Hydrocarbons and the evolution of human culture

Nature. 2003 Nov 20;426(6964):318-22. doi: 10.1038/nature02130.


Most of the progress in human culture has required the exploitation of energy resources. About 100 years ago, the major source of energy shifted from recent solar to fossil hydrocarbons, including liquid and gaseous petroleum. Technology has generally led to a greater use of hydrocarbon fuels for most human activities, making civilization vulnerable to decreases in supply. At this time our knowledge is not sufficient for us to choose between the different estimates of, for example, resources of conventional oil.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Conservation of Energy Resources
  • Culture*
  • Energy-Generating Resources / economics
  • Energy-Generating Resources / statistics & numerical data
  • Geography
  • Hydrocarbons / standards
  • Hydrocarbons / supply & distribution*
  • Petroleum / economics*
  • Petroleum / standards
  • Petroleum / statistics & numerical data
  • Petroleum / supply & distribution*
  • Politics
  • Time Factors


  • Hydrocarbons
  • Petroleum