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)

Sunday, August 22, 2010


21 August 2010

miles biked-46 (lost and confused)
water used- 7.8875 gallons (7.1125 surplus)

Today, Garden's of Eagan (an organic farm which supplies my co-op with a lot of their produce) put on an event of touring the farm and buying local (Farmington) foods.  The farm is about 35 miles from Uptown Minneapolis, and our plan was to leave at 10, leaving 3-4 hours to bike down, tour the farm and bike back in one day. We loaded up with a burley trailer (thanks Jim) and my solar-powered bike stereo (made for the bike across Iowa this year).  

 Well..... we didn't end up leaving till about 11:30, and (optimistic as we were) didn't write down very clear directions to get there.  About 12 miles into the trip we got lost the first time (around the airport and had to backtrack a few miles.  Another 7 or so miles later we (again) realized we had taken a wrong turn which had sent us 5 miles in the wrong direction :/  At this point, with another 15-20 miles to go, we realized we weren't going to make it to the farm before the event was over (especially hauling 40 extra pounds between the trailer and the stereo) and sadly, sat under a tree by this Lockheed Martin to contemplate our situation over dry bread and an apple.  While sitting there being sad about our situation we noticed a Granite City restaurant/brewery across the street.  Granite City advertises that their beer is locally brewed even though they are a Midwestern-wide chain restaurant. There are signs on the doors of "Support your local brewery".  We decided to check out this self-proclaimed local beer.  We ordered a few drinks and an excited waiter came over and (because we were really sweaty and bike-ish in general) told him we had biked here from Minneapolis.  He was really excited about this and it gave us the idea that restaurants should offer some kind of discount to people who arrive by bike.  This would help both the patrons of the restaurant (they would be healthier) and the restaurant itself (they wouldn't have to provide as much parking, and would probably sell more food and drinks because people would be more hungry and thirsty after biking :) )  We asked him about the beers we had just ordered (because the building wasn't nearly big enough to be brewing 5 different kinds of beer).  He explained that the beer was actually brewed in a central location and just fermented in each local Granite City location.  While this is better than some options, it certainly shouldn't be labeled as "local".  These labels can be very misleading and frustrating :/ 

Needless to say, we didn't stay for a second semi-local beer, and instead headed back to make a truly local meal. 

(Those of you who were thinking about going and couldn't, its really for the best, next time Garden's of Eagan! We will find you! Ha, sad.)


 The design of the stereo is from an instructables: with some modifications to fit my bike and such. I haven't tested how long it last continuously playing, but on the week we biked across Iowa with it (at least 5 hours of riding every day it didn't need any extra charge). It is a 5 watt solar panel (about $50 on Amazon) which trickle charges a 7amp battery and that feeds the speakers/amp. The entire thing can be switched on with the black switch in front and has audio and usb cable holes on the front to plug and charge my Ipod which is attached to the top tube of my bike with industrial velcro. Its heavy (about 20 lbs) and fits in the milk crate on the back of my bike.


20 August, 2010

miles biked-14
water used - 7.3875 gallons (7.6125 surplus)

While I got some initial calculations from Jamie Borell at Innovative Power Systems, I needed some specific information about  my hypothetical PV solar array to maximize my electricity budget.  While most solar arrays are sized to the need of the particular house, my solar system was sized in the opposite way-maximizing the amount of sun energy I can capture to determine what my electricity budget will be.

Here is how it was calculated:

There are 3 main factors to consider when sizing a solar array:

1_The square footage of your house
2_Options for solar panel orientation
(A) Solar panels can be angled at 45 degrees (for a MN climate) in which case they are maximized for the most energy captured per panel.  however, with this system there must be room left for shadows which will fall on panels located behind.  This reduces the sq footage of the roof available for sun capture by a factor of 2.5.  (The square footage of your house divided by 2.5)
(B) Solar panels can be placed flat on the roof.  This way, you are able to use the most roof area for solar energy capture, however, the angle is not ideal and the efficiency of the panels is reduced by 20%.
3_There are different "efficiencies" for solar panels, outputs range from 8watts/sq ft to 20w/sq ft (and probably more options exist).  Generally the most expensive the panel, the greater energy output in watts/sq ft you can achieve. 

To calculate the amount of solar power you can capture on your own roof:

1_Find the square footage of your house (mine is 1790 sf)
2_Decide if you would like to go with 45 degree panels (cheaper) or flat panels (more panels required=more expensive)
    Divide the square footage of your house by 2.5 for 45 degree angle panels (this is your available sq footage)
3_Determine the watt/sq ft output of your panels (this information is found on manufacturer's websites) (I'm going with 8w/sq ft)

(Available square footage of your house for solar) x (Efficiency of panels in watts/sq ft) = Size of your system in watts

(Size of your system in watts) x Either (1.28 kWh/watt installed for 45 degree panels) or (1.043kWh/watt installed for flat panels)

Divide by 365 for kWh/day

Being that my goal is to maximize my solar power (regardless of cost) I am going with the flat solar panel arrangement. This system would be more expensive (because there are more solar panels involved, but would result in a higher energy output, see calculations below):

45 degree angle option(1790 sq ft/2.5) reduction in sq footage due to shadows:

1790 sq ft/2.5=716 sq ft x8w/sf =5728 w system (5.7kw system)
(5.7 kw) x1.28 kWh/watt installed =7331 kWh/yr =20.08 kWh/day (3.35 kWh/person/day)


Flat solar panels option covering all 1790 sq ft:

1790 sq ft x 8w/sf =14,320 watt system (14.3 kw system)
(14.3kw) x1.043 kWh/watt installed = 14,935 kWh/yr (14.9 kWh/yr) =40.9 kWh/day (6.82 kWh/person/day)

so my electricity budget per day is 6.82 kWh.

(Thanks to Pat Smith at CSBR! (numbers from previous Weidt Group calculations))

Other noteworthy things happening today was it was the first time I've eaten at a restaurant since the project began.  Common Roots is only a block south of me and an excellent source of local foods.  As much as possible, their food and drinks are local.  While I have to ask about specific meals because the sourcing changes constantly, they are a great local restaurant option (they are gonna get really sick of me by the end of this project).  I had radish cakes / seared and topped with sunflower sprouts and toasted hazelnuts and a local Brau Bros (Lucan, MN) sheephead ale :)  I also got some great advice from friends about local food options and extras from gardens.  Thanks Dan, Nate, Sarah and Katy! Get me that garlic Dale :)


19 August, 2010

miles biked-18.5
gallons of water -8.0125 (6.985 surplus)

Today has been a big day for expanding food options.  Raw foods for at least part of my diet are going to become essential because of my limited electricity budget.  I began researching raw foods and what motivates people who have switch over to this diet;  one family, who's website is here ( has an interesting story:
they also have some wacky videos-if you've got some time to kill :):

This isn't the only story I came across about people reversing serious medical conditions through eating more raw, organic greens and vegetables.  The film "A Beautiful Truth" ( trailer here: ) talks about Dr. Max Gerson, a physician in the early 1900's who came up with a cure for cancers and other serious diseases that centered around eating a raw, vegan diet full of nutritious organic foods.  Like many people who solved problems in radical and unconventional ways, he was perceived as a threat to conventional practice and was eventually poisoned with arsenic.  His family continued his legacy, healing people by teaching them about "Gerson Therapy"-a method that allows your body the ability to heal itself when fueled with powerful nutrients found in raw organic foods and continue to run a healing center in Mexico.  While I haven't done much research on raw foods yet, there does seem to be a significant evidence that eating raw foods can be a huge health benefit, and is a much easier way for our bodies to digest food (allowing more nutrients to be absorbed). 

Virajita (who has been working on integrating raw foods into herself and her families diet for a few years now) explained to me that after starting to eat raw she began to look back into her own cultural foods in India and consider why almost ALL traditional Indian foods are cooked. Being an ancient culture it is unusual that so many foods are cooked. She found that because India is such a tropical, hot climate, these recipes evolved out of a need to kill bacteria in raw foods.  She began to look at the ingredients in each recipe and found that almost all recipes included some kind of digestive agent (such as cardamom) which would be necessary for people to properly digest these foods.  Evolutionarily, our bodies are designed to digest raw foods much more easily than cooked foods.  Many ancient recipes found in different cultures around the world contain digestive agents of some kind if they are cooked, and also often contain a balance of fats, acid and nutrients necessary for digesting and absorbing these nutrients. 

This brings us to processed foods.  If our bodies have a hard time digesting and processing even cooked foods, lets think for a minute about how hard of a time we would have digesting and using foods that have a huge amount of preservatives, and color and flavor additives.  hmmmm :) oil.

With all kinds of fresh, local vegetables available to us even in a climate like Minnesota, why aren't more people cooking and eating these foods instead of eating fast food or pre-made meals from boxes (both packed full of oil-based or oil-enabled additives).  The answer is probably convenience, and a general lack of education of what kinds of nutrients you can get from fresh produce that you can't find in a box. 

I had an idea that I that I ate a fairly healthy diet before starting this project a week ago, however I have been amazed at how much better I feel on even day 5 of this project only being able to eat local, organic vegetables, dairy and meats.  The other thing I've noticed is that I ate the same vegetables/fruits all the time (zucchini, bell peppers, onions, strawberries and bananas).  I'm now realizing now how much variety of local foods there are, and the need to eat a variety of vegetables to get the range of nutrients we need.  A lot of foods that I never really ate have become staple foods while in season. The only problem with this new diet; the only sugars and fats I have eaten are in the sunflower oil I cook with, and sugars found in fruits and honey.  I never quite feel full eating this kind of diet, and I'm constantly craving something with more substance, bread, fat and sugar.  

I can't buy bread from the co-op because even though its made locally, the ingredients may not be local. I got on craigslist to look for bread makers and found a lot, but when I started looking at them many were in surrounding suburbs.  This normally wouldn't be an issue, but now that I can only get around by bike, even a 20 mile one-way trip becomes an all-afternoon or all day event.  Finally I found a bread maker for $10 in St. Anthony (8 miles away).  While at the co-op looking for bulk flour I came across two amazing finds: Local, bulk maple sugar and Hope Creamery Butter packaged in a vegetable wax paper which can be composted!!! YES!!! Butter and sugar!  I also got local, organic maple syrup for sugar and flavoring.  There is bulk maple syrup at the Wedge as well, so when my container runs out I can use it to fill again. 

A last note, I'm watering a friend's garden while she is in Belgium and get to reap the benefits of everything being ripe in August.  Fresh picked cherry tomatoes and mint.  I made mint tea today which was excellent (iced and hot).  Thanks Arlene!