Hubbert Rectangles

by Solarevolution June 18, 2011 13:01
Herman Daly defined sustainability as "equity extended into the future."
Inspired, I created a spreadsheet called, "Adults learning to share the future with their children."

Still not knowing quite where to start, I had to think it through. In Peak Oil circles we talk a lot about Hubbert curves. But in the wider world out there, more often than not we find people making reference to Hubbert rectangles: "We have enough [oil/gas/coal/uranium] to last for X years."

In other words, we carry on blithely -- Business as Usual ("BAU") -- and then plop! we're down to ZERO, just like that!

Plus, rectangles are much easier to model than curves. So off I went ... and created 3 scenarios. One, the rectangle: we use it all up at today's rate and then it's smack dab zero. Second (unrealistic) what if we cut back immediately and spread it out evenly over a long period of time -- 1000 years, or whatever you say? Third, create a policy at some deliberate enlightened decline rate and move off fossil fuels as quickly as possible.

Here's one variation of these 3 scenarios -- using "25 years [of oil/gas/coal] left." Our options are:
#1) be done with it quickly -- the black rectangle
#2) drop supply at 10% per year (orange). Clearly some people aren't going to be happy about this.
#3) for reference, we drop immediately to a 1000 year rate. (At least this is less un-sustainable.) 

You can find the spreadsheet here if you would like to play with it.

If you're wondering how big a rectangle to draw, you might want to try any of these values I obtained by googling "Years of [oil/gas/coal] left" (precise wording using quotes):
  • Oil: <50, 40, 49
  • Gas: 53, 20, 8, 10, 60, 4.
  • Coal: 200, 141, 300, 250, 500, 100, 400, 10
These numbers came up just from the first page of links, things like: "there is about 20 years of natural gas left in the world." Some of them were national, some were global figures.

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