Ugo Bardi is one of my "man-crushes". The guy is smart, educated (the two are by no means synonymous), and seems to have a better handle on the nature of things than the average blog-generator. As always, I am wary of my own prediliction toward observation bias, but the numbers really do seem to add up better in the peak oil blogosphere when compared to the numbers trumpeted by the financial media.
So, take a look at the curves above. Making the assumption that the actual amount of total recoverable oil in the world is similar to the 2.1TB that is noted above, are we really are halfway through the pie? But take a look at the curve's shape on the left side. See that big bump where the actual production pulled away from the Gaussian?
The area under the curve is the important part. Right now it appears that there was a big surge in production that pulled quite a bit more oil out of the ground than what was predicted by the smooth normal curves so loved by scientists. That being said, if this chart is correct, and the quantities of oil are even in the ball park of correct, then we are going to be looking at a nastier backside of the curve than we originally thought. If the data supporting the 2.1TB total quantity is correct (and who would think that oil companies, middle eastern potentates, and Latin American tinpot dictators would lie about anything?), then it would appear that we are more than halfway through the oil and well on our way down the backslope.
I have been thinking this thought for a while now. If the production of the oil is front-end loaded like it appears. Then the shape of the curve will be shifted to the left. Hence my reference to Dr. Bardi. He has even coined a phrase for the next 30 years or so: The Seneca Cliff.
Now, Ugo might have drawn this curve a little too steep for my tastes. But in the past I have discussed the long and winding road ahead of us. I have even discussed the qualities of a "negatively skewed distribution" in the past. I have always given us a couple of generations to de-tune the current zeitgeist. If the "cliff" turns out to be true, then the beginning of the troubles will be moved up a full generation. Rather than my great-grandkids returning to a simpler life (against their will) it will be my grandkids, my kids certainly will have a hard time of it.
But the Cassandra's out there have a tendency toward looking at the world as a runaway train, with no feedback to correct the problems and no systems in place to slow the fall. I think that there is a decent chance that the decline will be managed to a certain degree.
But there will be a lot of folks that will not like "the management". I may well be one of them. The current system implies an massive misuse of resources and a level of "freedom" that may not be useful or productive in a compressive deflationary environment. The details of the new system are being laid in place now.