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, September 8, 2010


6 September 2010

The past few years the Minnesota State Fair has put together a huge exhibit called the Eco-Experience.  It has its own building and is run entirely by volunteers (about 400).  The Eco-Experience has exhibits on solar power, wind power, local foods, transportation, composting/waste, water quality...They get people to volunteer by offering training sessions in each area.  People who want to to learn more than they could just walking through the exhibits can go to a 3 hour training session and get a more in-depth understanding of the systems and then volunteer for at least one shift at the fair (free ticket!).  Anyway, so solar power has been explained to me about 1,872 times and I still can't say I really get it so I volunteered for this thing. 

The kinds of people who volunteer for something like this are coming from ALL over the place, everyone has their own reasons to learn about solar power, but in most cases people are recognizing that solar power is a HUGE upcoming industry and people want in on it. 

Of course, the day I volunteered was one of the crappiest days of the fair, cold, rainy and overcast.  So much for solar power :/  I was working outside where they had a bunch of panels hooked up to various things so people could see up close hows things looked and worked.  With off and on sprinklings of rain we still had a small steady stream of people.  What was interesting was when the sun would come out lots of people would suddenly flood into the area.  I think there must be a perception that solar power only works in full sun.  I had a few people come up to me and (noticing that our gadgets were still working with overcast skies) would ask how they were working on such a crappy day.  The solar panels still capture light on overcast (even pretty dark) days, but are significantly better in full sun.  This was demonstrated by the largest array they had (about 8 3'x5' panels) which was hooked up to a wattage meter.  Watching the meter move throughout the day (from dark rain to full sun) was interesting.  The highest wattage the panels were producing was 750 watts and the lowest I saw was about 30 watts.  That's a pretty big range.  The wattage per square foot was ranging from 6.25 watts/sq ft (750 watts) to only 0.25 watts/sq ft.  A pretty average peak wattage from what I understand is about 8 watts (peak) per sq ft. 

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