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)

Monday, November 29, 2010


17 November 2010

45% (19.15 gallons) of every barrel of oil (42 gallons) is gasoline.  This means that the petroleum created to run our cars is by far the largest single use in each barrel extracted from the earth.  While transportation isn't the biggest total energy user in our daily lives, it IS the biggest petroleum user. 

While I biked quite a bit before this project started, it makes a big difference to be riding every time you want to get around.  Without using cars and buses as back up transportation for cold or wet days, bicycle commuting takes on an entirely different face.  I think a lot harder about whether I really NEED to go somewhere, ended up staying home many days that I didn't have classes instead of going somewhere to work.  I started to modify my schedule so that I could ride around with other bikers and didn't have to bike alone (especially at night).  Unlike driving, the routes taken depend on the weather and the time of day.  While bike paths in Minneapolis are best during the day and during rush hours, well-lit main streets were a better option for late night rides home (even with traffic).  As soon as it gets snowy and icy, I had to factor in another 10 minutes of riding time.  Bicycle commuting changed the way I dressed.  While it is easy to bring a change of clothes, I was often only going somewhere for a few hours and it didn't seem worth it to carry.  Consequently, I pretty much wore the same few things for at least 2 months once the temperature started cooling off. 

Workout? Kind of.  There is so much starting and stopping that it isn't really much of a workout compared to the 30 minutes I would have spent on a treadmill.  Yes, obviously its better than sitting in a car and still is nice to get out and be outside for an hour or two a day.  I felt much more connected to the changing of seasons and it was really nice to watch the sun rise every morning while biking down the greenway. 

My conclusion: Biking is absolutely the best way to get around while the weather is good (or even decent).  For those brave and bad ass enough to keep going as the temp drops under 20 and the ground is covered in ice (as 1/3 of Minneapolis bikers do), I admire you, but would rather get on a bus December through mid March. 

Below is a graphic of the miles I biked each day for 100 days:  There starts to become a pretty clear pattern at the end of project when it starts getting colder I only bike to campus and back on days that I need to, whereas in the beginning of the project I was much more willing to run errands and take longer trips around the city. 

I biked a total of 1,150 miles in 100 days.  An average of 82 miles per week and 11.7 miles per day. 

My car gets 34 miles per gallons.  This means that if I would have driven this 1,150 miles I would have used 33.82 gallons of gasoline (about 3 trips to the gas station for me).  I didn't travel as much as I would have had I been driving.  Just to estimate what I may have used. I used to fill up my tank about every 3 weeks, so 4.6 fill ups of 12 gallons of gas would have been 56 gallons of gasoline.