Thursday, January 24, 2008

Just What Are We Supposed to Do?

Andrew got right to the point in his comment on the Looting of America. Besides voting and food storage, just what are we supposed to do?

The preparations that we make, and the things that we do reflect our belief in what the future will likely be like. We have, at the moment, one of the worst financial situations since the Great Depression.

The Great Depression was a financial train wreck, but there were about 60 million Americans then. Many people lived on farms, or had large gardens and raised a lot of their own food. They burned wood and coal, and even if they were very hard up, they could tear up a bill board and salvage some wood (Cinderella Man). We had not even begun to tap our petroleum resources, and they served to get us through World War 2 and brought in hundreds of tons of gold as we exported the oil to other countries. I wish we only had a screwed up economy.

The data that I have seen on oil production suggest that it is likely that we have actually passed the peak of global oil production, and that from here on out oil will be increasingly scarce. Being one of the richer and more powerful countries, maybe even having the grossest domestic product and the largest, most powerful military, we are likely to enjoy a disproportionate share of the remaining petroleum. So maybe life will go on somewhat the same as it is now for years. I don't know the future, but the present direction that we are going scare the bejebbers out of me. And I track them all over the carpet. Whether hard times come sooner or later is about the only variable that I see now.

If I thought this was something that you could run away from, I probably would run and look for a productive farm to become old and infirm on. In Argentina and in Russia when their currency and oil problems caused their economies to melt down, the people that were the least dependent on the infrastructure suffered the least. It will be that way with us as well. One fellow that witnessed some of the breakup of the Soviet Union said that there was not heat, and not much water. Keeping clean was a matter of will power as you only had a bucket of cold water to wash with. He said keeping clean was of major importance in avoiding fleas and lice, and that this was an important part of staying healthy.

So assuming that you can stay in your home, and I think that there will be mighty efforts to keep people in their homes, what do you need to survive, and what do you need to be comfortable? Heat in the winter, safe water, and warm water for washing, food..... the basics.

Imagining an energy deprived and financially screwed up world is do depressing that the way that we cope is to ignore it. When lobes of our brains start arcing because there doesn't seem to be a way out of the trap, it doesn't mean there isn't a way out, and it doesn't mean that there isn't a trap. The trap hasn't sprung yet. We have time to build our lives in different ways.

Things are going to change. We have the luxury of knowing that ahead of time, and hopefully using our time and the resources that we have to cobble out some solutions for ourselves and our loved ones.

Here are some of my goal for a sustainable household:

1. Better food storage. More home canned fruit, meat, and soups.
2. Better garden. Tall fences all around the yard, raised bed veggies with block walls on the back porch. Possibility of a chicken coop or rabbit pens. Possibly a goat. Orchard of dwarf trees where the garden is now. Raspberries, strawberries.
3. More wood for the stove.
4. Solar hot water, or at least a solar water preheating system.
5. Generator and solar PV system with batteries. Scaled to run the fan on the wood stove for 24 hrs/day, or the fridge and freezer for a few hours per day.
6. Possibly new windows.

Will I get these all done? Probably not. But each one will help. I have told Annie to buy all of the flannel and quilt bats that she thinks she will ever need or want. I would like to store some extra plywood upstairs in the attic. Yes, I am my fathers son. I didn't live through the depression, but I have lived through a few recessions, some inflation, some fuel shortages, and we haven't ever suffered, we haven't ever been hungry. but that was temporary- the ups and downs of the business cycle. What is coming will be more or less permanent. That sounds bleak, but our rich life is so correlated to the amount of energy that we use that is hard to believe that we will be 'richer' if energy consumption is lowered by force of circumstances.

If you are in an apartment, you have fewer options. At least keep a half a tank of gas and $100 in a drawer. We do have food here, if push comes to shove. I would be happier if you all could live in small towns and be able to build a fire when you wanted to. I know that isn't possible. So you will have to do your best and we will do our best. And we'll help each other as best we can and stick together. That is a lot of what I have been trying to get across in this blog, and more so in Zatarasworld. Tough times come in this world. These are the last days. Have courage. Have faith. Prepare. Stick together. Our parents and grandparents did it. I am sure they are watching from their vantage points. Let's not disappoint them.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Bushonomics, or The Looting of America

Look, Kids, you can't prepare and you can't protect yourselves and your loved ones unless you understand what is going on, and where in the heck this economic ride is likely to take us all.

This is one of the best articles that I have read about the shell game that has been going on for the last twenty years or so. For heaven's sake, and your sake please read this.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Electrifying News!

Well, not really. In a previous post I related a presentation that my boss gave to us about renewable energy (wind and solar), carbon taxes and carbon sequestration proposals, and how about 25 proposed coal fired power plants had been canceled. If you work in a power plants for a while you know first hand how hard they are to maintain, yet alone to build, and how often the whole system is on the verge of failure do to high demand. It was a good presentation, and it led to the conclusion that without new coal fired plants that it was unlikely that the current reliability of the grid would continue.

Here is an article that details the state of the worlds electrical grids in a general way. You might think that this can't happen here, but it can. I am looking at a couple of solar kits designed for small cabins or RV's that aren't too expensive (170W, 200 W, 300 W). While they wouldn't provide us with all the power that we are used to consuming, either one would let us run the fan on the fireplace, the hot water heater on a limited basis, and maybe more. I am thinking 3-5 years on getting this in. Might even start with a smaller starter kit to get the feel for the different loads.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Good Cartoon

I saw this on The Oil Drum today. Too much truth. One day when I was driving Mr. Russell around we were talking about the state of the world and got to talking about energy. I said it was hard to believe that so little progress had been made in using solar energy. He replied that with fossil fuels you install the furnace or stove and keep paying the rest of it's life. With solar, you install the equipment and then ...... no one gets paid.

And truth be told, International oil companies are losing control of the market. National oil companies (Think Gazprom of Russia, also Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela - many countries) are gaining power and influence. The Exxon-Mobils and Chevrons of the world want to find the oil, develop the oil and get it to market. The more they pump, the more they make. National companies realize that this may be their countrie's only chance to develop infrastructure and markets. The higher the prices go, the better for them. ...

Incidentally, I think the Oil Drum has more information on the oil industry and oil geology than any site I have seen. Most of the contributors are oil professionals, so if you want information from those that walk the is hard to beat. Otherwise, if you want pleasant pablum, continue on with network TV and financial publications.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

It's a New Year!

Here are some predictions by Ambrose Evans-Prichard. You probably haven't heard of him unless you follow the London Telegraph. More global than local in scope.