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In a World Short Of Oil, Provisions Must Be Made [Jan. 26th, 2008|01:00 am]
Aaron Wissner
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In a World Short Of Oil, Provisions Must Be Made

Mr. Wissner of Middleville Stocks Up on Rice, Gold; No Faith in a 'Techno Fix'

Wall Street Journal; Page A1
January 26, 2008

MIDDLEVILLE, Mich. -- It was around midnight one evening in November when Aaron Wissner shot up in bed, jolted awake by a fear: He wasn't fully ready for the day when the world starts running low on oil.

Yes, he had tripled the size of the garden in front of the tidy white-clapboard house he shares with his wife and infant son. He had stacked bags of rice in his new pantry, stashed gold valued at $8,000 in his safe-deposit box and doubled the size of the propane tank in his yard.

"But I felt panicky, like I needed more insurance," he says. So the 38-year-old middle-school computer teacher put on his jacket and drove to an all-night gas station, where he filled three, five-gallon jugs with gasoline.

"It was a feel-good moment," says his wife, Kimberly Sager. "But he slept better."

Mr. Wissner has had more than a few fretful nights since he became "peak-oil aware," as he calls it, about 30 months ago. In embracing the theory that the world's oil production is about to peak, Mr. Wissner has tossed himself into a movement that is gaining thousands of adherents, egged on by soaring oil prices, the rarity of big new oil finds and writings on the Internet.

There are now dozens of "relocalization" working groups scattered from Maine to Southern California pushing for people to spurn cars, buy local produce and work where they live. Mr. Wissner's own congressman, a Republican nuclear physicist named Vernon Ehlers, is part of the 13-member congressional Peak Oil Caucus formed in late 2005. City councils from Bloomington, Ind., to Portland, Ore., have passed peak-oil resolutions to gird for the looming crunch.

Many converts, like Houston oil banker Matthew Simmons, remain firm members of the suit-and-tie energy establishment. Others have gone "off-grid," cutting ties to the mainstream economy and growing yams in their garden as they wait for the coming chaos. Mr. Wissner and his wife fall somewhere in the middle -- alienated by a car-obsessed culture, but still part of it.

Ms. Sager remembers well her husband's conversion. She returned home one afternoon in August 2005, from her job as a software engineer for General Electric Aviation and found him at his computer, deep into a Web site he had found while researching gas prices called lifeaftertheoilcrash.net.

"He sat me down and said, 'Do you think this is a hoax?' " she recalls. "And there went the next two hours."

"Dear Reader," the Web site announced: "Civilization as we know it is coming to an end." Oil supplies are dwindling just as world demand soars. The result: oil prices "will skyrocket, oil dependent economies will crumble, and resource wars will explode." From there, Mr. Wissner plunged into a burgeoning literature arguing that soaring energy costs will put a halt to globalization and the American way of life. His forebodings -- of banks faltering, of food running out -- have turned him into a peak-oil proselytizer in this staid farm community just south of Grand Rapids.

The experience has been intense for his wife, too. While she shares his concerns, "there have been times," she says, "when he thinks of nothing else."

Three weeks after their first immersion, the couple drove to a peak-oil conference in Ohio, where lecturers showered them with statistics on demand curves and oil-field depletion rates. Then, at a conference in Denver, a man in a chicken suit called them crazies as he passed our fliers arguing that the world still has plenty of oil.

Mr. Wissner says he used to be a "techno-science lover" who believed that technology could solve everything. But he left Denver convinced that "no techno-fix was going to save us." Electric cars, biodiesel, nuclear power, wind and solar -- none of it will cushion the blow. "What I saw looming," Mr. Wissner later wrote, "was the very real possibility of the collapse of the global economy." The question was, what to do about it?

Mr. Wissner, with the earnestness of the math major he was, ticked off the steps he's taken to prepare: the insulated windows, the new drapes, the higher-efficiency light bulbs, the pantry, the garden, the gold.

The Wissners have yet to replace their old cars, a 1993 four-cylinder Ford Mustang and a 1999 Pontiac Grand Prix, both of which get less than 25 miles per gallon. Mr. Wissner plans to ditch the Mustang, a remnant of his pre-peak oil days, but is loath to pay for a hybrid. "The more you spend, the bigger your carbon footprint," he says, adding that he heard it takes 75 barrels of oil to build a new car. He's in the market for a small used car.

Weeks after the holidays, an artificial Christmas tree still glittered in the living room of their three-level house, perched on a rise among a string of similar houses a few miles from Middleville. His wife, bouncing their six-month-old son Michael in her lap, allowed that what they've done so far isn't enough. "It's still window dressing, really," she says.

Mr. Wissner has thrown most of his energy into giving lectures on peak oil in and around Middleville, complete with handouts and PowerPoint slides.

On a recent chilly Saturday evening, more than 60 people packed into Middleville's EMS Building for a film and talk hosted by Mr. Wissner. Some drove hours to be there. As Ms. Sager set out plates of home-baked cookies and cups of coffee, her husband arranged his library of recommended peak-oil books and videos, with titles like "Collapse," "The Long Emergency" and "Crude Awakening."

José Blanco, a jolly retired furniture salesman, was one of many in attendance who said they've become peak-oil converts thanks to Mr. Wissner's talks. Mr. Wissner makes no money from his activism, though when he speaks he takes up a collection to cover his expenses. Mr. Blanco is now helping him organize an international peak-oil conference in Grand Rapids later this year. By then, Mr. Blanco hopes to have to retrofit his 1997 Mercedes-Benz diesel to run on vegetable oil. "Then I'll just pull in to a McDonald's and fill up for free," he says.

Mr. Wissner occasionally tosses some lessons on oil into his computer teachings at Wayland Union Middle School. One recent morning, with a snowstorm swirling outside, he showed the class a video clip, "Our Oil Addiction." Then he asked what would happen if oil grew so scarce that gas prices soared to $10 a gallon or more? Hands shot up. "We'd ride horses," said one boy. "We'd pick all our crops by hand and ride bikes," offered a second. One kid in back earned some laughs when he tossed out, "We've all got plenty of gas."

At home, the big question now is whether to take the plunge, sell the house, and move to their dream plot in the woods. There would have to be good water nearby, and reliable wind for power. Sunlight would be important, and good soil for crops. "I want a house that can cool and heat itself without using any fuel or electricity whatsoever," Mr. Wissner says.

In the dining room, their son gurgled and cooed as Ms. Sager spooned baby food into his open mouth. "We're not there yet," she said. "It's easy to forget that growing your own food is a lot of work."

Write to Neil King Jr. at neil.king@wsj.com

Links to Original Article


NOTES to FOLLOW the STORY - January 27, 2008

This article in the Wall Street Journal was about me, Aaron Wissner, author of this web site. What follows are my various comments, thoughts, and observations on this single snapshot into my life and the issue of peak oil.

The "Lead in"

Several have asked about the first few paragraphs of the article.

Apparently, the location on the front page of the WSJ where this story ran is reserved for "offbeat" type stories. The frequent readers know this, so it only makes sense that my midnight errand was the first part of the article. Not only did it capture the attention of the readers, but also, without that little "offbeat" moment, how would Neil have written the story so the WSJ editors would give it space on the front page?

The fretful evening coincided with a run up in oil prices not long after the ASPO-USA conference. Since I know that oil is worth over a whole lot more than most people imagine, I definitely got worried that the market would do something rash and let the price spin uncontrollably upwards. October and November are the two months that worry me most, particularly given the timing of past stock market events.

For those who think I'm "nuts" or "off my rocker" to go to the store at midnight, let me share a reflection: A couple times a year, I find myself getting up at night to search for an odd sound, or to make sure the doors are all locked, or the windows all closed, or the lights all off, or because I can't sleep, thinking about a big upcoming event, like the first day of school or a big talk. If I can do something to ease my mind, to rest better, then I normally do that.

The "Rebadge" of the Article

On the day of publication, according to the WSJ online site, the story was in the top 10 for most read, and also for most emailed.

The story is even being "rebadged", retitled and re-blurbed as follows...

Preparing for the Worst Oil Shock
Troubled by the theory that the world's oil production is about to peak, thousands of people are spurning cars, buying local produce and working from their homes as they gird for the looming crunch.
From the WSJ Online Home Page, Jan. 27, 2008
Interesting how an article can be headlined one way to attract print readers, and another way to attract online readers...

Am I a "Doomer"

Not so much, although I think that things like the great depression and hyperinflation and stagflation and etc. have happened before (or so I've read and been told my whole life).

As Neil points out in the article...

Mr. Wissner has thrown most of his energy into giving lectures on peak oil...
In fact, last week I sent in the "Articles of Incorporation" for a brand new nonprofit to do exactly this. The name is "Local Future", meaning that the global economy will be losing importance, as local economies become essential in individuals day to day lives. Visit the site "Local Future" and see what we're up to in Middleville.


Just to clarify, a "safe-deposit box" is a small metal locked box, amongst many other small metal locked boxes, all locked together inside a big thick bank vault, at an even bigger alarm and guard protected bank; and, in this case, the bank is miles from my house.

We have no gold at home, although I do have some old junk in the garage I'd like to get rid of. ;-)

For more on buying gold, read "Gold!!! A Store of Value in the Peak Oil Era?"

Others Discussing this Article

For some other interesting discussion on the article, try:

* The Oil Drum -- http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3553/29584040
* Peak Oil.com -- http://www.peakoil.com/fortopic35923.html

And, of course, if you want to hear from some people who vehamently deny (for whatever reason) that oil is a finite, limited, non-renewable resource, beyond all logic and all scienctific peer reviewed science... try these links:

* http://www.libertypost.org/cgi-bin/readart.cgi?ArtNum=214285
* http://caps.fool.com/Blogs/ViewPost.aspx?bpid=31600&t=01008163369352786247

10 p.m. - Jan. 27 - Here are two others I just found. Lot's of comments, some of them are actually quite insightful.

* http://www.tickerforum.org/cgi-ticker/akcs-www?singlepost=253040
* http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1960420/posts

What a wonderful, amazing, mixed up world we live in, no? ;-)


This story was accompanied by an dot drawing of me, as well as a 3 minute video about peak oil. Here is the caption under the video:

Aaron Wissner, a Grand Rapids, Mich., middle-school computer instructor, is part of a growing community of so-called peakniks, who are convinced that peak oil production is nigh and that there will be difficult consequences.
The video came out quite well. It shows our big garden, oversized propane tank, and stocked shelves in the pantry. We recorded about 40-minutes of Q&A. I'm glad the editor chose the quotes he did, as they really get to some essential points about peak oil.

A few people have mentioned to me that the online video focuses on my short-term insurance preparedness, like the pantry or the propane tank. These are really just feel good measures; they probably won't be necessary, and if they are, they probably won't be enough.

If you would like to see some really interesting videos about peak oil, from my perspective, start at YouTube here...

My Peak Oil Videos -- http://www.youtube.com/newculture
I recommend the "10 minute summary", "oil elasticity", and "peak oil for sure".

In retrospect, on the WSJ video, I would have said one thing differently: Rather than 10-20 years to know that peak oil is in the past, we probably will only need 2-5 years.

Matthew Simmons, on a TV interview for one of the news networks, said we'd probably know two years after the peak. The actual realization will probably depend on the speed of the decline.

In either case, we are probably already at peak oil, although it is playing out as a plateau. We've been stuck at 84.5 million barrels per day of production for over three years; thus the steadily increasing price of oil, gasoline, food, etc.

One must do a 12-month "moving average" of both global production and global prices to really see the trends, but they are stark and unmistakable. Once the plateau ceiling was hit, I believe back in 2005, the oil prices involuntarily and unexpectedly began to rise. The evidence is in the remarkable period of minimum volatility in the oil pricing, as the paradigm of steadily priced oil changed to one of ever increasing priced oil.

This plateau in production isn't really all that surprising. Individual fields don't peak, they plateau.

A big question now is: How long can we maintain 84.5 million barrels per day? Another month? Until summer? Another year or two?

Once the decline in supply sets in, things are going to change rapidly. If going from 1.5% annual increase in oil production to 0% increase in production (plateau) forced a 40% annual increase in costs; then what is the annual oil price increase going to become, once a 2.5% (or more) annual oil production decline sets in?

If you haven't noticed, in interviews, Matthew Simmons doesn't name the top price, but only says things like, "oil is the cheapest liquid around, available for only 15 cents per cup!". He tends to just repeat back the top price the interviewer is willing to propose. This isn't bad in any way, he probably does this because oil is really priced so far below its value, that almost no one would be able to understand or accept its actual worth. The underlying problem here is that the market has abysmally imperfect information, and due to this ignorance, prices will ALWAYS be lower than they should be, even after they achieve the minimal prices of $300, $500 or pick-a-number per barrel.

EXTENDED REFLECTION - January 26, 2008

Neil King contacted me in early December about coming to Michigan to do this story. He flew in on Saturday, January 12th and stayed through Monday, January 14th. During that time, he spent about sixteen hours with me, talking about peak oil, participating in the event, listening to a presentation, visiting the classroom, etc. While he was here, he watched "The End of Suburbia", "A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash", and "What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire".

So, is Mr. Aaron Wissner happy with this peak oil story?

The story was good overall, mostly accurate, and what wasn't perfect was probably just due to the brevity of the visit, and the shortness (1,200 words) of the article.

Here are some clarifications:

* I was born in 1970 and haven't had my birthday yet, which makes me 37.

* I don't think we have bags of rice. If we do, there are two bags, probably the 25 pound size. We do have a bit of other food though, including a couple big bags of sugar and flour, some pasta, and lots of my favorite breakfast cereal. The video (linked above) shows the pantry, so if you are curious, take a look at that.

* I might point out that Bush and Gore both have "off-grid" homes. The yams comment reminds me of a video I just watched on YouTube this week called "A Post Oil Man". If you are willing to see a little peak oil humor, try it, although if you aren't already well on your way to understanding the entire peak oil issue, this video might look more nuts than anything else. Just keep in mind that global economic collapse is a probability, but NOT a certainty.

* I was quite happy that Kimberly read the "Life After the Oil Crash" web site, and drew the same conclusion as I did. It would have been quite dismal to try to think about peak oil all on my own.

* I'm not sure what "peak-oil proselytizer" means, but if it is that I'm trying to share the information with others, then that would be accurate.

* Yes, peak oil is on my mind a lot. I once read that men think of sex several times a minute. I don't think about peak oil that much, but several times an hour is not uncommon. By now, it is basically just a part of me. Everything I do is informed by the uncertainties of a post peak oil future.

* The Denver conference wasn't dominated by the chicken guy, in fact I don't think I would have known about him, had not a conference participant mentioned him. The conference was good, "The Denver World Oil Conference" sponsored by ASPO-USA. Matt Simmons, Julian Darley, Roscoe Bartlett, Richard Heinberg, etc. were just some of the big names. The one thing I knew for sure after that conference was that hydrogen, tar sands, oil shale, and ethanol were not going to be able to make up for the coming decline in oil production.

* Electric cars have to get the energy from somewhere... Most electricity in the USA is generated from burning coal... Doesn't sound very clean to me, particularly when taking into account the difficulty of recycling these batteries. I do think the Toyota Prius and G.M. Volt are very clever, but that doesn't make them green.

* This week, Kimberly added some new weather strips around the door between our house and garage, and a little strip along the bottom of both exterior doors. No more cold air draft coming in. Now if the furnace ignitor would just stop burning out, I'd be happy.

* All of the energy efficiency measures in the house are really just "window dressing". If the peak oil doomsday disaster scenarios come to pass, and I do not expect they will, then making our house 25% more efficient will be meaningless. But, while we're on the topic, I figure one can think of it like this... You have house insurance, right? Would you keep it after the mortgage was paid off, even though the probability of a claim is quite low? If so, then you are in the same boat as me. I figure a bad crash is about a 1 in 6 possibility. That means there is a 5 in 6 chance that there isn't a bad crash. Still, a 1 in 6 chance of badness is high enough that to avoid preparing is downright foolish. I think of it like having fire insurance. Most people's houses never catch on fire; but if it did, it would be so catastrophic, that not to be insured is practically unthinkable.

* The cars probably both get about 25 mpg. I know I was getting 28-29 with the Mustang at one point. I'm glad Neil included the "carbon footprint" concept. The more money we spend, the more we contribute to oil depletion and global warming. Period. No complex math required. The 75 barrels used to get a brand new car to the showroom probably accounts for in all inputs, including the mining of the raw materials, energy, etc. I don't recall the source on this, although TheOilDrum.com could probably off that answer in a few seconds. A somewhat high fuel economy used car is probably the best way to go. After all, no additional energy has to go in to making a used car... the car is already here.

* We live in a 2-story house... actually a 1-story with a finished basement. The bi-level mid-stair landing makes it feel a bit like three. Somewhere around 2,000 sq. ft. on 1.7 acres of land.

* The film in Middleville was "What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire". Good film, interesting to watch and discuss. Ties together global warming, peak oil, overpopulation, biodiversity loss, sustainability, cultural stories and momentum/inertia, and really puts things in perspective.

* I think Jose's son writes "AutoBlogGreen", so Jose is probably getting help from his son on the biodiesel car. Keep in mind, there isn't enough biodiesel for everyone in the country to convert. It's just a nice way to use the vegetable oil after the fast food places toss it out.

* The best quote from the classroom discussion actually had to deal with a boy whose dad and grand-dad are both farmers. He said that with the current increase in fuel prices, they were already running in the red. If prices continue to rise, they'd probably have to stop farming... which means to me that the only ones who will be able to afford to do farming will be people with other jobs, and large agribusiness corporations. Too bad, we need our small family farmers.

* If you search this valuesystem.livejournal.com web site, you'll find my concept for the zero-energy home. It's novel, and has not been tried (to my knowledge), but it sure is an exciting... Just imagine, a home that maintains it's own comfortable internal temperature year round, without any use of fuel, and minimal human intervention! Definitely possible, but probably quite tricky to build.

* I'm hoping that even in the worst case scenarios we will still have specialists. I don't mind the idea of being a full time farmer, but I think I would much prefer being a teacher, or store manager, or etc. Then again, maybe I just need to get my hands in the dirt a lot more. This summer, I suspect we'll be quite busy with the garden, and our new heritage seeds.

* Whoever did the "peaknik" caption on the video, which I think was not Neil, could have tried something else. I don't know what a "peaknik" is, but it sounds derogatory, something like "beatnik". I am "peak oil aware", and I'm glad Neil used that term.

* Kimberly points out a couple more things: she is the gardener, and is responsible for designing and enlargening the garden; she would have taken down the Christmas tree by now, had I not insisted on keeping it up until March (it'll probably be down this weekend - update - it is down now); many of the books, particularly the ones on high-efficiency home design and permaculture gardening are from her collection.

Overall, I think Neil, Mr. King, did a really good job. As I see it, the point or purpose of the story was to impress the readers that "normal" people out there are learning about peak oil and adapting their lives to an uncertain energy future. I think this story does that, so to me, it serves its purpose and should help to raise awareness of peak oil as a critical issues to which we all must attend.


If you read this entire page, and want to read some more, I invite you to try:
Of course, don't take my word for it. Question the source, and check things out. There is lots online, many books, many videos, and, of course, a little logic and deductive reasoning is handy as well. :-)

Comments are always always read and appreciated (except for the "ad hominems", of course). No "LiveJournal" account is required. :-) Thanks for reading!

(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: valuesystem
2008-01-27 03:53 pm (UTC)
First off, I haven't given all that many talks, probably around a half-dozen. I was quite busy last year with the baby, and with other career obligations. This year is the big year for me, but I actually plan to do more film screenings than talking myself, although I'd much prefer (for my ego) to do the later.

If you can, attend a peak oil conference somewhere. There are lots of folks thinking along the lines that you are, as far as what people plane to do.

As far as advice to the executives and political types, they all need to understand two things:

1. Oil is a non-renewable, limited, finite resource, which is about to go into decline, with no easy substitute, in a world entirely dependent upon it for practically everything; and that

2. Money is simply a tool with which to direct the expenditure of energy, and that with a decline both the quantity and quality of energy, money is going to shift in value in very remarkable and unprecedented ways.

With these two facts in mind, and with some logical thinking, and time to do that thinking, the answers start to appear. It would depend a lot on the exact business. Some businesses are already "critical endangered". Others will be able to adjust to the inevitable cycle of recessions that are coming. Already, many that depended on basically free natural gas have closed (fertilizer plants). So, it will depend on the company, and how oil figures in to their product.

As far as political types, it is time for some visionary thinking. If we get stuck in focusing on what is going to happen during my short term of office, we are in very bad shape. Peak oil is going to play out over years, decades, and without some serious, in-depth, honest, frank, and maybe scary long term planning, nothing substantial will be accomplished, and in fact, the efforts may be exactly the opposite to what we need... for example "oil shale" and "hydrogen fuel" and "nuclear fusion" had better not get funded; it is a total waste of the remaining high quality energy we have available.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ananke1
2008-01-26 09:42 pm (UTC)
I was very impressed with the article. I know that my husband and I should be more conscious of our use of fossil fuel, but we're lazy in that respect. It's too easy to let people like you worry about it for me. I'm probably going to be one of those people who will be scratching my head wondering what happened when the lights go out...
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[User Picture]From: valuesystem
2008-01-27 03:58 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Neil did all the writing, I just tried to share with him what I could.

The main thing for individuals to do is to try to work towards self-sufficiency in their at home lives. Of perhaps equal importance, is helping others in your neighborhood, or community, work together to increase their group self-sufficiency.

It probably is impossible for most to become totally self-sufficient, but almost all of us can take major steps in that direction.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: kymonesi
2008-07-16 02:55 pm (UTC)
But I did almost all the things Christopher did, just not Alaska. I had bad parents too, left when I was 20 after 1 year of college and left with no destination.
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From: (Anonymous)
2008-01-26 11:47 pm (UTC)
With nuts like you teaching our kids, it is no wonder they are failing compared to other nations. I grieve for this nation's survival, if you are typical of the teachers they have now days.
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[User Picture]From: valuesystem
2008-01-27 10:54 pm (UTC)
All truth passes through three stages.
First, it is ridiculed.
Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted
as being self-evident.

Arthur Schopenhauer
German philosopher (1788 - 1860)

Truth only reveals itself
when one gives up
all preconceived ideas.


If a thousand old beliefs
were ruined
in our march to truth
we must still march on.

Stopford Brooke

All great truths begin
as blasphemies.

George Bernard Shaw
Annajanska, 1919

In a time of universal deceit
telling the truth
is a revolutionary act.

George Orwell

The trouble about man
is twofold.
He cannot learn truths
which are too complicated;
he forgets truths
which are too simple.

Rebecca West
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: valybopu
2008-07-16 10:55 pm (UTC)
I wonder if they have ever asked themselves that if they should have the kind of government they apparently seek, no one would ever be able to do what they're doing again.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: donaldhaukins
2008-10-09 03:25 pm (UTC)
  They're our kids.  Yeah, you have an interest in them.  But not a large enough one to cross the line into committing acts which, for the purpose of "discipline" and maintaining order, would be considered assault and battery in any other social context.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: valuesystem
2008-10-09 04:42 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the comment, although I don't understand your point about "maintaining order" or to whom you are responding.

I happened to reread the first part of this article this morning. The author, Neil King, was in Sacramento at the ASPO conference last month, and shared about some of the reporting he'd been doing around the limits to oil production.
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From: (Anonymous)
2008-01-27 02:33 am (UTC)

Thanks for clarifications

I think electric cars get a bad rap. I have an electric tractor (made by GE in the '70's) called an Electrak. One of the things that electric cars do is teach the people who use them a lot more about energy than they would otherwise concern themselves with. Windmills on rooftops, solar panels, etc. won't replace the power grid, but they would become much more popular if people had electric cars and could get a 'free' ride to work every day. A lot of the changes we need to make are more about the psychology than the actual technologies. There are lots of technologies that sit on the shelves at GM and other car companies because people aren't willing to pay for them (composite driveshafts, ceramic engines, liquid-cooled electric wheelmotors, flexwheels) until the price of gasoline gets high enough to justify the cost. The high cost of an efficient vehicle also puts more pressure on governments to provide mass transportation. We could do a lot immediately by requiring all companies over 50 employees to provide employee transportation (buses) and to coordinate this transportation with school systems and municipalities.
These are just a few of the things I think about. I don't think about peak oil per se, but about the lameness of our System of systems and how much waste is involved with it. http://www.storyofstuff.com
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[User Picture]From: valuesystem
2008-01-27 04:35 pm (UTC)

Re: Thanks for clarifications

I think the Story of Stuff video is probably well worth watching... unfortunatly, my dialup connect at home won't tolerate it.

I'm doubtful about the extreme long term use of electric vehicles.

In the short term, I suspect they will become increasingly popular. Using the home renewable energy electricity generating system is certainly something that some people will be able to do. I think it is extremely unlikely that we'd ever be able to replace all cars with electric cars and home power systems. Not only would it take decades, but we're going to want to spend most of our resources proping up the food distribution system.

I like the "advanced technologies" ideas. Again, probably short to mid term techno-fixes, but they would certainly be interesting to see. Someone told me of a very low cost car, planned to be sold in India, that will use compressed air as an energy storage device. I'll have to try to find the article on this sometime.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2008-01-28 12:46 am (UTC)

The Pantry

Just a couple of things you may want to consider for your pantry.

Rice: OMG... not in bags! All the bags today are plastic.... the
stuff is worthless as a long term storage material. Ya have to go
with glass... Here's what I use.... 3 & 4 liter wine jugs. Rinse &
wash... let them dry in a very warm place... I put mine on the wood
burner when it's not too hot. When the moisture at the neck finally
evaporates, it's dry. Throw a spoon of sugar in & shake it around to
be sure. Other glass bottles like the big jars from pickles &
peppers found in deli's are great. Let them stand outside with the lid
off in direct sunlight for 3 - 5 days & the residual pickle smell will
be gone. Wash first of course. Doh!!!

Matches: Store these in glass as well... I've been saving the
dessicant packets that seem to be in many packages these days.
Throw a few in with the matches & put a lid on. Should keep 'em dry
forever... I usually put the book matches in a warm/almost hot jar to
start... helps it seal just like tomatoes!

Baking Soda... cheap leavening... lots of uses...
Salt... Lots of uses

The advantages of glass should be obvious & as far as I'm concerned
the BIGGEST is that glass is mouse proof! And YES there most likely are mice in your house.

Here's a little ditty I caught on a bumper sticker: "The difference between agony & adventure is attitude."
Stay calm folks...

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[User Picture]From: dtbrookes
2008-02-02 02:53 pm (UTC)
Dude, you're FAMOUS now. Or would that be infamous? ;)
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[User Picture]From: valuesystem
2008-02-02 03:06 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure I really would qualify as either to most. I'm sure, for a moment, I was one or the other to some of the readers of the articles.

After forwarding the article to the local press, two or three mini-newspaper artciles, and four additional phone intereviews... Kalamazoo Gazette, Hastings Banner, Allegan County News, Grand Rapids Press and WJR Talk Radio Detroit.

Plus, I've been able to set a date firm for "The International Conference on Peak Oil and Climate Change: Paths to Susainability" for Friday, May 30, 2008 to Sunday, June 1, 2008 at Calvin College in Grand Rapids; confirm with several speakers; and start working on the NEXT conference for the fall!!! (All info at LocalFuture.org.)

Plus, within the online peak oil community, I imagine a few people actually know who I am, which will be nice when I send out the invite for the conference. ;-)

Oh, I almost forgot one more (and the last). On Thursday, the WSJ published a letter to the editor about the article, which probably increased readership even more.

I guess the informal grassroots peak oil education campaign is really starting to catch on! :-)
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From: rebeccaqusok
2008-07-16 06:58 am (UTC)
Caelidh  July 31st, pm I just signed up for the Community Solution Peak Oil Conference in Yellow Springs OHIO Theme: Planning for Hard Times httpwww.
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From: imeekaye0812
2010-10-03 06:58 am (UTC)
Lots of appointment that was attended...looking forward to hear from you more...:) you're article has a lots of sense on it...which is true...I admire you a lot after reading this...:)

From the Philippines
ChooseYourOwnAdventureBooks.org for Kids, Adults and Teachers
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[User Picture]From: valuesystem
2008-02-02 03:24 pm (UTC)

Peak Oil Aware versus Head In the Sand

In the extremely unlikely event anyone is reading these comments, over a week after the original article published, here is a tidbit of follow-up...


And my response letter back to the editor... which will probably never be published; but I enjoyed writing it all the same...


Peak Oil Aware versus Head In the Sand

Regarding “Bury the Gold, Plant Yams” (page 15, Jan 31), Mr. Pearson overlooks a core point of the article “In a World Short of Oil, Provisions Must Be Made" (page one, Jan. 26). Global oil extraction has been fixed at 84.5 million barrels per day (annualized) for nearly four years. Estimates of 1.5% annual growth predicted current production levels to now be over 89 mbpd. This 4.5 mbpd gap, between expected production and actual extraction, along with the anticipated demand growth, has led to the doubling of oil prices over the same period, and caused the inevitable stresses on the economy.

Characterizing peak oil aware individuals as fearful yam farmers, while hiding ones own head in the sand to dial out the limits of petroleum production, does nothing to help educate the public to the intense global economic and geopolitical pressures of oil plateau, or to the changes that will be necessary to adjust to the imminent and unavoidable decline in global oil supply.

Aaron Wissner

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[User Picture]From: dtbrookes
2008-02-02 04:37 pm (UTC)

Re: Peak Oil Aware versus Head In the Sand

So I read the letter and your reply. The two really highlight the nature of the problem I have with the whole peak-oil/anti-peak-oil thing. You respond to this guy with data. But humans very rarely seem to make epistemological decisions based on data. The concept of a peak in oil production is good science, but those characters whose vision of the future involves "bugging out" in the woods with a stash of food, guns, and a box of ammunition, have been wanting to do that long before they heard about the concept of peak oil. They latch on to this new idea because it represents a possible path to the apocalypse that they long for, NOT because it is a tested/testable scientific hypothesis. Peak oil debunkers are then able to attack the peak oil concept because of the bunch of crazies that follow it. But that's what we humans almost always seem to do. Both sides of any debate seem to attack each other based on their opponents credentials rather than the veracity of the data either side is using. Which, for me, makes it all the harder to try and figure out a "sensible" course of action in almost every situation.

I must confess my own approach is far less courageous than yours. I tend to keep my head (for the most part) beneath the parapet. I don't proselytize, I don't discuss it, when I discuss it, I don't say much except point out that the 1972 predictions of the club of Rome are coming to haunt us. (I just say stuff like, "every self-respecting ecologist knows that the earth's biosphere cannot support the current world population") and for the most part people just ignore me and go about their everyday business, which is exactly what I intended. Sometimes they get very upset of course, and the start sputtering all sorts of lame excuses, which is even more fun when they have a PhD. Which just goes to show, even a PhD doesn't guarantee critical thinking skills.

But anyway, I'm waffling. The point is, I guess, that trying to reason with these people with data is a waste of time, and I probably spend way too much effort trying to not let that fact frustrate the living crap out of me. But man, it can drive me nuts.
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[User Picture]From: valuesystem
2008-02-02 07:33 pm (UTC)

The Complexities of Peak Oil Action

My approach to peak oil has several aspects.

First, the unlikely possibility of a catastrophic rapid collapse inspires me to make sure that we have the bare necessities at home. This, as a few commenters on other blogs have mentioned, is the same type of preparation that anyone would take for something they knew to be unlikely yet catastrophic, such as prepping for hurricanes on the Gulf & Atlantic coast, or having a tornado shelter in the Great Plains, or an escape route along flood prone riverbanks. That preparation is probably the easiest because it is things that an individual can do on their own simply by purchasing things, doing some thinking, and rearranging their home a bit.

Second, is the long term plan for living in a diminishing energy future. More likely than not, new goods and service will be much more expensive. In order to prepare for this, reducing one's demand for such items is the way to go. For example, having a long term strategy to work at or close to home reduces the need for "new" fuel or "new" transportation. Growing a bit of food at home reduces the need for buying "new" food at the store. (yes, that does sound strange as I can't think of what "old" food would be) Having a closet of comfortable well-fitting durable clothes, and knowing how to find good used clothing, is another way to reduce dependence on the "new".

The big vision in my mind is, while it is possible, to build a unique zero-energy home that not only can maintain a constant, comfortable temperature year round. One step beyond, that it is designed to provide its own heat for cooking and drying applications AND its own "cold" for cool storage, refrigeration and freezing. And, if at all possible, to provide its own renewable electricity generation without the use of PV, wind, hydro or bio energy sources. (I've written two long essays on this design so far, and it is, as far as I can tell, possible.)

Third, and perhaps finally, is the biggest and most important thing to do, which is to prepare the community to be able to respond and adapt to difficult times. As Mr. Pearson noted, if things got really bad, like Katrina, or an earthquake, or tsunami, or volcano, or war, or other disaster, then only community can provide security. In one recent documentary film "The Oil Factor", Iraqi's are interviewed about what they need. Even though they had mile long gas lines, regular power outages, and trouble getting fresh water, they all answered "security!, we need security!" The only way to have true security is to build community amongst our neighbors, families, friends, and all those we come in contact with. Thus, one benefit of providing community learning opportunities like free films, talks, lecture series, community access TV shows, letters to the editor, questions at public forums, press releases, and just asking about things like gas prices and making it from pay check to pay check, which are all great lead ins to the reality that we are at or near the decline of global oil extraction.

The frustrating thing about peak oil is that it is impossible to predict what exactly when particular things will happen. For example, one might think that the average price of oil will be higher in 2008 than 2007 due to the continued plateau of production, or even a decline... but that may not at all be the case due to the possibility of an equally uncomfortable global recession. So, we can't say, "of course oil will hit $130 this year", because if global oil demand slackens, and then even with decreasing extraction, the prices may remain the same or fall.

What we can say with certainty is that we continue to burn up the little oil we have, and there is less and less each day, and we will soon come to a point where extraction will begin decreasing, more than likely, year after year after year, forever. This makes talking to the press tricky because, like everyone, a simple prediction would be so much easier to understand, print, and explain.



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[User Picture]From: dtbrookes
2008-02-03 04:57 pm (UTC)

Re: The Complexities of Peak Oil Action

Well I consider myself lucky in many respects. I can fix anything on a bicycle (except a broken frame, because I don't know how to weld). I can work with wood at pretty much any level, and I grew up with a vegetable garden, so I know how to grow my own food, make compost etc etc... I maintain those things because I enjoy doing them. There's nothing like cooking a meal made almost entirely from vegetables from the garden. I gain great pleasure from making stuff out of wood. And cycling, of course, is (sort of) my reason for existence. I feel ready for whatever happens. But you're right, one needs a community that is ready for difficult times and who will be able to pull together.
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From: (Anonymous)
2011-01-16 10:28 pm (UTC)

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