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)
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
In a post cheap oil world we will be at a loss for many forms of energy we currently depend on, primarily transportation fuels. However, electricity in the form of renewable energy will still be plentiful, it is just a matter of capturing it. Being in a city, wind energy isn't a first choice option In one of my first posts I calculated how much solar energy could be captured utilizing my entire roof. I disregarded cost of the panels in this scenario assuming that without oil or coal electricity, people would be more willing to maximize their systems regardless of cost. However, I choose a middle-of-the-road panel efficiency of 8 watts/sq ft (I've seen up to 16w/sq ft). Dividing the total solar roof array by 6 people I came up with a personal electricity budget of 6.82 kWh per person per day. This number seemed pretty high, however, and would actually cover our current electricity use according to our bills. Because of this and to take into account less efficient panels which are more reasonably priced currently I cut this number in half to come up with an electric budget of 3.4 kWh per day.
Similarly to my water calculations, I then measured all of my daily electricity use with a Kill-A-Watt Meter to come up with metrics.
I found that I use about 6.7 kWh per day. Unlike water use, however, the small-wattage devices such as light bulbs really add up because they tend to be the ones which are on for the most hours of the day. Regardless, it is still interesting to experiment with alternative ways of accomplishing tasks without electricity. Before the project I calculated that I typically have about 6-7 light bulbs on at any given time the hours that it is dark outside. I reduced this use to making sure I only had two light bulbs on at a time. One of the things I tried to supplement this light was making my own candles-out of soy wax because regular wax is a petroleum product. I used only candles for light for a few weeks but found that I needed at least one light bulb on for reading.
I eliminated some uses of electricity entirely including; hair dryers, use of the oven, cut light bulb use 75%. I began using a mini fridge instead of the large one and saved 2/3rds of the energy for refrigeration. There were added uses of electricity during the project as well. I started using a high-intensity fluorescent grow light to grow food indoors and had to make up for this use with my other electricity savings.
Lastly, I explored the use of solar power by visiting the PassiveHaus in the Woods as well as volunteering with the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society at their state fair exhibits. I tried out my own application of solar power on a small scale by building a solar-powered stereo which mounts on my bike. These experiences gave me an understanding of the potential of solar power, but also how far we have to go to meet our current energy needs.