Episode-515- An Interview with Chris Martenson – Author of The Crash Course — 33 Comments

  1. Even David Attenborough done a show on the human population issue titled simply “How Many People Can Live On Planet Earth”.

  2. Your interview with Chris Martenson was excellent and thought provoking. Few want to face what might happen be it economic collapse, EMP attack, oil embargo, or other national crisis. You and Chris are correct; if we wait for the event to occur before we prepare, we will have missed the bus.

  3. Great interview. Martenson makes an interesting distinction between a bubble and a mania. Here’s another example of a mania:

    One thing that I think creates an imperfect picture, however, is saying a gallon of petrol is equal to X amount of dollars, based on some wage rate if a human were to physically expend the same energy in physical work. IF you or he does this, I think you also have to state how many dollars in solar energy falls on an average square foot of land on earth.

    We have no intention of paying the sun for its energy at the same rate we pay a human, whether measured in horsepower or KwH. Anyway, chalk the rest of the lesson over to “the law of comparative advantage” and available efficiencies of converting solar energy into the various forms needed.

    Karl Marx also mistakenly tried to get a fixed method to convert labor values into prices, but such rigidity has widely been regarded as an impossibility and failure…So to with energy and prices and labor.

    And to be clear, I agree with you and Chris on 99.5% of everything.

  4. @Decentralist you’ve missed the point of the comparison.

    Neither I nor Chris are saying gas should be priced now based on hourly wages we are simply pointing out how much work it does and what its real value is. That real value will never be realized while the oil is flowing in abundance but on the back side of the peak its value will become apparent.

    Unlike the sun, people will live to see the energy of oil run out.

  5. I might not be clear, as I’m trying to be concise, but you repeated what I (and the whole Austrian school of economics) points out is a problem, as demonstrated by the phrase “the real value” which implies value is not primarily subjective.

    Although you understand the importance of scarcity, the other side of value is opportunity cost. Value isn’t based on the hardest alternative (i.e. physically doing the work by hand otherwise done by, i.e. internal combustion engines) but on the next easiest alternative, which varies with time, opinion, knowledge, and of course resources.

    Interestingly, our back ‘n forth argument in trying to understand each other represents 130 years of Austrian vs. Marxist economics back and forth… not that I’m saying you’re a Marxist. After all, Marx inherited the error from Adam Smith, but Neoclassical economists switched to the Austrian side on this argument around 1920.

    Separately, the Progressive Automotive X Prize was quite interesting, even if far too little too late to stop a global economic crash. Other technologies I want to watch are mirrors and lenses used to run Sterling Engines and/or thermo-electric generators. These don’t require massive production plants and rare resources like solar panels.

  6. @Decentralist

    I think you are married to the purity of an idea. When we say real value we mean an understanding of what oil actually does.

    I never see gas at 400 dollars a gallon for God sakes. Note 100, etc. There is a point of diminishing returns where you turn to alternatives or do with out. The point is making people understand the amount of work done by a single gallon of gas and what happens when oil is not longer available to do even half of that work.

    It isn’t even about economics in reality, sorry you are stuck on this. You come across as the type of libertarian that damages the movement by trying to sound smarter than the next libertarian.

  7. @Decentralist, the comparative value of oil to human work is not about money denominations. It’s about physics. For example, an acronym is EROEI (Energy Return on Energy Invested) or Net Energy. If you put more energy in then you get out you are energy negative.

    Tar Sands for example require a lot of natural gas to not only boil the bitumen out of the sand but to also lighten up the gunk during processing. On an EROEI tar sands can be a net energy loss while still making a positive return on money invested if the natural gas is relatively cheap.

    Comparing an energy equivalency of human labor output to oil’s density output is what the discussion was about. Not money values.

  8. It is already too late. I have studied EROI, and Peak Oil, I have 3 environmental degrees and have studied environmental resource limits. My masters in planning and my studies of society and history, all point to the same conclusion as well. It is why I am a survivalist.

    – Our food production and distribution is dependent on oil.
    – Our cities and civil infrastructure are dependent on oil.
    – The Earth has a fixed annual energy budget consisting of 1-solar radiation, 2-tidal energy from Lunar gravity, and 3-geothermal energy from Earth’s molten radioactive core.
    – There are no other sources of energy for the Earth than the 3 mentioned above.
    – Oil is stored solar energy from millions of years ago.
    – The Earth’s annual energy budget can support about 2.5 billion people at the AVERAGE global per-capita rate of consumption (avg of developed and undeveloped nations).
    – There is NO EQUIVALENT TO OIL in terms of energy density, quality, portability, or affordability (for a short while longer).
    – Our economy will have a roller coaster ride as it repeatedly surges and crashes as we travel along the “bumpy plateau of post peak oil” (Google it).

    – CONCLUSION: over 3 billion people will have to leave the world of the living in the next 20 to 30 years. They will not go peacefully.

    visit here:

    Be prepared. Good luck.

  9. Obvious answer is to redesign the system for sustainability, not growth. Compound growth is unsustainable. Keep component is stable money, which we do not have at present.

  10. ClarkB,

    All good points, but don’t get overly carried away. Calculating global carrying capacity is a tricky thing, and I have yet to see an assessment of it that I would put my confidence in. I too, as an environmental scientist, am very concerned with our growing human population and demand overshooting our life sustaining resources. I think this will, or may already be happening. However, when it comes to this topic most of what I tend to see is sensationalism rather than any sort of solid logical follow through or even genuine supporting evidence (referring to a major human die-off). Like Chris Martenson, I recognize that there are some major changes coming down the pipe, but how the cards will fall will be anyone’s guess. I have a hunch that when faced with extinction, an awful lot of people might welcome a paradigm shift to a more sustainable lifestyle,,, one that fortunately might be a bit more in tune with the human condition – i.e. the kind of self reliant lifestyle that TSP is all about.


    Thanks for bringing Chris on the show! I have long been a big fan of his, and have always thought that his and your ideas complement each other extremely well – like a perfect fit of here are some problems, and here are some solutions.

    Great Show!

  11. One of the best shows you’ve done on TSP. Really absorbing and eye-opening.

    I’m going to try to get my family to listen to this to try to get them to understand why I’m suddenly “doing strange things”!


  12. Mr. Spirco:

    That was a great interview of Chris Martenson! You covered a huge amount of ground there, and as you said, this could easily evolve into a multipart series. You and Chris both do a great service to your on-line communities and I see many parallels in your ideas and Chris’s. Thank you for the great work that you do.

    I want to try to give you back something in return.

    You mentioned that you recently bought a new diesel car. I think that the choice of a diesel vehicle might detrimentally impact your transportation resilience, when, not if (as Chris said), the next energy crisis occurs.


    Because the availability of diesel fuel for non-critical household use is much tighter than it is for gasoline. This has to do with the many non-transport requirements for diesel, the heavy use of diesel in commercial transport, and the way oil is refined in North America (primarily to gasoline).

    I did a detailed analysis of this here: If you have any questions or you feel that I have missed something or miscalculated something, I’d be happy to discuss it with you.

    Bottom line: if there is a significant shortfall in transportation fuel, those households using diesel for transportation will feel it first, and, most severely.

    Best regards,

  13. @crash_watcher

    Not when you drive a car that gets over 45MBG on it and store a minimum of 500 Gallons of stabilized fuel at all times.

    Oh yea shhhhhhhhhh! I don’t usually reveal that much ;>)

    There are also other options for a diesel vehicle long term that don’t exist for a gas vehicle. We also have kept one gas vehicle to go with our two diesels.

  14. That is good foresight on your part—your own private SPR as I called it ( However, I think that most urbanites/suburbanites would be limited by HOA restrictions, fire code restrictions, city bylaws etc….. from storing such large quantities of diesel or gasoline at their residence.

    I’m just saying that most people relying on commercial diesel fuel for transport will probably be in a pretty vulnerable position in the future.

    p.s., I won’t tell anyone!

    ….knock, knock, knock….Mr. Spirco we here from the government and we are here to help. As you know we are in a state-of-emergency, and, we here to “borrow” your 500G store of diesel, to help operate our critical use vehicles…just as soon as thing are back to normal we will repay you. It is all for a good cause, and, as a fine upstanding citizen, we are such you don’t mind…

    Probably you anticipate that 500G, even with that great mpg, will only last about a year or so, and, you are also working on private biodiesel processing setup as well? ….knock, knock, knock….

  15. @Bad_Synergy I don’t know if we exceeded the earth’s carrying capacity. What I do know (believe) is that few Americans (first worlders) have little skill to get through tough times. You read that Americans consume 10 calories of oil to every 1 calorie they eat. Whether that’s true or not it illustrates the point, because of oil no American must grow and store their own food in order to survive to the next year.

    Peak oil causes a halt to GDP growth, and oil declining causes GDP to decline. In and of itself that isn’t so bad if people can adapt and you have a “sound” monetary system. But since our economy and Federal Treasury is based upon a fiat, debt-based money that requires perpetual GDP growth to stay ahead of the inherent debt, peak oil is devastating to that currency.

    It’s kind of like a Ponzi Scheme that requires perpetual investors to keep the pyramid from collapsing. Except with a fiat currency that is loaned into existence this fiat Ponzi requires ever increasing GDPs.

    What happens when the debt is growing exponentially and GDP is declining? We go into the world of Joseph Tainter

  16. @Crash_Watcher Actually I don’t think anyone alive today is going to see the absolute end of petrolium based fuel or a point where you can’t buy any at all. I am not prepping for that and I don’t think anyone else should bother to as far more pressing needs exist.

    What I do see coming is limited fuel and very expensive periods for fuel. What we need to prepare for is adaptation to change. We will not see the day when zero cars are on the road or if we do it won’t be directly related to fuel supplies. Survivalists are one dimensional at times seeing either an end or we just ain’t to the end yet.

    On your issue of restrictions first if anyone currently lives under the tyranny of an HOA MOVE and MOVE NOW. I find HOAs to make governments look benevolent.

    Further the day the government has the time to worry about 500 gallons of fuel, forget about fuel.

    There will be no oil crash this is a death spiral with lots of pain and change but a slow ramp down, not a flip of a switch and gone. The belief that peak oil is just that, is a bigger danger.

    I feel we are in the middle of or close to peak right now, I feel even 10 years from now the majority will still be in denial even when paying 8 dollars a gallon in the US for regular. Such is the hidden danger of a slippery but slight angled slope.

  17. Doug,

    I pretty much agree with you. Heck my moniker, Bad_Synergy, was picked because I have long held the belief that the convergence of our problems is the real threat, not so much the individual problems in themselves. That said, I still think the quick collapse scenario is all too often over played. Yes, if the SHTF today (in a bad way), a huge number of people in this country would be completely unprepared, and would likely not fare so well. However, that is just one of many possibilities. The more likely of which IMHO is that we will round a corner not over night, but over several years,,, giving society at least some time to adjust. It will probably suck a lot, and for a lot of people; but people are not static in their capacity to adapt and probably can overcome all but the worst of the possible scenarios discussed here.

    As an aside: I might note that people seem to portray things like Peak Oil to be something like a precursor to a global Easter Island effect. However, in respect to what happened on Easter Island, how many thousands of other islands followed different courses not leading to major human die-offs.

    Rather than worry about things that are well out of our control, I agree with Jack in that (for a number of reasons) we should focus our attention on what we can do for ourselves right now to get ready. If this catches on, and enough people do so, I suspect that it will significantly buffer us (as a society) against many of the calamities that concern us.

  18. Bad_Synergy Says,

    If we have a collapse it’ll be financial, but I believe it’ll oil’s declining that brings it about. I’ve been the hyperinflation camp after observing John Williams’ April 2008 interview: Watching how the economy unfolded after that interview is why I give Williams credit, poof is in the pudding.

    Like myself, Jack is a fan of Gerald Celente. Celente is also a fan of Williams and reads his web page daily.

    Within the last two weeks Williams said he believe the hyperinflation will begin in 6 to 9 months and progress towards the middle of this decade.

    this is Williams’ latest youtube vid:

    In part 4 Williams admits he’s storing food and believes we could see empty shelves until a barter system sets up.

  19. @Kid because it puts into perspective how much work oil does, how much doing without say 100 gallons a year we were expecting really means, how much of something else it takes to replace it. Let me put it to you this way…;

    One gallon of fuel is equivalent to about 500 man hours and one gallon of fuel can also move 12 tons of food in a tractor trailer about 8 miles.

    So that should make you ask if that one gallon of fuel isn’t there what else can move that 12 tons of food those 8 miles so you and I can eat it?

  20. If technology hadn’t increased rapidly the past few centuries, we wouldn’t have 6 billion plus on the planet right now. We already have the technology available right now to easily sustain twice that number – the reason we have shortages is due to political and individual selfishness (think government waste and over-regulation) and good old-fashioned wickedness. I totally disagree that nuclear couldn’t be used to power our needs into the future – the reason nuclear takes so long to implement is purely a political/wickedness problem. Take off most the regulations and we could all have cheap energy within a decade (and I mean everyone).

  21. Dan, the US uses 10,000 gallons of oil every second…every second of every day, it uses 60 billion cubic feet of natural gas every day and if you stacked those cubic feet on top of each other they’d reach to moon and back…25 times. And the US burns through 20 rail cars of coal every minute; That 100 car trainload every 5 minutes.

    The world alone consumes 85 million barrels of oil every day! So let me visualize that for you using 55-gallon drums.

    First we need some number to work with:
    * 42 gallons equals one oil barrel
    * A 55 gallon steel drum is 3 feet tall by 22 inches wide
    * A mile is 5,280 feet
    * The circumference of the earth is 24,901 miles
    * Speed of sound 768 mph

    If we were to lay drums end to end representing the world’s daily consumption of oil it’d look like this:

    (85,000,000bbl x 42gal) / 55gal = 64,909,090 fifty-five gallon steel drums
    (64,9090,090 x 3ft) / 5280ft = 36,880 mile long pipeline
    36,880 / 24,901 = 1.48 or a pipeline stretching 1 1/2 times around the earth….every day 24/7
    (36,880 / 24hr) / 768mph = Mach 2 or twice the speed of sound the oil would need to flow to replace the 85 million barrels being consumed every day.
    (36,880 x 365days) / 24,901miles = 540 times you could encircle the earth every year with steel drums.

    What liquid fuel is going to replace that? It won’t come from biomass. And the technology to replace gasoline with an equivalent battery storage for autos doesn’t exist either. The best the Volt will get is 40 miles per charge and it takes all night to recharge it. While it only takes a few minutes to refill a gas tank that gets 400 miles between recharges.

    And nukes have their own problems with enough available fuel
    Dr David Goodstein: Running out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil

    Breeder reactors would buy a lot more time, however.

  22. Pingback:Chris Martenson’s series What you should do, Part 8 « muses of the moment

  23. Pingback:Crash Course – Economy / Energy / Environment » Brian's Blog

  24. Here is a better way to compare the relative value of 1 gallon of liquid petroleum fuel.

    Biodiesel can be produced with algae at 300 gallons per acre per year. However, it is estimated that this figure could be raised up to 3000. Palm oil yields 500 gallons per year, but lets do some numbers. An acre is 43,560 sq. ft. Assuming only 300 gallons/acre yield, and assuming 1 gallon of biodiesel is more or less equal to 1 gallon of petroleum fuel, then 1 gallon of gas is worth 145 square feet used for a full year for fuel production, not counting labor.

    Think about it another way. If every family had 1 acre to devote solely to biodiesel production, could you live on 300 gallons for a year? Assuming 30 mpg in a vehicle, that is 9000 miles for the whole family.

    Feel free to do these or similar numbers on a show. It is the best mental picture of the opportunity cost of gasoline I can imagine.


    And in another insane but real measure, the cost for the military to get each gallon of gasoline to Afganistan is now up to $800 per gallon.


    • @decentralist, IF is the biggest two letter word on planet earth. If this and IF that. If every family had an acre? Been to a sub division lately? Been to a urban center? A high rise building? Also where do we get enough water for 300 million 1 acre ponds just in the US alone?

      Stuff like this can help but it can NOT replace what we currently have. I am not putting down your view just pointing out its limits.

      The stat on gas into Afghanistan is insane by the way!

  25. Great talk Jack! I really hope we can get Chris back on on the future.

    It would be cool if there was an MSB or TSP discount for Chris’ members section.