The Failure of Chris Martenson's Crash Course
By: Shawn Alli
Posted: March 3, 2013
Chis Martenson's DVD, online lessons and book: The Crash Course espouses the doctrine that our future is completely unsustainable and we're all at the tipping point of no return (using his 3 hockey stick graphs).
This is the same type of Malthusian doctrine Paul Ehrlich advocates in his 1968 book, The Population Bomb - that there won't be enough resources for everyone, the population is too large to sustain itself, and all the connotations that go along with the myth of scarcity. The advent of time shows all his claims are false - 43 years later the Western lifestyle still continues, better for some and worse for others.
Martenson advocates this doctrine through the interplay of the 3 E's: Economy, Environment and Energy. I don't disagree that all are affecting each other, but so is everything else: an individual's actions, intentions and mindset are involved in this interplay. The same goes for terrorist attacks, government policy, and technology.
Why these events, experiences and industries would be separated as a single problem and not united is beyond common sense.
As the author of Oil, the 4th Renewable Resource I take absolute argument with Martenson in regards to his Energy category, namely peak oil. In Chapter 17a of his online course he starts off with the claim that all oil fields share an extraction profile - Hubbert's bell curve, which entails a slow beginning, a peak and constantly dropping off until nothing is left. The Russian geologist, Nikolai Alexandrovich Kudryavtsev disproves this with Kudryavtsev's Rule.
Martenson asserts that peak oil is not a theory but rather a description of a physical process. This is incorrect as well. The cost per barrel of oil sold on the market has to be higher than the extraction cost in order to make any profit. This means that peak oil is not a fact or a description of a process but relative to the current means of extracting oil, with oil corporations controlling this extraction technology.
To think that oil corporations are purposely using the most efficient technology is false. Oil corporations don't need to use the best means because it affects their profits. Too much and there's a glut of cheap oil; but extracting oil slowly at peak times or stopping production creates a higher price, enabling a shortage. And with a shortage of any commodity comes higher profits.
Martenson claims that oil peaks in 1970 at 10 million barrels per day (bbl/d) and we're now down to 5 million bbl/d. He says this is a fact. In the beginning of his DVD he says it's important to differentiate between fact, opinion and belief.
The claim of US oil production dropping to 5 million bbl/d is not a fact, it's an incorrect opinion. But don't take my word for it, check out the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) statistics:
1980: 10 million barrels per day.
2011: 10 million barrels per day.
One of the most blatant statements Martenson makes is the claim that global oil discoveries peak in 1964. He claims this is an undisputable fact (Key Fact #1). This claim catches me off guard because in my book I don't mention it. So I decide to do a bit of research and the results explain why I don't include it in the book. Any claim by an author should have good references, my book is no exception. The purpose of a reference is to credit someone else's work and to add credibility to an author's claim or body of work. While some references are more credible than others I at least want to know the origin of this 1964 claim. Is it by a person? A scientist? A think tank? An oil corporation? The US Geological Survey (USGS)?
The internet brings me to numerous authors and blogs that mention this 1964 global oil discovery peak but doesn't give me a reference. Finally, I find an article by the UK author and journalist George Monbiot: Crying Sheep. September 27th, 2005. He provides a reference: Aaron Naparstek's June 2004 article: The Coming Energy Crunch. Finding the article, I zero in on the 1964 claim and I find no reference.
However, researchers can't give up that easy now. I continue my search and find an article by the US journalist and economist John Attarian: The Steady-State Economy: What It Is, Why We Need It. In December of 2004 John Attarian passes away. The Negative Population Growth (NPG) organization publishes it in March 2005. Looking at the 1964 claim I find two references. One is from British Petroleum's (BP) 2004 report. That's a red flag right there. Checking the 2004 report there's nothing about a 1964 peak. However, even if the report states a reference, the credibility would be zero.
There's a reason why I don't use any references from oil corporations in regards to the amount of oil in the earth. Simply put, I don't trust any oil corporation to report the truth about oil speculation amounts because they have a vested financial interest in promoting the myth of scarcity and peak oil for profit. When a commodity is scarce the price skyrockets. When a commodity is unlimited the price will be stable and relatively low.
The second reference is from Dr. Colin J. Campbell's 2003 book: The Essence of Oil & Gas Depletion, p.13 and p.127. Not wasting any time I check p. 13 and find no reference, just a statement about global peak oil in 1964. On p.127 a bar graph says global peak in 1964. There are no references showing the statistics for the graph.
The end result is that the 1964 claim of a global peak in oil originates with Dr. Campbell in 2003, to be taken at face value with no references (prior to this date he uses the term 1960s in his earlier publications). The problem is that Dr. Campbell is a German geologist working in oil corporations for decades, and creating the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO). Dr. Campbell has a clear vested financial, economic and political interest in promoting the myth of scarcity and peak oil. Meaning, his information on oil speculation amounts is not credible as an objective source. This is why there's no mention of the 1964 claim in my book.
My apologies for the long detour, but I want to present my arguments in a clear manner with evidence, which should be true for all authors, but isn't. Amazingly, in Chapter 17a Martenson mentions abiotic oil as a wishful hope, a one sentence line that I call lip service. Abiotic oil is the entire argument for Oil, The 4th Renewable Resource so I take issue when anyone mentions it with sarcasm or on a whim.
Does Martenson believe in abiotic oil? Of course not, the entire online lesson and DVD advocates the status quo position - that oil is a fossil fuel and a finite resource. Nothing can be further from the truth, and I present the evidence in the book.
By advocating this view Martenson perpetuates the dogmatic claim that animal remains and vegetation are pressure cooked to become oil. But in Chapter 5 of his online lessons he presents the 19th century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer's three stages of truth: ridicule, violent opposition and acceptance as self-evident. He doesn't apply this to the origin of oil, rather to an equation: growth = prosperity; he argues against this claim and says we can't have both. This is nonsense of course.
The western world enables growth and prosperity, not for all of the people mind you, but nonetheless both go hand in hand. The two concepts are similar and affect one another but definitely don't have to equal each other. Presenting it in this manner is manipulation to prove a claim in which the next chapters are based on and so on. The manipulation of words and concepts to the public is one of easiest things to get away with but still unethical.
Continuing in Chapter 17a Martenson makes the claim that global oil production is stagnant from 2004, possibly pointing toward peak oil. Again this is false. Before presenting the US EIA proof, it's interesting to note that he uses 2004 as a starting block, why then? Why not 2003 or sooner? Because from 2004-2005 the increase is only by 1.4 million bbl/d. But from 2003-2004 the increase is by 3.5 million bbl/d:
2004 to 2011, increase by 4.1 million bbl/d.
1996 to 2003, increase by 7.4 million bbl/d.
1988 to 1995, increase by 5.9 million bbl/d.
1980 to 1987, increase by 0. Decrease by 1.8 million bbl/d.
If an increase of one or two million bbl/d of oil occurs every year for global production, people can interpret and manipulate this data to show stagnant growth. The above example uses an 8 year cycle, but I can also make it into a 2, 5 or even 10 year cycle. There are numerous ways to manipulate data and Martenson is adept at doing so. Growth isn't stagnant at all, it goes up and down from time to time. In fact there's a decrease in oil production from 1980-1987. Many peak oil theorists in this time use this as proof. But the 24 years after proves it to be completely wrong.
The key to understanding this is in not in the numbers, but rather the intentions and manipulation of oil corporations. Remember, by posting larger figures of oil finds, oil corporations have to pay more tax on that oil to the government. Hence, it's an accounting ploy. Oil corporations own vast tracks of land globally where oil is sitting comfortably without extraction. Big Oil doesn't need to make use of this oil because there's so much sitting in storage tankers not in use.
Looking at today's news reports you'll read about massive amounts of oil sitting in tankers not going anywhere because of the environmental controversy of new pipelines, namely the Keystone Pipeline. Right now the price of oil is incredibly low because it's not in full use relative to the massive supplies oil corporations have. This oil is not being refined because of pipeline regulations and public pressure. However, if the US government approves the Keystone pipeline the result will be huge spikes in the price of oil because it's now in use and moving to refineries to hit the market.
An unlimited supply of oil sitting in storage tanks doesn't engender profit, but rather lowers the value of oil, hence the lower price. All peak oil theorists, including Chris Martenson refuse to make these simple connections, and instead promote scarcity and alarmism.
Martenson talks about the day when the global demand for oil outstrips supply. This is the same nonsense US President Jimmy Carter says in his 1977 energy policy speech. It doesn't happen of course. Objectively this will never happen. However, oil corporations can easily claim they're running low on oil production for a few years, creating massive shortages and astronomical prices at the pumps; and then magically find a massive oil field a few years later and return prices to a manageable level.
Never underestimate an oil corporation's desire to make a profit at any cost. In July 2008 oil peaks at $147.00 a barrel. Malthusian advocates like Martenson says these are the signs of peak oil and the tipping point. But now in March 2013 the price of oil is $91.00 a barrel. No energy collapse and no collapse of government. The only retort Martenson and other peak oil theorist can say is:
...the date can never be known, but it's coming...20 years, 50 years, 100 years it doesn't matter, it's still coming.
Because of oil, Martenson explains the convenience of western living as the equivalent of having hundreds of slaves.
Planting your own crops in your background doesn't require hundreds of slaves, nor does using solar and biofuel. The public usually doesn't choose this option because grocery stores are open 24 hours in major cities around the world. Despite Martenson's claim of food production hitting its peak, it's completely false. There can never be a food production shortage when grocery stores are fully stocked and open 24 hours a day/7 days a week. The problem, which all high school students should know, is the distribution of resources, not the supply.
In Chapter 19 Martenson says our primary energy is now at the peak or soon will be and shows newspaper clippings of fish peaking, phosphates peaking and metal supply shortages.
I can guarantee you right now there's no shortage of copper, metal or aluminum. My guarantee is ironclad because I can go into a Home Depot outlet and get each in different forms for pennies or a few dollars. A commodity in shortage is not something the public can get for relatively nothing. The fact that it's available in North America for dirt cheap proves there is no shortage.
Chris Martenson's book, DVD and online lessons is complete garbage, and should forever be looked at as promoting the myth of scarcity, alarmism and fear mongering. The Crash Course gets a grade of F: Fail.