The author of Our Finite World is Gail Tverberg. She is a researcher focused on figuring out how energy limits and the economy are really interconnected, and what this means for our future. Her background is as a casualty actuary, working in insurance forecasting.

Gail Tverberg Charles Hall Joe Tainter and Mario Giampietro

Gail Tverberg, Charles Hall, Mario Giampietro, and Joseph Tainter in auditorium in Barcelona, Spain. They would later answer questions from students from 11 high schools in the area. Translation from Catalan to English was provided by headphone.

Gail first became aware of oil shortages, and the impact they could have on insurance companies, back in the 1973 – 1974 period, when oil limits were first a problem. In 2005, she began reading books on the subject, including Jeremy Leggett’s The Empty Tank. Gail did further research about the situation, and wrote her first article about the potential impact on the property-casualty insurance industry in early 2006.

In March 2007, Gail decided to research the issue of limits of a finite world on a full-time basis, leaving her career in insurance consulting. She began OurFiniteWorld.com in 2007, but temporarily changed her writing base to TheOilDrum.com between mid-2007 and 2010, where she was a writer and editor. Since late 2010, her blog posts have been published on OurFiniteWorld.com. These posts are widely republished under Gail’s Creative Commons license; many posts are translated into other languages and republished.

Besides blog posts, Gail is the author of a number of academic papers. The most widely cited is, “Oil Supply Limits and the Continuing Financial Crisis.” Another academic paper of interest is, “An Oil Production Forecast for China Considering Economic Limits,” published in 2016. Section 2 of this paper discusses the possibility that the limit on oil extraction may be a financial limit: prices cannot rise high enough. A longer list of academic papers and papers for insurance audiences is given on the sidebar.

Gail also speaks to many groups regarding her views on energy limits and the economy. She has spoken in many countries around the world, including Italy, Spain, China, and India. She has spoken to academic groups, actuarial groups, “Peak Oil” groups, and more general groups, such as religious groups and graduate students. In early 2015, she taught a course at China University of Petroleum in Beijing on “Energy and the Economy.” In 2017, she was one of the invited speakers at a European Commission workshop relating to “New Narratives of Energy and the Economy” in Brussels. In February 2021, she gave a Zoom lecture called Where Energy Modeling Goes Wrong, on behalf of the Uncomfortable Knowledge Hub.

Gail’s work is different from that of other researchers in that she does not take widely-accepted views as a “given.” Instead she tries to figure out for herself precisely what is happening by looking at a wide range of data and literature, and by investigating leads offered by other researchers and by commenters on OurFiniteWorld.com. In a sense, her wide-ranging view is only possible because of the miracles of the internet and of second-hand books available through Amazon.

One key to Gail’s independence is the fact that she does not take donations or accept advertising on her website. Another key to her independence is the fact that she is not part of the university system, and thus is not subject to the demands of “publish or perish.” Being separate from the university system also allows her to take a broader view of the subject, because “academic silos” are no longer a problem.

Gail has an M. S. from the University of Illinois, Chicago, in Mathematics, and is a Fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society. She is also a Member of the American Academy of Actuaries. Some of her early writing can be found under the name “Gail the Actuary,” a pen name used on articles published at The Oil Drum between 2007 and 2013. She has literally hundreds of articles on this site, OurFiniteWorld.com.

Gail can be reached at GailTverberg at comcast dot net or at (407) 443-0505. Her twitter feed is @gailtheactuary.

36 Responses to About

  1. Pingback: In the Keynes zone

    • I notice that Tim Watkins has read my latest article, in addition to previous articles. His new article is In the Keyens zone. John Maynard Keynes is known for his theory that aggregate demand is the most important driving force in the economy. The economy does not necessarily add a sufficient amount of such demand; instead, regulators need to increase demand by adding money (really debt) to allow the economy to achieve full employment and price stability.

      Tim Watkins is pointing out why this doesn’t work, as oil supplies are exhausted, linking to my post. Depletion is an obstacle. Prices cannot rise high enough to extract the remaining North Sea Oil.

      Watkins concludes:

      In summary then, whereas the 164-year-old dynamic involved rising demand pushing oil prices up to the point that further production became viable, today we are in a new phase in which the higher cost of oil is crushing demand, causing disinvestment from further oil production. The end result would be higher oil prices but for the fact that higher prices crush economic demand even further, causing recession and depression.

      Missing from this picture though, is the dimension of time. Businesses don’t immediately raise their prices in response to a rising oil price any more than households cease buying a range of discretionary goods and services. Most often, we respond by trying to absorb the additional cost. When this fails, we may seek some kind of efficiency saving. And beyond this we will likely borrow to make up the difference… all in the expectation that prices will fall again soon. It may take months or even years of higher prices – compounded by rising interest rates – before households pare their spending down to essentials, and businesses – who until recently were struggling to find workers –begin cutting their workforce.

      We have already seen a string of indicators – failing banks, inverted yield curves, fewer hours being worked, an explosion in home-working, and business surveys predicting lower future demand – pointing to a deflationary recession, even as central bankers are still obsessing over inflation, and as governments continue to promise a soft landing. The recent failure of OPEC+ production cuts to generate a higher oil price is yet another indicator of an unfolding downturn – and because the rising energy cost of recovering oil will continue to increase, it is also an indicator of a prolonged depression as we will struggle to regenerate demand in the aftermath of the gathering downturn.

      Central bankers are labouring under the illusion that they are in control, and so can steer a course back to prosperity. Even more laughably, the politicians think the state is in charge, and so engage in borrowing, and tax-and-spend policies which they believe will bring inflation down in a good way.

      Perhaps proving that we shouldn’t rely upon the opinions of economists, John Maynard Keynes lost a fortune in the 1929 crash. The experience prompted him to utter his famous line:

      “Markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent.”

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  26. oak barrels says:

    I think offshore drilling is a must. I live on the Gulf Of Mexico, in Brownsville,Tx and I know Texans are all for it.
    Richard A. Weisberg

  27. Lee Wells says:

    I’m totally and completely overpowered by what I see as the TOTAL lack of interest in the PRIMARY problem here.

    The problem is really OVERPOPULATION. We would not be *NEAR* peak oil if we had listened to Paul R. Ehrlich and the Club of Rome. Of course we didn’t listen to Jimmy Carter or even Richard Nixon about this.

    With 74% of oil producing countries past peak oil, I would think it would be obvious to most casual observer, that we have to many people being born.

  28. outtanames999 says:

    Well, the only comment I have is, good stuff on oil, but now what do you know about credit markets because the oil bubble has subsided and the issue of finite quantities has shifted to credit markets which are seizing up.

  29. RJ says:

    I’m curious where you’re coming up with all of this information.

  30. Tom L says:

    The IEA has a world oil survey available as a free download showing oil flow of products by country.


  31. Murray Duffin says:

    Gail, I am a lurker in disagreement with your March TOD piece on the economic impact of peak oil. I hoped to write a detailed reply, but for various valid reasons cannot find the time. Also I don’t know how to submit a contribution to TOD. As a result I have come up with the following quick summary of another scenario that I feel is more likely than yours. Please give it due consideration.
    USA present production is >5mb/d. Running that down carefully and working over all of our old fields with modern technology should provide 2-3 mb/d for at least 30 years. Canadian tar-sand can provide us with 2-3 mb/d for the foreseeable future by 2015 or so.. The Bakken shales should have recoverable oil of >20 Gb, and can likely supply 2-3 mb/d for > 20 years, starting in 20 years starting in say 10 years. We should be able to maintain imports of >2 mb/d for decades. Biofuels of all kinds can easily provide 1 mb/d for as long as we need. That adds up to 60% of present consumption. Our imports ex-Canada can drop from the present 13 mb/d to 2 mb/d over 15-20 years, while we increase fuel use efficiency by factor 3 and we can continues to grow our economy at a modest rate, giving us some decades to evolve to a no growth economy. Trip efficiency and intelligent conservation can provide a cushion as needed of up to 4 mb/d during the transition. This scenario allows for non-Canadian imports dropping 8%/yr for 20 years while we make the needed adjustments. Even staying 100% with ICEs we can triple automotive fuel efficiency. Hybrids, BEVs, switch to rail, etc., will provide the needed additional efficiency for trucks and planes to get the entire transport sector to >3x.
    As global warming ceases to be an issue, and scarcity/price bite, we will open all of the off-limits prospects to development.

  32. Hello Gail,

    I have been lurking on TOD for quite some time and just read your article on the limits to growth. I published a three part series in the journal Quest (a magazine for members of Global Underwater Explorers)a couple of years ago entitled Growth and Sustainablility: An Ecological Perspetive. I have these articles in PDF format and Quest would not mind if they were released to The Oil Drum. If you are interested in seeing them I would be happy to email the PDF’s to you for your review.

    As a short biography I have a Ph.D. in Ecological Sciences from Old Dominion University and currently work as a biology professor at Spartanburg Community College in Spartanburg S.C.


  33. winston smith says:


  34. Michael says:

    Keep up the great work. If you stand back from all the data and just take a general over view of whats happening it all starts to make sense. The sudden massive rush into ethanol plants,Iraq, the calm on the markets of a $93 dollar barrel of oil, Where is the panic? Why is there no panic?

  35. RedHatty says:

    What a great post! You need to join us in the campaign! Be a Netizen Hero!




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