A simple interpretation of Hubberts model of resource exploitation

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Publication date: 2009-09-01
First published in: Energies
Authors: U. Bardi & A. Lavacchi


The well known “Hubbert curve” assumes that the production curve of crude oil in a free market economy is “bell shaped” and symmetric. The model was first applied in the 1950s as a way of forecasting the production of crude oil in the US lower 48 states. Today, variants of the model are often used for describing the worldwide production of crude oil, which is supposed to reach a global production peak (“peak oil”) and to decline afterward. The model has also been shown to be valid for mineral resources other than crude oil and also for slowly renewable biological resources such as whales. Despite its widespread use, Hubbert’s model is sometimes criticized for being arbitrary, and its underlying assumptions are rarely examined. In the present work, we use a simple model to generate the bell shaped curve using the smallest possible number of assumptions, also taking into account the “Energy Return on Energy Invested” (EROI or EROEI) parameter. We show that this model can reproduce several past cases, even for resources other than crude oil, and provide a useful tool for understanding the general mechanisms of resource exploitation and the future of energy production in the world’s economy.

Published in: Energies, Volume 2, Issue 3, September 2009, Pages 646-661
Available from: Energies

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