Sunday, July 31, 2005

"Outsiders" and "Insiders"

This weekend the Oil Drum's commentator's thread discussed the problem of making peak oil "outsiders" (those who don't know about peak oil) into "insiders." (Thanks to Lou Grinzo for the terms.)

Jokerman said "we need to focus on more facts and less rants."

Odograph suggested that blogs have a "'floating' top story" to introduce newbies to the basics.

Step back countered that outsiders "respond to low level triggers on their base emotions: fear, anger, family and nation." Later he talked about "the Cassandra syndrome. (check out ) Some in a society SEE things but the rest do not want to hear them or believe them."

JimBobRay thought of a plastic toy in the shape of an oil barrel: "We call this little barrel 'The Last Barrel'. Similar to the Pet Rock craze, we wrap the barrel in a little box. Then we add some literature, with nice pictures, describing how we've squandered our billion year gift from nature, what the future holds if we continue on this path, and how we can extricate humanity from this dilemma. We make it attractive to every child."

Freyer suggested a video game: "SimPeak (name needs to be better). A lightly graphic simulation application which allows the user to run global simulations and watch outcome from varying various worldwide economic and resource scenarios. The program would be distributed for free! And would provide links to additional information as scenarios were played out. (perhaps as references to simulation sources or for further reading)."

Philip Martin thought of getting Bono on the bandwagon.

Ianqui suggested starting a blog and getting buy in before slipping in peak oil info.

Wayne Wiltanen votes for a feature film ("with good science"). Oil Storm and The Deal were offered as examples.

What I would like to add is Eclipse Now. The site has basic information about peak oil and free flyers that you can print out and post in your neighborhood that will refer people to the website so they can find out about it. This is a great way to raise awareness.


Be sure to read the comments on the previous post!

Saturday, July 30, 2005

stories of collapse

I've been collecting links to stories about post-collapse Cuba, Russia, and Korea, and I'd like to share them now.

I first learned that we could look to other countries for ideas about how to survive peak oil when I read the proceeds of the Community Solutions Conference presentation by Pat Murphy about Cuba (its the second to the bottom link on the right).
Cuba reduced their oil use over 50% in one year. Castro announced on that things were going to be a little difficult and one week later, the oil tankers from Russia stopped coming in. There was no idea of "we should take six months and think this through." They got very little warning. Per capita energy use in Cuba is now running between 1/15th and 1/20th of the U.S. per capita use. Cuba is changing from an industrial to an agrarian society. Sometimes you'll hear them speak or write about a modernized peasantry. They realized they had little choice.
Later Murphy explains:

In 1991, the Soviet personnel left Cuba when the Soviet Union collapsed, and ended their subsidies, which were $6 billion annually. Cuba's GDP went down 85% in the first two years. The population lost weight, the average Cuban losing 20 pounds. There was a 30% per capita calorie decline, and there were several thousand cases of blindness from malnutrition. It was very, very tough. There was a huge decrease in the material standard of living. There is a Cuban woman in Dayton who is working at a university here, and she asked me to visit her mother when I last went to Cuba. I did so and had a great time talking to the mother. I asked if I could interview her, because I was making a film on Cuba. She said, absolutely. We talked about everything, but when I asked her what life was like during the special period, she said that she couldn't talk about it. It was just too painful.

So Cuba went through hell, but they came out of it, and I think in conditions that were far worse than anything we're facing.

Coincidentally, I was also reading Margot Peppers memoir, Through the Wall: A year in Havana which takes place during this "Special Period."
Margot Pepper's memoir propels us through the blockade to post-cold war Cuba. It's a surreal world where high-ranking officials are required to pick up hitch-hikers. Root canals, cosmetic surgery and graduate school are free, but toilet paper is exorbitant. There's no income tax nor homelessness, yet no house-paint either. As the story unfolds, Margot pursues a passionate love affair with a penniless Mexican poet who shakes up her views about Cuba. With cinematic vividness, Through the Wall reveals the failures and successes of one of the few functioning alternatives to corporate-run government, and draws out lessons that will be embraced by all who believe another world is possible.
I gave me a sense of what it would be like to live with shortages of electricity (no elevators), water (dirty dishes), and food (constant hunger). It has a lot of political content, but that is the nature of conversation in Cuba. It was an eye-opener for me. I'd treat you to some excerpts, but I unfortunately left it on a plane.

"The Cuba Diet: What will you be eating when the revolution comes?" takes an in-depth look at how Cuba feeds itself. McKibben tells of an organonponico, an urban garden that is

...especially beautiful: a few acres of vegetables attached to a shady yard packed with potted plants for sale, birds in wicker cages, a cafeteria, and a small market where a steady line of local people come to buy tomatoes, lettuce, regano, potatoes, twenty-five crops were listed on the blackboard the day I visited for their supper. Sixty-four people farm this tiny spread. Their chief is Miguel Salcines Lopez, a tall, middle-aged, intense, and quite delightful man.

This land was slated for a hospital and sports complex, he said, leading me quickly through his tiny empire. But when the food crisis came, the government decided this was more important, and they let Salcines begin his cooperative.

McKibben analyzes Cuba's system, and compares it to the U.S.

Does the Cuban experiment mean anything for the rest of the world? An agronomist would call the country's farming low-input, the reverse of the Green Revolution model, with its reliance on irrigation, oil, and chemistry. If we're running out of water in lots of places (the water table beneath China and India's grain-growing plains is reportedly dropping by meters every year), and if the oil and natural gas used to make fertilizer and run our megafarms are changing the climate (or running out), and if the pesticides are poisoning farmers and killing other organisms, and if everything at the Stop & Shop has traveled across a continent to get there and tastes pretty much like crap, might there be some real future for low-input farming for the rest of us? Or are its yields simply too low? Would we all starve without the supermarket and the corporate farm?

Wolf at the Door has a short page comparing Cuba to North Korea. Both are totalitarian governments that lost the U.S.S.R.'s support, but North Korea has fared much worse. For a heartwrenching story about life in North Korea, see the LA Times article (free registration required).

From The Wilderness has several articles about the fall of the Soviet Union. Two that do not require a subscription can be found here (part one) and here (part two), written by Dmitry Orlove, a Russian native.

What happens when a modern economy collapses, and the complex society it supports disintegrates? A look at a country that has recently undergone such an experience can be most educational. We are lucky enough to have such an example in the Soviet Union. I spent about six months living, traveling, and doing business in Russia during the perestroika period and immediately afterward, and was fascinated by the transformation I witnessed.

The story is indeed fascinating. His subsequent analysis compares Russia with America and shows that we are in a worse position with regard to peak oil than our Cold War counterparts.

Stories like this help us to gain a better understanding of the circumstances that we may find ourselves in if the worst case scenarios come true. I think it is important to think through how we would cope, at the very least, and try to get past our conditioning that "it couldn't happen here."

Friday, July 29, 2005

Top Ten George W. Bush Solutions For Global Warming

In case you didn't see this (posted on Energy Bulliten)

Top Ten George W. Bush Solutions For Global Warming
David Letterman, The Late Show (CBS)

10. NASA mission to turn down the sun's thermostat

9. Federal subsidies to boost production of Cool Ranch Doritos

8. Fast track Rumsfeld's "Colonize Neptune" proposal

7. Convene Blue-Ribbon Committee to explore innovative ways of ignoring the problem

6. Let Hillary worry about it when she takes over

5. I dunno---tax cuts for the rich?

4. Give the boys at Halliburton 90-billion dollar contract to patch hole in ozone

3. Switch to celsius so scorching 98 becomes frosty 37

2. Keep plenty of Bud on ice

1. Invade Antartica

(25 July 2005)
Laugh, so you don't cry.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

understanding the Rapture

I have done a whole lotta reading in the past 24 hours about premillinnial dispensationalism--which includes teachings about the Rapture and is the belief system behind the Left Behind series of books.

Why should you know about it? These books have sold 60 million copies--second only to the Harry Potter series. Co-authored by Tim LeHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, they are often presented as The evangelical point of view. They write about a scenario when 40% of the population (true believers plus all the children on the planet) are taken up to Heaven, leaving the rest of the bewildered world behind.

However, some critics take exception to the idea that this is mainstream Christianity. To get some understanding of the controversies, lets first look at the origins of dispensationalism (dispensations = periods of history, starting with the Garden of Eden). Carl Olsen explains:
First, the "left-behind" theology is not the "Christian" or the "biblical" view of the end times, despite what LaHaye says, or what the media sometimes echoes. Premillennial dispensationalism and the belief in a Rapture event separate from the Second Coming is rejected, either explicitly or implicitly, by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox churches, and nearly every major Protestant denomination. Dispensationalism, with its particular views about the nature of the Church and the role of Jews in end-times events, was created in the 1830s by former Anglican priest John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) and later systematized in the United States by C. I. Scofield (1843-1921) and Lewis Sperry Chafer (1871-1952). Hal Lindsey's 1970 best-selling The Late Great Planet Earth took popular dispensationalism into secular culture, a feat repeated by the "Left Behind" series.
Olsen, an ex-fundamentalist-turned-Catholic is uniquely suited to distinguish the two religions. He has a pdf file laying out the basics here.

Slacktivist (Fred Clark) is another critic, not Catholic this time, but evangelical. He has been critiquing the Left Behind series in his blog for over a year. He has taken the first book page-by-page and discussed the (incredibly bad) writing as well as the ideology. Even though I haven't read the series, I stayed up way past my bedtime reading it (start at the bottom).

This entry gave me pause:

Oct 27, 2003
Why this matters
I get an e-mail newsletter from a Christian nonprofit that has been outspoken in its criticism of the war on Iraq. In response to this criticism, they received the following letter:

I believe that we are in the last days as indicated by the Revelation of Jesus Christ to the Apostle John. We will be in Iraq and other areas of the Middle East because it is in God's plan. To condemn President Bush ... is naive. Muslim terrorists will not respond to the love of Christ because they are evil, they have always been evil and they will remain evil. Their hatred cannot be assuaged by compromise, gift, or any form of negotiation. We should kill them and continue to kill them until their blood flows through the Valley of Megiddo as high as the horse's bridles.
-- Ron Schott, Counselor/Consultant

I present this as an example -- albeit an extreme one -- of why the "end times" mania and wretched theology of the Left Behind series is dangerous for everyone, within and without the Christian community. Swap around a few of the words in this letter and you've got a standard piece of al-Qaeda fundamentalist propaganda. Same world view -- different religions. Actually, that's not true. Kill-the-irredeemable-infidel fundamentalism is always the same religion, no matter what faith it masquerades as a form of.

So did the one of Dec 23, 2004. In the Left Behind series the Antichrist is a peacemaker:

"... a peacemaker and leading a movement toward disarmament. ... I believe his goal is global disarmament."

That word -- "peacemaker" -- practically screams Antichrist. For LaHaye and Jenkins' intended readers, it wouldn't be any clearer if Carpathia had the number "666" tattooed on his forehead and went by the nickname "Horny Beast."

For those not initiated into the cabalistic logic of PMD prophecy freaks, this seems counter-intuitive. Peace, after all, is generally regarded by Scripture as a Good Thing. Peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). The Messiah is described as the "Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6-7). Peace is often spoken of by God's angels, including the heavenly host of the Christmas story in Luke 2 (cue Linus), who sing, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

Since we're on the subject, a few more examples:

Psalm 34:14: "Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it."

Isaiah 32:17: "The fruit of righteousness will be peace."

Matthew 5:9: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God."

Ephesians 2:17: "He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near."

James 3:18: "Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness."

We could go on, and on, and on. Peace is a pretty major theme in the Bible.

But none of this matters to the prophecy nuts who are convinced that the Antichrist will be a man of peace. And since they believe that the most important thing for Christians to do is to be on the lookout against the Antichrist, and vigilantly opposed to his evil ays, they believe that Christians must oppose anyone who speaks of, pursues, or tries to make, peace.

This is one of the most astonishing and dangerous aspects of the popularity of the End Times heresies promoted by people like LaHaye and Jenkins. It is one of this biggest reasons why this matters -- deeply, truly, seriously matters.

Tens of millions of copies of the Left Behind books have been sold. That doesn't just mean that tens of millions of our fellow citizens have horrible taste in literature. It also means they are being taught to oppose -- to condemn as immoral and ungodly -- any effort that goes under the name "peacemaking."

Since they believe the Antichrist will rule over a one world government, these readers are also being taught to fear, loathe and oppose the United Nations and anything that smacks of multilateral or international cooperation.

Believers are focused on an Apocolyptic vision that will indicate that they will be saved from death--while the rest of humanity undergoes a period of Tribulation. On Oct 20, 2003, Clark discusses the significance of this:

I spent years working for groups like "Evangelicals for Social Action" -- trying to get Christians to follow the Bible's teachings about justice and mercy for the poor, and the "Evangelical Environmental Network" -- trying to promote a stewardly care for God's creation. In that work I would frequently encounter rapture-maniac Christians of the LaHaye/Bush variety who seemed genuinely to believe that any such efforts to make the world a better place were contrary to the will of God as they understood it.

To such people God's will was for the world to spiral downwards into chaos and ever-increasing suffering. Such a view leads these Christians to pursue the opposite of what Jesus taught. It is, in one word, "Anti-Christ."

Here's another indicator that I find disturbing. It is a website to help people interpret world events in terms of the dispensationalist world view:

You could say the Rapture index is a Dow Jones Industrial Average of end time activity, but I think it would be better if you viewed it as prophetic speedometer. The higher the number, the faster we're moving towards the occurrence of pre-tribulation rapture.
55 million people.

What is Peak Oil to them?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

sacrifice vs entitlement

Ianqui over at The Oil Drum got me thinking about the nature of sacrifice. She was writing in response to a New York Times article All Quiet and the Home Front, and Some Soldiers Are Asking Why. They want to know why the burden of sacrifice is falling on the military and their families, while the rest of the nation thinks that sending a care package and saying a prayer is enough. Ianqui explains:

I bring this up on The Oil Drum because I think it reflects a salient aspect of the American psyche that's going to cause us great difficulty in a Peak Oil world. It seems to me that many Americans of the 21st century feel a great sense of entitlement.
Many readers responded to this in the comments section. Ben cracked me up when he said: "Hey, I support the war! I have two magnets on my car!"

Carla thinks that "[t]here are people who would sacrifice if they understood better. I really think the 'econological footprint' and 'food mile' sorts of exercises are useful and will help those who are willing to sacrifice but don't know that they should." She doesn't like the idea of saying people believe they are entitled in the way that the right wingers complain about welfare recipients.

J says he feels he is entitled because he works "until July every year just to pay all my taxes. Slavery? You bet. And it makes me feel the friggin government owes me something, because I haven't ever taken a dime from them other than the road system I drive on. Every war I have experienced was about expanding the military or political power, not about saving the homeland."

Ianqui points out that its not just that people don't have the information they need to change their behavior; "...crucially, our government DOES have all of the relevant information about global warming and peak oil and avian flu and whatever other disasters await us, and yet, still they're doing nothing to influence us to stop our destructive behavior. And no body has influence like the government does--they're the ONLY ones with enough power and influence to get the American people to change their ways."

I added: "How do we overcome this feeling of entitlement? Because it is a huge barrier IMO. In my experience education helps, peer pressure helps, propaganda helps, leadership helps. And getting over entitlement isn't a one shot thing. It will unfold as a process of coming to grips with the reality of the situation and mourning the loss of what we feel is our birthright. Even if I am exploitive and my energy and carbon footprints are outrageous compared to the rest of the world, there is still a loss to be worked through. And the guilt. Guilt has the problem of contributing to a need to stay in denial. Besides, I don't want to sacrifice for the war effort. I want to sacrifice for the peace effort."


I have long been embarrassed by being a part of the Me Generation that spawned Yuppies and Madonna's Material Girl. But this has to be understood in context. As my Mom pointed out to me, Young Urban Professionals were just trying to make a living. There was a housing bubble going on as our parent's generation cashed out and we had to work twice as hard to come up with a down payment and deal with interest rates that were at 18%. Greed was good because it fueled the economy. As Gekko pointed out ("Wall Street" 1987):
The point is, ladies and gentleman, is that greed -- for lack of a better word -- is good.
Greed is right.
Greed works.
Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.
Greed, in all of its forms -- greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge -- has marked the upward surge of mankind.
And greed -- you mark my words -- will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.

In my generation the idea was that you worked hard, and were rewarded for your labors. The expectation was you would better yourself with more things. I worked in real estate during the 1980s and I saw the inside of a lot of houses in the SF Bay Area. And many folks were moving because they wanted to move up--their homes were filled with consumer goods, and they needed more places to put them.

The idea that I might need to prepare for self sufficiency, that I would possibly face a second Great Depression was the farthest thing from my mind.

So I have been on a journey--following in the footsteps of people who have always been conscious of their energy footprints or geopolitical issues. And it has been shocking to discover that I, with all of my liberal education and good intentions do not walk softly on the Earth. And it has been really challenging to try and figure out what the responsible thing to do is. Should I listen to the Doomers? How do you prepare for a future that is so uncertain? How do I let go of everything that I have assumed and learn a skillset which I am totally unprepared for?

And if this is so hard for me, a "cultural creative" or "early adaptor," what hope should I have for Joe six-pac?

Nevertheless, I need to carry on. I need to continue to educate myself, and soon, as the research phase winds up, I need to make my priorities and take action. No one can do this for me. I have to make my own way.

As do you.

Monday, July 25, 2005

more on community preparation

Jan Lundberg of Culture Change has written another installment on her series on petrocollapse. I blogged about #5 earlier. She revisits "Plan B" (Preparations and policies for petrocollapse and climate distortion). In this article she says: mustn't think this is all up to government officials. Individuals and households, and then neighborhood communities, need to take matters into their hands now to prepare for major upheaval ahead and to build a sustainable society.

And goes on to outline her recommendations. The sixth article is particularly interesting because it includes her responses to her reader's comments on the first one.

The sentiments out there seem to fall into two main groups: (1) We despair and are doing something, at least, by talking about the issues of peak oil, climate change, etc. (2) We are preparing and resolute, and more philosophical than afraid.

She writes about those that aren't aware of the coming challenges and her meeting with Berkeley mayor Tom Bradly, but I could not tell from her rather obscure writing style what her point was for either of these items.

Nevertheless the rest of her letter is worth noting. The first issue she addresses is people's responses to the idea of depaving to gain more arable land by moving houses onto the roads. Clustering the houses will foster community. One problem is that the land under foundations may have been treated with pesticides, although remediation with mushrooms may be possible. One that felt this was impractical offered

"...a state-wide amendment removing the ban on growing food on any land in the state, except land which would provide a pollution risk, or is protected for preservation reasons. This would override any ban which could be made by townships, homeowner's associations, etc. Next, you could expand this into poultry keeping, under certain mandated conditions. Plus tax breaks for NOT growing a lawn, and instead growing a free-growing ground cover like Boston Ivy, Bamboo, or Hemp. No money down. All costs borne by the innovators. To each his own - it's the American Way."

The next topic is permaculture. A key idea is that "in nature, there is no waste, everything is food for something else." Composting and vermiculture (using worms) are mentioned. Conservation is important as well.

Overpopulation is a major concern. For two million years population growth was at the rate of three people a day. Now it is over 265,000 people per day.

Lundberg predicts hemp sowing will make a comeback and the war on marijuana will be abandoned. This brings up the issue of the existing laws and what other changes need to be made.

There is a long discussion about the place of rail in a post petroleum world. The internal combustion engine and limited disbursement patterns are problems that need to be addressed. Lighter freight cars and special settlement zones could do this. Kunstler, of The Long Emergency fame, adds

"the restoration of the US rail system is crucial for one other reason beyond the obvious benefits vis-a-vis energy use: it's the one project that the American people could accomplish that would give them some confidence in facing this very difficult future of a permanent global energy crisis."

However Lundberg does not think it is possible to invest in this now--she feels it is too late. Another respondent pointed out other problems, including politics, right of way, and funding.

In the next section she discussing feedback she has gotten over the course of the whole series (including the first, second, third, and fourth letters). One writer imagines riots when too many people try to get on the bus (he obviously hasn't ridden in San Francisco.) (Perhaps we would need to institute the pushers like the ones in Japanese subways.)

One reader posted her concerns of surviving without insulin. She is not alone.

We received many letters expressing fear, and others revealing strategies and kinds of possessions. Just how to live, and where, and how to have a piece of countryside instead of an urban trap -- and whether it is best to do go rural or wild -- will be dealt with in an upcoming Culture Change Letter.

I look forward to reading it.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

what's your kind of simplicity?

I can understand balohgblog's comments yesterday. One of my daily antidotes to apocalyptic thinking is checking in with Path to Freedom's daily blog. As they share their life of living sustainably in the middle of the big city, they accomplish their mission to

...educate individuals and families to integrate sustainable living practices and methods into their daily lives. Our focus is on: organic gardening, permaculture, solar cooking, composting and other back-to-basic, sustainable technologies and practices relating to the home environment.
They also have an extensive selection of links on their main page, and I am slowly working through their selection on voluntary simplicity.

Yvonne Quarles explains it this way:

Living simply, voluntary simplicity, back to basics -- whatever you want to call it -- is all about freedom. It is about wanting less and being happy with that. It is about finding true priorities and making our lives less complex.

Everything gets more complicated the more the world grows in numbers. It doesn't have to be complex. You do have a choice. As there are more complications, there is less time and less space for us to live our lives. People are feeling more compressed, more off balance, and they feel they are in a world less orderly.

Wouldn't you like to change some things about your life? Simplicity is something you may think about. It includes having more time, more rest, more peace of mind, less stress, less 'stuff', fewer bills (I know you would like this one), and more spirituality. Maybe things like stress, bills, clutter, etc. are making you feel tired and overwhelmed. As you get older, you may think feeling this way is natural, because you have more stuff and more responsibilities. It doesn't have to be this way.

When I talk about finding your true priorities, I am talking about the number one priority-- HAPPINESS. This is found by doing things in your life that bring you joy and fulfillment. Live life to the fullest, as they say. This doesn't necessarily mean having "more." Figure out if the things you want are worth working 'x' number of hours for. Think about what you enjoy doing most and make a list of those things. Are you doing what is on the list? If not, then maybe you need to shift your frame of mind.

Simplicity is an important principle for me that I am striving towards. And it is a challenging one considering how much I like to shop. :) So far my efforts have included: decluttering my house. Recycling. Maintaining a lifestyle so I don't have to work (thus the free time I have to devote to my new hobby, this blog.) Buying unprocessed foods and cooking at home. Getting out of debt.

This article, written by Duane Elgin, who wrote the book on Voluntary Simplicity, helped me to understand my motivations. He describes 10 kinds of simplicity, which I will briefly outline below:
  1. Choiceful Simplicity: Simplicity means choosing our path through life consciously, deliberately, and of our own accord.
  2. Commercial Simplicity: Simplicity means there is a rapidly growing market for healthy and sustainable products and services of all kinds.
  3. Compassionate Simplicity: Simplicity means to feel such a sense of kinship with others that we "choose to live simply so that others may simply live."
  4. Ecological Simplicity: Simplicity means to choose ways of living that touch the Earth more lightly and that reduce our ecological footprint.
  5. Elegant Simplicity: Simplicity means that the way we live our lives represents a work of unfolding artistry.
  6. Frugal Simplicity: Simplicity means that, by cutting back on spending that is not truly serving our lives, and by practicing skillful management of our personal finances, we can achieve greater financial independence.
  7. Natural Simplicity: Simplicity means to remember our deep roots in the natural world.
  8. Political Simplicity: Simplicity means organizing our collective lives in ways that enable us to live more lightly and sustainably on the Earth.
  9. Soulful Simplicity: Simplicity means to approach life as a meditation and to cultivate our experience of intimate connection with all that exists.
  10. Uncluttered Simplicity: An uncluttered simplicity means cutting back on trivial distractions, both material and non-material, and focusing on the essentials.

When I read this I had a greater appreciation for the richness of experience within the single concept of "simplicity." And I felt a bond with a broader range of people. Which of these ideas are you most drawn to? Do something today to manifest it more fully into your life.

Friday, July 22, 2005

personal preparation

PowerSwitch, a peak oil discussion group in the UK, has sponsored its first conference. The reports are just in at EnergyBulletin. Clive Smith, one of the presenters, has posted his slides on the internet. He spoke about personal perperations. Here are his recommendations:
  • store at least 21 days worth of food and 14 days of water for each family member
  • spread the word to family and friends and encourage them to prepare
  • make friends with your neighbors
  • learn DIY skills as we will need to repair and make do
  • learn new job skills that will be important post-peak
  • specific items that he mentioned are: clothing, medicine, camping stove and fuel, lanterns and fuel, batteries, wind-up/solar radio, gas heater and fuel, bicycle
  • put 2-3 months worth of expenses into savings
  • consider buying gold or silver coins
  • keep some cash at home--ATMs and credit card terminals may not be working
  • get out of debt--pay of credit cards first
  • consider the consequences of the housing bubble bursting--would it make more sense to rent? should you pay down the mortgage?
  • consider relocating to be nearer family or away from cities
  • consider insulating your home
  • emphasize safety in your investments (oil, energy metal commodities)

Another source of inspiration for preparation comes from Sarajevo. The comments at the bottom are especially poignant.

Survival Tips From Sarajevo -- 100 Items to Disappear First

1. Generators (Good ones cost dearly. Gas storage, risky. of thieves; maintenance etc.)

2. Water Filters/Purifiers

3. Portable Toilets

4. Seasoned Firewood. Wood takes about 6 - 12 months to become dried, for home uses.

5. Lamp Oil, Wicks, Lamps (First Choice: Buy CLEAR oil. If scarce, stockpile ANY!)

6. Coleman Fuel. Impossible to stockpile too much.

7. Guns, Ammunition, Pepper Spray, Knives, Clubs, Bats & Slingshots.

8. Hand-can openers, & hand egg beaters, whisks.

9. Honey/Syrups/white, brown sugar

10. Rice - Beans - Wheat

11. Vegetable Oil (for cooking) Without it food burns/must be boiled ect.,)

12. Charcoal, Lighter Fluid (Will become scarce suddenly)

13. Water Containers (Urgent Item to obtain.) Any size. Small: HARD CLEAR PLASTIC ONLY - note - food grade if for drinking.

16. Propane Cylinders (Urgent: Definite shortages will occur.

17. Survival Guide Book.

18. Mantles: Aladdin, Coleman, ect. (Without this item, longer-term lighting is difficult.)

19. Baby Supplies: Diapers/formula. ointments/aspirin, ect.

20. Washboards, Mop Bucket w/wringer (for Laundry)

21. Cookstoves (Propane, Coleman & Kerosene)

22. Vitamins

23. Propane Cylinder Handle-Holder (Urgent: Small canister use is dangerous without this item)

24. Feminine Hygiene/Haircare/Skin products.

25. Thermal underwear (Tops & Bottoms)

26. Bow saws, axes and hatchets, Wedges (also, honing oil)

27. Aluminum Foil Reg. & Heavy Duty (Great Cooking and Barter Item)

28. Gasoline Containers (Plastic & Metal)

29. Garbage Bags (Impossible To Have Too Many).

30. Toilet Paper, Kleenex, Paper Towels

31. Milk - Powdered & Condensed (Shake Liquid every 3 to 4 months)

32. Garden Seeds (Non-Hybrid) (A MUST)

33. Clothes pins/line/hangers (A MUST)

34. Coleman's Pump Repair Kit

35. Tuna Fish (in oil)

36. Fire Extinguishers (or..large box of Baking Soda in every room)

37. First aid kits

38. Batteries (all furthest-out for Expiration Dates)

39. Garlic, spices & vinegar, baking supplies

40. Big Dogs (and plenty of dog food)

41. Flour, yeast & salt

42. Matches. {"Strike Anywhere" preferred.) Boxed, wooden matches will go first

43. Writing paper/pads/pencils, solar calculators

44. Insulated ice chests (good for keeping items from freezing in Wintertime.)

45. Workboots, belts, Levis & durable shirts

46. Flashlights/LIGHTSTICKS & torches, "No. 76 Dietz" Lanterns

47. Journals, Diaries & Scrapbooks (jot down ideas, feelings, experience; Historic Times)

48. Garbage cans Plastic (great for storage, water, transporting - if with wheels)

49. Men's Hygiene: Shampoo, Toothbrush/paste, Mouthwash/floss, nail clippers, ect

50. Cast iron cookware (sturdy, efficient)

51. Fishing supplies/tools

52. Mosquito coils/repellent, sprays/creams

53. Duct Tape

54. Tarps/stakes/twine/nails/rope/spikes

55. Candles

56. Laundry Detergent (liquid)

57. Backpacks, Duffle Bags

58. Garden tools & supplies

59. Scissors, fabrics & sewing supplies

60. Canned Fruits, Veggies, Soups, stews, ect.

61. Bleach (plain, NOT scented: 4 to 6% sodium hypochlorite)

62. Canning supplies, (Jars/lids/wax)

63. Knives & Sharpening tools: files, stones, steel

64. Bicycles...Tires/tubes/pumps/chains, ect

65. Sleeping Bags & blankets/pillows/mats

66. Carbon Monoxide Alarm (battery powered)

67. Board Games, Cards, Dice

68. d-con Rat poison, MOUSE PRUFE II, Roach Killer

69. Mousetraps, Ant traps & cockroach magnets

70. Paper plates/cups/utensils (stock up, folks)

71. Baby wipes, oils, waterless & Antibacterial soap (saves a lot of water)

72. Rain gear, rubberized boots, ect.

73. Shaving supplies (razors & creams, talc, after shave)

74. Hand pumps & siphons (for water and for fuels)

75. Soysauce, vinegar, boullions/gravy/soupbase

76. Reading glasses

77. Chocolate/Cocoa/Tang/Punch (water enhancers)

78. "Survival-in-a-Can"

79. Woolen clothing, scarves/ear-muffs/mittens

80. Boy Scout Handbook, / also Leaders Catalog

81. Roll-on Window Insulation Kit (MANCO)

82. Graham crackers, saltines, pretzels, Trail mix/Jerky

83. Popcorn, Peanut Butter, Nuts

84. Socks, Underwear, T-shirts, ect. (extras)

85. Lumber (all types)

86. Wagons & carts (for transport to and from)

87. Cots & Inflatable mattresses

88. Gloves: Work/warming/gardening, ect.

89. Lantern Hangers

90. Screen Patches, glue, nails, screws,, nuts & bolts

91. Teas

92. Coffee

93. Cigarettes 9

4. Wine/Liquors (for bribes, medicinal, ect,)

95. Paraffin wax

96. Glue, nails, nuts, bolts, screws, ect.

97. Chewing gum/candies

98. Atomizers (for cooling/bathing)

99. Hats & cotton neckerchiefs

100. Goats/chickens

From a Sarajevo War Survivor: Experiencing horrible things that can happen in a war - death of parents and friends, hunger and malnutrition, endless freezing cold, fear, sniper attacks.

1. Stockpiling helps. but you never no how long trouble will last, so locate near renewable food sources.

2. Living near a well with a manual pump is like being in Eden.

3. After awhile, even gold can lose its luster. But there is no luxury in war quite like toilet paper. Its surplus value is greater than gold's.

4. If you had to go without one utility, lose electricity - it's the easiest to do without (unless you're in a very nice climate with no need for heat.)

5. Canned foods are awesome, especially if their contents are tasty without heating. One of the best things to stockpile is canned gravy - it makes a lot of the dry upappetizing things you find to eat in war somewhat edible. Only needs enough heat to "warm", not to cook. It's cheap too, especially if you buy it in bulk.

6. Bring some books - escapist ones like romance or mysteries become more valuable as the war continues. Sure, it's great to have a lot of survival guides, but you'll figure most of that out on your own anyway - trust me, you'll have a lot of time on your hands.

7. The feeling that you're human can fade pretty fast. I can't tell you how many people I knew who would have traded a much needed meal for just a little bit of toothpaste, rouge, soap or cologne. Not much point in fighting if you have to lose your humanity. These things are morale-builders like nothing else.

8. Slow burning candles and matches, matches, matches.

9. More matches

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Da Nile

For 20 years I held very esoteric spiritual beliefs. I became used to having a certain perspective on the world and knowing that hardly anybody else believes the same things that I do. Specifically I believed that the world was due for some major changes--and would experience them. But then I started noticing that many spiritual paths spoke of some form of "the end times." I began to wonder whether I was just being naive. I began to shed this belief.

Then along comes peak oil. At first I rejected it because it seemed like yet another "doomsday" belief system. I was thoroughly sick of that perspective. I resented anyone trying to convince me or scare me. From my perspective today, I would say that I went into denial.

Somehow, I came out of it. My best understanding of what happened at that point was that I did some kind of inner processing that enabled me to come out of my shell enough to confront the information that was being presented to me. I was able to actually absorb it and this has lead me to change my thinking and my behavior. I have clearly been impacted by this information.

I occasionally second guessed myself--after all, aren't I susceptible to doomsday prophesies? Aren't I somewhat preoccupied now? Peak oil is a factor in all of my decisions. I address it in some form or another every day. But I always come away thinking "I wish this was just another crazy idea." Mostly it seems to me that mine is a rational response to some very alarming input.

Now I find myself, once again, in a minority position. Before I didn't need to persuade anyone to see it my way. (My belief system did not include prostelyzation.) But now I am wondering if this is a healthy response. Maybe I should be pressing the issue more. Maybe blogging isn't enough.

So I am trying to network. I'm trying to revive the local Meetup Peak Oil group (I guess I will plunk down that $20.00 bucks). I hope to co-host a showing of The End of Suburbia in a nearby small town. There are some people on the boards that live nearby. Thank goodness that my husband and two close friends share the same concerns. I am lucky on that count.

And I suppose that carrying on with our preparations is another way to send the message. People are usually freaked out when I talk about food storage or buying a gun. But I need to let them go through their own process of coming to terms with the information. I cannot protect them from the pain of it, much as I want to. Wouldn't that be a form of codependence?

Its one thing to say focus on impressing the "early adaptors." They are the ones likely to be receptive to your message. Don't worry about the rest of humanity. But its another thing when "the rest of humanity" is one's friends and family. Is the people who hold the reins of power in this country.

The Oil Drum is running a series on the role of Denial as a response to peak oil. I think this is a very important topic. And we need to take it further. If it is true that "suppression will dominate" then we need to think seriously about what is next? What will we do in the face of this? We can't afford to go into denial about going into denial.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Power to the People

For a (People's Republic of) Berkeley perspective on the role of individual households and neighborhood communities in preparing for peak oil we can turn to Jan Lundberg at Culture Change. Her article highlighted these activities:

  • Land use and community gardening: she cited the cornerstone of Berkeley activism, People's Park. I remember feeling very proud to play on the jungle gyms of a park that we created. The feeling of ownership was heady.

    (That's not me, but one of my contemporaries. I was 9 1n 1969.)

  • Water management: Rooftop gardens, ecological sewage treatments, stormwater management.
  • Traffic calming
  • Depaving roads and driveways: putting in gardens, instead.

    (Activists tore out the asphalt one day and planted a garden the next.)

  • Grey-water systems and composting toilets: this would require zoning changes.
  • Pedal power: to replace trucks as well as power appliances.
  • Steam, horses, sailboats, river barges: to fill in where railroads haven't developed.
  • Sprouting: grains, seeds, and beans.
  • Composting: including human waste.
  • Plastic bag replacement: offering incentives for using cloth bags.
  • Beekeeping: zoning needs to be changed for this as well.
  • Getting in shape: to get around without cars.
  • Cooperative housing: to protect people from evictions.
  • Working with your neighbors: going tribal.

The UNplanner has a piece on The Community Solution as well. He compares the options of a self-reliant homestead, intentional communities and the village approach. With the village approach "most places met their daily needs close to home, especially in respects to food and energy (e.g. wood, dung or the occasional waterfall). More limited resources, such as metal ores traveled longer stretches with only limited numbers of goods ever traded great distances, most of those being luxury goods."

He suggests:

...a confederation of loosely organized cities and towns of various (small) sizes that for the most part sustain their immediate needs on a local level and only trade the rarely used, more specific or technical goods. Larger cities could become producers of those harder-to-manufacture goods for the smaller towns and cities as well as become an administrative and cultural center for each particular region. At the same time, the larger cities could also subsist on the surplus, imported food stuffs that hopefully each of the towns would be able to produce. The key is to ensure, the size of the larger cities not exceed what could be provided for them from their immediate hinterlands.

The community level should necessarily be the focus of any low-energy civilization. In the rural areas this is best represented by the farming town. But it could be replicated in the urban areas as well. Larger cities (but not too big) could be broken into smaller districts with localized food production and processing along with any form of industry that is viable in a post peak world. Ideally each district should have a balanced mix of jobs and housing while managing to be concentrated enough to permit public transit.

He also discusses the need for communities to become our social security. He asserts that they will not get national level support for this. They will have to provide pension, public assistance, health care and education.

The down side of smaller communities are the same ones that plague small towns--a lack of privacy and intolerance for differences. But without modification, many cities are simply unsustainable, and so the benefits of the village outweigh the problems.

"Let a thousand villages bloom!"

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Who ya gonna...?

Is Wall-Mart gunning for your town? Are you afraid that Home Depot is going to put your favorite hardware store out of business? Who ya gonna call?
Sprawl-busters !

Sprawl-busters is "an international clearinghouse on big box anti-sprawl information."
No matter what the logo on the building says--Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Target, Lowe's, Kohls, CVS--if its unwanted development, Sprawl-Busters can help you stop it. In hundreds of communities, we have helped citizens groups strategize and carry out a plan to stop the superstores. Our Newsflash page contains the latest on big box battles from around the globe, and the book "Slam Dunking Wal-Mart" has become a citizen's classic for hands-on combat with Sprawl-Marts. If a big box store is causing you a big problem, call on Sprawl-Busters! Local visits can be arranged. Contact Your quality of life is worth more than a cheap pair of underwear.
Their website documents 280 victories when cities and towns were able to block the big box stores "at least once." It's heartening. Want to persuade people that these stores bring problems? Review this list to bolster your arguments:

The 10 sins of retail sprawl:

  1. It destroys the economic and environmental value of land
  2. It encourages an inefficient land-use pattern that is very expensive to serve.
  3. It fosters redundant competition between local governments, an economic war of tax incentives.
  4. It forces costly infrastructure development at the edge of towns.
  5. It causes disinvestment from established core commercial areas.
  6. It requires the use of public tax support for revitalizing rundown core areas.
  7. It degrades the visual, aesthetic character of local communities.
  8. It lowers the value of other commercial and residential property, reducing public revenues.
  9. It weakens the sense of place and community cohesiveness.
  10. It masquerades as a form of economic development.

And these points don't even touch on the labor and balance-of-trade problems. I went through three months of article from the site about Wal-Mart and learned about these labor issues:

  • Time Theft: A computer expert hired by the plaintiffs found 7,000 examples in a one year period where Wal-Mart managers deleted large blocks of time from their employee payroll records.
  • Intimidation: Wal-Mart employees are afraid to file workers' compensation claims out of fear of retaliation.
  • Child Labor: For the past ten years or more, Wal-Mart has run afoul of federal and state officials in a number of states for violating child labor laws. The over-sized retailer has worked children excessive hours, and given them dangerous machinery to operate.
  • Missed List: Once again, the world's biggest and richest retailer has failed to make it into the top "100 Best Companies to Work For."
  • Janitorgate: Wal-Mart had agreed to settle a lawsuit against it for $11 million for using illegal workers to clean its stores.
  • Sweatshops: Wal-Mart admits that nearly 80% of its outsourcing factories have serious labor rights problems.

None of this has slowed Wal-Mart's growth. To bring the growth rates to life, consider this:

If Wal-Mart grows in the next eight years as it has in the previous eight, it will control 100% of general merchandise sales in the United States; if it grows in the next 16 years as it has in the previous 16 years, it will control all of the non-auto retailing volume in the United States; if the same growth pattern for the next 24 years is like the previous 24 years, Wal-Mart will control all of the county's Gross Domestic Product.

That may have seemed like a joke in 1994, but Wal-Mart now has more sales than the Gross Domestic Product of Israel, Greece, Ireland and Egypt. A Price Waterhouse report says that by the year 2005 just 10 companies, including Wal-Mart, will control 50% of food store sales.

Thank goodness for dedicated people like Al Norman who have made it their life's work to stop the madness. He helps Home Town America fight back. Now you know who ya gonna call.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Red Headed Stranger

Who is the Red Headed Stranger? I'll give you some clues:

His bus runs on veggie oil

His Mercedes runs on it too

He can't wait to get on the road again

Mr Logan is a big fan

So you can imagine that when I saw the news that Willie has branded his own biodiesel--BioWillie--I knew I had to put it in my blog. From suppliers Distribution Drive:

Nelson and three business partners recently formed a company called Willie Nelson’s Biodiesel that is marketing the fuel to truck stops. The fuel, called BioWillie, is made from vegetable oils, mainly soybeans, and can be burned without modification to diesel engines. It may be difficult to picture the 71-year-old hair-braided Texas rebel as an energy company executive, but the singer’s new gig is in many ways about social responsibility — and that is classic Nelson.

“There is really no need going around starting wars over oil. We have it here at home. We have the necessary product, the farmers can grow it,” said Nelson, who organized Farm Aid two decades ago to draw attention to the plight of American agriculture.

The benefits are:

  • burns clean--has fewer dangerous emissions
  • gets better fuel mileage--1 mpg adds up
  • helps the farms--both growers of soybeans and beef
  • reduces our dependency on oil and oil imports
  • in some instances, lowers cost
  • reduces engine wear and cleans out sludge
  • does not require retrofitting
  • you can even make soap from the waste glycerin!

Common Dreams News Center published an entertaining article (worth a read) but I am posting the serious part here for those interested in the real energy cost of biodeisel:

Whether biodiesel can really fulfill the promise...remains an open question. Ethanol triggered a similar wave of excitement in the 1990s, but has provoked mixed feelings since - first because a number of studies showed that producing ethanol takes as much energy, if not more, than can be extracted from it afterwards; and secondly because it became apparent big agribusiness companies were taking advantage of the fad, and the federal subsidies that came with it, to dump their excess grain at the expense of small producers.

Biodiesel may be vulnerable to similar problems. A study published this week by researchers at Cornell and Berkeley universities suggested biodiesel, like ethanol, may require more energy to make than it produces. That finding, however, is contradicted by a 1998 study by the Environmental Protection Agency, which said that for every unit of energy going into biodiesel, 3.2 units are generated.

Mark Bernstein, an energy specialist and senior policy researcher with the Rand Corporation, said the truth was probably somewhere in the middle, not least because the technologies for extracting energy from raw materials were evolving all the time. "If you are using waste products - used oil and grease - then there's probably a net energy benefit you don't get if you have to grind the seeds from scratch," he said. "It also depends on the plant. Some plants are better for converting than others. The thing about biodiesel and ethanol is that they are good niche markets and we need those niche markets. But it's also clear that for a wide-scale use, the technology is not here yet."

The exciting thing about BioWillie is that it is reaching the trucker market. This means that biodeisel is spreading to individual consumers. Government fleets have been the previous consumers because they are mandated to use cleaner fuels. But a new day is dawning. How can anyone resist Willie? As Mr. Logan says "I may be better looking than him, but he sure sings pretty."

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Adventures at Dancing Rabbit

I watched Morgan Spurlock's Ecovillage episode Wednesday night (see my post about it below). He sent "two people from New York City and with no warning whisked them off to Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage." Dancing Rabbit put up a page on their site about it.

Dancing Rabbit's Ecovillage is totally off the grid. They make all of their own energy. Spurlock did a great job of contextualizing the issues of sustainability that going off the grid imply. He explained that our resources were finite. He showed the members of Dancing Rabbit (the "Rabbits") explaining to our heroes Johari and Vito (the guests) why they did certain practices, for example, "hu-manuring." The Rabbits don't see why toilets should be flushed with perfectly good drinking water.

Johari and Vito started their adventure by getting picked up in a veggie oil diesel, which tickled Johari's fancy. She kept laughing about it. She didn't feel the same way about it when she had to pick up the used veggie oil from the back of restaurants, however. It looked like a big vat of snot to her (and I had to agree).

Their next adventure was installing solar panels for their recycled grain bin apartments. They were both very relieved to get lights.

Then there was the issue of eating vegan:

For the whole month our new folks ate in Skyhouse with the Bobolink food co-op. Johari seemed pretty happy with the food and cooked a great meal with Amy. Vito was happy to eat almost anything but was missing his normal omnivorous diet. For good or bad this became a central theme in the 30 Days plot - where could Vito (soon nicknamed Meato) get some meat.

See, the thing was that Morgan Spurlock told them they had to eat only unpackaged, organic food so Vito couldn't just go to the local store and buy some steaks. Instead we had him hunting rabbits, buying some local chickens, getting venison from Sandhill and some other neighbors, and finally finding an organic beef producer in the area. We hope we aren't portrayed as anti-meat fascists but also hope the point is made that eating less meat is generally more ecological given current agricultural systems.

The Rabbits didn't look so good in response to the meat issue. In fact they came off as a little bit uptight the whole way through. They had meetings to discuss the impact of the visitors on their lifestyle and they were upset with the rabbit hunting as well as the perfumed products. Johari, on the other hand, countered with "what if I told you I was allergic to B.O.?" Good point, Johari! What are we going to do about personal products post peak?

But over all it was very entertaining and educational. Hats off to Spurlock and the FX network.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Heinberg on renewable energy

Thanks to a response by Devin, I decided to include some of Richard Heinberg's work in my blog. Heinberg wrote Powerdown: Options and actions for a post-carbon world and is currently on the faculty atNew College of California. What follows is one slide and his commentary from his keynote presentation at the Community Solutions Conference on Peak Oil.

I chose this slide for two reasons: One, it puts into perspective just how small the percentage of total US energy consumption solar and wind energy is. Two, it refers to a personal epiphany I had last night when I was researching the cost of "going solar." It could take up to $20K to put a couple of kilowatts up at our house. (Scrounging may take much less, but still.)

I put these two facts together and realized that solar is not a panacea. We really are going to have to cut our consumption down to the bone on an individual level and start a Manhattan-level project to develop renewable sources on the national level. Sobering. But please, read on...

Let's look at this as a pie graph. This little pie slice here, which represents between 6 and 7% of our total energy budget, that little slice is renewables. And if you expand that slice, you see that most of it is taken up with conventional hydroelectric power and wood, people heating their homes with wood, towns burning municipal waste for energy, and then there's a little in the way of alcohol fuels, and geothermal, and then wind makes up about 1%, and solar makes up about 1%.

Now we're not talking about 1% of the total energy pie, we're talking about 1% of this little slice. So if you add solar and wind together, currently we're getting 0.17% of our total energy budget from solar and wind combined.

Now why make a big deal out of that? Because solar and wind are two primary energy sources that we could grow. We can't grow hydroelectric production that much, because we've already dammed most of the rivers. We're not going to burn a heck of a lot more trees, because if we start doing that, then we'll run out pretty soon. Wood is renewable, but it's exhaustible.

We can produce more power from solar and wind, but look where we're starting from. If we were to double our total solar and wind capacity, what it is currently, what we've worked for 20 years to build up, if we were to double that, and that's not a small feat–and then if we were take that amount and double it again, we still wouldn't be up to 1% of our total national energy budget.

So what's required in order to make that piece of the pie grow significantly is not just a billion dollars here and there of seed money from the federal government. What's required is hundreds of billions of dollars a year in new investment, and the International Energy Agency acknowledges this.

In their recent report, they're anticipating, in order to meet our energy demands by 2030, we're going to have to increase our investment in energy production dramatically to something like 550 billion dollars a year globally, 16 trillion dollars by 2030, we're going to have to spend. And that is assuming that most of that investment will go to fossil fuel resources, and that's assuming that those resources will be there, to be found and developed.

So if we were to follow the IEA path, which basically is echoed by the industry itself–I was at this presentation by an executive of ExxonMobil a few weeks ago, who basically showed the same graphs and same expectations of growth and investment and so on–by 2030, we will be even more dependent on fossil fuels than we are now, and we will have spent $16 trillion to get there, and then what will we do? At that point, then we'll have to spend trillions more to develop an alternative renewable energy infrastructure to replace the fossil fuel infrastructure that is now obsolete because we've run out of oil and gas. It's insane. It's absolutely insane. And yet these are the responsible agencies telling us what we're about to do.

what my Senator said

On June 30 I posted an email I sent to my Senator and Congressperson. I have since gotten responses from them. Both referred to the Energy Bill as the solution to the problems I brought up. Senator Isakson (R-Georgia) said:

As you may know, for the 10 th consecutive year the Congress is attempting to pass a comprehensive Energy Bill. It is foolish for the world's largest consumer of energy not to have an energy policy. We need to embrace the President's Hydrogen Engine initiative, expand the development of clean coal technologies, and return to a sound nuclear energy policy. These proposals coupled with further exploration of our own reserves and the development of renewable energy sources will assist in lessening our dependence on foreign oil. With the proper development of all forms of energy we can lessen the load on oil and have more reliable and affordable energy.
I would post Congressman Linder's response but I fear I threw it out. It was along the same lines.

Here are the problems with this approach:

Hydrogen: "It is only an energy carrier that must be produced from a primary energy source, such as natural gas, coal, nuclear fuel, wind or solar radiation. … There are no huge technical obstacles to making hydrogen and using it as a fuel. But a hydrogen economy would be more expensive and use more primary energy than other options. Moreover, it would require many hundreds of billions of dollars to build a storage and transport infrastructure. We should not accept President Bush's statement that hydrogen will replace oil without examining other options that are more economical and for which the technology and infrastructure already exist."

Coal: "Coal inventories at many power stations are historically low...and rail disruptions have delayed shipments of coal at a time when demand is soaring from higher oil prices."

Critics of Clean Coal say that "clean coal plants are no cleaner than older retrofitted plants" and that "the coal industry is capable of supporting its own research and development," rather than "waste millions of taxpayer dollars each year on duplicative research that the coal industry should conduct with private sector funding or that has already been done."

Nuclear: "The cost of new nuclear power has been underestimated by a factor of three, according to a British think tank." Not to mention the threats of plutonium in terrorist's hands, nuclear accidents and disposing of nuclear waste.

Conservation: This is the missing ingredient. But promoting it would be tantamount to challenging Cheney's assertion that "the American way of life is non-negotiable." Apparently politicians fear that would be political suicide. But would it? "A March 2003 Gallup pole indicates that 60% of Americans want a solution to our energy problems focusing on conservation of existing supplies over greater production of oil and gas and 73% of Americans favor increased fuel efficiency standards for cars." Maybe the real problem is the politicians' alliance.

This may mean that the burden of solving our problems will fall on us. Self-reliance at the local level looks only more important in the light of the lack of leadership on these issues. Say hi to your neighbor this week.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Another resource

I came across another Peak Oil resource in my research last night: Surviving Peak Oil. It includes articles from multiple writers, a comprehensive annotated bibliography, periodic news items, and a book store. It started as a
... result of the public response to the following article from Dale Allen Pfeiffer. In this article he quickly describes the critical problems which are soon to impact the lives of everyone on this planet. He attributed these problems to consumer capitalism and to power disparities. And he solicited advice on how people of limited means can cope with what is to come.

The ideas contained on this site are for practical implementation on a family or small community level. The object is to empower people to create a sustainable future for themselves, rather than lobbying governments and corporations, which are unlikely to seek effective and equitable solutions.

The material offered on this web site is a work in progress. We invite you, the readers, to offer advice and constructive criticism about all the material contained here, or make novel suggestions of your own. It is hoped that all of us, working together, propel humanity into an equitable and sustainable future where life and society can be a celebration of quality.
The articles are written by experts in their fields. They cover everything from "Facing the New Dark Age" to "Homeland Security equals Free Range Chicken and a Good Dog." What is really interesting about them is they include commentary by the readers. Not only does this expand of the material, but it provides an insight into what others are thinking about these issues.

I especially appreciated their library section, which listed relevant books and commented on their content. They have a rating system to help folks with limited funds make appropriate choices.

Check it out!

TV worth watching?

The blogosphere has been abuzz with the news that FX's new series, "30 Days with Morgan Spurlok" (of SuperSize Me fame) has dropped two "ravenous consumers of fossil fuels" into the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Missouri to see what 30 days off-the-grid will bring.

It airs Wednesday night at 10:00PM. For interviews with the participants, see this compilation at Energy Bulletin. I'd love to hear your comments after the show.

Monday, July 11, 2005

another community in action

"A coalition of organizations concerned with the idea of 'peak oil' " hosted a conference in Pasadena, California last weekend. Like the gathering mentioned in my previous post, this one also was inspired by a showing of The End of Suburbia, this time at a local Green Party convention.*

The conference will run back-to-back showings of "End of Suburbia" and will also offer workshops on how to prepare for the changes caused by "peak oil." Open-space conferencing will be available where attendees can identify critical issues and search for answers."What we're trying to do with the conference is focus on solutions," Cook said.
I have always felt that this is one of the best ways to facilitate action in response to a documentary--have a place for people to do something immediately afterwards. It also is an antidote for the paralysis that can come in response to getting the bad news of the film presents. I found I could only deal with the message of peak oil in conjunction with a message about solutions.

Would you like to see something like this happen in your community? Well the Post Carbon Institute has a screening guide that will take you step by step through the process of introducing peak oil to your friends, family and neighbors.

Haven't seen the video yet? Go to and order it today!

*see the previous entry

Saturday, July 09, 2005

communities in action

This article, "Preparing for a Hard Landing", is a wonderful example of what you can do locally. It tells of "economic localization gatherings" that have been springing up when activists present a screening of the documentary The End of Suburbia.

Like many people, this film was my introduction to Peak Oil and the problems that we are facing. It is very compelling, but there is a problem--As one activist warns: "you have to create a sense of urgency without also creating panic or paralysis."

However the possibility of mobilizing communities to form committees "to research and plan how [to] survive in the absence of oil and its cheaply transported goods" is worth the risk.

One city (Willits, CA) has put its plans online.
The primary objectives of the Willits Economic Localization project are 1) to determine current resource use in the community of Willits, California (energy,
transportation, food, housing, etc.), 2) to determine how that community can reduce its consumption of those resources imported, 3) to determine local resources that can replace those imported from outside the community and 4) to implement this transition towards a localized economy.
Their committees and speakers have covered topics such as:
  • area energy inventory
  • biointensive garden plan
  • CSA (community supported agriculture)
  • alternatives to commercial utility power

They have also made an inventory of skills to teach and skills to learn--with the realization that they will have to go outside of the community to learn new ones.

I hope to be helping a friend set up a screening in her town. It is not a progressive region, like California, so we don't know what obstacles we are facing. But I will be keeping you posted.

Friday, July 08, 2005

blogging 'round the clock

Not long ago, when I first began exploring the sustainable blogosphere, I came across sustainablog by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg. I used his blogroll to start learning the ropes and his posts as models for great blogging. I have been waiting for an excuse to post about his blog and add it to my blogroll (that's my methodology) and now I have it. He is going to be "Blogging 'Round the Clock" in an effort to raise funds for the Missouri Botanical Garden's Earthways Center, July 11th to July 12th. Not only will he be blogging (a great way for you to get to know his work), but he has also got some guest bloggers.

I will be pledging my support and I invite you to consider doing so, too.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

In Memoriam

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of today's tragedy, and for all of the victims in the struggle for oil...

London Bombing deathtoll: 37

Iraqi death toll: 22,787-25,814

Coalition death toll: 1941

WTC death toll: 2,752

Desert Storm--Coalition: 478

Desert Storm--Iraqis: 20,000-22,000

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Chevron's response to peak oil

Chevron has published an interactive website to address the issues of peak oil: demand, population, supply, geopolitics and environment. It provides a brief overview of each issue, complete with footnotes, and then invites the public to join the discussion--the URL is ""

They are straightforward about the realities of demand outstripping supply. In their "population" section, they write:

At 6.4 billion and climbing, the world’s population is expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050. Yet our known fossil fuel reserves are in decline, and alternative energy sources are not expanding rapidly enough to meet future demand.

Under "demand," they explain:

By 2020, some experts predict the world’s energy consumption will be 40% higher than it is today. Efficiency, improvements, and conservation are part of the solution, but will not, in themselves, meet the need for more energy.

...It is in the interests of all stakeholders—energy producers, industrial users, governments and consumers—to make the energy sources we have go as far as they can go.
I have to admit the cynic in me is wondering "what's the catch? Is there another agenda?" It may be the inference we can make from the "geopolitics" section. They write:

Meeting the energy demands of the world continues to be a tremendous ongoing challenge. Oil and gas are located in complex geopolitical environments.

...Maintaining a stable and open business environment will be a key factor in attracting the kinds of long-term investments that are necessary.

...A stable social, political and business environment is essential for attracting long-term investments. That means a reliable legal framework that recognizes the rule of law and respects contracts—which in turn leads to predictability and security. Revenue transparency is necessary to reduce the occurrence of corruption and abuse. And the basic needs of the local people must be met to provide a reliable work force, supply chain and market for products.

So my question is how do they expect this to be maintained? Is this the justification for military invasion and occupation--to allegedly provide stability?

Nevertheless, my hat is off to Chevron for its commitment to raising awareness about the issues and inviting open discussion about them. As of this writing they had eight replies, and at least one of them was directly critical of their policies. I encourage you to join the discussion.

Thanks, Derek, for the link!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

cutting your gasoline bill

Summertime is the traditional time that our nation's gasoline usage spikes as the urge to hit the road overtakes us.

Here are a few tips for saving on you gasoline bill. offers "the ability to search their local gas stations for the lowest prices." Simply plug in your zip code or an intersection and, thanks to your price-conscious neighbors, you can find out where to get the cheapest gas near you. You can contribute to the listing by entering your own observations as well. Its a great way to support consumer interests.

The other route, of course, is to do like baloghblog suggests and actually drive the speed limit. Gee, whoda thunk?

Or check out the suggestions on

Drive Sensibly
Fuel Economy Benefit: 5-33%
Equivalent Gasoline
Savings: $0.11-$0.73/gallon

Observe the Speed Limit
Each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like
paying an additional $0.15 per gallon for gas.
Fuel Economy Benefit:
Equivalent Gasoline Savings: $0.15-$0.51/gallon

Remove Excess Weight
Fuel Economy Benefit: 1-2%/100 lbs
Gasoline Savings: $0.02-$0.04/gallon

Avoid Excessive Idling
Idling gets 0 miles per gallon.

Use Cruise Control
Using cruise control on the highway helps you
maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, will save gas.

Use Overdrive Gears
When you use overdrive gearing, your car's
engine speed goes down. This saves gas and reduces engine wear. offers these tips:
  1. follow recommended maintenance
  2. keep your tires inflated
  3. redcue the load
  4. use the highest gear possible
  5. don't drive aggressively
  6. use cruise control
  7. keep your car washed and waxed (!)
  8. avoid excess idling
  9. roll up the windows
  10. combine your errands

I came of age driving after the energy crisis of the late 1970s and so driving with the intent to use the least amount of fuel was always on my mind. It also made for a kinder, gentler driving experience because I considered not only my fuel usage but the usage of the cars around me. I figutured that every cup of gas saved was good, whether it was in my tank or someone else's. Thinking in these terms means thinking beyond your own needs, but your Ma would be proud.

Friday, July 01, 2005