Abstract for: Peak oil and the minimum EROI for society

We propose a class of low-dimensional dynamical systems to model the production of non-renewable energy that highlight one key insight: the peak of production coincides with the minimum of the energy return on investment (EROI). Since Hubbert proposed the theory of peak oil there has been a growing concern for when worldwide production of oil would reach its maximum and then start declining. The first decade of this century saw a flurry of predictions and increased distress regarding the topic which has since subsided. The extraction of non-conventional oil resources has helped mitigate the problem but does not address the issue of declining EROI. There is a minimum EROI necessary for society with its modern facilities (e.g., healthcare, education) to function properly or otherwise face the possibility of collapse. Our model indicates that the concern for peak oil was misplaced: society can experience low, even unsustainable EROI, well before global production would ever peak.