Richard Duncan is chief author of the Olduvai theory, a prediction of rapidly declining world energy production. He has an MS in Electrical Engineering (1969) and a PhD in Systems Engineering (1973) from the University of Washington.
The Olduvai theory holds that the ratio of world energy production per capita, which he denotes by the metric e, will peak as the extraction rates of fossil fuels fall increasingly behind demand, causing catastrophic social and economic collapse, starting with massive electrical blackouts worldwide. He suggests that humans would eventually revert to a stone-age style of living after the majority of the world's population dies off over the coming century. In 1996, Duncan claimed that e had peaked around 1978. In 2000, the theory was revised to hold that the ratio would begin to decline around 2007. The peak was again revised in 2013 to have occurred in 2012.
He bases his theory on the fact that a steep rise in global population and petroleum use almost parallel each other but population increases at a slightly faster rate than does energy use.
Duncan's research data, compiled in partnership with geologist Dr. Walter Youngquist, have become widely used resources for those studying past and current trends in oil production and depletion.