Hubbert was born in San Saba, Texas. He attended the University of Chicago, where he received his B.S. in 1926, his M.S. in 1928, and his Ph.D in 1937, studying geology, mathematics, and physics. He worked as an assistant geologist for the Amerada Petroleum Company for two years while pursuing his Ph.D. He joined the Shell Oil Company in 1943, retiring from that firm in 1964. After he retired from Shell, he became a senior research geophysicist for the United States Geological Survey until his retirement in 1976. He also held positions as a professor of geology and geophysics at Stanford University from 1963 to 1968, and as a professor at UC Berkeley from 1973 to 1976.
Hubbert was also an avid Technocrat. He co-founded Technocracy Incorporated with Howard Scott and contributed significantly to the Technocracy Study Course, the precedent document of that group which advocates a Non-market economics form of Energy Accounting,as opposed to the current Price System method. Hubbert was a member of the Board of Governors, and served as Secretary of education to that organisation
Hubbert made several contributions to geophysics, including a mathematical demonstration that rock in the Earth's crust, because it is under immense pressure in large areas, should exhibit plasticity, similar to clay. This demonstration explained the observed results that the Earth' s crust deforms over time. He also studied the flow of underground fluids.
Hubbert is most well-known for his studies on the capacities of oil fields and natural gas reserves. He predicted that, for any given geographical area, from an individual oil field to the planet as a whole, the rate of petroleum production of the reserve over time would resemble a bell curve. Based on his theory, in a paper that he presented to the 1956 meeting of the American Petroleum Institute in San Antonio, Texas, Hubbert made the prediction that overall petroleum production would peak in the United States between the late 1960s and the early 1970s. He became famous when this prediction came true in 1970. The curve he used in his analysis is known as the Hubbert curve, and the peak of the curve is known as the Hubbert peak.
Between October 17, 1973, and March 1974, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) ceased shipments of petroleum to the United States, causing what has been called the 1973 energy crisis. In 1975, with the United States still suffering from high petroleum prices, the National Academy of Sciences confirmed their acceptance of Hubbert's calculations on oil and natural gas depletion, and acknowledged that their earlier, more optimistic estimates had been incorrect. This garnered great media attention for Hubbert.
In 1974, Hubbert projected that global oil production would peak in 1995 at 40-GB/yr "if current trends continue". Various subsequent predictions have been made by others as trends have fluctuated in the intervening years. Hubbert's theory, and its implications for the world economy, remain controversial.
Originally convinced that solar power was too diffuse to be used, by 1988 Hubbert had reversed his position and believed that solar power would be a practical renewable energy replacement for fossil fuels.