Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Food for thought...

Tonight as I was going through my blogroll I found two thought- and feeling- provoking essays that I recommend. The first is at deconsumption synthesizing his thought processes about our culture and our future:

The time for a self-imposed education and socio-personal growth has passed: we did not learn to delay our gratification, we did not learn to rise above our individual differences, and we did not invest the precious wealth of fossil-fuel resources that were available to us. Thus, although many people do not know it yet and won't until it is even more clearly in front of our faces, the window of opportunity for our "Star Trek" future is closed to us. We won't be living in eco-cities any more that we'll be journeying to the stars; we didn't invest for these possibilities while we had the wealth, and now we are broke. But at the same time we probably shouldn't lose too much sleep over it because realistically we were never going to do any of those things anyway. Certainly we could have paced ourselves, trod the road of human progress in careful, well-studied steps and directed our course with more than just lip-service to the benefit of future generations. But our leaders didn't do that, either in the past or today. And we didn't ask them to, either in the past or today. This was the path by which our culture of Empire redeems itself, and whereby both our society and our leaders grow-up, embrace gratitude, and accept responsibility for the gifts we were given. This was an option open to us, make no mistake. But it didn't happen, at least not in time--and now that path can no longer develop because WE never developed.
Deconsumption provided a link to one of Ran Prieur's recent pieces that chronicles the Worst Case Scenario, the Ridiculous Best Case scenario, Naive Sci-fi Utopia, his Sci-fi Utopia, Playing the Odds and finally just You. He has a way of bringing it all home. Check it out.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Home Cookin'

There is nothing like going to a local festival to rekindle your faith in humanity. Even better when the festival gets so famous it has an international reputation. This weekend we drove down to Macon, Georgia for the International Cherry Blossom Festival.

It was unseasonably cold but sunny. We went to a small air show on Saturday. It was thrilling. It saddens me to think that this may all go away if the price of fuel continues to rise.

Sunday we drove by the beautiful mansions that had been reclaimed from disrepair on the way in. The blossoms were past their peak by a week but it was still lovely. How neat to have a civic identity that involves planting trees! Each year the Cherry Blossom Festival and the Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission distribute over 6500 trees as a gift from the Fickling family at no cost to local residents.

Everyone was wearing pink as well. It was like being among fellow sports fans, except this was celebrating a 10-day long party that includes a gala ball, a fish rodeo by the new riverwalk, not one but two parades, Japanese dancers, a permanently pink poodle, the bedrace, and pink pancakes.

So much spirit! Some of the homes are even painted pink.

What a wonderful feeling to belong to the hometown of something so special. It reminds me of growing up in Berkeley. I identified strongly with the city, and loved the feeling of fellowship just walking down the street. I felt pride that people in my city were passionate about their beliefs and willing to take a stand for them.

I think every city and town needs to have something that people can be passionate about. It doesn't really matter what it is, as long as it is inclusive and gives people a chance to have fun with their fellow citizens. What a great way to build community. If your city already has something like this, go and join them! If not, how about joining a committee and getting something happening?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

New Urbanism

I recently took a tour of Smyrna, Georgia's "Village Green," a beautiful redevelopment that revitalized its downtown area. Anchored by a community center and library, it is gives the people of the city a place to come together. It boasts a mix of retail and townhomes and is surrounded by single family dwellings that have rear-alley access so that the front porches are a quick walk away from the Village. The sidewalks link the regional bike trails to the area as well. The developers get a premium for these locations and the tax revenue generated lowered the taxes city-wide.

So why isn't this happening everywhere? David Roberts at Gristmill posed this question and got many reasons in response. Here's a brief taste of the comments:

"Another reason for the lack of new urbanism or new models of housing is money. Big projects require loans and other financial instruments, and the people who control the money are quite risk averse. They know how to calculate the probable return on investment for today's sprawling developments; they know what kinds of risks are involved. But with New Urbanism, they don't know, and therefore won't provide the funding."

"It's a phenomenon of our 'growth culture' - if we aren't growing, we are failing. While this isn't true, it's an American axiom. And until we chill out and realize that growth is often unwise or even bad for the local populace, little will change. And in the end, it's we Americans who have to stand up to local elected officials and developers and others and simply say 'ENOUGH!'"

"One word: zoning. Local governments create incredibly repressive zoning laws that restrict the size and shape of buildings, depending on how the property is zoned. If anyone hasn't come across this before, a typical town is divided into commercial, residential, manufacturing, and mixed-use zones, which are then subdivided into two or more categories."

"municipal codes...Red-Development costs...Organization and cooperation...The nature of sprawl..Trend towards bigger corporations..."
Sine.Qua.Non cross posted her response on her blog here.
"As an urban planner and designer, I have worked for the past 20 out of 29 years to make a difference in curtailing the physical growth of cities. It is difficult. Additionally, an earlier commenter is correct, in that early zoning laws created in the 1960s are still in use today. The separate uses, create walls between people and communities, and created the NIMBY syndrome among other horrors. We can also thank the real estate field for passing on the bad information relative to land values, perpetuating myths to the NIMBY. As for developers and builders. Most of them are not very creative. They do what the see and all they see is separation and single-family homes on tract lots."

Monday, March 13, 2006

An Alternative Living Situation

Liz Seymore writes about adopting a new lifestyle in Inviting Anarchy Into My Home when faced with single motherhood at the age of 52.
On Aug. 1, 2002, I left behind the comfortably roomy semicircle marked "married-couple household" on the Census Bureau pie chart and slipped into an inconspicuous wedge labeled "two or more people, nonfamily." Having separated from my husband of 28 years the day before, I opened our three-bedroom 1927 Colonial Revival house to a group of men and women less than half my age. Overnight, the home I had lived in for 12 years became a seven-person anarchist collective, run by consensus and fueled by punk music, curse-studded conversation and food scavenged from Dumpsters.
She discovered that anarchist were a lot like Quakers (except they swear more) and that this way of living went a long way towards making ends meet.

...I entered a microeconomy in which it is possible to live not just comfortably, but well, on $500 a month. When we pooled our skills in our new household, we found that we had what we needed to design a Web page, paint a ceiling or install a car stereo. Sharing services and tools with people outside the house saved us thousands of dollars a year. If there is a historical model for the way we live, it is not the communes of the 60's or the utopian experiments of the 19th century, but the two-million-year prehistory of our hunting-and-gathering ancestors. Looked at through that lens, the life of our miniature tribe feels a lot like the way people were meant to live.

Seymore describes some of the problems they had, and concludes:

Where I live now is not utopia. What it is, though, is fun. It is fun to hear people laughing on the porch; it is fun to dance in the kitchen; it is fun to go out on a Wednesday evening Dumpster run. As messy as it is, to my mind it is a lot more interesting than utopia could ever be.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Meetup Groups

Last night our Oil Awareness Meetup Group met. It is always invigorating to be with other folks concerned about Peak Oil. We want to promote our group and increase our membership and activities. We have plans for screenings of The End of Suburbia and Community Solution's soon-to-be-released documentary The Power of Community. It's about how Cuba survived the sudden cut off from their oil supply when the Soviet Union dissolved.

We would eventually like to host our own conference, like the New York City group is doing. Peak Oil NYC is encouraging people from Meetup groups to attend their Energy Solutions Conference April 27-29. If there is interest they can set up an opportunity to network.

If you would like to take action and connect with other people, joining or starting a Meetup group is a great way to get involved. Many groups have their own websites besides the Meetup pages. Sydney Peak Oil has a list of links. They are promoting the idea that all groups should adopt a universal name protocol of [cityname]peakoil. Portland Peak Oil has a neat website.

As "Scoop" Nisker says, "If you don't like the news... go out and make some of your own!"

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Ethanol Controversy

The question of whether ethanol made from corn has a positive EROEI (energy returned on energy invested) is in dispute. One issue is what do you count as the energy invested? Do you include the oil that produced the fertailizers and the natural gas that produced the pesticides? The diesel fuel that runs the farm equiptment?

This is a repost of a repost on the Sustainable Agriculture Network listserve. I am posting the whole long article because I don't have a link to it.

> From: "SANET-MG automatic digest system"
> Date: Wed, 1 Mar 2006 17:31:44 -0500
> Subject: biofuels for addicts
> ISIS Press Release 28/02/06
> Biofuels for Oil Addicts
> Cure Worse than The Addiction
> Bioethanol and biodiesel from energy crops compete for land that grows
> food and return less energy than the fossil fuel energy squandered in
> producing them; they are also damaging to the environment and disastrous
> for the economy. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
> A longer, fully referenced version of this article is posted on ISIS
> members' website. Details here.
> "We must break our addiction to oil", President George W. Bush said in
> his State of the Union address; but he wasn't advising people to give up
> their cars or to use less oil, say by improving the gas mileage of cars.
> Instead, he launched the "Advanced Energy Initiative" that would
> increase federal budget by 22 percent for research into clean fuel
> technologies; including biofuels derived from plants as substitutes for
> oil (see Box) to power the country's cars.
> Successive US presidents have promoted ethanol from corn as a subsidised
> fuel additive. President Bush said US scientists are now working out how
> to make ethanol from wood chips, stalks, or switch grass "practical and
> competitive within six years", which would replace more than 70 percent
> of oil imports from "unstable parts of the world" - the Middle East - by
> 2025. Currently 60 percent of the oil consumed in the US is imported, up
> from 53 percent since George W. Bush came to power.
> What are biofuels?
> Biofuels are fuels derived from crop plants, and include biomass that's
> directly burned, biodiesel from plant seed-oil, and ethanol (or
> methanol) from fermenting grain, grass, straw or wood. Biofuels have
> gained favour with environmental groups as renewable energy sources that
> are "carbon neutral", in that they do not add any greenhouse gas into
> the atmosphere; burning them simply returns to the atmosphere the carbon
> dioxide that the plants take out when they were growing in the field.
> However, they take up valuable land that should be used for growing
> food, especially in poor Third World countries. Realistic estimates show
> that making biofuels from energy crops require more fossil fuel energy
> than they yield, and do not substantially reduce greenhouse gas
> emissions when all the inputs are accounted for. Furthermore, they cause
> irreparable damages to the soil and the environment (see main text).
> Biofuels can also be produced from wood chips, crop residues and other
> agricultural and industrial wastes, which do not compete for land with
> food crops, but the environmental impacts are still substantial.
> Biofuels cannot substitute for current fossil fuel use
> Biofuels from energy crops cannot substitute for current fossil fuel
> use. The major constraints are land surface available for growing the
> crops, crop yield, and energy conversion efficiency, although economics
> also plays a large role.
> Growing crops for burning - biomass - should be the cheapest kind of
> biofuel both in energy and financial terms, as it requires minimum
> processing after harvest.
> Crop scientists at Virginia Tech, David Parrish and John Fike, reviewed
> the biology and agronomy of switchgrass, the most researched and
> favoured biofuel crop. Switchgrass is a perennial native to the USA, and
> has been extensively grown for fodder soon after the Europeans arrived.
> It is prolific, does not require much nitrogen fertilizer, and is
> considered the most sustainable, or the least environmentally damaging
> biofuel crop. But the review concluded that, "even at maximum output,
> such systems could not provide the energy currently being derived from
> fossil fuels."
> Substituting switchgrass for coal is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas
> emissions by about 1.7 t CO2 per t switchgrass. The prices that growers
> must receive for biomass, however, must be sufficiently favourable.
> Thus, about 8 m ha would be available if the price reached $ 33 per t at
> the farm gate, increasing to about 17 m ha at $44 per t. The market
> price paid for woodchip biomass in Virginia in 2004 averaged about $33
> per t delivered, and the price for hay (all kinds) is about $95 per t.
> One estimate placed the delivery costs of switchgrass at $63 per t.
> Adding the costs of processing, such as pressing into pellets or cubes
> for handling within a power plant, would bring the user's costs to about
> $83 per t. One t of switchgrass produces 17-18 GJ of energy when burned,
> compared with 27-30 GJ for coal; and coal prices are $55 per t.
> Switchgrass for energy is not at all economically competitive, unless
> substantial subsidy is available. The same applies, perforce, to other
> energy crops.
> David Pimentel, a professor of crops science at Cornell University New
> York and Tad Patzek, a professor of chemical engineering at University
> of California Berkeley, reviewed the energy balance and economics of
> producing biomass, ethanol or biodiesel from corn, switchgrass, wood,
> soybeans and sunflower using the now generally accepted life-cycle
> analysis. Although there is much controversy over the energy balance of
> ethanol and biodiesel, the energy balance of biomass yield is generally
> less subject to dispute, and is therefore a useful starting point.
> It turns out that switchgrass has the most favourable output/input
> energy ratio of 14.52, followed by wheat at 12.88, and oilseed rape at
> 9.21, if the straw is included. Switchgrass is hence the most promising
> energy crop, whether as biomass for burning or to make other fuels
> downstream, such as ethanol.
> A quick calculation showed that even if all the farmland in the United
> States were converted to growing switchgrass, it would not produce
> enough ethanol for the country's fossil fuel use. Switchgrass takes
> several years to mature. The yield ranges from 0 for complete failure of
> the crop to take hold to 20 t or more per ha, a lot depending on the
> rainfall. A yield of 15 t /ha is optimistic; and would provide some 250
> GJ/ha of raw chemical energy a year. If that energy could be converted
> with 70 percent efficiency into electricity, ethanol, methanol etc., it
> would take about 460 m ha to produce the 80EJ (ExaJoule = 1018J) fossil
> fuel energy used in the USA each year. The total farmland in the USA is
> 380 m ha, of which 175 m ha is harvested cropland.
> Clearly, energy crops are a bad option, and may become obsolete as
> ethanol can now be made from wood chips, crop residues and other
> agricultural wastes, and industrial wastes, though even that is not
> sustainable ("Ethanol from wood biomass not sustainable", this series).
> Do you get more energy out of biofuel than the fossil fuel energy you
> put in?
> There is a huge debate over the energy balance of making ethanol or
> biodiesel out of energy crops, with David Pimentel and Tad Patzek
> presenting negative energy balance for all crops based on current
> processing methods, i.e., it takes more fossil energy input to produce
> the equivalent energy in biofuel. Thus for each unit of energy spent in
> fossil fuel, the return is 0.778 unit of energy in maize ethanol, 0.688
> unit in switchgrass ethanol, 0.636 unit in wood ethanol, and worst of
> all, 0.534 unit in soybean biodiesel.
> Their paper has provoked a strong riposte from several US government
> departments, accusing Pimentel and Patzek of using obsolete figures, of
> not counting the energy content of by-products such as the seedcake
> (residue left after oil is extracted) that can be used as animal feed,
> and of including energy used for building processing plants, farm
> machinery, and labour, not usually included in such assessments.
> For their part, Pimentel and Patzek, along with many other scientists
> like me, are critical of estimates that produce positive energy balance
> precisely because they leave out necessary energy investments. In fact,
> neither Pimentel and Patzek nor their critics have included the costs of
> waste treatment and disposal or the environmental impacts of intensive
> bioenergy crop cultivation such as depletion of soil and environmental
> pollution from fertilizers and pesticides.
> To apportion processing-energy to coproducts according to their bulk
> composition in the seed may appear unexceptionable. Only 18 percent of
> the soybean is oil that makes biodiesel, while the rest is soybean cake
> used as animal feed. However, as the seedcake is produced as soon as the
> oil is extracted, it is simply creative accounting to attribute 82
> percent of the downstream processing energy for biodiesel - which is
> quite substantial - to the animal feed.
> Energy balance of ethanol from corn
> Sure enough, a new study comparing six estimates of energy balance of
> corn ethanol did find that "net energy calculations are most sensitive
> to assumptions about coproduct allocation".
> The new study, carried out by researchers at the University of
> California Berkeley, published in the journal Science, evaluated six
> analyses of corn-ethanol production, including those of Pimentel and
> Patzek. The researchers developed a 'model' to allow them to compare the
> data and assumptions across the analyses. Pimentel and Patzek's negative
> energy balance stood out in including energy used for building
> processing plants, farm machinery, and labour, and for not giving credit
> for co-products. Removing those "incommensurate" factors nevertheless
> resulted in only a modest positive energy balance of just over 3
> MJ/litre to 8 MJ/litre ethanol in the analyses that gave positive energy
> balance, which translates to 1.13 to 1.34 for energy output/energy input
> (there being 23.4MJ in one litre of ethanol), while the reduction in
> greenhouse gas emissions averaged about 13 percent.
> The researchers have devised a way of presenting energy balance in terms
> of "petroleum input" - expressed as MJ petrol/MJ ethanol - that puts a
> very positive gloss on the figures and is very misleading. It
> essentially adds one hundred percent energy credit to the ethanol
> because it assumes that the ethanol substitutes 100 percent for fossil
> fuel use.
> The researchers then used the "best data" from the six analyses to
> "create" three cases with their model (hence all hypothetical): Ethanol
> Today, that claims to include typical values for the current US corn
> ethanol industry; CO2 Intensive, based on plans to ship Nebraska corn to
> a lignite-powered ethanol plant in North Dakota, and Cellulosic, which
> assumes that production of ethanol from switchgrass cellulose becomes
> economic, an admitted "preliminary estimate of a rapidly evolving
> technology".
> he three cases, the researchers found a positive energy balance: a
> whopping 23 MJ/litre ethanol for Cellulosic, 5 MJ/litre for Ethanol
> Today, and 1.2 MJ/litre for CO2 Intensive; the corresponding
> output/input energy ratios are 1.98, 1.21, and 1.05 respectively.
> Cellulosic is the clear winner in terms of energy balance, and also by a
> long shot in net greenhouse gas emission saved, which is 89 percent; the
> corresponding values for Ethanol Today and CO2 Intensive are 17 percent
> and about 2 percent respectively.
> These analyses show that current production methods, represented by
> Ethanol Today and CO2 Intensive, offer but a small positive energy
> balance and little if any savings in greenhouse gas emissions, even with
> the most favourable assumptions built in.
> Bad economics of ethanol from corn
> Ethanol constitute 99 percent of all biofuels in the United States; 3.4
> billion gallons of ethanol were produced in 2004 and blended into
> gasoline, amounting to about 2 percent of all gasoline sold by volume
> and 1.3 percent of its energy content.
> Ethanol use is set to expand as the federal government has introduced a
> 0.51 tax credit per gallon of ethanol and issued a new mandate for 7.5
> billion gallons of "renewable fuel" to be used in gasoline by 2012,
> which is included in the recently passed Energy Policy Act (EPACT 2005).
> Pimentel and Patzek have shown not only that the energy return is
> substantially negative, the economics is worse. About 50 percent of the
> cost of producing ethanol is for the corn feedstock itself
> ($0.28/litre). Ethanol costs a lot more to produce than it is worth on
> the market, and without federal and state subsidies amounting to some $3
> billion per year, corn ethanol production in the US would cease. Senator
> McCain reports that total ethanol subsidies amount to $0.79/ litre;
> adding the production costs would bring the cost to $1.24/litre. Ethanol
> has only 66 percent as much energy per litre as gasoline; so corn
> ethanol costs $1.88 per litre- or $7.12 per gallon- equivalent of
> gasoline, compared to the current cost of producing gasoline, which is
> $.33/litre.
> Federal and state subsidies for ethanol production that total
> $0.79/litre mainly end up in the pocket of large corporations, with a
> maximum of $0.02 per bushel, or 0.2 cent/litre ethanol going to the
> farmer.
> The total costs to the consumer in subsidizing ethanol and corn
> production is estimated at $8.4 billion/yr, because producing the
> required corn feedstock increases corn prices. One estimate is that
> ethanol production adds more than $1 billion to the cost of beef
> production.
> Clearly ethanol from corn is neither sustainable nor economical, and a
> lot of effort has been devoted to finding alternative feedstock.
> Worse energy yields as accounting gets more realistic
> In a detailed rebuttal to the Science paper showing a positive energy
> balance in ethanol production from corn, Patzek exposed the major flaws
> in energy accounting used, which greatly inflated the energy return.
> These include:
> Failure to account for the energy in corn grains as energy input
> Assuming an impossibly high yield of corn ethanol at variance with real
> data available
> Assigning away undue energy costs in ethanol production, in particular,
> distillation, to coproducts such as fermentation residues that have
> nothing to do with ethanol production.
> In addition, the ethanol industry routinely inflates the ethanol yield
> by counting as ethanol the 5 percent of gasoline added to corn ethanol
> as denaturant; by taking the amount of fermentable starch to be the
> total extractable starch, although not all of the latter is fermentable;
> and by taking the weight of wet corn (average 18 percent moisture) as
> dry corn.
> When the energy accounting done by different authors is reanalysed on
> the same set of realistic data, energy yields come out remarkably
> uniform. The output/input ratio varies between 0.245 and 0.310. In other
> words, the energy balance is strongly negative: for every unit used in
> making corn ethanol, one gets at most 0.3 unit of energy back. It takes
> at least 9 times more fossil fuel energy to produce ethanol from corn at
> the refinery gate than gasoline or diesel fuel from crude oil.
> As Patzek points out, the 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol mandated by the
> 2005 Energy Bill by 2012 could be compensated by an increase of car
> mileage by just one mile per gallon, excluding gas-guzzling SUVs and
> light trucks.
> The economic consequences of excessive corn production have been
> devastating. The price of corn in Iowa, the largest corn producer,
> declined 10-fold between 1949 and 2005 as corn yields have tripled.
> Today, Iowa farmers earn a third for the corn they sell compared to
> 1949, while their production costs increased manifold, because they burn
> methane and diesel to produce corn. The price of methane has increased
> several-fold in the last three years. "Corn crop subsidies supplemented
> the market corn price by up to 50 percent between 1995 and 2004." Patzek
> writes, predicting more concentration of industrial corn production in
> gigantic farms operated by large agribusiness corporations, and real
> farmers will only rent the land.
> An industrial raw material at rock-bottom price can now be processed
> into ethanol at a significant profit, further enhanced by a federal
> subsidy of 50 cents per gallon ethanol, plus state and local community
> subsidies.
> Patzek concludes: "the United States has already wasted a lot of time,
> money, and natural resources...pursuing a mirage of an energy scheme
> that cannot possibly replace fossil fuels.The only real solution is to
> limit the rate of use of these fossil fuels. Everything else will lead
> to an eventual national disaster."
> ********************************************************
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> http://lists.sare.org/archives/sanet-mg.html.
> Questions? Visit http://www.sare.org/about/sanetFAQ.htm.
> For more information on grants and other resources available through the
> SARE program, please visit http://www.sare.org.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Protect Food Labeling Laws

Another inbox post:

Vote "No" on H.R. 4167 http://www.organicconsumers.org/rd/labeling.cfm

This blatantly anti-consumer Bill would eliminate over 200 state food safety labeling laws. Yesterday, March 2, we won an unexpected and important victory, when the House decided to delay a scheduled vote on the controversial "National Unity for Food Act" until March 8. Industry lobbyists representing major food, biotech, and retail chains were shocked at the nationwide backlash against the legislation.

Congress members felt the heat as 50,000 consumers, including over 30,000 from the Organic Consumers Association, barraged Congress with email letters and phone calls over the past four days. Siding with consumers, a number of major newspapers published editorials against HR 4167, while Attorney Generals from 35 states sent a strong letter to Congress opposing the Bill. But Congress is still poised to pass this Bill, which takes away your right to know what's in your food.

How You Can Help

  • If you have not already done so, please Take Action Now --Send a Message to Your Congress Member in the House of Representatives to Vote "No" on H.R. 4167 http://www.organicconsumers.org/rd/labeling.cfm
  • Please forward this Action Alert to five or more of your friends to ensure that the House votes "no" on HR Bill 4167 on March 8. We need to continue to inundate Congress with letters, sending a strong message that we want food safety laws and labels strengthened, not weakened.
  • Also please consider picking up your phone and calling the Congressional Switchboard 202-224-3121 and have them connect you with the office of your Representative. Phone calls at this point are extremely important.
  • In addition, OCA needs to raise at least $10,000 to crank up our phone bank next week to get thousands of organic consumers in key Congressional Districts to call or send a letter to their Representative. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the OCA now http://www.organicconsumers.org/donations.htm

Again thanks for taking action on HR 4167. Our cause is just and our numbers are growing. We will provide you with an update next week, as soon as Congress votes on this important issue of local democracy and food safety.

Regards & Solidarity,

Ronnie Cummins and the OCA Team

Thursday, March 02, 2006

First draft of my 3 minute speech to the city council

I've just finished my first draft of my "three minute" speech to the city council. I would love feedback and suggestions.

There is an issue of utmost importance with profound consequences for our communities that has not gotten the attention it deserves. I'm bringing it up here because I believe that this city is capable of tackling the issue. The issue is "Peak Oil", and tonight I will take a few moments to give you a brief introduction to it and what it means for our communities.

Peak Oil is not about the end of oil, it is about the end of cheap oil. Peak oil is the moment in time when the global oil production peaks, and after that, the rate of production will decline. As global production declines, global demand will increase, and the gap between supply and demand will get bigger and bigger. This means that the price of oil will increase and eventually oil will become a scarce resource.

The implications of this are profound. The most obvious impact will be in transportation. It will become much more expensive to transport goods. What in this room wasn't transported here? Or take food, for example. In a 2003 study done at Iowa State University they found that your supper traveled an average of 1,500 miles to get to your table.

There are other, less obvious ways that we depend on oil. The fertilizers used to grow your food are made from oil, and farm equipment used to harvest runs on oil. In fact, oil is a feedstock for many products, including plastics, textiles and pharmaceuticals. Peak oil will affect every aspect of global industrial society that uses energy, either directly or indirectly.

As long distance transportation for food and other important goods becomes too expensive with declining oil supplies, local communities will have to become much more self-reliant and self-sustaining. In effect, the process of globalization
will reverse as a massive economic re-localization effort begins out of necessity. Energy production will become an issue. Alternative energy sources that don't make sense on a massive scale will become invaluable on the community level.

I have spent the last year researching and studying peak oil, as well as the steps we can take to prepare for it, and I would like to request 15 minutes of your next meeting to share more about this vitally important topic. Will you please consider adding me to your agenda?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Two new resources

Aaron Nuline posted a comment in January recommending an introduction to peak oil resource and I have just now gotten to viewing it and checking out his blog. I recommend both and will be adding them to my list.

The introduction is a 13 minute video called the Real Oil Crisis and it was made in Australia but is very accessible. I had a problem with the buffering so I put it on mute to let it load once and then viewed the whole thing. It gets a lot across in a short amount of time, and effectively mixes explanatory images with the talking heads. Nuline reviews it here.

Nuline's blog, Powering Down, is "a discussion on peak oil with an emphasis on RELOCALIZATION as a response for North Carolina and the greater Southeast." His interests include urban homesteading and he has implemented important changes in his household. But the best parts are his long thoughtful posts, written simply and with concrete examples that make his concepts come alive. Check him out!