This era in history may be remembered as the "Peak Age", a brief time when nearly all materials used to power and create our society reach the maximum extraction and production potential. Past this point, all of these resources become increasingly difficult to extract until they are no longer economically viable resources to be using. There are hundreds of examples of resources, currently embedded in our industrial society, which have reached their peak in the 50 years surrounding 2010, but the one which will most impact our society is petroleum.
The goal of living for 100 days without oil is to understand the extent of our dependance on oil in American society today. Specifically, how it will affect my life, as a 25 year-oil living in Minneapolis, MN. By using myself as a metric I can take a close and conscious look at where oil dependance occurs in all aspects of our daily lives : How we transport ourselves from one place to another, what we eat, how much waste we create, how water is cleaned and transported, where oil is used as; an energy resource, in conventional medicine and for hygiene and how oil affects how we entertain ourselves and communicate with others. By demonstrating how someone would be forced to live without using any oil resources, outlining both what the sacrifices will be as well as the benefits, we can can identify the many systems which will have to be re-designed in a world without cheap oil, and explore a new way of living in which we live in an energy balance.
(At the bottom of this page is a link to my version of a flow diagram of 'Where Petroleum Exists in Our Daily Lives' (using information from the Energy Information Administration-Annual Energy Review 2008 fig 5.0 Petroleum flow) click and zoom to enlarge)
Saturday, August 14, 2010
LAST DAY OF OIL!
As a first post I'd like to outline the criteria for my Master of Science in Sustainable Design Thesis as well as the goals and context of the project. A little background first: I'm an Architecture/Sustainable Design graduate student at the University of Minnesota. This project is a bit of a follow-up of my Master of Architecture thesis last spring. In that project, I explored what it would involve to live in a post-oil world in Phoenix, AZ (possibly one of the most oil-dependant cities in our nation). I link to an intro video from that project is found here:
I designed a prototypical 4-person dwelling unit for a Phoenix-without-oil, using the ancient native Hohokam people as an example of a society of scarcity (and thus a model for living in energy scarcity once more). The project left me curious about what it would be like to live in a world without cheap oil in my own life. By using myself as a research tool I can easily document all aspects of my life and how they might be affected in this not-to-distant world. I'll be tracking my life in seven categories: Transportation, Food, Waste, Water, Electricity, Health/Hygiene, and Communication/Entertainment. The ultimate direction of both projects is to identify the dramatic design changes which will take place in our society as oil become more expensive/depleted.
DATES: 100 Days (August 15-November 22)
COMMITTEE: Thesis Committee: Thomas Fisher (chair), Billy Weber (advisor), Virajita Singh (advisor)
_Understand the extent of our dependence on oil in American society today (2010, Minneapolis, MN)
_Identify where oil occurs in our everyday life
_Demonstrate a quality of life which can be achieved in the post-oil age, outlining both what the sacrifices will be as well as the benefits
This era in history may be remembered as the “Peak Age”, a brief time when nearly all materials used to power and create our society reach the maximum extraction and production potential. Past this point, all of these resources become increasingly difficult to extract until they are no longer economically viable resources. There are hundreds of examples of resources which are currently embedded in our industrial society which will or have reached their peak in the 50 years surrounding 2010: Minerals of uranium, aluminum, and lastly, possibly most alarmingly: Energy resources of oil and natural gas.
Oil is estimated to have peaked in 1970 in the United States and in 2007 for worldwide extraction. Our use of oil in the United States and in most areas of the developed world is an addiction that has been evolving for 150 years. Today, 40% of our total energy nationwide comes from oil. Our systems of water, energy, food distribution and production have become decentralized with the availability of a cheap source of energy to build necessary infrastructure. Oil-fueled manufacturing processes have allowed us to become a truly disposable society throwing away 3.5 pounds of trash/person/day. With increased transportation availability, an average meal comes from 1,500 miles away. The building materials in our homes tell a similar story. Construction materials come from all over the nation and even the world. A typical home in Phoenix is built with the same materials and methods of construction as one in Oregon or Minnesota.
A 2% reduction in oil use beginning at peak worldwide oil production (2007) leads to a world without oil occurring around the year 2050. Although the transition will likely be slow, as we are already seeing the effects of oil depletion with rising fuel costs, there will undoubtedly be an inevitable change in our basic ways of living.
_only non-petroleum driven transportation (bicycle/walking/bio diesel) no buses, taxi's, cars, planes
_no synthetic (oil-based): fertilizers, artificial flavors, artificial colors, preservatives
_cannot be packaged in anything which can't be composted (no plastic)
_cannot be stored in plastic containers
_create no waste (all items bought in containers must be reused) all waste must be compostable
_can only use the amount of water which falls on the roof where I live (divided equally among residents)
Annual Minneapolis rainfall of 29.3”/year
144 inches3/231 (in3 in a gallon)=0.623 gallons in a sq ft
29.3 inches=18.3162 gallons per sq ft of roof/yr
18.3162 gallons/sq ft/yr divided by 365 days =0.05018 average gallons/day
0.05018 x 1791 (sq footage of my house) =89.87 average total gallons captured on roof
89.87 gallons /6 residents (3 upper level, 3 lower level) =
14.98 gallons/day (my share)
_a hypothetical solar array located on my roof produces ___kWh of electricity per day. I can only use this amount of electricity, tracking all of my electrical usage each day to see that I don't exceed this quota.
_many cleaning and beauty products as well as conventional medicines have petroleum products in them, I can only use products which don't have any petroleum ingredients, making many of my own products.
COMMUNICATION + ENTERTAINMENT
I appreciate your time reading this blog and following the project, please leave comments and suggestions, the more involvement the better!