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


7 September 2010

First day of class, took a cold bucket shower, accidentally drank sour milk, exploded my blender making a green smoothie, ran out of time to make another breakfast and biked in a 55 degree, gray drizzle 8.6 miles to the St. Paul campus at 7:30am, with a guitar strapped to my back.  Good start to a semester without oil, ha.

I had to rig up a way to carry both my guitar and my bag that has my laptop to school because I'm taking a guitar class this semester :)  This is great, but when you are biking 17 miles round trip for class everyday it can get a little old.  I bike 7.6 miles to St. Paul in the morning, then 3.4 to the Minneapolis campus and 6 miles home at the end of the day. 

I'm still working on calculating the watts/hr that specifically each of my appliances use, however there are a number of online resources for finding average numbers to use that are serving as 'stand in' numbers until I get my own. I looked at this site, which talks about various methods for cooking and comparing energy and cost:

Electric Stove burner (4400 watts) x 30 min =1,250 watts/hr 1.25 kWh
Electric Oven, 1 hr = 2.0 kWh
Toaster Oven (2000 watts) x 1 hr = 0.16kWh

An average blender is 300 watts. Because it is only on for 2-3 minutes it uses about 9-10 watts/hr 0.009kWh, which is significantly less than any of the above methods of cooking. To compare my oatmeal breakfast (about .625 kWh) versus the smoothie (0.009kWh) there is a big difference!

The use of appliances and other low-energy devices in our homes is an interesting part of this project. While the number of electronic devices in our homes continues to increase (electric toothbrushes, toasters, blenders, juicers, rice cookers, electronic can opener, leaf blower, vacuum pack sealers....) these things are relatively low energy. During the process of putting together a list of electric use I'm beginning to notice that the big energy users are my fridge, computer (because I use it all day), electric stove burners, and the grow light. The paradox is that these are the things I would have a difficult time eliminating. The little devices and appliances add up, but using them in moderation (and only the ones you really need) doesn't contribute to the total energy use very much. The other paradox is that as I've begun to cook everything from scratch I am more likely to need (or use) more kitchen appliances I didn't use before (blender, dehydrator, bread maker). I've gone through and eliminated some of the unnecessary appliances I used before (ones I could easily live without). These include my; hairdryer, microwave, clothes washer, clothes dryer, lights in rooms I don't need.

An interesting report on the rise of 'miscellaneous' electricity products is found here:
and shows these interesting graphs on rising use in different categories:


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.