Chris Martenson Lecture On Why The Next 20 Years Will Be Marked By The Collapse Of The Exponential Function

Tyler Durden's picture

In this video courtesy of GoldMoney, Chris Martenson, economic analyst at and author of ‘The Crash Course’, explains why he thinks that the coming 20 years are going to look completely unlike the last 20 years. In his presentation he focuses on the so-called three “Es”: Economy, Energy and Environment. He argues that at this point in time it is no longer possible to view either one of those topics separately from one another.

Since all our money is loaned onto existence, our economy has to grow exponentially. Martenson proves this point empirically by showing a 99.9% fit of the actual growth curve of the last 40 years to an exponential curve. If we wanted to continue on this path, our debt load would have to double again over the next 10 years. By continually increasing our debt relative to GDP we are making the assumption that our future will always be wealthier than our past. He believes that this assumption is flawed and that the debt loads are already unmanageable.

Martenson explains how exponential growth works and why it is so scary that our economy is based on it. In an example he illustrates how unimaginably fast things speed up towards the end of an exponential curve. He shows that an exponential chart can be found in every one of the three “E’s” for instance in GDP growth, oil production, water use or species extinction. Due to the natural limitations on resources, Martenson comes to the conclusion that we are facing a serious energy crisis.

This energy predicament is namely that the quantity of oil as well as the quality of oil are in decline. He shows that oil discoveries peaked in 1964 and oil production peaked 40 years later. Martenson also shows how our return on invested energy is rapidly declining – the “cheap and easy” oil fields have already been exploited. In 1930 the energy return for oil was 100:1 or greater. Today it is already down to 3:1 and newer technologies such as corn-based ethanol only provide a 1.5:1 return. Martenson predicts that the time in between oil shocks will get shorter and shorter and that oil prices will go much higher.

Not only oil but also other natural resources are being rapidly used up as well. At the current projected pace of use, known reserves for many metals and minerals will be gone within the next 10 to 20 years. The energy needed to get these non-renewable resources out of the ground is growing exponentially. So we live in a world that must grow, but can’t grow and is subject to depletion. The conclusion out of all this is that our money system is poorly designed and that we need to rethink how we do things as quickly as possible.

After finishing his presentation Chris Martenson answers questions regarding a rise in efficiency, alternative technologies and oil prices. He also responds to questions regarding electricity, shale gas, gold, silver, platinum, palladium, and uranium and the race for global resources.

This video was recorded on November 16 at the Gold & Silver Meeting 2011 in Madrid.

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taraxias's picture

Did I hurt your feelings?


If referencing Yergin is your idea of FACTS, I think we have a problem here.


You debated peak oil before. You lost before. Stop continuing to show your vast ignorance which you try to pass off as intellect.


I have to go now, I'm not shaving my wife's face, she's seating on mine.

Mr Lennon Hendrix's picture

The only people that piss me off more than peak oil deniers are Keynesians. 

natty light's picture

Today's so-called Keynesians do Keynes an injustice. AAUI Keynes advocated building surpluses during good times to use during downturns for stimulus. We have been borrowing and spending through thick and thin for 30 years.

UK debt marsh's picture

Fact:  The production of every one of the Big Oil companies was lower in H1 2011 than in H1 2010.

The points you made in the earlier post above, about how 1.4 trillion barrels remain etc may indeed be true, but they are not answers to Martenson's points.  Peak oil is about flows not reserves.  Why is oil at $100 a barrel if there is so much of it available?

JW n FL's picture



you can look at the Industrial Production numbers from middle America in 2008 (welfargo).. you can read for yourself how lack of energy effected out put.

this all oges back to sour crude..

America can handle how much sour crude production? 15%? and that number was quoted to me from a knowledgeable person here.. but I would still believe we as a Country are capable of only 10%.

So I dont give a fuck about Matching Federal Dollars for Grid Worthy Builds..

I dont give a fuck about natural gas.

I dont give a fuck about fracking.

I dont give a fuck about stalled nuke plants.

I dont even give a fuck about India and China's 800 coal plants.

I dont give a fuck about any of those things becuase they dont keep the lights on at home.

Affordablle Oil has come and gone.

Lite Sweet Crude v Sour Heavy Crude

like the man said 1,100 feet under a desert, 3 miles from the ocean port with infrastructure in place.


30,000 feet under water.. and then another 10,000 feet under rock.. in the middle of hurricane alley.

wait I forgot nuke powered container ships to move commerce.




wake up.

CrashisOptimistic's picture

On Thursday, the energy blog reported on a December 2009 presentation by Petrobras CEO Jose Sergio Gabrielli in which he estimated that world oil production would peak this year. Gabrielli, head of Brazil’s national oil company, joined the ranks of other international oil honchos, including former Aramco executive Sadad al-Husseini and Total’s CEO Christophe de Margerie, in stating that the level of global oil production cannot keep pace with growing demand. The logical result of this trend is oil scarcity that will lead to quickly rising crude prices in the next few years.

Max Fischer's picture



First of all, it will take several years to know if his assertion is correct.  

Secondly, and more importantly, has this led to a dearth in available energy to maintain current GDP growth?  No. Consumers are not starved of energy.  Corporations are not starved of energy.  And governments are not starved of energy.  To this day, there has been NO provable peak, and NO provable crisis from any supposed peak. None.  

Third, recent history has proven the EXACT opposite of all this PO noise.  In 2009, we added to reserves; same in 2008; same in 2007.  The facts are suggesting the OPPOSITE of what you doomers are preaching.  Sorry. 

Fourth, while the rise in oil prices over the past two years does have an affect on GDP, you cannot link peak oil to that rise.  It's due to increased demand like any other commodity or widget.   

Max Fischer, Civis Mundi

Mr Lennon Hendrix's picture

Max, when your Mom told you you were a smart boy, she was lying.

Lord Koos's picture

So you bascially deny the fact that we live in a economy based on infiinite growth while living on a planet with finite resources?  Yeah oil is there but it's a matter of supply and demand.  Demand is increasing much faster than the supply, thus the higher prices.  If you expect this to somehow reverse itself, or be solved by some scientific discovery, please explain how that will happen.

Max Fischer's picture



So you bascially deny the fact that we live in a economy based on infiinite growth while living on a planet with finite resources? 

No. I do not deny that.  I simply deny the relevance of that to our current financial crisis.  There is ZERO evidence that declining energy supplies had anything to do with careless lending standards, overly greedy bankers with overly leveraged balance sheets full of over-marked shit, an overly gluttonous and consumer driven society, overly indebted countries with ponzi retirement plans, and a political climate that enables it all. Peak Oil had NOTHING to do with any of that shit. 

Demand is increasing much faster than the supply, thus the higher prices...

This is simply false.  As I've posted several times, in 2007, 2008, 2009 we added MORE reserves than we produced for consumption.  Net supply increased faster than demand. 

Prior to the crisis, it was a different story. The rise of oil to $150 was no different than the extreme increase in many commodity prices.  

Look at the price of corn before the crisis:



Do you think those parabolic charts are because of peak soybeans, peak wheat and peak corn?  Of course not. Same goes for oil.  

Certainly, worldwide demand for commodities was increasing, but the primary reason why the charts looked so extreme was because the commodity complex was flooded with new liquidity. In 2003, the commodities futures market was a ~$13B industry. By early 2008, it totaled over $300B, almost a 25X increase in five short years. The volume of index speculation increased by 1900%  Why? While investing in food had originally been a sleepy and boring business dominated by a few end-users like Cargill and ADM, it was suddenly the playground for hedge funds, pensions and sovereign wealth funds who got lured into the game by the guys at GSCI.  After many of the silicon valley IPO's crashed and burned, Wall Street decided to turn the world market for food and life's necessities into casino chips.  The entire commodities market ballooned.     

That's the reason for the higher prices in a wide swath of commodities, including oil, corn, wheat, etc.  It had nothing to do with "peak" anything.  

Lastly, $150 oil was definitely the match strike which popped the artificial bubbles, but $150 oil had NOTHING to do with peak oil, nor did oil have anything to do with the underlying house of cards which magnified the crisis into the worst since the Great Depression.

On a long enough timeline, yes, we'll have energy supply problems.  But there's no evidence of it today. 

Max Fischer, Civis Mundi  






caerus's picture

crops are renewable resources...(too bad no one wants to farm anymore) fossil fuels are not...

although energy is needed to plant and harvest...

i agree that there was an increase in liquidity in the commodity complex but this increase i think appeared for a reason...profit...investors sought to profit from basic supply/demand imbalances

an objective analysis of the energy markets is difficult because nations are not required to disclose truthfully their reserves or production data...THEY LIE

a true analysis would require accurate production data and an accurate assessment of demand in the "emerging world" that factors increases in standard of living, birth/death ratios etc...

i appreciate your analysis and your fervor...bonam fortunam

world population

Max Fischer's picture




Braccae tuae aperiuntur.


Max Fischer, Civis Mundi



Potemkin Village Idiot's picture

So it's all just hedgies & their casino chips right?

Tell me something... Have you ever stuck a shovel into the ground and grown something to eat?... Your chia pet doesn't count...

I'd like you to do a little experiment... Go grow yourself a year's worth of food (the kind you usually like to eat), then calculate the costs... Now scale that up a bit and take on the costs of sending it all around the planet to feed all your friends...

I'll give you a hint, it ain't the SEEDS where you start running into problems (on either scale)...

trav7777's picture

Jeezus fucking christ you are

Bicycle Repairman's picture

Max, illegitimi non carborundum.

Flakmeister's picture

Grima... are you back with your gratuitous junkings?

You really shouldn't play in the big boys sandbox... maybe in a few years, now run along...

Seer's picture

Everything is stated between the lines, otherwise there's chaos.  You're not going to get any "announcement" on the TV; that is, in any timely manner.

As Martenson noted, and I'd many years ago brought this to the attention of someone else who was very studied in energy (and influential), the REAL issue for concern is PEAK EXPORTS.  I hadn't noted any actual numbers until hearing it just now from Martenson (only 35 million bbl/day are actually traded in the markets, the rest is consumed locally/internally).  Not a pleasant thing to consider when you're a BIG oil importer.  But, just because it's unpleasant doesn't mean that its ramifications shouldn't be considered.  That this would be the reaction shouldn't surprise any rational-thinking person.

caerus's picture

errors in your supply data neglect to mention demand increase in your argument

Econolingus's picture

There is one error in your post: believing what Yergin writes.

CERA is a church of disinformation for the petroleum industry, and Brother Daniel is its High Priest.  Do your research; it is easily proven.

natty light's picture

And Yergin used to write about energy shortages in the future. Time to get paid though.

zgulgar's picture

Please pardon me but i have a question .

If , 1trillion used and 1.4 trillion is still available from known fields  = 2.4 trillion and if the age of the earth is what ? 4 billion years / please divide that and the so called abiotic theory of oil will equal a replenishment rate of ? and our extraction rate is ?

 lets add another 2.4 trillion just for kicks and again the replenishment rate is what and the EXTRACTION rate is what ?

Just womdering but my calcs say we are burning way more than can be replenished at our current world wide consumption.

and im just asking this i may be way uneducated about this subject lol but i am indeed trying to figure out how to get thru a rapidly depleting resource senario with costs going exponentioally higher with fewrer and fewer viable  easy to get to oil fields

thank you in advance for any good answer cheers )


Flakmeister's picture

Shh.... doncha know there are bazillions of barrels of oil.... the world has a nice creamy nougat center of tasty hydrocarbons..

Seer's picture

And! the world really isn't a ball.  That is, if the eye turns objects upside down then we're really just staring at the center of the ball when looking in to space!  The surface, therefore, could very well be of infinite depth below us, there could be an endless supply of oil!

Downing Effect.  Cognitive dissonance.  Things just ain't looking to good for the survival of our species...

Potemkin Village Idiot's picture

do you want to prepare for your retirement or the end of modern society?

Oh... Thanks to wise men like you... I'm certainly more concerned at this point with my cozy retirement on the golf course consuming 25x of my share of the world's resources...

Let's let that problem of what will actually happen when the tube of toothpaste runs out be somebody elses problem... Glob it up today...

Seer's picture

What the hell is my brother doing posting here?  LOL!

Flakmeister's picture

Max, tsk, tsk...

You fell into the trap of conflating boe and bbl.... rookie error.

Moreover, it is about flows not reserves. If I have an oil field of unknown size then what does it matter if I increase the OOIP if the flowrate does not increase. Look at the production curves for Kern River and get back to me, reserves went up, but rates went down...

So what if world production increased after the US peaked... it has not increased in 5 years despite every reason that a neo-classical economist says should make it increase being relevant: demand, cheap capital, new fields...

Peak oil occurs when no amount of money printing can increase the supply of oil....


Seer's picture

Clearly, as indication by the red arrow, people hate facts!

I'd advise to start talking along the lines of "peak oil production exports."  Sigh, but most folks only have a capacity to focus on a couple of syllables at a time...

The future will demand more compost.   I suppose that in this way they WILL be "active" participants.

Flakmeister's picture

The junking is from a certain Bicycle Repairman if I am not mistaken....Its really funny, he goes around and gives himself up arrows and me down arrows....

Yep, Net exports are down, energy content of "All liquids" is flat to declining... We are getting near the EROEI cliff...

Hugh_Jorgan's picture

In the timescale of mankind, yes. Not in the scale of modern history.


4th Turning, bitchez...

myne's picture

If anyone's up for a scare, open wiki on coal, and excel.
Copy the reserves, last x yrs production in, work out the avg increase % of production, and extrapolate till global reserves are 0.


You dont have to be a greenie to figure out that no coal = no steel = no civilisation. You also need to be very afraid because noone is even considering reserve lifespan based on increasing usage. They're all quoting hundreds of years 'at current production rates'.

steelrules's picture

A small meager increase of 7% y/y doubles consumption every 10 years.

For all you math buffs and end of oil deniers.

Seer's picture

I'm waiting for those tossing out red arrows to counter what's being stated.  I mean, do you believe that MATH is invalid?

Momauguin Joe's picture

The long emergency, as Kunstler calls it.

Captain Benny's picture

Our descendents will look back upon history and wonder "What the hell were they thinking?  They had every warning sign.  They had the math and science to prove there wasn't enough oil-derived energy.  They had full knowlege that the currency was fiat and based on nothing but future labor and debt, controlled by a few ellusive people.  They instead fought wars around the world for no reason other than to claim they were 'liberating' people."

Hell, we have some 7 billion people on the planet now.  That isn't sustainable.  The planet cannot produce enough food and resources to feed and shelter said people while maintaining the atmosphere, oceans, and the rest of the environment.  This generation shall surely see a mass die-off event and it shall scar our eyes so great that we'll be blind to the events of the day.

Maybe that scar is already being formed... I just saw a bunch of monkeys in Walmart fighting over towels.

Dr. No's picture

Our descendents will look back upon history and wonder "What the hell were they thinking? 

Only a few descendents will look back.  Think of it as a darwin moment.  All of those towel fighters are busy watchin MArtha Stuart, scanning T.V. with 500 channels, eating Olestra.  They are not suited to continuing the progression of the species.  Only due to a strange misallocation of values has our society reached this evolutionary dead end moment.  We need to have a mass bacterial colony die off in order to rebuild a antibiotic resistant strain.  Humans will be stronger.  Ask the survivers of the depression and even more extremem society break downs ( such as Weimar, Soviet, etc) if they shoud be fighting over waffle irons or should they be working to protect their family and property.   As this system continues to misallocate at break neck speed, greater will be the snap back to a more advanceable species pregression.

trav7777's picture

you don't understand evolution if you think that's how it works.

Evolution doesn't care if you are smarter it only cares if your offspring have a differentially higher survival rate.  The decline of the oil age won't just kill off the stupid.

When deer on the island collapse, they don't produce super deer.  They live in disease and squalor

Dr. No's picture

When the deer on the island collapse, the racoons take over due to their ability to live off squalor.  I agree that survial rate trumps, but I assumed that intellegence could give the survival rate a boost over a similar life form with no intellegence.  The evolution of man would seem to support the thesis, bit I could be wrong.

OldTrooper's picture

Could be wrong?  Clearly you've never seen the documentary, Idiocracy!  :)

r00t61's picture

One of the extensions of the Fermi paradox posits that intelligence (like the kind we have), which initially arises from natural selection, and thus should prove beneficial in assuring our continued survival (which is, after all, the POINT of evolution), might result in us gaining the ability to destroy ourselves, via nuclear, chemical, biological weapons, complete resource depletion, or even financial shenanigans, etc.  Thus, paradoxically, our intelligence becomes the means of our own destruction.

This gives rise to the Stephen Hawking quote, "It is not clear that intelligence has any long-term survival value."

As a species, we've only been around 200,000 years.  For comparison's sake, the great white shark has been around 16 million years.  Modern cockroaches have been around 70 million years.  Jellyfish have existed for about 500 million years.

I'll be really impressed (though, I'll be dead, dammit) if our species can make it to 16M, 70M, or 500M years' worth of evolution.

cowdiddly's picture

“Kilgore Trout once wrote a short story which was a dialogue between two pieces of yeast. They were discussing the possible purposes of life as they ate sugar and suffocated in their own excrement. Because of their limited intelligence, they never came close to guessing that they were making champagne.” 
Kurt VonnegutBreakfast of Champions

Mr_Wonderful's picture

“So, in the interests of survival, they trained themselves to be agreeing machines instead of thinking machines. All their minds had to do was to discover what other people were thinking, and then they thought that, too.”
? Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

Flakmeister's picture

RT...  nice to bring up the Fermi Paradox...

My twist on it is that some significant fraction of technical civilizations do make it beyond the hydrocarbon age. You also expect some fraction to self-immolate themselves in a nuclear war.... Based on the physics and engineering it is very clear to me that a transition beyond hydrocarbons while maintaining the trajectory on Kurzweils trajectory is not a given...

Seer's picture

And then there's the next glacial period.  Propagating the human genome, despite the simplicity of sex, just ain't all that easy.  Sigh...

CrashisOptimistic's picture

This is the part that turns off minds when I talk to people.

"The smart and the educated will not be rewarded in the world we'll see for the rest of our lives.  The return of physical strength as a valuable trait is inexorable now.  Women will lose the right to vote, that they got only because oil de-emphasized muscle as valuable to society."


Lord Koos's picture

If it was just about strength, we'd all be slaves to mules and elephants. You'll still have to be a smarter brute than the other brutes to survive & flourish.   Judging from your post, your chances may not be that good.

fnord88's picture

Except smart educated people can see the future better than stupid ignorant ones, and learn to grow food, shoot guns and practice krav maga

trav7777's picture

the smart will insofar as their ability extends to use intelligence to kill the strong.  Otherwise, I agree wholeheartedly.

Seer's picture

"Women will lose the right to vote, that they got only because oil de-emphasized muscle as valuable to society."

Wasn't the case with many of the American Indian cultures.

Yeah, with this vertical hierarchy that would be the case, but I'm not thinking that IT can persist.