, King Hubbert (1903-89) would have approved of the portrait painted in “The Oracle of Oil: A Maverick Geologist’s Quest for a Sustainable Future.” One of the most gifted geoscientists of his age but also one of the most contentious, Hubbert pursued scientific truth and his own legend with equal vigor. Instead of taking the full measure of the man and his impact, which would have required examining Hubbert’s compulsions and contradictions as an environmental thinker, Mason Inman, an environmental journalist, polishes the legend.

The more revealing half of this biography is about Hubbert’s life before 1956. A native of the austere Methodist community of San Saba, Texas, he displayed his iconoclasm early, rejecting religious fundamentalism for empirical science. A precocious and cocky student, he earned degrees in geology and physics from the University of Chicago and in 1930 began teaching at Columbia University.

Amid the intellectual ferment in New York City during the Great Depression, Hubbert fell under the spell of a magnetic charlatan namedHoward Scott, who envisioned a revolutionary future in which the “price system” would be replaced with “energy certificates” and scientists and engineers would manage government and industry across a North American “Technate.”

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2 Comments on "M. King Hubbert: Co-Founder of Technocracy, Inc. vs. The Oracle Of Oil"

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Mason Inman
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Hi, I’m the author of the book, “The Oracle of Oil.” I felt the Wall Street Journal review was misleading in a number of ways, including about Hubbert’s role in Technocracy. I think you’ll find the book of interest. I did a lot of original research myself, including going to Ferndale, WA, to go through Technocracy’s papers stored at their Continental Headquarters there. You may be interested to know that another review of my book, in Treehugger, said: “[Hubbert] was one of the founders of the Technocracy movement that believed that the world would be a better place if it… Read more »
James
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I am an engineer and while I’m sure I could run the world much more capably than any of these bureaucrats or technocrats I do not wish to. The major paradigms of scarcity, need for draconian control and threat to global environment are flawed. A paradigm shift to one of abundance needs to occur. At our present level of technology and knowledge we can build a sustainable and resilient future for all of humanity. The threeof fundamental points that need to shift are greed, desire for control and corruption. If we can overcome these items society will find many alternative… Read more »
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