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Peak oil advocates seem to need to prove, and sometimes over-prove, that peaking world oil production is a problem. The opening speaker at the recent 2007 Houston World Oil Conference (sponsored by the Association for the Study of Peak Oil) stated that there is a direct and proportional relationship between oil supply deficit and Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The US, he said, experienced oil shortages in 1973 and 1979 that caused the economy to go into a recession. The precise proportionality, he added, between oil supply deficit and GDP decline varies, but it is at least one-to-one. While this sounds reasonable, it isn’t true. The graph shows that following the 1973 Arab oil embargo, US annual oil consumption (essentially, supply) decreased by about 4% in 1974, but that GDP decreased only about 0.5%. In the following year, oil supply decreased 1.8%, but GDP decreased only 0.2%.

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