The House That Randy Built

One of the nice aspects of the 7+ years I have been involved with The Oil Drum has been attending conferences and meeting with some of my cyber friends, who by and large figure among the nicest bunch of folks I ever met. In 2007 I attended the ASPO meeting in Houston and it was then that I met Randy Udall for the first time. Well you know what some Americans are like - you meet, you chat a while, discover you get along, down a couple of beers and before you know it you are invited to go visit. And so it was with Randy Udall....

The house that Randy built, sunk low in the Colorado terrain, provides shelter from winter storms and from exposure to summer sun. Photovoltaics, solar hot water (on the roof) and a single wood burner (chimney) provides all the energy needs.

Three years later, my wife and I had a trip planned to the States to go visit Dave Rutledge (another cyber mate) at his mountain lodge in New Mexico and I thought it would be cool to visit Randy en route. We exchanged a couple of emails, he warned that his wife Leslie was cautious about some of his friends coming to stay and that his son once claimed that the family lived in a "mud hut" and by now I was wondering if this was such a good idea. But plans were made and we went to stay with Randy in Colorado for a couple of days in August 2011; on arrival, any trepidation melted away.

A "mud hut", not quite. The stucco exterior finish covers thick foam insulation that in turn covers compressed earth (adobe) blocks. This provides protection from winter cold and summer heat, and thermal inertia from the large temperature swings prevalent in this part of the world.

At first sight Randy's house did indeed have the feel of a "mud hut" but upon entering the reality of a beautifully and lovingly crafted passive house unfolded. I was astonished to learn that Randy had designed and built every inch of this house himself, including the manufacture of every compressed earth brick and the hammering in of every nail - in neat serried ranks.

I wish I had recorded the vital statistics but the mass of bricks was carefully calculated to provide thermal inertia, keeping the house warm in winter but cool in summer. I was also very surprised to learn that all of the insulation was on the outside of the masonry structure which is the opposite of the way we build our houses in the UK. South-facing windows collect wintertime solar energy and the adobe block walls and brick floors soak up much of that heat energy, keeping the home warm through cold nights. During the summer, just opening the windows at night cools off the massive floors and walls, helping the house stay cool during hot days. Putting the insulation on the outside of the exterior walls is the only way to make this adobe wall strategy work effectively.

The house was set low in the terrain, providing protection from winter storms and from the worst excesses of summer heat. Outside you find a large solar PV array, providing a surplus of electricity and solar hot water arrays on the south facing roofs providing all the hot water required and, if my memory serves correctly, some interior heating during winter time.

The rather plain exterior gave way, inside, to simple, beautifully crafted, elegance.

Every timber cut and every nail hammered by one man. This is a masterpiece that will hopefully endure.

Inside, beautiful craftsmanship provides simple but elegant living space to match the view of Mount Sopris that dominated the surrounding landscape. Not many of us leave a lasting legacy. Randy has left memories of a wonderful and thoughtful teacher and a house that will hopefully stand as a testimony to his passion for sustainable living for centuries to come.

The view out of the front window wasn't that bad either. Mount Sopris (3,952 m /12,965 ft) offered Randy and his family fantastic walking, climbing and ski mountaineering opportunities.

Renewable energy and renewable transport. I am seldom pleased with the pictures I take, but there is something about this one I really like.

On the second evening of our visit, we dined with the local mayor and downed a few glasses of red. Randy may look pensive but he is actually looking at his lap top, has my credit card and is planning a road trip for us through Mesa Verde and Grand Canyon en route to New Mexico, one of the best trips my wife and I have ever made. He knew this area like the back of his hand.

To some, this house and lifestyle may seem fabulously exuberant. But the house, in fact, was built for a relatively tiny amount of money with most of the cost coming by way of blood, sweat, tears, knowledge and love of a vision for the future. These Udalls lived a simple life with a very strong sense of community involvement.

Most folks who read these pages will already know that in June of this year Randy died aged 61 of natural causes while hiking alone in the Wind River range of Wyoming, hunting for wild trout. The tragedy here is that he was snatched from his family and the sustainable living community he championed 10 to 20 years prematurely.

Thank you to Leslie Udall for consent to publish this article and to Steve Andrews for some useful editorial comments.

Randy was an inspirational being and great friend. I was actually just starting to get to know him well this year - we emailed often talking about life, humans, the future etc.

Re the post above, I wish I had 1/2 the physical skills that he did. The world would be a better place with more Randy Udalls, and now we have less. I miss him ~ but at least for me, some of what he stood for remains as memories and inspiration.

Note: this will be our last post. After a few days we will put up bios and contact information etc.

What happened to Art Berman's post and the second half of your post?

Art ended up w/ too much on his plate and will post his shale gas update on his own site when finished. I am still writing and will post mine on my site, and append it to the existing post here. (details on who will be writing where will be in final bio post). thx.

Dust to dust.

He lived his life to the fullest, and he died doing what he loved best.

So much can be said of only a few men.

"The vast mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." Thoreau

Not this one.

Nate, Euan did not include the address of Art's website in the Final Post.

I only recently discovered Randy's writings and am saddened there will be no more. I was hiking out of the Wind River Range earlier this summer and was met by a forest service crew who showed me his picture and asked if I'd seen him. A week later reading his life story, I made the connection.
Thank you for that fine tribute to a wonderful soul.

Ironies and Coincidences. I was fishing the range due east of the Winds the week Randy was searching for "wild trout" of the Wind River Range. We had met briefly at the Sacramento ASPO; I'm always intrigued by the perceived difference between him and his brother. That week I was catching the non native browns and rainbows. The native trout of the Wind River range is the Yellowstone Cutthroat, the one Randy was probably searching for, which was planted throughout the intermountain west. And west of the continental divide, that Yellowstone cutthroat has displaced/almost eliminated the native west slope cutthroat trout.

Randy's loss was unexpected and significant. RIP.

On a technical note, about 6 years ago on TOD we had an extended discussion on thermal mass inside or outside of the insulation.

Where the daily temperature swings go above and below the preferred temperature, inside is best. And in areas where afternoon temperatures can climb to where air conditioning equipment becomes inefficient, but still @ 90 F at dawn (Phoenix), inside is also best. Set the a/c to a little too cold for comfort when arising and then cut off at 115 F or so.

Passive solar heating, where heating is the primary focus, also works best with the thermal mass inside.

However, in areas like New Orleans, thermal mass should be outside, and has minimal value. Money is better spent on insulation.

Best Hopes,


PS: And sorry for the lost "Last Posts". I enjoyed meeting Euan in Houston as well.

Where the daily temperature swings go above and below the preferred temperature, inside is best. And in areas where afternoon temperatures can climb to where air conditioning equipment becomes inefficient, but still @ 90 F at dawn (Phoenix), inside is also best. Set the a/c to a little too cold for comfort when arising and then cut off at 115 F or so.

This is a great lecture and a hoot to boot >;-)
Distinguished Lecturer Series: Building Science - Adventures in Building Science.

Joe's monthly articles in ASHRAE Journal are also a hoot - He is the world's foremost expert on "how buildings work" - if only architects and building codes would catch up with his and his colleagues' findings. Not bad for a crusty hockey-loving Canuck...

It's pretty much impossible to remember his name "Joe Lstiburek" but if you can remember the phrase "Don't eat your sweater" you can find his work any time.

"Build tight, ventilate right, and don't eat your sweater.."

Thanks for the URL. I started watching and could not stop. I agree with everything he says. It isn't very often that I hear about someone that generally agrees with my (untrained amateur) ideas of how to build a building.
My brother is a registered architect and I sent the URL on to him and will be most interested in his comments.

Just a reminder... just as electrical batteries can be used to store electrical energy, phase changes ( water to ice ) is a wonderful way to store thermal energy.

One can make a kid's wading pool sized block of ice during the night when its much easier to transfer heat from the condenser coil.

Then melt the ice during the heat of the day to keep the inside of the house cool.

A battery has a limited number of charge/discharge cycles, but water will freeze/thaw an unlimited number of times with no decrease of capacity. This way I can store my heating/cooling needs by transferring heat to and from a pool of water.

I am considering this kind of technology in a house I would love to build of Arxx blocks.. I intend to use propane gas as the refrigerant, as I plan to make and store the ice outside ( just in case of a refrigerant leak ).

As one of the older TODers, yes, it's hard to see family, friends and people you admire pass away or, maybe, just get really old. It's hard for me to believe that my wife and I have spent almost half of our lives living on our 57 acres on top of a mountain in the boondocks. Where did the time go? We've been in this community for 41 years and now we're the "old timers".

We stopped getting TV years ago but watch videos'/DVD's of movies and such and most of the actors and presenters are dead. They look so young on the screen.

The same thing is true of authors; many of our favorites are long gone.

Yet, life, in all it's many colors and flavors remains, for which we can all be grateful.


Much the same, been on the farm 33 years, no TV - just netflix, and all of my favorite composers are long gone too.

Hi Euan,

Thank you for a wonderful tribute to Randy and the great photos of his house.

To the readers:

The lady in the first photograph is Euan's wife Kathryn.

Beautiful house.

A very nice story to end with. Thanks.

This is a lovely post, and a fitting conclusion. I love all of the photos! I am sorry to hear about Randy Udall's passing. And I'm also sorry about TOD's passing. Best Wishes to all the writers, editors, etc., and to all of those who have followed TOD in finding a congenial place for information and connection.

I have greatly enjoyed the discussions of all sorts we've had here at TOD over the years. I, too, find this a fitting final post, as it provides the small-scale, local, hands-on, 'what can I do?' counterbalance to the meta-analysis scope of Nate's final post. Both types are cherished, and both shall be missed.

My partner and I purchased a poorly designed, run down house in the Blue Ridge Mtns. a few years ago, and have very substantially renovated it for passive solar purposes, to great effect. I have made some of my own adobe bricks, from which I built the hearth area for our woodstove, and am in the process of adding additional adobe features to the house to provide more thermal mass. Adobe Hearth.JPG
It works great, and also helps moderate the humidity fluctuations, which are an issue here in the mid-Atlantic. Have gone so far as to reconstitute the gypsum from ripped out sheetrock (with paper/glue painstakingly stripped away) into earthen plaster, also to great effect, both aesthetically and thermally. It's a time consuming process, but a labor of love. 50% sand (from our river), 30% clay (our subsoil), 20% gypsum, for those who are interested. Finished with walnut oil.

I've done just enough of this to be able to really appreciate both the design and labor that Randy put into his house. Thanks for sharing his story with us.

I personally am pessimistic about the future, but if things work out all right it will be because people like Randy show us what can be done. Thank you for showing us what he has built.

Many thanks, Euan. I never had the pleasure of meeting or speaking with Randy directly, though we had a number of amicable exchanges here and I felt a certain kinship, and was a bit in awe of his energy and accomplishments. The pictures you post here began to seem eerily familiar, especially since Randy and I designed and built our own passive solar homes during roughly the same time period, well before we were aware of each other. Many aspects of both homes are the same; simple, good passive solar design, thermal mass, respect for location, etc.. Even the high ceilings in the living areas are of similar pine planking, locally grown in my case, and surely the same in Randy's.

My curiosity got the best of me so I found Randy's house on Google using only orientation, proximity to Mount Sopris/Carbondale, color of roof, and, of course, the PV arrays; no address. I'll not post a link or photo of the Udall's home, but will say that viewing it from above was surreal. Excepting some stylistic differences and that his roofs have more pitch, we seem to have arrived at the same basic design and orientation. I hope the Udall's home has, and continues to work as well for them as our does for us. I also hope Randy left Leslie a basic users' manual, something my wife is insisting on. Perhaps his systems are a little less eclectic ;-)

As Randy seems to have done, with some forethought, planning, and patience, we were also able to build at a much lower cost per square foot than the similarly sized conventional homes in our area, using mostly local and salvaged materials. I resisted the urge to use adobe or rammed earth and opted for concrete due to climate (much wetter) and the danger of termites, etc. I also opted against using foam since termites love the stuff, and the termite resistant foam wasn't yet available when I built; didn't want to get trapped into using poisons forever. Still, lots of insulation and thermal mass along with seasonal passive cooling and solar heat.

I'm not sure why this philosophy of deferring to one's environment while designing and building structures, especially homes, hasn't caught on more. I still get a bit angry when I see new homes going up that make no sense to me; lost opportunities and squandered resources abound; imagination and common sense are in short supply.

Thanks again, Euan, and especially Leslie Udall, for giving us this peek into the private life of a remarkable man. He's missed by many of us who never had the pleasure of meeting him.

Randy seems to have adhered to the healer's maxin "first do no harm" as do you. Hope you don't mind if append my thanks to yours.

Hi, Luke. Responding to your earlier unedited post. Here's some info on termites and foam insulation. Best hopes climate change and adaptation don't promote the migration of termites to northern climes and higher altitudes.

This report summaries the development of termite-resistant foam insulation. This work shows that adding the deltamethrin termiticide with its superior insect contact repellency to an extruded polystyrene foam insulation formulation can effectively protect the foam from termites. The effectiveness of this approach as confirmed using a short-term extreme field exposure study and a long-term field performance study conducted in accordance with governmental and industry evaluation protocols.


I insulated our slab (hydronic heating) with blue foam board and attempted to create barriers with boric acid (borax) and lyme where termites were likely to gain access. I also had the footings treated with a chemical barrier (required by code) before pouring the slabs. Also required by code is aluminum flashing between the slab and pressure treated plates, sealed with silicone. Our backfill soil is red clay which remains fairly stable and discourages water permeating around the foundations. Everything is well drained.

Don't encourage termites with wood mulch around structures; I use old carpet and stone gravel around the house, topped with pine straw where appearance matters. Always on the lookout for signs of termites, here in the damp south.

Thanks for the links. I was surprised the study used extruded polystyrene as expanded polystyrene (beadboard foam cup type stuff) is the most common type of concrete form foam. I've seen numbers that show some brands of extruded polystyrene foam (the smoother stuff we usually see as blue or pink board) can have lower water adsorption rates than the major expanded foam brand (I mentioned it earlier) but I must have some Missouri blood in me, because they really need to 'show me.'

Nothing impresses a construction guy like long term results and I once had to use an old mall roof of hot roofed extruded foam sheets to insulate a hotel foundation we were putting to bed for winter--we do that sort of thing here to get a jump on the red iron phase in spring (an inch plus snow in my yard right now that may or may not melt this fall). Some of those sheets of foam must have weighed 6-8 times what they should have--they were loaded with water. Possibly the extruded polystyrene in the long term just doesn't let the water out. Its only real advantage over the expanded poly that I see is the slightly higher r-value/inch and its ability to resist damage a bit better during the construction phase. Don't remember having seen much cheap floating stuff made out of extruded polystyrene foam either. Nothing kills foam insulation value like a load of water in it.

Several pages I brought up did show a trademarked termite killer called Preventol was a very effective, long lasting and not toxic to the surroundings insect barrier now used in expanded polystyrene foam. Thanks for getting me looking. Termites are not something I want to learn about trial and error.

The advantage of extruded over expanded is its resistance to compression. We were helping a friend dig out his foundations to add drainage and the 1 inch expanded foam insulation on the outside of his concrete block wall had compressed down to about 1/4" six feet below grade, in just 8 years. The extruded stuff does absorb water though. The insulation under my slab has 6 mil polyethylene above and below, and I put good drainage everywhere (earth-bearmed house).

I put 1/2" blue board on the flat part of roof, not for insulation but to protect the membrane from the 2 inches of gravel on top and from traffic. When I mounted PV panels this spring, it was quite saturated; little insulation value but still protecting the membrane. Luckily, I got several hundred odd sized (4 X 8.5) pieces of the foam at salvage; seems nobody wanted the odd sized sheets. One dollar each; it pays to scrounge around. I dried in the east wing first to have shop space and storage, which is why the gravel on the east roof is darker; different quarry I guess.

An aerial view of our house; remarkably similar in size, basic shape, and orientation, to Randy's, except ours has a shop/garage in the east wing, making it look larger. Large, open passive solar living area with two wings for bedrooms, etc..

 photo home_sweet_home4_zps75de043a.jpeg

The curvature was in part for fun, and varies the overhang for daily/seasonal solar gain. I had fun sitting on the site, calculating solar angles with sticks and poles during different times of day and year. The only excessive heat gain can be on summer afternoons (from the west) which we control with annual plantings; vines and such. This year was morning glory, so we wake up to the sound of hummingbirds having their breakfast outside our window; kind of noisy if we decide to sleep late. After the first frost, the vines will come down to let the sun in, while the hummingbirds are partying in Cancun or somewhere.

Our move-in cost was less than $80 per square foot, including 3 KW PV system, though I've lost track of current costs due to adding more RE stuff and some upgrades, mostly aesthetic. The average similar sized home in the area, built during the same period, was running in excess of $150/sq ft. Goes to show how much doing your own labor and scrounging materials can save. Since I was working full time while building, it took about 5 years to get in while living in an RV on the property; mostly 'pay-as-you-go'. Most of the work was done using PV power, which was powering the RV as well.

We decided to go with a single story so we wouldn't have stairs to deal with as we got older, and we built everything to 'handicapped' standards (wide doorways, big curbless shower, grab bars, etc.), since we plan to grow old and die here; suitable for walkers and wheel chairs. Keeping things low and partially bearmed (to the north) also helps protect the home from the elements; similar concept as Randy seems to have arrived at.

I've designed several smaller homes using the same concepts, though I'm not an architect. Maybe I'll dig those files out some day and stick them on the web for free. My wife calls them earth-sheltered sunscoops. I had originally planned to build a stepped two story house with a smaller footprint, but it would have required blasting rock out of the hill. Still, we're pretty happy with how things evolved.

Good looking layout. I'm in a much more conventional out of pocket five ongoing addition 'box.' There are a couple dedicated solar 'passive 'builders up here, but it's more love of concept than cost effective at 14,000 heating degree days a year. If I do it again, getting to pretty far along to be thinking about it, I'll be farther south and passive solar will be a big part of the design.

As to the compression of the expanded polystyrene foam, the old reflective faced 1" stuff I used years back would have never held up to much pressure. Haven't seen hardly any compression with the newer, denser, 2" R-tech I dug back up but it was only after three or four years and 4-5 feet deep. I've stacked a lot of weight on it for extended periods above grade and have seen no noticeable compression, that old bead board squished down if you walked on it. It is very common up here now to lay the 2" R-tech 8' out from the foam covered footer (sometimes poured monolithic with the slab) flat on the dirt subgrade and then cover it with a foot or few of dirt. That and the snow layer keep the frost level somewhat at bay and save on hydronic slab heating.

Far better flat roof foam and membrane systems out there now than the used no membrane one I mentioned above. Concrete pavers go atop the heavy waterproof membrane where needed. It would seem precast concrete sections could be as easily laid to hold PV mounts.

I think our original move in cost for our house was $42/sq.ft and that included the price of near three acres land. Of course it didn't include any insulation, any heating system, any soffit material... It was late August and we needed to get out of tent at campground with our barely grade school aged kids. We moved into a spec 'shell on blocks' with a door, six cheap salvaged windows two lights and six outlets and a set of ladder stairs to the attic/loft. Nothing like a start over?-) I've thought about building and selling similar stuff myself now. Back then the spec builder did get 9 1/2% on his money and the price was low enough people could come up with around a 1/3 down reasonably easily. He offered a mostly out pocket starting point, there is still a market for that here.

I haven't tallied what we've spent in the twenty years since, but the place is three times the size now and heating cost never changed much after the daylight basement went on even though place near doubled in size after that. Just kept building tighter and using better windows--one place you really need to spend the money. It is nye onto impossibled to get that fine vapor barrier envelope Joe Listeburek described when building this way. There has been a bit of trial and error.

The common threads we TODers have is interesting:

"It was late August and we needed to get out of tent at campground with our barely grade school aged kids."

My wife, I and two cats, too, lived in a tent while I built our first house in 1974 (a 40'diameter dome on a 3' riser wall). We were subsequently joined by my wife's sister and her 4 and 5 year olds (they had their own tent).

I built another house for us but we could live in our existing house. For the last house (our current one), we were able to use a neighbor's cabin. This was in 1981 and I floored the building department because I used R-20 walls, an insulated slab and an R-47 roof - no one even considered that kind of insulation back then*. Yup, I was into energy way back. In fact, I put in our first little PV system about 1984 - all of 77 watts; 4 - 10 watt amorphus panels and 1-37 watt silicon panel with a "huge" 500 watt modified sine wave inverter and two truck batteries! I built the house for about $15/sq foot.


*Edit to add - They were also blown away in that the design also incorporated solar water heating which absolutely no one had.

"...a "huge" 500 watt modified sine wave inverter"..

I'll guess a Heart Interface. I still have an HF-600M I took out of an old ambulance years ago. It's on the shelf for "old stuff that still works great". Remote control even.

My condolences if it was an early Triplite :-(

I know you sometimes fuss about pot growers, but a bit of trivia:

Robin Gudgel (Midnite Solar) swears that it was N. California pot growers that kept them in business after he and others formed Heart Interface and eventually Trace. Maybe they were among the few who could afford early inverters. So maybe we have pot growers to thank for the early progress on reliable inverters, at least in part.

Old hippies, all.

Actually, my first inverter was a Triplite Model PV 550. This was replaced with a Trace Model 812. I switched because the Triplite was square wave and wouldn't start motors- like the refrigerator - whereas the Trace being modified sine wave would. At the time I couldn't afford the pure sine wave Heart inverters.

I still have these sitting on a shelf because "you never know"!

One of my thrills was going down to the Real Goods warehouse sales in Ukiah, CA and picking up stuff. Those were fun days.


Yes there is a fair amount of common thread that connects many of the TOD community.

Real Goods warehouse sales in Ukiah, CA

Somehow got to Willits and Booneville on our northern CA exploration based out of Pt. Arena last year, but never made Ukiah. Certainly think that general part of the state needs another look.

Don't know if you've ever been down to the Ft. Ross historical reconstruction on Hwy 1, but we did truly enjoy our evening on that little bay (the park was closed). The place does have meaning to us though. It's near certain some of my wife's ancestors participated in the Russian American Company bi-annual sea otter hunts that originated in Dutch Harbor and ended at Ft. Ross. That is quite a kayak trip. Hunters came and left the operation through the whole route as the Russian American capital had been moved from Kodiak to Sitka by the time Ft. Ross was established.

If I recall those industrial style hunts decimated the sea otter population in the region over the course of a couple centuries. Can't remember if the pelts started to go out style in China like the beaver hats did in the western hemisphere or not. But both trapping eras do point up how the etherial whims of fashion can have significant and long lasting impacts on our planet. Not the least of these impacts was opening the paths west of the Mississippi that miners, ranchers, farmers, manufacturers and the rest of the 'civilized world' followed, extended and widened.

dNot the least of these impacts was opening the paths west of the Mississippi that miners, ranchers, farmers, manufacturers and the rest of the 'civilized world' followed, extended and widened

Yes, I know, the generic march west stuff but still true enough, demand for beaver pushed fortune hunters and adventurers out well past the mapped country. I understand that kind of person, I am a bit of a watered down and softened second half of the the twentieth century version of one myself. The beaver hat fashion was a catalyst that helped to open the American west to 'the march.' There is always some sort of catalyst getting thrown into the mix somewhere.

And that trapping became nearly industrial, the Russian/Aleut version that decimated the sea otter population from Dutch Harbor to near San Francisco was as industrial as the times could manage. So lets look at our energy mix in the first half of the 19th century.

We were pretty much burning wood and eating crops that were grown using energy from burning wood and eating crops, just a small coal contribution. But already almost all the best arable land of the huge Eurasian land mass was farmed and populated by us and our domestic stock and we had a heck of good start on the Americas.

What would the our share of the dry land vertebrate mass be here if we never increased fossil fuel's contribution to the energy mix beyond the 1850s percentage? 85-90% Don't know but by around 1850 human beings alone already outweighed the all world's wild terrestrial vertebrates according to Vaclav. Where is the critical percentage of single species domination before the mass extinction event begins?

No doubt fossil fuels really sped things up. But leave the biomass percentage of the mix constant from the 1850s onwards and our total dominance of the planet would very likely have just taken a little longer and been a bit less lopsided.

So what is my point. Simply this, the approaching of peak oil has already been disruptive, and a good chance things will get shaken up a whole lot worse. But we already had embarked upon this agri/industrialized march to world domination for a goodly spell before FF had made much contribution. A whole lot of tech had already begun build upon itself and to propagate. We will continue this march long after FFs contribution has become minimal despite any bottlenecks in the pipe along the way. The tech will continue to build upon itself and propagate. Those that feel peak oil or even peak fossil fuel will bring about the end the industrialized world are just talking through their beaver hats?-)

That is we will continue our march if the planet remains habitable. The problem is we got too much of the FF crap not too little. I can't see much higher work here than trying keep the rapidly shrinking remaining bioreserves as healthy can be managed. If fortune favors us we just might be able to come through this planet dominating march in a bit more of sharing mood than one we went into it with.

This year was morning glory, so we wake up to the sound of hummingbirds having their breakfast outside our window; kind of noisy if we decide to sleep late.

Still beats the sounds of the corporate helicopters landing and taking off just down the block from where I am in Sao Paulo... I'll take the hummingbirds over that any day!



It's all relative I guess. I know folks who never open windows anymore. My in-laws moved to a townhouse in the Atlanta burbs and the home inspector flagged the bedroom windows because they wouldn't open. They asked why that was a problem.... Of course, the inspector let them know it's a code requirement; egress during a fire.

Our windows are open from early April until the October chill arrives; our primary climate control system during the warmer months. The sounds of horny birds in spring, cicadas in summer (and an occasional drug plane flying over during the day), crickets in the fall, coyotes sometimes; not sure how some people sleep. Maybe the sound of the air handler keeping things comfy becomes normal. We do have to deal with the quiet hum of a ceiling fan sometimes, maybe a bit of snoring ;-)

I also insulated interior walls, partly because our rooms are climate zoned with radiant floor heat, and for sound. Makes for a very quiet interior. It also allows us to close off unoccupied parts of the house in winter. No sense in heating empty space. The spare bedrooms still stay around 60 (F), even in the coldest months, with no heat other than passive solar. If kids or guests are coming up we just pump hot water through the floor so their feet will be warm.

I ran duct work throughout the house during construction, and have a nearly new forced-air handler (propane fired), but have never hooked it all up. Maybe I'll install it this winter, just for fun and redundancy (actually in case something happens to me and my wife doesn't want to fool with firewood on really cold days). I plan to zone that as well. Passive cooling and heat => wood stove => radiant floor => conventional forced air, in that order. I may put in a small ductless split system for the master bedroom, to take the edge off on hot/humid summer nights.

I would like to see more details about Randy's setup. The wood heat was obvious, and the passive solar, just wondering if they have a backup for those bone-chilling Rocky Mountain winter nights.

Well, since the discussion is about sustainable housing, I have a question about ours.

We don't need much air conditioning, since the place is well shaded, has a lot of mass,is at least moderately well insulated, up in the mountains etc. and cools out most nights rather well.

We added a sun room for Momma to spend her last bedridden few years, so she could see outside and enjoy her free ranging chickens, bird feeders, and the views.

We never expected to use it constantly, after her passing , but now my old Daddy simply refuses to live in any other room, or even spend any time in any other room, except to eat and relieve himself. It is very hard to heat on a frosty night and not easily cooled on a really hot day even though it is well shaded.The floor and ceiling are properly insulated, and two walls are common and interior to the house as it now exists., so there is no heat gain or loss there.

With the sun low in southern sky the winter, and coming in below the overhang, and the leaves off the maples, it will go to 110 F. by 2pm if the sky is clear when the outside thermometer reads 20 F.

The other two walls are a total of fifty feet long by eight feet high double glazed glass in 32 inch panels.

Although I am a master scrounger, I have a near zero hope of finding argon filled triple glazed glass that will fit surplus or used, and I really don't want to spend a lot of money on new, because Daddy won't live forever, and I simply won't heat it at all once he's gone, except maybe for a few hours occasionally if I have company.

What are my best options?


How about stick-on reflectorized plastic sheeting? I used it on some clear story windows on one of our houses. The stuff I used was applied to wet glass.

Another possibility would be pull-down reflectorized shades. In both cases you can still see out.


What's the situation with the common walls with the house? I ask because we have a sunroom designed to supply heat to the house in winter. It's got a couple double hungs in the common wall (see my pic elsewhere - to the right of the hearth) that can be opened to allow a convective loop to pump heat into the house. I've also installed a couple of air vents even higher in the wall, and put 4 computer cooling fans in 'em (2 each). I have them direct wired to a 15w solar panel tilted a bit west of south, so by the time the sunspace warms up above house temp, the fans come on and blow the extra heat into the house. Also have a return in that wall down low, also known as a cat door, which I prop open during the day. So that could help with the overheating problem

On the night time heat loss, we've done fairly well scrounging the big-box reject/returns bins and gotten some cellular shades in various sizes. Those work great, but are of course pricey if you have to pony up for them new. Have also had good luck with the film as Todd mentioned. In our last house, in the Triangle area of NC, the (very modest) great room had 3 skylights in the north facing vaulted ceiling. I built frames with a simple layer of glass, so added one extra glazing layer & air space, and put the fully reflective film on them. You can get all sorts, but on the north roof, the only sun to hit was in summer when we didn't want it. I calculated that that simple change made an 8-12F difference in that room, which was the major portion of the open floor plan. Pretty much obviated the need for AC in the house, which was also fairly well shaded except 3 hours or so mid-day.

Hope those thoughts help. Gonna miss exchanges like this...

If it's too hot in winter, crack a window or move the air into the rest of the house with a fan. Adding thermal mass (a half height trombe wall, perhaps) will help reduce swings in temperature. Get a bunch of concrete pavers or blocks and stack them a few inches inside the windows or where the sun shines the most, if the floor will support the weight. Red brick works well; get creative and maximize surface area. When Pop makes the journey, you can use them for something else useful.

Also, thermal mass outside of glass doors or windows can moderate temps inside; especially radiating heat into the room. Put some big rocks outside the windows.

Another option is a PV-powered fan on a thermostat, like greenhouses use.

Thanks everybody,

We do harvest the extra heat during the heating season by opening a door and window in the older portion of the house and helping the air circulation a bit with a small 120 volt fan- no pv for us yet, but I have built a solar hot water system that takes care of nearly all our needs for domestic hot water and we get ninety percent of our heat by burning wood cut on the place. The last ten percent comes from a high efficiency kerosene fired furnace that keeps the sunroom up to Daddy's preferred 80 degrees during the small hours when the wood stove burns low. People his age need a lot of heat to feel comfortable.

I can dump unwanted heat by opening a screened window and screened door if it is under about 75F outside.We usually get quite a a lot of 90 plus days here given our southern exposure and microclimate.

I think maybe the window film might be my best bet to help with cooling.

I have thought about some sort of rollup thermal shades but nobody sells anything of this sort in this area, and I am very reluctant to spend my money on something so expensive sight unseen- unless perhaps a regular here can recommend a specific brand.

For those who might be interested I will will be publishing (at my blog) some comments sometime this week about the ways people in this area selected their home sites and built their homes a century or so ago in order to help minimize heating and cooling problems as well as taking the best advantage of the terrain for other purposes. Some of them were pretty good self taught architects and engineers and got excellent results given the budgets and materials they had to work with..

One more thought - I am planning to make a radiant barrier cover for our ProgressivTube batch water heater out of some cheap emergency 'space blankets' I picked up for a buck or so each, and some sort of rod or dowel to roll it up on. Seems something like that might work for quick & dirty roll shades for your sunporch as well. Not a huge amount of thermal insulation, but radiant plays a huge role through windows at night as well...

Thermal mass and evacuated glass tubing.

One can make cold or hot with the evacuated glass tubing.

Should passive solar be considered for all buildings - commercial, schools, skyscrapers etc.?

Absolutely - there are very, very few buildings that don't need to include careful design for use of natural light and heat. Commercial/office buildings operate more during the day, so optimum use of natural light (which is much cheaper and healthier) is essential.

This house serves to demonstrate that simplicity is solutions, and complexity is problems. Love it.

Hi guys, its very cool to see you exchanging notes on passive building design here in what will be the last technical post on TOD. Randy would have and I do appreciate it. Meant to write this post years ago and so of course regret that I did not do so now since I'm sure rudall would have joined in.

I can't precisely recall the build cost and feel disinclined to disclose this in any case but it was surprisingly low. Now not everyone can do this, but if you can afford to take some time off work and are good with your hands, the economics and self satisfaction of building your own home will beat the shit out of working in an unloved job for 20 years or more to pay down a mortgage. I think Randy took about 1 year to build this amazing house.

Over and out;-)

Cry Wolf

I'm very moved to see Randy's house, as my heart aches for the Passive Solar house I built with my Mom and Dad and siblings in the early 80's in Western Maine.

Mom built 4 houses with us, and had grown up in the one her father from Sweden built in Vestal, NY. I really hope Leslie and I can create our own lodgings in the next decade. While she has now directly stated that this is amid her dreams, ('a Small Hobbit hole with a Permaculture garden around it..') , one of the challenges for me has been convincing her of what WE can actually do. She gets overwhelmed, and even while knowing I've built buildings and restored our own rental building, she can add a level of doubt and anxiety into my descriptions of proposed projects, until this barely-formed fear is allowed to quash many an adventure in self-sufficiency.

I only bring this up to illustrate how powerfully we can defeat our own aspirations, or quickly disallow even the thought of them to enter our minds, unless we have been lucky enough to learn from someone and through experience just how much we can do.

Quiet Desperation, indeed! I think some of our worst barriers are very small, very quiet, and weigh almost nothing.. but they crowd our thoughts with distracting doubts and excuses, like so many niggling congressman who would rather argue us out of action in order to prove that 'No' is some kind of power as well. Mostly, I think it's just the counterpoint to power.. friction, or worse yet, a focused energy that gets scattered into chaotic motion in multiple directions, wasting any real potential for progress.

Well, on the A-train uptown to the couch where I temporarily reside, the thought that completes the above post and perhaps my contributions to this site's great discussion- occurred to me. One of mom's favorite books was WIND IN THE WILLOWS, and this passage in particular spoke to her.. and now to me.. (You'll Pardon the length, I hope)

They plodded along steadily and silently, each of them thinking his own thoughts. The Mole's ran a good deal on supper, as it was pitch-dark, and it was all a strange country for him as far as he knew, and he was following obediently in the wake of the Rat, leaving the guidance entirely to him. As for the Rat, he was walking a little way ahead, as his habit was, his shoulders humped, his eyes fixed on the straight grey road in front of him; so he did not notice poor Mole when suddenly the summons reached him, and took him like an electric shock.

We others, who have long lost the more subtle of the physical senses, have not even proper terms to express an animal's inter- communications with his surroundings, living or otherwise, and have only the word `smell,' for instance, to include the whole range of delicate thrills which murmur in the nose of the animal night and day, summoning, warning? inciting, repelling. It was one of these mysterious fairy calls from out the void that suddenly reached Mole in the darkness, making him tingle through and through with its very familiar appeal, even while yet he could not clearly remember what it was. He stopped dead in his tracks, his nose searching hither and thither in its efforts to recapture the fine filament, the telegraphic current, that had so strongly moved him. A moment, and he had caught it again; and with it this time came recollection in fullest flood.

Home! That was what they meant, those caressing appeals, those soft touches wafted through the air, those invisible little hands pulling and tugging, all one way! Why, it must be quite close by him at that moment, his old home that he had hurriedly forsaken and never sought again, that day when he first found the river! And now it was sending out its scouts and its messengers to capture him and bring him in. Since his escape on that bright morning he had hardly given it a thought, so absorbed had he been in his new life, in all its pleasures, its surprises, its fresh and captivating experiences. Now, with a rush of old memories, how clearly it stood up before him, in the darkness! Shabby indeed, and small and poorly furnished, and yet his, the home he had made for himself, the home he had been so happy to get back to after his day's work. And the home had been happy with him, too, evidently, and was missing him, and wanted him back, and was telling him so, through his nose, sorrowfully, reproachfully, but with no bitterness or anger; only with plaintive reminder that it was there, and wanted him.

May the Benevolent Frith Bless you and Keep you, my friends!

(Nods to Kenneth Grahame and Richard Adams)

... When the door had closed on the last of them and the chink of the lanterns had died away, Mole and Rat kicked the fire up, drew their chairs in, brewed themselves a last nightcap of mulled ale, and discussed the events of the long day. At last the Rat, with a tremendous yawn, said, `Mole, old chap, I'm ready to drop. Sleepy is simply not the word. That your own bunk over on that side? Very well, then, I'll take this. What a ripping little house this is! Everything so handy!'

I couldn't resist:
So much oil and gas located "that the so-called "Peak Oil" site has shut down"

One final appeal to shift on over to TEX - - where some few of us have been commenting on the daily Pipeline, akin to the Drumbeats.

And, inspired by Jokhul's post, in recognition of Randy Udall's love of trout fishing, here's a little so long poem of my own that I call 'Farewell to Summer':

I went to dig some worms today,
To the same place that I always go -
Across the road and down the swale,
Where it's always moist, y'know.

The earthworms there are plentiful,
Beneath a grand oak tree.
I thought I'd been there yesterday,
But I guess that couldn't be.

For the woods were green and full of life,
When last to dig I went.
Now they're turning red and gold,
Their youthful splendor spent.

Come to think of it, that was May -
How quickly summer passed.
Now it's September, crisp and cool,
And winter's coming fast.

Once more to the stream I want to go,
To tease the speckled trout -
To bask in the peace of riffle and pool,
And rid my soul of doubt.

I went to dig some worms today,
And a tear came to my eye.
As I brushed aside the fallen leaves,
I could feel the summer die.

In the long view, the human fossil fuel era will be as summer...

Thanks, Clif. Very nicely put.

Just wondering if Randy and wife has a small (or large) garden, fruit and/or nut trees, berry bushes or vines ? Perhaps a greenhouse ?


Google shows what appears to be a fairly large garden with perhaps a small greenhouse (could be something else), but I won't post a screen capture without permission from the owners, certainly not a link :-/

Google seems intrusive and a bit spooky; the new view of my place (early March this year) is quite revealing. I can see the tracks from the fert truck that came the first week of March; seems he covered the pastures very nicely. Our garden down in the bottom shows up quite well, and I can even see the deer trails through the fallow parts of our pastures. At least it'll be easy to find the deer if I decide to hunt this year. It doesn't seem right to shoot the deer in the driveway.

TOD quotes

from the upper right hand corner. On the last open thread, so nowhere else to put them to save them for future use. (I have used them several times in speeches).

“What people need to hear loud and clear is that we're running out of energy in America.”
—George W. Bush, May 2001

Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them.”
—Henry Ford

“It's difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends on him not understanding it.”
—Upton Sinclair

“This order [i.e. capitalism] is now bound to the technical and economic conditions of machine production which today determine the lives of all the individuals who are born into this mechanism, not only those directly concerned with the economic acquisition, with irresistible force. Perhaps it will so determine them until the last ton of fossilized coal is burnt.”
—Max Weber, 19

“Where ideas are concerned, America can be counted on to do one of two things: take a good idea and run it completely into the ground, or take a bad idea and run it completely into the ground.”
—George Carlin

“No civilization can survive the physical destruction of its resource base.”
—Bruce Sterling

“To be thrown upon one's own resources, is to be cast into the very lap of fortune; for our faculties then undergo a development and display an energy of which they were previously unsusceptible.”
—Benjamin Franklin

“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.”
—Richard Feynman

“Of all races in an advanced stage of civilization, the American is the least accessible to long views… Always and everywhere in a hurry to get rich, he does not give a thought to remote consequences; he sees only present advantages… He does not remember, he does not feel, he lives in a materialist dream.”
—Moiseide Ostrogorski (1902, 302-303)

“If kindness and comfort are, as I suspect, the results of an energy surplus, then, as the supply contracts, we could be expected to start fighting once again like cats in a sack.”
—George Monbiot

“The infrastructure of suburbia can be described as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world.”
—JH Kunstler

“My father rode a camel. I drive a car. My son flies a jet-plane. His son will ride a camel.”
—Saudi saying

“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.”
—Eleanor Roosevelt

“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.”
—H. G. Wells, 1904

“The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust.”
—James Madison, FEDERALIST #57 (1787)

“A third of humanity doesn't want to ride bikes anymore; that has profound geopolitical implications.”
—Anne Korin, the co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (May 1, 2005)

“He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils, for time is the greatest innovator.”
—Francis Bacon, Essays

“We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
—Albert Einstein

“I'd put my money on solar energy… I hope we don't have to wait til oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”
—Thomas Edison, in conversation with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, March 1931

“It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things.”
—Theodore Roosevelt

“So one may almost say that the theory of universal suffrage assumes that the Average Citizen is an active, instructed, intelligent ruler of his country. The facts contradict this assumption.”
—James Bryce (1909, 35)

“We have only two modes—complacency and panic.”
—James R. Schlesinger, the first energy secretary, in 1977, on the country's approach to energy

“Data always beats theories. 'Look at data three times and then come to a conclusion,' versus 'coming to a conclusion and searching for some data.' The former will win every time.”
—Matthew Simmons, ASPO-USA conference, Boston, MA, October 26, 2006

“Men argue; nature acts.”

“Considering the many productive uses of petroleum, burning it for fuel is like burning a Picasso for heat.”
—Big Oil Executive

“What gets us into trouble is not what we don't know, it's what we know for sure that just ain't so.”
—Mark Twain

“Government is too big and too important to be left to the politicians.”
—Claire Huchet Bishop

“The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences…”
—Winston Churchill, November 1936

“Any coward can fight a battle when he's sure of winning, but give me the man who has pluck to fight when he's sure of losing. That's my way, sir; and there are many victories worse than a defeat.”
—George Eliot

“Pessimism of the Intellect; Optimism of the Will.”
—Antonio Gramsci

“First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.”

Best Hopes for All,

Alan Drake

Thanks for posting these, I'm happy to see them in an accessible spot. Good stuff, though I lean more toward the Eliot than the Gandhi at the end; Gandhi was clearly kidding, the scamp.

I was very sorry at Randy's passing... I never interacted with him, but had hoped to. He seemed like a fella who should live a long time on general principles. Nice to see a bit more about how he lived.

And gee, commenting at this eleventh hour in TOD's history feels a bit like breathing in the shrinking ceiling air-bubble of a sinking car. A cursory check doesn't yet show a critical mass of commenters showing up at some other site.

Guess we'll see...

I'm too tired to migrate at this point. I think I need some time to reflect a bit.

Somehow, I feel confident there will be something else coming along..

I'm too tired to migrate at this point. I think I need some time to reflect a bit.

As with any significant loss in life, most of us probably have to go through a period of mourning before we can move on to something new.

See all of you around somewhere!


I hope you will all join us at .... A community is starting to form with a few dozen posts on some articles. Hopefully more of the TOD community will migrate over. End is nigh this week so best to shift elsewhere.

I think it will require another price spike before any kind of community reforms. Most of what is to be said of the pre-peak world has been said; all that's left is news and the post-peak, and people are resistant to the later.

By my calculation this thread, the last comment thread, will go dark 27/28th. To all here, goodbye.

Hope, rather than believe, we were wrong.

In the words of Vinnie Jones, "it's been emotional".

I would like to know the exact time and date. To squeeze the last drops out of it.

Well, if this was posted at "September 21, 2013 - 9:34pm", I'd guess it would go dead finally at "September 28, 2013 - 9:34pm". However that's just guessing from the 7 days thing. If you have any great insightful last words you don't want miss your chance. Don't want to be like the Great Prophet Zarquon.

"The obvious replacement for fossil fuels in a transport role is of course ............"


Don't we get a part 2 for Nate's post? Can someone re-open the "What are you doing" thread?

Nate and Art will be putting their promised last posts on their own sites. Whatever you want to say, better say it now. Fair winds....

suggest sending "what you are doing" as an e-mail to Kate, who I think would post it for you...

You can e-mail Nate njhagens at gmail dot com and he'll likely post for you! I'm officially retired and Nate, Brian, Euan, and Dave are closing up shop.

Happy Trails to all!


Here's a quote that is appropriate to the design of Randy's house...

Nearly two and a half millennia ago, the ancient Greek philosopher Aeschylus wrote:

"Only primitives & barbarians lack knowledge of houses turned to face the Winter sun."

Randy was thoughtfully applying what we already long ago knew. Rare in this day and age.

“If kindness and comfort are, as I suspect, the results of an energy surplus, then, as the supply contracts, we could be expected to start fighting once again like cats in a sack.”
—George Monbiot

I disagree about this though, much as I like many of the other quotes. People will probably feel more sorry for each other than anything else. Are not the huge bailouts and the printing of money sort of signs of a desire to keep things going? Even after things become more difficult, wouldn't there be a wish to help others?

The dynamic seems like it was competitive and cut-throat on the way up (to avoid humiliation), more humane and egalitarian and sympathetic on the way down (in recognition of the hardships out there).

I will certainly miss TOD

I would like to mention one more quotation (not used by TOD), a famous line from "Romeo and Juliet":
Juliet is the Sun
(Shakespeare saw this coming......)

Really? I think we are already seeing the fighting. In Iraq, in Syria, in Egypt, in Yemen, in Sudan, etc. Although there are also other causes, I think energy depletion and fighting over the more scarce remaining energy resources is related to all of those current conflicts.

And although there is nearly zero physical violence, I think energy resource issues are at much of the polarization in American politics . . . drill-baby-drill, wind tax-credits, the EPA, climate change, fracking, ZEV mandates, CAFE standards, gas taxes, ANWR, mountaintop removal coal, the ATVM program, Cape Wind, the up-to $7500 EV tax-credit, the PV solar tax-credit, the 'government motors' Volt, Agenda 21, net-metering, Solyndra, Fisker, etc. . . . these are all political footballs that are fought over bitterly in Washington and in the capitals of all the states.

Hiya Spec.

As I see it , you're dead on, although you are considerably ahead of the curve in terms of most folks perceptions.

Unfortunately most people who truly understand our energy and environmental troubles are incredibly inept at communicating with the great mass of the people of this country, who thru no fault of their own lack the technical education needed to understand such issues. Furthermore, they're generally busy , and have little opportunity and even less ambition to acquire such an education.

So these millions of people find themselves in the position of either accepting an unwelcome message on the basis of faith, or rejecting this faith based message and accepting-again on faith- the (generally false) counterarguments of high status people who either don't understand the science themselves, or else have skin enough in the game to lie about it, or both.

It's very hard for most technically well educated people acquainted with such an issue as climate forcing to accept that such a simple explanation as this is the true cause of most people rejecting climate change, or oil depletion, etc, but it's a rock solid truth.

Joe Sixpack can generally balance his own checkbook but his eight year old son can't- and if his son wants to believe his Daddy can afford to buy him a spiffy new phone, well then, all the evidence in the world - but evidence accessible only to people who have mastered the math needed to understand the checkbook- is not going to convince that kid.

I'm far better educated, myself, than the run of humanity, but I still find myself in the position of having to accept certain things on faith occasionally due to a lack of the specialized training needed to understand some issues. I have to accept some of my lawyers advice based on faith that he knows his business, and has my best interests in mind- ditto what my doctor sometimes tells me.

Now it's scary as hell that Joe and his buddies don't know how to recognize a real scientist, or real science, when they are nose to nose and belly to belly with either or both, but the simple truth is that Joe is hearing two diametrically conflicting stories, and he has to trust somebody; he has to take somebody on faith.

So he takes the word of his shop foreman, or his crew leader, or his commanding officer, or his high school history teacher, or the lawyers he plays cards with at the country club, or his banker- in short, he takes his cues from anybody and everybody he looks up to as being further up the ladder of status and success than he is.And let's not forget that with the exception of actual scientists actually on the job, just about everybody is highly prone to accept any argument that comforts them and relieves their anxieties, rather than examine such an argument critically and impartially.. So when a politician assures a man, or a woman, that everything will be just hunky dory as soon as he gets elected, well, that man or woman really wants to believe things will get better, and that for instance two dollar gasoline is not merely a remote possibility, it's a serious promise.

But as scary as Joe's ignorance is, it's not half as scary as the ignorance of his shop foreman, or his crew leader, or his commanding officer, or his lawyer or banker.People really can and do graduate from Ivy league universities every single semester having taken only one pathetic two credit survey course in one natural science.Anybody who doubts this assertion is free to check the Ivy websites.

Now Joe is bombarded with arguments, daily, hourly, by the minute, coming from people who are pretty good at passing themselves of as scientists, or allies and friends of scientists.Most of these arguments are relatively innocuous attempts to separate Joe from his paycheck, such as ads for weight loss pills or Viagra made out of cornstarch. Others are to outright falsehoods that put Joe's life and limb, and the maybe even life of his entire species, at extreme risk.

Joe has a hard time telling the real scientists, and the real science, from the fakes, just as I sometimes have a hard time telling when a salesman is giving me bad advice. Just last week I took some bad advice trying to save a few bucks on some paint, and now I'm going to have to do that painting over a second time.I was once told by an automobile sales manager that he never hires any body who knows a lot about cars- because such a potential sales person frequently has to lie to convince a potential customer to by a particular car , or lose the sale to a competitor.But a salesman who knows only what he has been told in training about the Belch Fire coupe can tell the same lie with perfect sincerity- since he believes it himself!

Now unfortunately when most people who do understand issues as ff depletion and forced climate attempt to communicate with Joe, they come across as elitist and condescending, and worse, they usually manage to push a couple of Joe's hot buttons- the wrong ones- with the result that Joe not only rejects the message out of hand, he often becomes a dedicated foot soldier for the opposition.

If for instance you want to promote electric vehicles, just about the worst possible thing you could ever mention mention to a working class tradesman who believes in our ( so called) free enterprise system is the federal tax credit associated with buying an electric vehicle.He's generally dead set against tax credits ( excepting possibly for his own trade or industry of course) and therefore he is automatically predisposed to despise and ridicule any person or policy associated with such vehicles.

There are ways of getting the message across without creating more problems than we have already.

Mark Twain is often accused of being a racist, but I personally believe he has been the source of the enlightenment of millions of latent or actual racists.
I was such a person once, thru no fault of my own.I was born into a racist society to poor and uneducated parents -I was just a kid in a poor and uneducated pre civil rights lily white southern community.

I can't remember how old I was when I first read Huck Finn, but I was no older than fourteen, because I had not yet transferred to the senior high school.When I got to the part about Jim grieving over mistreating his little girl, because he thought she was simply disobeying him, but in actuality could not hear him ,having lost her hearing, and missing her terribly,at that moment I suddenly realized that black people are just people, and on the inside, under their black skins, they are essentially identical to every body else, red, white, yellow, or mixed.

Now Twain didn't lead me to this land mark turning point in my own intellectual growth and maturation by lecturing me from a pulpit; he allowed me to find my own way there, by providing the path I traveled.

I've created a character who is a highly credible advocate for the adoption of electric cars if the intended audience consists mostly of average ,rebellious country kids - the ones who aren't on the academic fast track, the ones who need somebody colorful to look up to, someone to be their virtual friend. He will also work for the acceptance of other worthwhile goals and values as I have time to create more of his stories. Anybody who is interested in meeting him can do so at my blog. A couple of people have told me they find these stories quite entertaining in their own right.

I tend to agree with Pi. Look at the last century, with simply unprecedented amounts of energy, and with that did NOT really come some great bounty of kindness and brotherly love. The nations with the most power dealt out the most violence, with growing amounts of brutality being allowed to fall upon civilian populations.

We keep painting these platitudinal images about the great goods given to us by energy and power and technology, as if goodly kindness was an invention brought about by only these things, and the primitives before this age must have been unaware of such possibility, and spent their days dodging rocks and insults.

I don't doubt at all that various energy SHIFTs will bring about turbulence and misery, but as some populations learn to recalibrate to humbler expectations, I don't see any particular reason that a lower energy society will be in more danger of upset and danger than we have had in the age of High Explosives, Economic Colonialism and Hit Men, Drone Warfare and Gunshows that sell an abundance of Assault Weapons. I fully expect future historians to regard our time at the Peak of Human energy resource to be fully as Brutish and Nasty as any that history has to offer.

We keep painting these platitudinal images about the great goods given to us by energy and power and technology, as if goodly kindness was an invention brought about by only these things, and the primitives before this age must have been unaware of such possibility, and spent their days dodging rocks and insults.

Well, if power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely then think how much power we all tasted with access to oil!

...a single barrel of oil there is the energy equivalent of 23,000 human labor hours. This amounts to 12 years (40 hours per week) if vacations are factored in, so…"

That's a heck of a lot of power for a not so exceptional ape to be wielding at will!

Tyrell:But, uh, this - all of this is academic. You were made as well as we could make you.
Roy: But not to last.
Tyrell: The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long. And you have burned so very very brightly, Roy. Look at you. You're the prodigal son. You're quite a prize!
Roy: I've done questionable things.
Tyrell: Also extraordinary things. Revel in your time!
Roy: Nothing the god of biomechanics wouldn't let you in heaven for.

Lights out!

Best hopes that all these moments won't be lost...

Hi, Jokuhl

I generally agree with your assessment of our humanity- or perhaps, our lack of the same, having read your comments with a smile and a nod for quite a while.It puts a leaden ball of depression in my gut that I may never have the pleasure of doing so again, but hopefully there will be a critical mass emerging someplace that will enable the never ending story to continue to be told and to evolve.

Once in a while, I get in a rush, and fail to think twice thru before hitting the save button.

History will also record the Peace Corp, the Red Cross, food aid on a truly massive scale, a number of uber wealthy people donating fortunes to charitable works, free or near free medical care in advanced countries, and modest pensions for old folks.Free(mandatory!) basic education. MInimal (at the least) efforts to maintain the peace on a civil basis, almost every where.

It comes as a great surprise to almost every body , but we are actually safer from violence today, even here in the US, and especially in Western Europe, individually, on a statistical basis, than any people have ever been, anywhere, at any time in history, by upwards of an order of magnitude. Stephen Pinker just recently wrote a thick , scholarly book thoroughly documenting this amazing- to me at least- truth.

We just feel so endangered because bad news sells, and such bad news as there is, in respect to violence, travels around the world, many thousands of times these days, while the truth is still looking for it's shoes.

Now as for all those guns- when they come for mine, they will have to pry them out of my cold dead fingers.I'm only a little scared of getting robbed or murdered at random. I read a lot of history, and I'm a thousand times as scared of Leviathan.My first wife was Jewish, and she lost all her known relatives, old and young, who were living in Germany during the Nazi era.....armed people cannot be easily enslaved, and have the option of dieing free, with dignity, rather than being marched away in chains .... the police cannot be every where....... and in the end, if only the police are armed, who will police the police?

Of course Rome had a grain ration for her citizens, and given her resources, maybe we aren't doing any better today, given ours.

In the last analysis, it's a Darwinian world, and Mother Nature, working her blunt and indifferent tool, evolution , created us with a little angel and a little devil, one on either shoulder, both whispering constantly in our ears.

We will never get rid of the devil, but we can cheer for the angel.

Our key problem is that evolution programmed us to think short term rather than long term.

I'm a dog lover.There are an estimated iirc 50,000 starving dogs roaming the streets of the capital of Romania, a country that is not only broke, but busted, as we say here in the hills. A pack of these dogs recently killed and ate a small kid.

Romanian dog lovers are raising hell in the streets, hoping to get these dogs all captured, treated, and adopted, or at least neutered and fed daily, for years to come- in a place where a lot of jobless people aren't eating any too well.

You can read all about it at Der Spiegel's free English website.

The angel is as mindless as the devil.

I can't remember the quote well enough to paraphrase it properly , and I don't have time to look for it right this minute, but Twain had one of his oh so human characters express this duality in the most eloquent possible language.

Many good and true points, Mac.

Brings to mind that snippet of Dickens.. 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..' Tale of Two Cities

I was reminded by a 'couch benefactress' this summer that NYC is the or one of the safest cities in the US today, while the classic stereotypes around our land persist in challenging the point.. and yet, what levels of insecurity have been outsourced to other lands and to our own dalit and invisible classes to make it so? Insulated puddles of safety in a well-masked sea of dangers.

In any case, I'm not trying to say you're wrong in your points.. to tired to argue, and far too grateful in having yet a few more words to share with any and all of you. It seems to me all this energy has, like with a heating atmosphere and oceans, simply brought things up to more Operatic levels.. every aspect becomes more accelerated and intense. The quiet gets quieter, the loud gets louder..

And yet, I love our people. I see so many ways people are good, kind, thoughtful, trying to make it right. 'We're here to help each other through this thing, whatever it is..'

I have only to look at the people here to provide more than ample evidence.

Until you find that Twain remark, for angels and devils, I turn to Steinbeck,

All colors and blends of Americans have somewhat the same tendencies. It's a breed — selected out by accident. And so we're overbrave and overfearful — we're kind and cruel as children. We're overfriendly and at the same time fightened of strangers. We boast and are impressed. We're oversentimental and realistic. We are mundane and materialistic — and do you know of any other nation that acts for ideals? We eat too much. We have no taste, no sense of proportion. We throw our energy about like waste. In the old lands they say of us that we go from barbarism to decadence without an intervening culture.

Thank you very much for saying so.

The ammunition for the guns, the fuel for the tanks and warplanes, etc. will evaporate with the credit that has kept it flowing.

People will just have to rely on each other again, without worrying, for example, that the bulldozers will be showing up the next day to dam up a river and take away their land.

All of the fighting, especially the colonial era leading up to WWII was largely spurred by fear that "the other side" would get an advantage by taking a new opportunity. "We cant be left behind!!" was the fatal cry.

People are largely friendly and good.

But because people care about each other, they can be made to fear for the well-being of their group. There was a lot of fear, a lot of obsession (the Soviet era, for example), of course manipulation by the powerful, who were driven by the same need to compete. But once the means for a lot of destruction has gone away, then I think the fear will also dissipate.

I don't say that fighting won't always exist. I think when it's more local and less powered by oil it won't affect a lot of people beyond those actually involved in the fight.

So I'm optimistic.

"...and Gunshows that sell an abundance of Assault Weapons."

Here's the problem Bob, from my perspective your use of the words "assault weapons" indicates to me that you (and I really mean a generic you here) have bought into what can only be called propaganda.

We see this parroting of PR/spin/propaganda by the public in almost every aspect of life. This is why I am pessimistic about the future. Yes, we could have a good society living sustainably without needless turmoil...but that won't likely be the case.


I agree whole heartedly with Todd.

People have walked or ridden horses and rowed or sailed ships hundreds and thousands of miles to fight for many reasons for as far back as we have records and knowledge of our past.Guns are more efficient than clubs and spears, or bows and swords, but they aren't at all necessary to kill wholesale or retail.

I beg the forgiveness of those here who see ME as the threat, because I own weapons, but in a pretty long life spent as much exploring great books as any other activity, I have not yet come across the first convincing- to me at least- argument that the path to long term peace and security lies in giving up the right to own, and the actual possession, of arms. Short terms solutions generally lead to long term disasters.

The ultimate failure of progressive liberal thinkers and philosophers lies in the fact that they are almost always ready and willing to turn all the hard problems over to the state. But in the end, there is nothing to prevent an all powerful state from having it's way with the people, in any fashion it chooses.

States grow, and metastasize, given the opportunity. States never wither away.Marx was , in effect, Stalin's grandfather.

It is true that Western Europe is safer , in terms of firearms violence than the US, but this fact deserves a look thru the other end of the telescope. I live in the mountains of the old south, among some of the most violent people , excepting those in the truly bad slums of our big cities, in America.

it is true that my danger of getting shot by an acquaintance is several times that of typical European citizen, but the chances I will be shot at all are still actually rather remote, and the chances of me getting knifed, or clubbed, are almost zero, because people in this area are known to go armed in sufficient numbers that kidnappings and street robberies, etc, are rare occurrences. The chance that I will be shot by a stranger is remote indeed.

Expressed in opposite emotionally loaded terms, the odds that I will not get shot in in any given year in Europe might be 99.9999 percent.The odds that I will not get shot in this country might be 99.999 percent in that same year. ( these numbers are for illustrative purposes, rather than actual, and represent an order of magnitude difference.Feel free to drop the last 9 on the American odds,, and they represent two orders of magnitude.) i think my best option is to work toward goals such as getting drunk drivers off the roads, repealing drug laws that spawn gangs and turf wars, cleaning up the air, and or dozens of other similar goals- any and/or all of which can make a bigger statistical impact on public health and safety at less cost to our basic freedoms.

It grates on the nerves of those who lack the will and/ or courage to be responsible for their own safety to hear it, but it there is a hell of a lot of truth in the saying that while God made us big and small,Colonel Colt made us all equal.

I had a friend once, a city dweller, who expressed his feelings this way:When I was young, I feared no evil, even though I walked in the valley of the shadow of death , for I was as tough as any sob in the valley. But now I that I'm old and slow and bent with age, I feel the need of my piece in my pocket when I go out nights.And I'm not going to give up going out .

Home invasions around here are virtually unheard of, and when I hear about a local small business being robbed, I can safely assume it is a chain store where employees are told to quietly give up the cash and forbidden to carry weapons.

My first wife was a country girl, a beauty almost beyond compare who was too friendly for her own good.She used to love to ride her horse all over this (then) mostly deserted mountain neighborhood on warm moonlit nights wearing a t top and short shorts. I can still see her riding in, flushed and excited in that special way riding a horse can excite a girl, in my minds eye as if it were only yesterday.

I worried about that damned horse throwing her, but never about any body actually bothering her because it was a well known fact that she owned her own lady like little pistol, and occasionally toted it tucked it into her shorts or top.It was additionally accepted as a given that if somebody did bother her, the men of my family would help me make sure he regretted it in no uncertain fashion.

My second wife, a beauty in her own right, was from the Big Apple, and we lived in a (relatively) big and relatively peaceful city. She was afraid of guns, and only very reluctantly agreed to me teaching her basic firearms safety and use.

Once I pushed her to the point of tears by insisting that she answer this question:

What are you going to do, if we have a kid, and I'm not handy, and our kid's safety, and your own, is on the line, and there's no cop handy?

The Nazis got most or all of her relatives who failed to get out of Germany and occupied Europe.The cops helped load up the trains on numerous occasions.

I guess it is fortunate that we never had any kids, but otoh, I have no son or daughter to share my last years, and no grandchild to brighten them- nor even anybody I particularly care to see own my property when I'm gone.I'll probably donate it to an environmental organization.

I felt compelled to go shopping with my little yankee apple of my eye after darkness fell even though our destinations were usually well lit malls with rent a cops which were also frequently visited by real police.

I used to be a short term pessimist and a long term optimist when it comes to the human condition. But now that I foresee an eventual collapse as being baked in, I fear that in the long term we will backslide a long way- maybe even back to the Dark Ages, or even farther..

I really don't see the commecialization of AK's and AR-15's as just 'Spin', Todd.. and as they have been involved in several mass shootings where people with Mental Illness and Prior Violent Offenses have been able to obtain them certainly has not been illustrated to me as just some rhetorical problem.

Frankly, I think the prevalence of many of these mental health issues themselves could similarly be tied to the ravages of a rampantly overfed and overpowered, but disconnected society, as well as the influence of a Gun Industry that even many NRA members have decried as taking over that organization in an attempt at Astroturf Lobbying in order to further leverage their 'market influence', while manipulating public policy through the same avenues.

If we want to look at what helped the Nazis rise to power, I think we'd find that the unholy alliances between the Business Powers and the Government had a much stronger effect than the question of gun ownership across German Society. This was not a population trying to foist a revolution that it was simply underarmed to engaged, they were hamstrung by finance, hunger and manipulation of information. If you want to see which propaganda to be worried about, look at what Oil and Gun companies are pushing for, no? This is where the modern fascists are blatantly showing all their stripes.

I'm left wondering if Randy owned guns, guessing he would agree that it's a terribly complex cultural issue, and hoping we don't leave his 'home post' on this note.

It's clear we, especially a core group of TODers, still have a lot to talk about. Best hopes we find a place as accommodating as TOD.

Fair enough, while I don't think raising the issue needs to be taken as an automatic (or even a semiautomatic..) blanket criticism against all gun owners. It certainly isn't on my part.

No prob, Bob ;-) It just occurred to me that this post was a sort of memorial to Randy's example of how we might live more lightly on the planet. There are a lot of things we won't solve, especially here, but I hope we can respect that Randy was walking the walk, a witness to the idea that some solutions are within our grasp. I include you in that group of folks who understand that we change the things we can, express our opinions on things we can't, and have the wisdom to know the difference.

I also understand OFM's point of view; just not sure why he brought this particular issue up here, now. I expect that it was incidental. I respect you both and despair that we may have reached peak wise men, going forward. Maybe we should just let wise women run things, and go fishing like Randy.

Maybe we should just let wise women run things, and go fishing like Randy.

In my experience, wise women are just as rare as wise men! On the other hand, work is for people who don't know how to fish >;-) Right now I'm counting down the days till I get back to kayaking out on my reef! At 60+ who knows how much longer I have...

I'm sorry to have to point this out but fascist governments and /or societies are authoritarian and antidemocratic, and operate as police states. Fascists who have not yet consolidated their power may temporarily go along with weapons in the hands of individuals, but they are once in power, all weapons will shortly be found solely in the hands of the state itself, or at best in the hands of state controlled organizations.

I have hardly ever met anybody among my many liberal acquaintances who actually knows what fascism REALLY IS. I try to steer them to wikipedia as gently as I can to find out.

I am among other things somewhat of an Anglophile- a great lover of many of the fine thingsEnglish from the Magna Carta to Shakespeare to the grit and guts of the english soldier to Winston Churchill to Tolkein to the land itself, although I know it the land thru literature, having never had the money and time to visit.

But I have not forgotten the history of my own people- my name begins MAC , and some of my ancestors were driven , starving, from their homes at the points of English bayonets. They would not have been driven so easily had they been armed, nor would Wendy's grandparents and cousin's been so easily loaded on a train to a concentration camp had they been armed.

Fascism isn't about people, individuals, citizens, owning weapons. It's about an all powerful state.Fascism is, among many other things, about people in positions of wealth and power using the power of the armed state to trample on unarmed people less fortunate than themselves.

Of course it wouldn't do to call those particular rich and powerful Englishmen fascists, since the word had not yet been invented. Others of my ancestors, who arrived over here earlier, were more fortunate, in that most of them were better positioned to defend themselves from yet to be named fascists, and helped drive them out of this country, and back across the sea.

Fascism doesn't even really fit anywhere , properly, on the left /right political spectrum, but leftists have tarred those on the right with the term so often for so long that most people presume it is a "right wing thing" and are therefore ok with using this word to besmirch those with whom they disagree.

I'm distressed to be engaged in a discussion of such a wrenching clash of values so late in the game here, when it would be so much better that we all part with warm remembrances of our sharing our thoughts, and I won't have anything else to say HERE on this subject during our last hours as a community.

CHANGED MY MIND- Given that this is a tribute article, and our last group discussion, I hereby a request that the moderator on duty please delete my last few comments involving fascism and weapons.

Anybody and Everybody, please accept my apologies for failing to remember the nature of this last article..

Cheers for a lively discussion! I wouldn't have it any other way!

There will be things we see the same, and then that other stuff.. it's not like we're going to change our basic nature or inclination to volley a bit.

All's well, and if this gets snipped, that's no less a familiar part of what this place has been.


you might want to look at a grid based spectrum rather than a line based one such as policalcompass dot org (look in the Analysis section for a description of how it works)

Gunshows that sell an abundance of Assault Weapons.

Yes, what one man's and time's assault weapon is another's crossbow, blunderbuss and .50 cal flintlock.

And keep in mind that the US Government is a large user of such weapons and to be in that user group gets you "thank you for your service" in the media.

I think we are already seeing the fighting. In Iraq, in Syria, in Egypt, in Yemen, in Sudan, etc. Although there are also other causes, I think energy depletion and fighting over the more scarce remaining energy resources is related to all of those current conflicts.

Fuel subsidy protests in Sudan claim more victims in Khartoum

Violence during protests against fuel subsidy cuts in Sudan has left more than two dozen dead, according to one source.

A medic at a Khartoum hospital has been quoted as saying it has the bodies of 27 people killed in the trouble.


In the USA, higher fuel prices mean eating out less, fewer concerts, not such an expensive vacation, etc. In developing world, it can mean going hungry & rioting.

WSJ: Utilities Want Solar Customers to Pay More*
Their argument: The few (homes with solar power) are being subsidized by the many (everyone else).

The utilities say solar customers are paying so little that they don't cover their share of the cost of maintaining the grid, which they still rely on. That drives up costs for nonsolar customers, utilities say, and they warn that the burden will grow as the number of solar customers continues to swell.

Solar companies and their customers deny that people with solar panels aren't paying their share of utility costs, and argue that rooftop solar systems benefit utility grids by relieving demand and providing extra power. Cutting incentives would reduce the appeal of solar energy, they say, depriving the grid of some of that additional power, blunting the environmental benefits of solar power and hurting the young, fast-growing industry.

One change utilities have proposed is to credit solar customers for the power they feed into the grid at the wholesale rate, which is much lower than the retail rate—or at least to credit them at some rate in between the two. Another would be to charge all customers a monthly fee to cover utilities' fixed costs.

*For link and possible access, do a Google Search for title

The homes with solar panels ARE being subsidized by the others.

My net-metered power bill this last month was 3 bucks even, in what's about the most expensive power market in the country. Not sure why, until now it has been 10 bucks even. One wouldn't think they'd be lowering the base fee at this point, but it's a fool that looks for logic in the chambers of the human heart.

I think there's no way it can stay that low over the long haul. That's a preposterously good deal when coupled with an agreement to buy every watt we can generate at any time of day.

Still, if the utility pushed to switch from retail to wholesale rates in the near term here, I reckon there'd be a large lawsuit. A lot of people figured their payback based on the prevailing agreement terms. A fair number entered agreements in which they didn't put money upfront, but the installing firm did, with some sort of payment deal. A significant change in the terms would presumably bankrupt such firms. Actually, that's probably a reason it won't happen here, the networked cronyism and payoffs are such that it may be unlikely.

My guess is that they'd have to grandfather in the existing installed systems for some period like 10 years at retail net-metered rates and then a slow ramp for the following 10 years to something midway between retail and wholesale rates. Alternately, as the article says, an across-the-board basic fee. That latter may be the most likely... so I may not have $3 electric bills indefinitely. Which is fine.

Now, is it inappropriate that the PV-installing homes are subsidized by the others? Not a bit, because the feds, state, utility, community, etc have deemed that it's desirable for there to be more PV, and this gets it done without the utility having to pony up the bux. It isn't just about how expensive the power is. The costs of burning carbon for electricity are horrendous... they're just for the most part not shown on the bill. Perhaps the utilities need a little reminder...

I reckon Randy would be fine with discussions of PV, insulation, and such stuff here....

Of course he would. Nothing I ever heard of is more fitting at a man's wake than a discussion of his life's work, on the grand scale.Sustainability was a part of his work, and for this community, this discussion is his wake.
For what it's worth, I have posted the first portion of a long commentary at about the ways people in my neck of the woods built their houses and farm buildings in the first half of the last century, thier reasons for doing so, the economics of such building, and the implications of such now obsolete techniques in respect to sustainability.Those who are interested in such things will hopefully find it informative and might possibly gain a couple of useful insights if they are contemplating building a house or establishing a farm in a declining and simplifying economy.

Goodbye everybody! I suppose this site will be gone to the live with The Great Pumpkin when I get back from my morning's work.I love you all!

"The costs of burning carbon for electricity are horrendous... they're just for the most part not shown on the bill. Perhaps the utilities need a little reminder..."

Of course, they don't care to be reminded that they and their grid-weenie customers are being subsidized by environmental degradation. The Arizona Corporate Commission's elections were recently swept by "not-so-sympathetic-to-solar Republicans" , so Arizona is changing the rate structure for residential PV. Those who have contracts signed before October will be grandfathered in until 2034, according to the proposal. New systems will have their feed-in rates reduced as much as 40%.

From the High Country News "Goat Blog" (Jul 17, 2013)-

Number crunching utility rates in the Arizona solar war

In order to better understand what this would mean to the various pocketbooks involved, I used sample utility bills provided by APS for a customer -- we’ll call him Solar Sam -- who uses 1,600 kilowatt hours (kWh) per month in the summer, and 900 kWh in the winter. His monthly bill in the summer, if he had no solar, would be $275, and $115 in the winter.* Solar Sam’s rooftop photovoltaic array generates 1,000 kWh of solar during summer months, and 750 kWh during winter, which is fairly typical.

Under the current net metering system, the 1,000 kWh of rooftop solar power generated by Sam's array directly offsets 1,000 kWh of power he pulls off the grid, regardless of the time. So Sam gets billed for just 600 kWh during the summer months, bringing that $275 bill down to just $92. Throw in the winter usage and average it out over the year, and Solar Sam can slash his electric bill by some $1,600 per year.

APS’s proposed net metering option would be a significant tweak. Sam’s electricity rates would vary during the course of the day, depending on overall demand on the grid. So if he generated 10 kWh during non-peak hours, it might only offset 5 kWh used during peak demand times. Plus, he would pay a “demand charge” based on the maximum amount of power he uses during a single month. “Basically, it’s how much you are leaning on the grid,” says Chuck Miessner, Pricing Manager for APS, and is usually proportional to the size of a house (and its air conditioning system and the number of electronics). Solar Sam’s monthly summertime bill under this regime, depending on how careful he is about when he cranks the AC, would be $157. His yearly savings would be just $900.

If my count is correct, AZ has 7 coal-fired power plants, 15 natural gas plants, and Palo Verde is the largest nuclear power plant in the country. Arizona produces approximately 12 million tons of coal per year (exported to Nevada), and produces about 23% of it's electricity from coal imported from other states.

Arizona is Randy Udall's native state.

In these waning hours, and on this thread dedicated to Rudall who was a trout fisherman, I want to toss out a final note on net energy, or EROEI. Being a fisher of trout myself, I have oft used trout in pursuit of prey to make the EROEI case*. Indeed, I believe this is the realm in which Charlie Hall first studied the issue.

At an EROEI of 100:1, investment of one available unit yields a net of 99 units. Those easy 99 units make for nice, fat trout. In human terms, they became available to do whatever else we wanted (skyscrapers, interstates, JIT delivery, plastic gee-gaws from China). An EROEI of 10:1 still means 90% of the gross energy to play with and thus healthy trout. But now there is less extra energy for avoiding predators and reproducing, so life is not so sweet & easy as before. Folks such as Nick like to point out that while 10:1 sounds much worse than 100:1, the inverse nature of the ratio means the difference is only between 99% net and 90% net - so not bad.

But look at it this way. If we have one unit available for investment, at that old-time stick-a-straw-in-the-sand EROEI of 100:1, we'd get 99 units to party with for our trouble. Fast forward to today. Say we have one unit available to invest. Now we net only 9 from that same investment. That's going to be a very different party, and is just what is happening out in the real world of deteriorating infrastructure, stagnant economic growth, austerity budgets, declining real income, food shortages, and Arab Spring type crises spreading. Have a look at the Energy Export Databrowser and the Population Data Browser at Jon Callahan's Mazama Science for any 'country of interest'.

This is what diminishing returns means. It's not that we get only 10% less from what the Earth gives us – it's that we have to work 10 times harder to get the same as what came so easily before. Not only that, while the returns diminish, the hungry population continues to grow...

*I suspect that the trout analogy is imperfect as I've used it for this reason – natural, real-time energy systems (flows) don't provide returns of 100:1. For trout and any other predators, the margins even in the best of times are much thinner. Something on the order of 3:1 might be easy livin' for them, and 2:1 means slow starvation. Humanity's access to fossil fuel stocks gave us an energy return of unprecedented proportions in the history of life. Thus our orgy of overconsumption of everything and our population explosion. The inevitability of humanity reverting to existence reliant upon energy flows (with their inherently lower EROEI by an order [or two] of magnitude) rather than the drawdown of one time stocks of FF with their unprecedented and never-to-be-seen-again EROEI is going to be shocking to homo colossus (as Catton calls us) to say the very, very least.

That old EROI issue and fish and oil. As I was completing graduate school, a big slug of $ came into the college from the then brand new Alaska pipeline project. One of the studies getting the big bucks was for swimming performance of trout and grayling in culverts. With the myriad of new roads being constructed to construct the pipeline, it was realized that the gradient the culvert was set at, and it's composition, had a big influences not only on the water volume carried, but the energy loss of the fish, and hence the region's fisheries.

units to party with for our trouble. Fast forward to today. Say we have one unit available to invest. Now we net only 9 from that same investment. That's going to be a very different party, and is just what is happening out in the real world of deteriorating infrastructure, stagnant economic growth, austerity budgets, declining real income, food shortages, and Arab Spring type crises spreading

Just looking at ERoEI change tells you very little without looking at the volumes of energy produced. Look up page to the Likvern/Hagens 1800-2012 world energy consumption chart. In 1960 consumption was about ~3200 MTOE/a. Just for fun let's say the average ERoEI of the mix was ~25:1, it would have taken ~130 MTOE to yield the total consumed leaving about ~3070 MTOE for the partiers. Zip up to 2012 where consumption hit ~13,750 MTOE and just for fun say ERoEI for the whole mix had dropped to 8:1, that means it took ~1700 MTOE to yield the total consumed leaving the partiers a whopping ~12,000 MTOE. Almost four times as much to party with as back in 1960 even though the ERoEI had fallen by 2/3. That was the point of my retail grocery store big supermarket vs. mom & pop corner store analogy in a comment to Nate's post--where I reminisced about Topps baseball cards ?-) Nate didn't touch the comment by the way.

These of course are made up ERoEI numbers, they may or may not be close but any ERoEI values would be subject to considerable debate so these will serve to demonstrate my point as well as any would.

Now we have to look to whom this energy is distributed. Population 1960 ~3.04 billion, 2012 ~ 7.05. So world population has increased by a factor of ~2.4

My out of the blue made up ERoEI numbers must show something close to the real ratio of ERoEI change 1960:2012. My rough roundings would have 50 gigajoules/capita/year in 1960 increasing to ~83 by 2012. The chart posted on 'My Finite World,' March 12, 2012 shows gigajoules/capita/year going from 50-80 between 1960 and 2010.

Of course since the party is a whole lot bigger, the jostling whenever the music stops and a chair gets pulled is a whole lot more intense, and of course this musical chair game is rigged so that it's very unlikely those at the high end of the energy budget will be losing their chairs any time soon. And it isn't like there are less chairs in the game. The chairs are still increasing faster than the players are but the rate of gain has slowed and in some parts of the uneven circle players numbers are increasing the fastest while the chair numbers are increasing the slowest.

Well, I guess it's all in how one looks at it... Using your numbers, if EROEI had remained constant at 25:1 then in 2012 there would have been about 40,000 MTOE available to party with. So society was having to work nearly 4x as hard as in 1960 - to maintain a much bigger party at a larger scale, sure. But that just means the squeeze/crash/collapse/call-it-what-you-will is going to be that much larger and more painful when it comes. The increasing scale and diminishing return occurring simultaneously is what leads not to the symmetrical bell curve, but to the the shark fin of Seneca's cliff...

As I drove home for the life I of me I couldn't remember how I possibly worked ERoEI into the 83 gigajoule number. Whatever I did to when I wrote

My out of the blue made up ERoEI numbers must show something close to the real ratio of ERoEI change 1960:2012. My rough roundings would have 50 gigajoules/capita/year in 1960 increasing to ~83 by 2012. The chart posted on 'My Finite World,' March 12, 2012 shows gigajoules/capita/year going from 50-80 between 1960 and 2010.

was bogus as the gigajoule/capita/year is not a net number so there is no way I could have arrived at it using my made up ERoEI ratios. I was going to delete that paragraph if you hadn't replied as it was not at all material the the rest of my post anyway. Fortunately it doesn't figure into your reply.

Your point on the squeeze is valid, but it assumes fossil fuel production will stall out without other energy sources coming on line to replace them. Hardly an off the wall assumption and one that has been the at the very core of the TOD message. But that is not entirely a given. If some pie in the sky tech like orbiting PV emerged and was able to deliver say 100,000 MTOE/a but only had an ERoEI of 3:1 humanity would be awash in energy, at least by today's standards. Sure it would take near 33,000 MTOE/a (better than double our total production now) to produce the 100,000 but there would be over 66,000 MTOE/a left over to party with. My could we start cooking this place to a cinder with that coming on line--or not--enough energy and we we can fab about everything that our society generally uses with replicators errr I mean 3D printers. There is the techno cornucopia that makes all those in the church of doom gag ?-) I'm not holding my breath for it either, at least not this side of a bottleneck or two. The middle path between 'crush' and 'copia' is major efficiency gains coupled with far less energy intensive lifestyles. The pace of our moving toward adopting that untried middle routes hasn't taken anyone's breath away. But we can all be grateful to Randyfor helping to break trail, and can only hope those paths will be followed, extended and widened.


I'm now officially out of here. See you on other sites.

Leaving with a qoute. Nothing seems better than this.

Great Spirit, Maker of All Life. A warrior goes to you swift and straight as
an arrow shot into the sun. Welcome him and let him take his place at the council
fire of my people. He is Uncas, my son. Tell them to be patient and ask death
for speed; for they are all there but one - I, Chingachgook - Last of the Mohicans.

Good bye.

Goodbye Everybody, I love you all.

What he said.

What the Jedi and the Old Farmer said...


It was fun while it lasted :-)

And thanks to all the staff.

Bye all.

Yes - goodbye to all of you and like Randy I shall not cast a shadow across your doorsteps any longer.

Thank you once again to the staff and the hard work they did.

Couldn't have said it better.


Alas, poor TOD! I knew it, fellow lurkers; a place of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; it hath borne me on it’s back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those comments that I have read I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar?

no slight intended to the Bard.

Thanks to everyone.

Just wanted to press the "Save" button one more time before the place goes dark...another small pleasure lost to the passage of time. I'll miss you all.


So, the end is nigh. As if people here didn't expect it, without putting a date on it, including some of the more colorful loons, like Oil CEO Jr.

Reading about the start of TOD, Yankee's role seems lacking.

Still a fine resource, but like groklaw, things reach an end.

As the sun sets on TOD I, like others am desperate to click on that "Save" button one last time. So even though I'm terribly preoccupied with other matters at the moment, I thought it fitting that this last thread is on a subject that has been in the back of my mind constantly since discovering Peak Oil.

I live on a small tropical island at aboiut 18 degrees latitude. The ocean around us has an amazing moderating effect on the temperatures we experience. Sunlight can be fairly intense all year round, capable of inflicting some serious sunburn within about half an hour at mid day, on caucasian visitors from the northern hemisphere in the middle of the northern hemisphere winter but, mid day temperatures seldom exceed the mid 30s C (mid 90s F) in the shade, even in mid summer. In the winter, minimum temperatures seldom go below about 22 C (70 F). Humidity is almost always high.

As a result, the challenges faced by people in temperate climates with keeping the house warm during winter nights dont exist. At worst on a really "cold" tropical night, a moderately heavy blanket will suffice at bed time and a sweater before that. The real challenge is maintaing a comfortable environment during the humid summers and dealing with the various forms of termites, moulds and fungus that will attack wood. Untreated steel rusts with amazing speed especially close to the coastline where even aluminium tends to corrode relatively quickly under the influence of salt from the sea breezes.

In the last half century or so, cinder block reinforced with steel rebar has dominated in the construction of buildings with concrete slab roofs being popular, especially after the passage of hurricanes which, reveal the weaknesses of improperly built wooden roofs. The end result is that the vast majority of buildings, including the one I live in, are very uncomfortable without air conditioning with the cinder block walls and slab roofs absorbing heat from the sun all day and radiating it inward on the occupants all night. At the same time, most of the currently available labour pool seem to be very used to building these "bad" designs and might even find building anything else a bit of a learning curve.

Air conditiones installed in these circumstances have to work very hard against the high heat load and with electricity at 42 US cents per kWh trying to combat the bad design with air conditioning, can cost a small fortune.

Ironically some of the more comfortable buildings are the oldest ones, built before the advent of electricity, refrigeration and air conditioning. My dad's homestead in rural Jamaica is a good example. Built before electricity was available in the local community, by a wealthy land owner who could afford to have his own private electricity supply, it has high ceilings and lots of big sash windows with shutters on the outside for protection from hurricanes and security. If it weren't for the fact that the shingle roof had been replaaced by corrugated galvanized steel sheeting, it would be even cooler in the middle of the day during summer.

The problem is that termites have ravaged just about all of the parts of the house made fron untreated imported lumber. Treated lumber and cedar (Cedrela odorata) has survived. The cedar is very good for it's resistance to termites and rot but is somewhat soft and expensive with some people disliking the same thing that makes the termites avoid it, it's strong smell.

At some point, probably when my 95 year old father decides it's time to move on up, I may want to rebuild a house to replace the existing termite infested structure. Does anybody here know of a really good resource for techniques for building a comfortable house for a humid tropical climate? Most of the stuff I encounter seems to be focused on keeping buildings warm during cold temperate winters. What I want is a house that is resistant to rot and termites (concrete?) and cool during hot summer nights, preferably without air conditioning. We also want to be abe to batten down and secure the house and contents easily for the occasional but, inevitable hurricane.

The existing house basically has rainwater harvesting covered (close to 5,000 gallons of storage with another 1000 gallons to be added) and I plan to install the solar PV gear (Outback off-grid) within the next year.

With that, let me bid all you wondrfull folks farewell. I know where to find many of the former stalwarts on their personal blogs/web sites or favourite hangouts (speculawyer at the EV sites for example) but I will miss having a single central site where lots of people from diverse bakgrounds hang out. Here's hoping that TEX or some other site steps up to fill the void left in our lives!

Alan from the islands