by Ronald Greek
Immediately. As the oil supply dwindles, the shortages, climbing prices, and disruptions of shipping and industry will restrict personal preparations.
At present you can easily “click” on the web, make phone calls, and have unique goods delivered, or work done.
The running city water in your home may not continue to be properly treated, even if the (fuel-driven) pumping continues. Whether you get your water from the city, a well, stream, or collect rainwater, you may want to treat the water yourself.
Humanity’s industrialized food production depends heavily on fertilizers and chemicals made from natural gas and oil, both of which are getting scarcer.
Many energy-saving ideas are offered in “Earthships”, a sustainable housing option described by Michael Reynolds. “Sustainable” means only using renewable resources that constantly regenerate (like wood, cotton and rainwater), instead of fossil fuels and mined minerals that can be depleted to extinction.) Reynolds’ website http://www2.incom.net/rmrc/index.htm.
Earth sheltering, and technical aspects of why you should insulate and waterproof the soil for 20’ out from your home are explained in the book “Passive Annual Heat Storage”, by John Hait, of the Rocky Mountain Research Center http://www2.incom.net/rmrc/index.htm.
Your energy supply:
Both reduce your energy use, and add home generating capability that minimizes the use of depletable fuels.
We have become expecially dependent on electricity. Unfortunately in North America, about 20% of it is generated by large, gas-fired power stations, especially to cope at peak demand times. As gas becomes less and less available to those centralized stations (probably within five to ten years), their output will decline and be interrupted.
Unfortunately it seems that other stations — coal, nuclear, hydro, and wind — will not meet electricity demand. Therefore widespread blackouts and brownouts will occur.
Even if you are wealthy, you will find yourself restricting your use of electricity. Preparing now can be worthwhile. You need to consider which facilities depend on electricity — electronics, computing — and which do not
Solar “photovoltaic” (electric) panels continue to improve in efficiency. However, the power fluctuates with weather conditions, so a battery storage system is also required. Solar panels can supply small computers, radios and TVs.
Windmill generation is increasingly popular, even though it only generates power when the wind is blowing. It requires energy storage systems.
Fuel cells can directly generate electricity from a variety of fuels like hydrogen, but require higher technology to produce and maintain. Note: Hydrogen is normally derived from (dwindling) natural gas, but can be solar-created.)
Batteries can (at present…) be purchased to meet specific needs, or made under low-tech conditions. See “How to Recycle Scrap Metal into Electricity”, by John Hait.
Electricity can not only be stored in batteries, but by performing work (compressing air, pumping water, splitting water for hydrogen, etc.) converted into potential power that can later be used to re-generate electricity. Storage always wastes a significant percentage of the electricty though.
Warmth and cooling
Heating of water or homes by electricity will become too expensive, because it will be reserved mainly for computers, communications and electrical control systems that cannot run on other energy supplies.
If possible, move somewhere warm. If not, insulate insulate your home and yourself well. Plan to make use of direct sunlight if you can.Organize your household to warm or cool smaller spaces, and only when essential.
Rooftop solar water heaters can provide heat stored for use at night.
Consider a high-efficiency, minimum-pollution coalburning fireplace.
If you happen to have access to a stream of water, “micro-hydro”, might be an option. It uses a suitcase sized generator, driven by a pipe of high pressure water. In situations where large containers of water can be placed at significant differences in height, water pumped to the high tank can act as a “battery” when allowed to flow to the lower tank through a hydro generator.
Internal/external combustion engines, burning “renewable” fuels (i.e. wood, crop scraps, alcohol, biodiesel, hydrogen, etc.) can conveniently run generators “on demand”. While they are a very low-efficiency approach to converting sunlight into useable electricity, production of fuel, i.e. alcohol, can be a low-tech method, entirely solar powered.
Heat for homes, cooking, etc., will probably need to be directly or indirectly solar. There are home-made solar pressure cookers andsolar furnaces that can even melt copper pipe.
Fuels, in general:
The end of fossil fuels (oil and gas), does not mean the end of all fuels for machines. It means that fuels for machines will have to come mostly from either (very polluting) coal, until it too runs out (decades away, or from renewable sources.
Unfortunately there really are no renewable fuels, or power sources, that can anywhere near match humanity’s enormous consumption of energy from oil, gas, and coal.
Most renewable, biological based fuels also entail a sacrifice of cropland (at a time when cropland productivity is already reduced by lack of oil-and-gas-derived fertilizers and chemials).
If we burn the remaining trees and forests to heat our homes, or to fuel engines, we destroy the planet’s oxygen generators, and the web of life that pollinates and nourishes our food crops, etc.
We will have to return extensively to “food fuels” — using animals more, and our own muscles.
Where to live:
Security and health:
The time of transition to a post-oil paradigm world is likely to be an unpleasant period. Many whose lives are overturned and threatened will lash out in bitterness and desperation. Consider how you can respond.
Storing books, tools, resources:
The crash and recovery could be swift, or take decades. Try to prepare for chaotic, lawless society over many years. There are many vital items easily and cheaply available cheap today, that you can store, for your use or bartering when they become scarce. (Nails, other fasteners, insulation, tools, piping and fittings, even bricks)
With a modest collection of quality hand tools, even an inexperienced person can make vital repairs. You can disassemble obsolete equipment, build things. Imagine trying to “double dig” a garden bed (see Jeavon’s books) without a shovel, or taking any device apart without a screwdriver or pliers.
Stainless steel and cast iron cookware have a much longer and varied useable life than aluminum, teflon, and plastic ones.
There is useful information on technology for primitive situations at http://www.vita.org and http://www.attra.org You can print this web site and those, for future reference.
A bow and arrows, and even an air rifle, are simple weapons for hunting and protection that require no licence and can be maintained operable with primitive tools and materials.
Social links, and risks:
The most serious, unresolved problem is how to cope with needy others when you yourself have nothing to spare. At least in the earlier stages of the energy decline there will probably be more advantage in pooling your resources and socializing with a group for comfort and protection.“Ham” radio may be your most likely means of maintaining contact when phone lines and the web fail.
Isolation exposes you to looters, pirates and military exploitation. This applies to all farms and islands. In dozens of conversations, we have not been able to visualize any safe situation that enables a person or group to produce their own food (from crops that have to have sunlight) without some risk of discovery and pillaging.
The most likely survival organizations may be (a) thedefended community of a few hundred farming people who exclude visitors and strictly limits their population according to food supply, and (b) the aggressive group of looters who live by attacking such communities.
Use of fuels for personal transport will probably too expensive. Transport will probably be for farming, emergency services and war.
In calories of food/fuel consumed per mile, the bicycle is the most efficient vehicle. (Five times more efficent than walking.). It was first intended as a serious means of transport, but became overshadowed by fossil fuel engines. Various bicycle designs are used worldwide to meet many transportation needs. With an athlete as the “poweplant”, an enclosed recumbent bicycle has exceeded 65 mph. A bicycle assisted by a small fuel or electric motor, can carry you a hundred miles.
Humankind’s accumulated knowledge is recorded in many places, in many mediums. Much of this is likely to perish in the disasters of the crash (neglect, civil unrest and wars) so you will no longer have access to it.
At present, huge amounts of knowledge is just a “click” away on the web. As a minimum, download and print out what you feel could be the most vital.
It will be left to those who prepare, and make it through the crash intact, to reset the foundations of human society. What do you think you, and the future, needs to know?
How long it may last:
Members of the RunningOnEmpty discussion group have repeatedly contacted prominent media, and local and national governments all over the world. The reaction has been disbelief. The issue is complex and and nobody likes conserving energy, because it entails sacrifices that bring discomfort and disadvantage to whoever makes them..
Governments might impose the tough measures to deal with dwindling fuel, food, water, and clean air. They might impose limits on procreation, and “encourage” early deaths. But our eighteen months of investigating suggest it is unlikely. We find that individuals and institutions invariably deny the problem.
So there will be no “preparing” in the time remaining (from now until about 2005). Instead, the world will just “collide with” to the “unexpected” consequences of energy shortages. You therefore cannot assume the government will have the resources to take care of you. The government is far more likely to confiscates whatever resources you yourself prepare.
Attempting to warn, to avert/reduce the crash
If you are currently in a position of public prominence or influence, you might guide others — decision makers and the public — toward awareness of the problem and the best preparations.
Simply “digging in”
This sheet, and all references and authorities for this information are available for download by temporarily joining the RunningOnEmpty2 internet forum mentioned below. In MyGroups page, click the Files section. It is among the first files, and is called WhatToDo.doc
This leaflet is also displayed in full on the Web at www.RunningOnEmpty.org/whattodo.htm
The oil crash is explained in up-to-date detail at www.hubbertpeak.com, and www.dieoff.org Both sites are keyword-searchable, with scientific and oil industry literature about this topic. It is heavily annotated with authoritative references.
Discussion forum — Technical/scientific: www.egroups.com/group/energyresources
Discussion forum — Implications, action: www.egroups.com/group/RunningOnEmpty2
Author of this sheet: Ronald Greek, one of the moderators of RunningOnEmpty2 forum at www.egroups.com/group/RunningOnEmpty2 and helped by members of those groups.
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