The ELP Plan: Economize; Localize & Produce

This is a guest post by Jeffrey J. Brown, known to all of you as westexas.

In this article I will further expound on my reasoning behind the ELP plan, otherwise known as "Cut thy spending and get thee to the non-discretionary side of the economy."

I have been advising for anyone who would listen to voluntarily cut back on their consumption, based on the premise that we were probably headed, in a post-Peak Oil environment, for a prolonged period of deflation in the auto/housing/finance sectors and inflation in food and energy prices.

To put our current rate of worldwide crude oil consumption in perspective, during George W. Bush's first term, the world used about 10% of all crude oil that has been consumed to date, and based on our mathematical models, the world will use about 10% of our remaining conventional crude oil reserves during George W. Bush's second term.

First, a discussion of our current economy.

The Current Economy, "The Iron Triangle" & The Mortgage Meltdown

Author Thom Hartmann, in his book, "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," described a high tech company that he consulted for that went through several rounds of start up financing, and then collapsed, without ever delivering a real product. At the peak of their activity, that had several employees and lavish office space--until they ran out of capital. His point was that this company was analogous to a large portion of the US economy, which has the appearance of considerable activity and uses vast amounts of energy, but how much of this economic activity delivers essential goods and services?

I have read, and it seems reasonable, that the majority of Americans live off the discretionary income of other Americans. We are therefore facing a wrenching transformation of the US economy--from an economy focused on meeting "wants" to an economy focused on meeting needs--and the jobs of a vast number of Americans are thereby directly threatened in a post-Peak Oil environment.

I have described three segments of what I call the Iron Triangle: (1) The auto/housing/finance group (the "Debt" group); (2) The mainstream media group (the "MSM" group) and (3) Some major oil companies, some major oil exporters and some energy analysts (the "Energy" Group).

The Debt Group wants Americans to keep buying and financing large SUV's and houses. The MSM Group wants to keep selling advertising to the Debt Group. The Energy Group provides the intellectual ammunition for the Debt Group and the MSM Group, i.e., we have trillions and trillions of barrels of remaining oil reserves, and Peak Oil is something that we don't have to worry about for decades.

Unfortunately, the net effect of the efforts of the Iron Triangle is to encourage Americans to continue buying and financing large SUV's and houses at great distances from their jobs, because higher oil production, and thus lower fuel prices, are right around the corner.

The US Mortgage Meltdown was inevitable, but in my opinion, the trigger for the meltdown was the increase in oil prices in the second quarter of 2005. The US Personal Saving Rate metric is not perfect, but it is a consistent measurement, and in recent years it was positive--until the second quarter of 2005. It has been negative ever since the second quarter (April, May, June) of 2005 .

The average monthly Brent spot crude oil price, in the 20 months prior to May, 2005 (the middle of the second quarter) was $38 per barrel. The average price after May, 2005 has been about $62, within a range of $54 to $74. I believe that this increase in energy prices was the final straw that pushed many US households into a negative saving rate, triggering the current wave upon wave of foreclosures.

Daniel Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA), in 2004 predicted that the long term oil price would be $38 per barrel, because rising crude oil production would force oil prices down in order to equalize supply and demand. In reality, flat to declining crude oil production since May, 2005 has forced prices up in order to equalize supply and demand.

Those who listened to the false promises of energy abundance made by CERA, et al, have had considerable reason to regret it.

What have I and others been advocating? Let's start with Economize.

ELP: Economize

For some time, I have suggested a thought experiment. Assume that your income dropped by 50%. How would you change your lifestyle?

Many employees of Circuit City don't have to imagine such a scenario. Many higher paid employees at Circuit City have been fired and then been told that they are welcome to apply for their old jobs, subject to about a 50% pay cut.

In my opinion, the unfortunate new reality is that we are going to see a growing labor surplus--against the backdrop of deflation in the auto/housing/finance sectors and inflation in food and energy prices. By reducing your expenses now, while you can do it voluntarily, you will at least be better prepared for whatever the future may bring.

A key way to Economize is to Localize.

ELP: Localize

I recommend that you try to reduce the distance between work and home to as close to zero as possible, and furthermore, that you live in smaller, much more energy efficient housing, preferably close to mass transit lines.

If you can walk or take mass transit to work, in many cases you can get by without a car, or least fewer cars--and save considerable amounts of money. Currently, it costs about $7,500 per year to drive the average late model US car about 15,000 miles per year. As gasoline prices increase, and as depreciation rates probably also increase, the cost per mile of driving cars will continue to increase.

I would further recommend that you integrate yourself into your local community. Get to know your neighbors. Become involved in local government, etc.

I would especially recommend support of local food producers, perhaps via Community Supported Agriculture, and support of local manufacturing and local businesses.

Finally, the Produce recommendation.

ELP: Produce

Jim Kunstler has suggested that we should not celebrate being largely a nation of consumers. I agree with Jim. We need to once again become a nation of producers. I recommend that you try to become, or work for, a provider of essential goods and services.

Key recommended sectors are obviously energy--conventional, non conventional and alternative energy production and energy conservation--as well as food production, especially local organic farming close to towns and cities.

Other sectors to consider are repair and maintenance, low cost energy efficient housing, low cost transportation, basic health care, etc.

The biggest risk to family finances is trying to maintain the SUV, suburban mortgage way of life in a period of contracting energy supplies. Beyond that, one of the next biggest risks in my opinion, is excessive and unwise spending--especially debt financed spending--on college education costs.

While we will desperately need engineers and many other technically qualified graduates, we are seeing wave upon wave of college graduates entering the work force with degrees that very poorly prepare them for work in a post-Peak Oil environment. We may ultimately see college graduates competing with illegal immigrants for agricultural jobs.

Perhaps the best education investment that many young people could make is a two year associate degree in some kind of repair/maintenance area, perhaps with summer jobs in the agricultural sector.

I would especially recommend that you consider buying, perhaps with a joint venture group, a small farm, either currently organic, or that can be converted to an organic farm. In the short term, if nothing else you could lease it out to an organic farmer. Longer term, you might consider building or moving a prefab, small energy efficient house to the farm. If nothing else, this plan may provide a place of work for your unemployed college graduate.

I think that "Tiny Houses" will become more popular, as larger homes are no longer viable. Where there are jobs nearby, many McMansions could be subdivided, but absent local job centers, I expect large swaths of American suburbia to be essentially abandoned. As Jim Kunstler warned, American suburbs represent the "Worst misallocation of capital in the history of the world."

Very small (250 square feet or so), highly energy efficient, perhaps prefabricated housing makes a lot of sense, and this may become a growth sector.

I should confess that I in no way have a green thumb, but others certainly do, and there are some very encouraging case histories of Americans doing quite well with their own "Victory Gardens" so to speak, such as this case history: "Berkeley: Urban farmers produce nearly all their food with a sustainable garden in their backyard."

How have people responded to these recommendations?

The Responses Thus Far

Two responses, from recent years, are illustrative.

First, the West Texan. After outlining my plan, a friend of mine from West Texas thought about it for a moment and then said, "But if we stop borrowing and spending, what will happen to the economy?"

Second, the Dallas socialite. Again after outlining my plan, this lady said, "You're not from Dallas, are you?" I replied that I was not. To which she said, "No one raised in Dallas would ever talk about living below their means."

So, living below one's means, at least in years past, was somehow considered vaguely un-American and socially unacceptable.

However, recently people who have followed some version of the ELP plan, either because of my recommendations, or based on their own evaluation of the present environment, have had considerable reasons to be glad that they voluntarily downsized. So far, I have not heard any regrets from anyone who downsized.

Or, turn it around. Does anyone now wish that they had bought a large SUV and large suburban McMansion--all with 100% financing--on January 1, 2006?

Finally, if we are wrong about Peak Oil, and if you followed the ELP plan, you will have less--or no--debt, more money in the bank, and a lower stress way of life.

Please note that the next essay in this series probably won't be posted until the week of April 16th. I will be doing ELP research, checking out post-Peak Oil locales.

Jeffrey J. Brown is an independent petroleum geologist in the Dallas, Texas area. His e-mail address is

WT - First off I really appreciate your message. It is what I have been doing and talking about for 5+ years.
Also you might concider central willamette valley Oregon for your relocation, we got the ELP thing going on here.

Something very important to add to the mix.

Steorn is an industrial design / product development firm in Ireland. Best known for their tech solutions in ATM, magnetic strip card reading devices, etc. Highly successful with serious revenue streams from their patents.

They have developed a device that generates move electricity than it consumes, (this is where most people invariably dismiss the notion mumbling something about second law, thermodynamics, yada yada).

There are several reasons I have for believing they are real;

They are well respected and stand to loose millions in development contracts if it is a hoax.

They are not switching or working the magnet, in other words stressing it or relying simply on repel / attract, (that kind. They are doing something involving circumnavigating the poles of the magnetic field, as best I can understand it.

They are currently under a review process by a large group of scientist around the globe as they understand that they are challenging the laws of physics, this also serves to rapidly expose the tech far and wide to avoid repression and monopolization. Providing free to third world Countries.

It is scalable from cell phone power to home generation.

This is real and needs to be factored into all of our considerations in going forward.

I have no clue what it will take to get one in the basement of each house, under the hood of each SUV but I do know that that is what is going to be attempted.

This is either the most exciting development ever or the worst thing that could happen right now. For the life of me I can’t decide which.

They have made a new announcement today. Very interesting!!!

Thank you for sharing your expertise, and your clear message. I've made some adjustments that have already helped, and plan to getting more community proactive.
If a series of miracles keeps PO from becoming a problem, I'll still be living a higher quality life. Thanks again.

Well, whatever company it is, second law of thermodynamics is more respectfull. At least, it've never failed on anybody for centuries... What is much more than any company can achieve.

I'll belive when it becomes a huge company, and its owner very rich, and yada yada :)

While I am extremely sceptical about the liklihood of this free energy being real, the end result, were it to be true, would be catastophic. Think reindeer, petri dishes, etc. We would not be able to stop our unquenchable consumption and we would find another 500 reasons to perish.

Yes, treeman it could be catastophic.

Ahavah B.'s down thread post is a prime example of why energy from the vacuum is not a panacea. There is still a problem – people.

Where IS that 'Theory of Everything' ?

souperman, your comment on ELP might find a better home under Robert Rapier's article on TDL...the again,m aybe I've been eating too much alphabet soup!

If this sytem works then they would have built a "zero fuel car" or an "ever-burning lightbulb" or some other very persuasive "instant" demo.

The fact that they haven't done this probably means that it only (seems to) work on a very small hard-to-measure scale.

In other words they are getting just a few (possibly) excess microwatts out of a load of whirring magnets etc.

If I had a free-energy device I would mortgage the house and build an aeroplane to fly to the USA and back again without landing. The world's corporations & governments would queue at your door after such a demo.

This reminds me of that so-called anti-gravity machine based on whirring gyroscopes. The box shook so much that it was not clear if it weighed less then usual or not. See:

they stand to loose millions in development contracts if it is a hoax.

Steorn was an e-commerce marketing group. this is likely a stunt of theirs so they can draw in future clients. "hey look at the publicity we got for the free energy thing."

The clients in the future don't have to disclose that they're working with STeorn once the "Free energy" jig is up so any loss in reputation will have no effect on their business prospects. What they will have is proof that they are capable of generating MASSIVE buzz . . ..

I must admit that I'm currently still in 2 minds about what to do.

I'm 26, engaged, and have 2000m² of land in the north of France, about 35km from where I work (but since I'm in IT, I can use teleworking to cut that dow if need be) and am currently debt free, and live on more or less half my income.

I'm currently investing in insulation/heat pump, and am considering trying to make a lot of the energy infrastructure I'd need post peak (passive solar heating on the south wall of the house, home made wind + looking at how I could jerry rig lights/fridge etc with what I would have on hand). It's fun and even if nothing happens CERAiously, I'll have almost no utility bills left.

The garden is planned for this fall.

I suppose that I'm already doing some things, but I can't help but feel that come post peak, I'll either be caught out by the economic downturn (even post peak, they'll be taxes to pay), or find that I haven't planned enough (food shortages etc).

Any ideas on what else I could do, short of leaving it all behind and becoming a subsistance farmer?

Also, as for post peak jobs, how would 'technologist' come in? ie someone who can take some wood, and some cable, and put an alternator together etc...

David aka The Welsh Dwarf

As long as France has her nuclear reactors and the Foreign Legion to help gather uranium, I would not fear for the French grid.

France has a lot of things going for her post-Peak Oil, not least of which is the Foreign Legion.

OTOH, political stability is a historic problem.

Best Hopes for France,


And thanks for the help after Katrina. If only Washington had the attitude of Paris... Viva la France :-)

The reactors are great short term, and it's true that the electric rail is a real bonus, OTOH, the country is fairly big, which means a large grid. ATM repairs are fairly rapid, but in a doomer scenario, the shear size of the thing would be it's undoing, so it's good to have, but also good to keep safeguards ready.

Also, you can't eat current, and France's economy is still largely services based, which is as anti-ELP as you can get.

I don't think anywhere will escape PO unscathed.


Largely service-based economy, yet more than self-sufficient in food. Farming is not, in general, on a huge industrial scale, but likely to be sustainable as long as there's enough fuel to run modest sized tractors.

Alistair (living in the Massif Central)

True true,

Also the markets will help feed a lot of people (by market I mean small gathering of farmers in the town square, not the other kind ;) )

As long as France has her nuclear reactors and the Foreign Legion to help gather uranium, I would not fear for the French grid.

Let's not get carried away. The largest uranium reserves are in Australia and Canada. Neither country is likely to tell the French to keep their money.

If we are to believe in things we cannot see or touch, how do we tell the true belief from the false belief?

I think a good next step could be to convince your neighbours to do the same kind of efficiency investments.
You could perhaps even install them as a part time job.

And it would be good to get to know your neighbours. Trust and help each other. That also makes for better living regardless of peak oil and you will get help with your garden if you fall and break a leg.

Perhaps you also could get into municipiality politics? I dont know about how such things are arranged in France but maybe the nearest village is dense enough for district heating and a miniature combined heat and power plant. If that gets built you will have the local services working with heat and power if there would be a major grid disturbance. I know some municipialities in Sweden has such plans.

Just a reminder that regardless of what year we peak or peaked, Robert Rapier has also been recommending (and implementing) the ELP concept.

Also, I believe that we are also both on board with some type of energy consumption tax.

My personal preference is for an energy consumption tax, to be primarily used to fund Social Security/Medicare, offset by cutting or eliminating the Payroll (Social Security + Medicare) Tax.

Finally, I recommend, if you can, that you take a weekend trip to Portland, Oregon and stay downtown--without a car. The Max line runs from the airport to downtown. See how it is possible to live in an urban environment, without a car, using your two feet, bicycles, light rail and streetcars. Some of the people that I talked to in Portland didn't even have a driver's license.

I came away from our recent trip to Portland more convinced than ever that Alan Drake should be president. IMO, we should all be pushing hard for Electrification of Transportation in our own communities. Alan and I are discussing putting together a joint presentation: Peak Oil & Electrification of Transportation: A Necessity Not a Choice.

Among the other reasons, IMO we are rapidly approaching the point where we will need jobs for a lot of people that will be laid off as discretionary spending contracts.

I think your missing the biggest issue post peak. I've looked into our current manufacturing base and the way we produce goods. Generally its based on JIT (Just in time) processes and integration of supply chain and customers CRM. This is a incredibly fragile system if stressed by peak oil and it will almost certainly break down. Whole factories will be idled for the lack of one key part and loss of contact with the manufacture either because of economic or political reasons.

For example if the supply of platinum is disrupted.
We have less than one year before goods that depend on platinum in their manufacture would be seriously curtailed.

These sorts of weak links in our current manufacturing system are immense.

Taking a electric rail to a factory closed for lack of critical parts is not that useful.

If we don't take a hard look at how our manufacturing systems work I don't see most of it lasting for any length of time in the case of either financial or political stress.
America and most of the industrialized world has feet mode of very wet slippery clay. Critical shortages will quickly bring our current industrial base to a halt.

Not factoring this in to ELP makes ELP a theoretical argument not a practical solution. I enjoy talking about ELP as much as the next person but I don't see it as even close to a realistic solution.

I agree with you. But there's nothing we can do about it.

So ELP, or die.

The point is ELP does not work as proposed because we no longer have the manufacturing base to support it.

During WWII we still had a lot of vertical integration but this is long long gone. ELP requires vertical integration and consistent sources of materials.

Not to mention that production maximized for cost and volume is not even close to the right way to produce goods in a ELP scenario.

Simple things like fuel shortages in Africa that prevent raw material shipments will rapidly degrade our current system.
Nothing against ELP but we have to take a critical look at what it would really entail.

Given the amount of investment needed and our current world financial system ELP for all practical purposes a fantasy.
Your a lot better off to focus on how you can build a comfortable life with only the resources available with 100 square miles of your location. Electric trains are not part of this picture unless we have a 100% vertical solution for the manufacture of all critical components.

Thus you again need the government to recognize peak oil and support the recreation of vertical industry.
Not going to happen.

In the meantime you need to think like a African and not a American and figure out how to create goods and services with limited capabilities. ELP is a great idea but understand the hurdles we face on really implementing it.

unless we have a 100% vertical solution for the manufacture of all critical components

You should have visited the Carrollton Barn before Katrina, where our transit agency maintains 35 Perley Thomas's, built in 1923 & 1924 (and one 1897 workcar).

We built 24 new streetcars for the Canal line there as well. The body subassemblies were sourced within 100 miles. The trucks from Brookville PA, the controls from Pennsylvania and the air conditioning from the Czech Republic (with American parts).

Best Hopes,


This is exactly the sort of issues that should be addressed as part of the solution. I suspect your suppliers still had a lot of weak points that would need to be addressed. A real ELP solution requires complete documentation of the supply chain.
All technical documents required to produce a part and sourcing multiple trustworthy suppliers and repair shops.
Not to mention stockpiling spares to handle extended loss o suppliers until another can be found.

I'm glad you posted this and not surprised New Orleans took a pragmatic approach.


I recall an old article I think by Amory Lovins that described where all the materials and parts for the typewriter he wrote the article on came from. 0% came from the good old USA. I believe something like 37 countries were listed. The drive to maximize profits means we no longer have the expertise to make most of what we use.

Hi memmel,

re: "...unless we have a 100% vertical solution for the manufacture of all critical components."

I'd like to encourage this line of thought.

There are some big hurdles, but also a few "aces up the sleeve".

My training and work experience is as an Industrial Engineer, also called a Manufacturing Engineer. One of the guys who figured out how to produce things - though unfortunately we often got assigned to figuring out how to produce good products much more cheaply, or how to source all the expensive parts from cheap countries. :o(

One of the big hurdles is that much of what is currently classified as "manufacturing" in the US is actually "assembly". Manufacturing is upgrading raw material into an item, assembly is putting together a collection of manufactured items.

True manufacturing relies on equipment (lathes, presses, dies, foundries, etc). Producing or reviving this equipment is a likely first step.

Assembly mostly relies on organization (sourcing parts, inventory, training the assemblers, occasional specialty tools)

Shifting towards the "Produce" goal will mean a bigger emphasis on true manufacturing. Though of course we will always need to assemble these items also.

One "ace in the hole" is the CAD/CAM capabilities we now have. CAD/CAM = Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing. This tech is mostly being used in either tool and die shops to produce molds for plastic injection machines (think Tupperware, electronics housings, disposable doo-dads) or in prototype shops (making show-and-tell samples of the items just listed).

There is no technical reason these machines and their skilled machinists and designers couldn't instead make:
* parts for new manufacturing equipment
* critical repair and replacement parts
* patterns for foundry work
ESPECIALLY if the design focuses on making manufacturing equipment that is flexible, uses little or simple energy, is labor enhacing instead of labor eliminating. Copying some of the 1940's through 1960's designs for equipment would be a good start...

Greg in MO
Easy Digging: Dig faster than a shovel, with less effort!

Greg in MO

My next mildly capital intensive purchase is going to be an electric welder, I want to be able to build items like a pedicab, light bike trailer, wheel hoe and other tools. There seems to be a variety of new types of electric welders on the market with things like wire feed and gas. What would a small household or farm be advised to buy for after Peak? Keep it basic or go for the extras? Buy lots of rods or use ?.

Possibly you might speak about any other things like small metal lathes etc. which might go well with that New Economy we hope will evolve.

I think there may be an article here, 'The Tools We
Will Fight and Die For, After P.O.' :-)


Regarding welders. The ones you are speaking of are MIG welders. Wire feed and can use shielded argon or other gas. HOWEVER most of these are just toys. They can hardly go beyond 1/8 steel and shouldn't be used for that really since the weld is very weak and can cause many problems later.

If you go MIG then best to go to a real machine and that is very expensive. For instance its hard to weld aluminum with a mig for the wire will kink in the hose feed channel so you need a spool at the tip handle where you won't have feed problems and this add further expense..yada yada.

My favorite farm welder is a simple AC/DC 250 output 'stick' welder. SMAG I believe it the correct name. This can make some real welds. Again aluminum and stainless can be done but you need good rods and good skills.

But for mild steel you can't beat the old 'buzzbox'.

A good oxyacetylene setup is very handy. I have a small one and own my cylinders. You really need these to cut with , weld sometimes and braze a lot.

The rental on tanks has become very expense and filling a tank has also risen very much.

Buy a bunch of 6011 and 6013 rods. Most of what you will use. I have a auto helmet(or did til my buddy got hold of it). It was $400 but worth every penny of it.

You will also need a good anvil in at least the 100 to 200 lbs range. A coal forge is nice. I had three forges and 10 anvils but alas the farm auction 3 yrs ago(no PO on horizon) took them away.

So welding is something very important on the farm in that most every one here has equipment in their sheds , if they do anything serious. A good aircompressor is also necessary.

The list gets bigger and bigger.

Several good logging chains are usually needed.

Airdale's suggestions of a simple stick welder and/or oxy-acetylene torch is a good one. Often there are inexpensive adult-ed classes where you can learn to use this gear AND figure out which tool really fits your likely needs. For heavy duty welding (farm machinery, trailers, structural) a powerful stickwelder is a must. For lighter welding a lower power stick welder OR brazing with a torch is okay. A set of small "plumbers tanks", a brazing torch and a cutting torch makes a good multi-purpose portable combo. Brazing rod is pretty cheap, and you can use salvaged light steel rod or wire in a pinch (from old bed box springs or concrete reinforcing mesh perhaps?)

For the uses you mentioned above I think I would stick with the torch and hire out the rare heavy welding job.

For actual metal shaping on a home-scale basis the options get a bit more unconventional. This will sound odd, but I would really recommend KNOWLEDGE and a good collection of high-quality manual metal working tools like files, hacksaws, drill bits, taps, dies, micrometers, calipers, bluing, scrapers, lapping compound, and a good vise.

Sounds strange doesn't it? Check out the some of the old machinist's books reprinted and sold through Lindsay's Technical Books It is amazing how much machining used to be done with a vise and a file. Takes some practice, and some time, but the price is right :o)

After basic metalcutting tools and some sort of welder, the next priority would be a toss up between a small benchtop mill and some basic casting equipment. There is a lot of info in the Lindsay books on both types of equipment.

I built one of their charcoal foundry set-ups and had great fun melting old zinc diecast lawnmower bodies and casting new things with the liquid metal. A local foundry gave me a couple 5 gallon buckets of professional casting sand for free, and I could make casting boxes and patterns with woodworking tools. It was really neat to take a broken cast part from some old thing I wanted to fix, glue it together long enough to act as a pattern, then pour a clone of it with zinc or aluminum.

I wish I could offer suggestions on a benchtop mill, but so many of the new ones are "Made in China" and have a poor reputation. Grizzly had a decent rep last I heard, but do check online for actual owner reviews. You could also search for an old American or European made machine.

Hope this helps,

Greg in MO
Easy Digging: Dig faster than a shovel, with less effort!

It would be nice to concentrate all of this information into a searchable dvd format. Also cad/cam drawings could easily go to a computer enabled mill. With a bit of though we could easily covert a lot of the old technology to computer controlled to eliminate some of the needed expertise for simple problems. I'm not saying you don't need and expert but I think that working out how to build something that can work via computer control could really help in creating a viable small manufacturing set up that does not need a expert making simple stuff at each mill.

I'd of course like to work it all the way out so you could even create computers. If you only need to make a few chips then you would be amazed at how easy it is if you have or can build the right equipment esp if you only need low end cpu's. As long as you can get functional cpu's you don't need the high yields required for cheap commercial manufacture. Its simply a matter of working all the way up to the required equipment and material purification.

Sounds a bit crazy I know but why not ? Most of it is not rocket science but doing each small step correctly. Fluidic based system created from stamps is another fascinating solution. Silicon ain't the only way to create a computer.

a small gas-powered welder that can be switched to runn on"woodgas" is on my list,with sealed cans of 7018 electrod,as well as a "buzz-box"ac/dc welder to use standard power,if avalible.stockpile sealed cans of electrod e-6010,e-6011,e7018,and you can fabricate/repair most items

In the plant that I work for we have in house Cad/Cam. Some critcal repair parts are designed in house and then made in our machine shop. This saves alot of money over going back to the OEM. However, some parts we cannot make eg. sensors and bearings. Our equipment is very specialized and some parts are hard to obtain. Just in time and lean manufacturing I think post peak will be difficult. Think of the situations were a single part is rush delivered so that a production schedule can be met. I have had to do this on occasion where a supplier will call a special delivery company to drive 2 hours to deliver a bearing to our plant. I have even had to have parts flown in on overnight express.

This critical failure problem will be a huge issue post peak.
Consider your problem when fuel supplies are uncertain. Our manufacturing systems could easily unravel quickly. Idling your plant causing you to lose money and leading to a cascading chain reaction of failures as JIT processes break down. The rush to stockpile critical parts will lead to further disruptions. This is a real and looming threat.

Couple this with current and resulting financial problems as orders go unfilled and cash flow becomes uncertain and you have a perfect storm brewing.

Copying some of the 1940's through 1960's designs for equipment would be a good start...

As an engineer, I was fascinated by the 7 Riverfront streetcars and 24 Canal streetcars built in our 1884 Carrollton streetcar (which also maintains 35 Perley Thomas streetcars, built 1923/24, for the St. Charles Line).

Elmer von Dullen (Blessed be his name :-) started in the electrical shop in 1954 (his father before him). Worked his way up, worked in every aspect of streetcar operation & maintenance except carpentry (but he knows that as well).

Elmer said "We can build them in house" and did !

He took the 1920s design, 70+ years of operating experience and made over 100 detail changes to improve weaknesses in the design he had observed (ANYTHING that broke, bent, rusted or just wore out; he changed). His new folding step is a masterprice as one example. Cast iron supports rotating on a mild steel shaft have been replaced by cast steel supports rotating nylon bushings over a stainless steel shaft with improved linkage.

Modern materials and technology incorporated throughout; but wood still had a useful function (no wood-wood joins though, except in the mahogany seats). Oak, white ash and mahogany from memory were used, each wood type for a certain function (public only sees mahogany; and it is stunning; seats & trim inside).

He says that the Perley Thomas's may have 75 years left in them; but the new Canal streetcars should last 500 years.

And I believe him !

(The trucks may run into stress fractures in 80 to 120 years).

Best Hopes,

Alan Drake

Body sides are 3/8" Corten steel (upgraded from 1/4" mild steel). Frame is now an "L" and it has been lengthened. Rivets have been replaced with round head bolts that torque off.

thanks all you guys in this little thread. this is the way to a future

HI Greg,

Thanks so much for responding, I have so little time to read that I'm getting back here late.

1) One thing I've wondered about for quite a while and haven't had time to research:

Is it possible to manufacture a bicycle in the US today - "from scratch"? ie., I believe there are no more US bicycle manufacturers (last one was Huffy?). Still was wondering...Are there still US steel mills? and how difficult would it be to set up a US manufacturing plant?

2) I'd really like to see you expand what you're saying here, write it up and post as a guest article.

It would be a good step to look at the feasibility of "re-localization" of some basic manufacturing.
(Yes, Grey, I understand overshoot. We're getting to that.)

Hi Aniya,

Thanks for the thought about doing a post on local manufacturing, but I'm pretty busy this Spring with getting my new garden/digging/trenching tool business launched. It is (though I have been noodling ideas for being able to make these forged digging tools locally since they are so well adapted to small-scale low-capital farming)

On your question about bicycle manufacturing in the US...yes, it would be fairly easy. We still have steel mills and tubing mills here that can make the raw materials (as well as aluminum extruders for even lighter bikes). The more complex parts like the pedal housing and front fork housing are basic machined parts. Gears and chain parts can be stamped, which is very basic old tech. Forming the details at the end of tubes is well known and fairly simple.

The movement of bike production overseas most likely happened in pursuit of cheaper labor rates. There would be quite a bit of labor involved in building bicycles.

I did a Google search on "tube fabrication tools" and found these sites with good pictures:
...then went searching for "bicycle tube fabrication" and found these:
...even found a place with a CAD programs for bike designs:

Are you thinking about setting up a local bike plant?

There are also some neat designs out there for bikes with virtually no tubing in them.

There has been some exploration into post-peak local manufacturing. I think it was by a group associated with the guy who wrote "High Noon for Natural Gas" but I can't remember his name...

Greg in MO


Totally agree. Jeffrey and I have discussed this via the phone. In general sympathies we agree except that I see this kicking our asses back to the stone age after a brief period of "depression-like" times that last 2-to-5 years, mabye 10 if we get lucky. During that period, living in a place like Portland and ELPing is a great strategy. But beyond that period, it's ROI will fall quite a bit.

Once the positive feedback loops really kick in, the ones described in the article on Nigeria by Jeff Vail, it's a short ride off the Olduvai cliff.

I hope to have relocated to a corner of the world where I think it will be possible to eke out a stone age level of existence with dignity for the time when ELP stops working.
But till then ELP is the way to go.

memmel, your point about our lack of local manufacturing is a worthwhile one to raise. And as you further note, we "need the government to recognize peak oil and support the recreation of vertical industry." About which you predict: "Not going to happen."

Of course, as it stands right now, that's exactly how it looks. It is not happening now, and it may not happen tomorrow... but then again, it might. As Yogi Berra noted: "The future ain't what it used to be."

In the meantime, and without waiting for our government to act responsibly and help us here, IMO Jeffery's ELP advice is none the less helpful and wise, even if it doesn't cover all the bases. Your POV about this missing base of local production capacity is a valid one, but that doesn't in and of itself justify your pronouncement that Jeffery's ELP ideas, or Alan's about the need for electric trains, are useless or not *realistic.*

I'm quite capable of understanding that Jeffery's, or Alan's, or anybody else's thoughts and ideas about dealing with PO are not the complete-all-in-one and only solution(s) to our predicament. Harping on how they aren't and otherwise running down what otherwise are humanly decent (even tho incomplete) suggestions of HELP is annoying! So, could you please refrain yourself here. Thanks.

One of my ways of ELP preparation with an eye to what you have mentioned about not being able to get parts when needed post PO is to start stocking up on them now. For example, I have a Bergey 1500 windmill up and running on my homestead for which I have a stock of pre-ordered back-up parts to repair it with.

I don't know if this is typical of most PO aware Americans or not. But having extra parts now is part of my ELP strategy, while also hoping that the used and broken parts can be scavenged, repaired, and re-used should Bergey in a post PO day be incapable of providing me. And perhaps in this there is a bit of thinking like an African just like how the Senegalese keep their cars running with scavenged used parts.

It may not be perfect or cover all the bases -- hell, it may one day be completely useless. Still, it's something I can do without waiting on my government to tell me we need to do, and that's a lot better than doing nothing or knocking what anyone else wisely advises us to try and do.

Hence, my thanks go to westexas for sharing his thoughts. They are realistic enough in my book for now and that's not at all unrealistic.

We have understood at least since Adam Smith that there are big economic gains to be achieved through specialization and division of labor. I have read some on this board who claim that all of the world' industrial-era wealth is due to fossil fuel, but that isn't true. The efficiencies inherent in increasing specialization and division of labor are at least as important, if not more so.

I really don't think that an unwinding of two hundred centuries of increasing economic efficiency through specialization and division of labor is something that we really want. The fact is that you can't be totally isolated from society and totally "self sufficient" for very long without eventually descending to the same standard of living that Robinson Crusoe had. Small communities that are totally isolated and self sufficient can do a little better, but you are probably looking at a medieval standard of living at best.

To avoid that type of unwinding, we need commerce, which means we need transport. Assuming anything short of of a total doomer-style meltdown, I should remind people that it it does not take all that much energy to move a container ship from Shanghai to Los Angeles. Worst case, we could even go back to sailing ships -- wind power. Nor does it take all that much more energy to move a freight train across the US; they could be electrified and powered by massive PV arrays in a largely vacated and unihabitable parched southwest. Somehow, it can be made to happen. The incentives to make it happen and the downsides of it not being made to happen assure that it will happen.

As I have said elsewhere on this thread, we have the best politicians that money can buy. Those that have done the buying undoubtedly have a considerable personal and financial interest in pulling their bought politician's strings to manage this thing so that the worst case scenario doesn't unfold and they have a chance to preserve their wealth. That requires that it be managed so that there continues to be some transport, some commerce, and some division of labor.

Hi Stefan,

I appreciate your points, though I'd slightly modify "if not more so", to say both the energy input and the invented use of same have been necessary for the result we see.

I'd also like to encourage thinking about the "bigger picture", in addition to Jeffrey's advice here.

re: "Those that have done the buying undoubtedly have a considerable personal and financial interest in pulling their bought politician's strings to manage this thing so that the worst case scenario doesn't unfold and they have a chance to preserve their wealth."

Qs: Are you making the assumption here that the "buyers":
1) know now, or...
2) will know *and* actually understand the ramifications of "peak" (declining FF input)?
3) And can do so (or have done so) in time to take the requisite actions?

To me, this is a questionable assumption, both because of the magnitude of the implications (the necessity to look at almost everything) and the extreme emotional difficulty of the subject.

For example, while it's almost certain the US VP "knows". And the authors of the recent GOA report "know",, (and many others "know" as well.)

Still, we see (for eg.)
" seems to me, is that few if any world leaders understand this enormous, impending dilemma or have any idea what to do about it." (Richard Heinberg, speaking of his visit with representatives of the EU.)

Still, it may be worthwhile to pursue the following line of inquiry:

Yes, positive actions are possible.

Yes, many people have a strong interest in the better outcome.

Q: Do (the "right" people or "enough" people) understand where their best interest actually lies?

Q: Once understanding, can they act in a positive fashion?

Q: What are some plans you see as workable, should the "right persons" be in a position to take them up?

Q: How do we deal with the role of both corporate ( and US military forces in the context of wanting the better outcome?

I'll give a stab at a few of these:

"Qs: Are you making the assumption here that the "buyers":
1) know now, or...
2) will know *and* actually understand the ramifications of "peak" (declining FF input)?
3) And can do so (or have done so) in time to take the requisite actions? "

We are talking here of the top management of Fortune 1000 companies, major foundations and other institutions, managers of pension funds and other pools of cash, other wealthy investors, etc., and their counterparts globally. I can assure you that most of these people do not just rely upon TV news and newpapers (aka MSM) for all of their information. Most rely upon in-house staffs of expert researchers and analysts to let them know what the real situation is shaping up as (in contrast to the obfuscation that is SOP for the MSM). If they don't have in house experts they can contract out, and even those with in house shops sometimes also contract out to get a 2nd opinion. We are talking about people making investment decisions involving millions and billions of dollars. Get it right and they get fat paychecks and bonuses and stock option bonanzas; get it wrong and the gravy train stops.

My read on things right now is that most of them are in a "wait and see" mode; that is not identical with an "ignorance" mode. They are well aware (or at least their advisors are) that oil may be peaking, and that there are implications to that. But it is still too early to know exactly how that will all pan out, especially the rate of supply decline and price increase. I think that we can take it for granted that the decision makers and their advisors will keep on top of this though, and when the wind direction becomes clear many of them will be prepared to make some nimble redeployment decisions with their investements. That includes the investments they have made in the politicians that they have bought.

"Q: Do (the "right" people or "enough" people) understand where their best interest actually lies?"

The corporate and financial elites described above did not reach their positions by misunderstanding where their best interests lie. They are totally focused upon preserving the value of capital investments under their control and maximizing the return on said investments. They have all figured out how to be very good at that one way or the other, or else they wouldn't be where they are. We can indeed assume that they will continue to choose actions that will preserve and maximize the returns on their capital.

"Q: Once understanding, can they act in a positive fashion?"

They can't control the world, they can't suspend the law of supply and demand. They must work with whatever hand reality deals them. We can count upon them to try to do what they can to preserve and maximize their return on capital as much as they possibly can. That does not mean that they won't lose some money; it does mean that they won't just sit on their hands and give up in dispair.

"Q: What are some plans you see as workable, should the "right persons" be in a position to take them up?"

Capital and employment both need to be shifted out of "loser" sectors and into those that will survive and grow. There needs to be a massive relocation of population and of production facilities. Massive investments in rail transport are needed, as well as in things like neighborhood electric vehicles, alternative energy systems, and a wide array of energy conservation measures. All of this and more opens up huge opportunities as well as risk, providing plenty of scope for money to be made. Much of this will require governmental facilitation, as well as keeping urban riots at a minimum and maintaining a functioning legal and financial infrastructure.

"Q: How do we deal with the role of both corporate ( and US military forces in the context of wanting the better outcome?"

I think I already dealt with the corporate side of things above. The US is already experiencing imperial overstretch ("Peak Empire?"). Our military forces will soon be unwelcome in most of the world, and we will not be able to afford the huge cost of foreign adventures, or even of maintaining our forces at current levels. There will have to be a considerable redeployment of federal government resources toward maintaining domestic security, one way or another. We will continue to have a navy tasked with keeping the sea lanes minimally secure, and we'll continue to have an air force and DHS focused on defending the US from terrorist or rogue state attack. We will soon have to realize that it will actually just cost less to outbid other nations on the global oil market than it does to try to secure oil supplies through military means.

We can indeed assume that they will continue to choose actions that will preserve and maximize the returns on their capital.

In that case, can these captains of industry please figure out a replacement for the humble honeybee - and fast? That's 1/3 of our foody supply about to go away . . .

I really don't think that an unwinding of two hundred centuries of increasing economic efficiency through specialization and division of labor is something that we really want.

I don't think "what we want" really enters into it. We may want to maintain that high level of specialization, but if we can't afford it any more, it's gone.

This is what Tainter, etc., addresses. There's an overhead cost to specialization. Basically, the energy it takes to support people and systems that aren't directly producing anything - whose function is to coordinate among the specialists.

I'm sure we will still have trade. We've had trade since the Stone Age, if not earlier. But it wasn't turnips that traveled the Silk Road, it was expensive luxury goods like silk and spices. Stuff it wasn't possible to produce locally, that was worth the cost of transportation.

We have understood at least since Adam Smith that there are big economic gains to be achieved through specialization and division of labor. I have read some on this board who claim that all of the world' industrial-era wealth is due to fossil fuel, but that isn't true. The efficiencies inherent in increasing specialization and division of labor are at least as important, if not more so.

You apparently still do not see it. The efficiencies of which you speak are due to industrialization. Industrialization was possible because of machine efficiencies - machines, which are powered largely by fossil fuels.

The very specialization which you cite was made possible by fossil fuels, which enabled labor to go to things other than the basic tasks of living. Just a few hundred years earlier, 99% of the human race toiled as serfs or at best free farmers in order for the nobility and a tiny merchant class to exist.

A barrel of crude oil contains something like 25,000 man hours of labor. Consider that when you consider how the specialization was enabled. No fossil fuels? No industrial civilization. This is why replacing fossil fuels is so urgent and why the lack of a viable alternative is such a formidable challenge.

"This is a very daunting challenge because of the energy density in fossil fuels. One barrel of oil is the equivalent of 25,000 man hours of labor. That's like you having 12 people that work exclusively for you for one year, and all it costs you is a little over a hundred dollars. That's the $50 for the barrel of oil and maybe $50 for refining it. And you get that kind of labor intensity. The energy intensity is just phenomenal. I have a little personal experience. I was in West Virginia with a heavily loaded Prius, a hybrid car which we drive, and the worst mileage I got was 20 miles per gallon -- 20 miles per gallon going up a steep West Virginia mountain. The car was heavily loaded. How long would it take me to push that car 20 miles up the mountain? Obviously, I can't do it. I could do it with a come-along and chains and so forth, and if I did it in 90 days, I'd be very lucky, which is really about what the 25,000 man hours of labor per barrel of oil is. None of the alternatives have anything like the energy density of the fossil fuels except nuclear, but you can't put a nuclear power plant in the back of your car." -- Congressman Roscoe Bartlett

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

"You apparently still do not see it. The efficiencies of which you speak are due to industrialization. Industrialization was possible because of machine efficiencies - machines, which are powered largely by fossil fuels."

No, you are wrong. A complex division of labour makes the introduction of machinery possible. Simplification of the task. Remember the early mills ran on water and wind power.

Fossil fuels certainly fed the process and it is very unlikely we would have experienced the industrial revolution in the way we did, or to the extent we did, if these sources of heat had not been available. Remember the early fabric mills ran on water and wind power.

Whatever happens, the probability of the abandonment of a complex division of labour is next to nil. While I agree with Leanan' and Tainter's point that many types of specialization will be dropped, the energetic advantage of the division of labour will ensure its continuance.

As for a nuclear power plant in the back of the car, I note that one can't put an oil well/refinery/distribution system in the back of a car either. I do know that people and goods can be efficiently moved, in a resource constrained world, on rail driven by electricity. And electricity can run fabric mills and manufacturing plants. We just need to grow up and learn to constrain our demand for electricity.

The real problem is getting people to realize that the production of poetry is far more essential than the production of gadgets, gizmos and gigantic guns.

The early fabric mills started in the N of England [which is my stomping ground]. They could not have expanded into 'the industrial revolution proper' without easy coal. The early mills replaced craft labour working from home [in farms]. The labourers, and early miners walked long distances for work.

Full scale factories needed a lot of manufacturing fuel [wood/coal] for metalwork, ceramics, bricks etc AND - more critically - a high population density for the workforce of the factories. The modern English cities housing workers [ie post 'Great fire of London'] are all brick buildings HEATED BY COAL. This allowed a large workforce to live near the industry.

The other massive factor in industrial growth was easy transport of materials by canal/seaports. Rail was the final phase of the industrialisation - again POWERED BY COAL


"The early fabric mills started in the N of England [which is my stomping ground]. They could not have expanded into 'the industrial revolution proper' without easy coal."

'Easy coal' had been around for centuries. It was because coal was getting more difficult to mine, that inventors culminating in James Watt were spurred, supported and successful. The steam engine moved from mine to mill.

A thread running through doomer commentaries is the placement of fossil energy, causually and deterministicly, in front of ideas and innovation. The relationship is instead dialectical.

We will never know what course the Enlightment and the industrial revolution would have followed in the absence of coal and then oil and gas.

We do know that the same vibrancy that stimulated the mind of Watt also infected the mind of his contemporary, James Hutton, who discovered deep time and is the father of modern geology. His revolutionary insight underpinned Darwin. Hutton also wrote a treatise on agriculture exposing methods he had developed to successfully rejunevate the supposedly exhausted soil on a farm he operated in Scotland. And no, he did not rely on synthetic fertilizer and machinery. Before Watt's steam engine was more than an idea and workshop project, John Harrisson was developing the marine chronometer of which Captain James Cook would say after his second great voyage in 1775, "Our faithful guide through all the vicissitudes of climates."

Ideas and inventions were shifting the course of history before coal or the steam engine made any kind of significant impact. The availability of coal did make an enormous impact on the outcome of the Enlightenment. But from that we cannot conclude that history and human development would have stood still in the absence of coal.

We are a very gifted species. If we can shed ourselves of the judeo-christian idea of dominion, we might have a future.

And if you take a honest look at our society 99% of what it produces is junk designed to be thrown away from cheap plastic toys to overpriced cheaply constructed houses and commercial buildings. Very little energy is actually used by most of our advanced technology. And here energy efficiency driven primarily by the mobile phone market is making inroads.

So I don't think energy is really a constraint for technology.
And I don't think its a big issue if we use electric rail.
The big thing we should do is build solid long lasting buildings that are well designed insulated. Other than that done correctly or probably more likely after we have finished trying to wipe ourselves out I see no reason we cannot have a vibrant high tech lifestyle that not wasteful of resources.

Whats wrong with well built repairable toys that could be passed down through the generations ? And the same for houses. Or repairable/recyclable long lasting equipment. We could do this today and massively cut or energy usage.

So for me at least I don't see that we will miss the oil age
although the transition will be painful I see a bright future on the other side.

Hi m,

I don't know if anyone is still reading the series here...

Still, I'd like to comment:

Somewhere in this thread, Chimp is talking about 2-3 years of ELP, lots of violence, then quite a collapse (just to roughly paraphrase).

He says he agrees w. Jeffrey on ELP, 'til then.

Someone interprets one of your responses as being critical of ELP. (My take on it was not that you meant to be critical. And I believe your point could fall under the P).

I'm trying to say your point about vertical manufacturing is a good (excellent) point - one we need to pursue.

Here's my Q:

I'm (truly) happy you can envision a brighter future.

I agree with many of your observations, and your definition of needs.

Can you possibly start to outline a "WAY" to get from here to there? Or, even simply elements of the way.

It looks like Lester Brown is taking a crack at it., for example.

Agree on the dialectic of ideas and material circumstances, well put. And yet in the case of at least some of these early inventors and risk-taking entrepreneurs, whose achievements and ideas you extol, their strong work ethic was closely tied to "the judeo-christian idea of dominion", which you later oppose. Your comment prompted me, following Weber's lead, to explore the religious upbringing of the figures you mention. From what I can find out so far, James Watt was from a strongly Presbyterian family, though James Cook and John Harrison seem to have had no major religious influence in the upbringing.

You raise a very important point, however. The "fossil fuel determinism" approach of most doomers is very seductive, but as we see from pre- and early-modern eras, as well as from the periphery and interstices of the modern world system, people are very adaptable and clever. This is not to deny the possibility of dieoff of some magnitude, but I think the record shows that people will adjust in ways now not thought possible by many here on TOD. Cultural and religious predispositions will stimulate or hinder these adaptive processes in interesting ways.

You forgot that there were a considerable number of inventions and innovations along the way that led to NEW & BETTER machines, and in some cases bigger machines. The input of the brain power of scientists and engineers and managers was at least as important as the input of energy. The good news is that there is no reason why the inputs of scientists and engineers and managers have to go away.

Energy is just one factor of production, along with things like land (of which energy is actually just a subset), labor, and capital. All of these factors have been constantly changing, sometimes increasing in supply and sometimes decreasing. They are taken into an account by a free market, and adjustments in the patterns of production are made accordingly. As we transition into a world where energy is an increasingly scarce factor of production, production will be changed to use less of it. Scientits and engineers and managers will focus their efforts on making that happen.

You forgot that there were a considerable number of inventions and innovations along the way that led to NEW & BETTER machines, and in some cases bigger machines.

I don't think anyone is forgetting that at all.

But you have to ask yourself...why is knowledge lost? We know that it is. The Easter Islanders can no longer make those stone statues. The Egyptians do not remember how to build pyramids; they couldn't even read the writing of their ancestors. Ditto the Maya. The Minoans invented the printing press and the flush toilet, but those very useful inventions were lost until they were re-invented from scratch, thousands of years later.

Could it be that it's abundant resources - wealth - that allow a society to support the experts who build pyramids and printing presses? And when those resources become scarce, and the society less wealthy, they lose even seemingly valuable knowledge.

After all, if you're working from dawn to dusk just trying to grow enough food to feed your family, you aren't going to have much spare time to learn nuclear physics or computer science.

Dear Stefan,

As you seem to be getting quite a lot of "stick" from people for your views, I thought I might as well jump on you from a great hight in relation to your remarks about dear old Robinson Crusoe! The guy lived like a lord, don't diss him or his lifestyle. Around here, among the "Diciples of Doom" those of us that are lucky enough to maintain a lifestyle, post peak, which is anywhere near as "advanced" as Crusoe's will consider themselves lucky bunnies indeed!

A mild division of labor had occurred throughout history dozens of times. Roman craftsmen, Phoenicians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Mayans, etc. Every single time it stopped at a certain level. Why? Because a large fraction of productivity was necessarily expended in agriculture to keep that small subset of specialized labor in business.

Enter fossil fuels and we go from 99% agrarian to 2% agrarian populations. If you truly fail to understand what this means, if you truly fail to understand the difference between fossil fuel powered agriculture and manual agriculture, then I am afraid that further conversation is rather pointless.

I wish you the best, sir, though I suggest that you study history a bit more acutely.

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

This is one reason why I'm advocating we better get very good at robotics the only way to break from the past is mechanized or technology based solutions. These don't have to be done the way we do now but if we don't we go back to having everyone in agriculture with the net EROI very low. And its not quit as bad as you make out generally you don't do agriculture after dark and we know how to make lighting now so you can do non ag stuff for a few hours each night. We probably will have more people involved in agriculture but hopefully technology can help us keep from getting trapped in the old problems.

Also not simple electric or gasp ethanol/bio-diesel or compressed air powered equipment can substantially reduce the needed labor and thus increase the EROI of a farm.
Doing things like growing corn just as a source of ethanol does not make sense but using a portion of your local plant material to power efficient crop growing equipment for food is a very different problem. And it seems almost obvious that the EROI is much higher then using manual labor powered by food.

"from 99% agrarian to 2% agrarian populations"

99% is an overestimation. Not to mention that many peasants supplemented their incomes by cottage industries or seasonal labor. A typical peasant in 1600 had to give up 50% of his production to the lord, clergy, landowner etc. Even considering that he needed to earn part of that back through services for those groups, that still amounts to 60-80% of the population engaged in food production - definitely not 99%.
Aside from that, there have been lots of small improvements in farming (clover, raised beds, better tools, etc.) that improved productivity quite a lot.


My guess is the people pulling their strings will pull the strings so they invade the last oil-rich producing provinces with orders to kill any and all who get in their way.

How much you want to bet it's just a matter of time before a regime is installed here in the U.S. that declarea a "global war" that just so happens to be where all the oil is at the cost of billions of dollars per week?

Oh wait, that already happened. Seven years ago. My bad for forgetting. Your bad for not noticing.

My point is the strategy of those pulling the strings should be painfully obvious by now: grab what's left and kill whoever gets in the way, enslave those who don't. Just because they haven't started killing and enslaving you and yours doesnt' mean this isn't what is going on.

As the saying goes, "the future is here, it's just not widely distributed yet." I posit the future has arrived in Baghdad, New Orleans, and Detroit. Take a look at those cities and ask yourself what you think the strategy of those pulling the strings. Soon it will arrive in Mexico City, Los Angeles, and Tehran.

Please explain how my model is not an accurate model of the reality currently unfolding before us.

Hi Chimp,

Ever one to chime in on your comments...

re: "Please explain how my model is not an accurate model of the reality currently unfolding before us."

re: "people pulling their strings".

I agree, you have many accurate observations about the current reality, and it appears to be continuing on. There is much killing, violence, and traumatic aftermath. It is unspeakable, really, in its horror.

It was thought up by some people, and perpetrated with the cooperation of many, many more - even the very reluctant cooperation. And accompanied by the first time in the history of the world (please correct me if I'm mistaken, I hope I'm paraphrasing Howard Zinn), there was a huge, worldwide protest *prior* to the start of a war.

This is all true, and your unblinking eyes can see it.

I also see (if I may indulge myself) you - someone who cares deeply.

I see other people here.

I see Alan in New Orleans (though that may also be a case of for "better or for worse" - he's definitely shared some amazing things.)

I have seen things work - in the way that makes people cry with relief and joy.

The world's largest protest did not prevent the smaller number of people from perpetuating this.

Still, we are here. The model is partial. We can do our best. Perhaps it will be something unforeseen by the model.

In the meantime, and without waiting for our government to act responsibly and help us here, IMO Jeffery's ELP advice is none the less helpful and wise, even if it doesn't cover all the bases. Your POV about this missing base of local production capacity is a valid one, but that doesn't in and of itself justify your pronouncement that Jeffery's ELP ideas, or Alan's about the need for electric trains, are useless or not *realistic.*

I am 100% for ELP and think its the right idea. But trying to successfully execute ELP in todays society is in my opinion impossible and will not succeed. If you want to maintain a modern lifestyle. The problems is one key ingredient the localize part is very hard to do given the current nature of our manufacturing base.

If you want to localize we are missing a lot of the pieces needed to successfully localize and its a big problem and your back to requiring government support are at the minimum significant investment by someone to develop local replacements and small scale manufacturing to allow a basic high standard of living without relying on far flung manufacturing.

If we don't solve this part of the problem then we have nto done ELP if you don't do the localization part you don't make the production part. At best you managed to economize.

Now I'm not saying that if you own land you should not have a garden. Where I grew up everyone had a garden. Many raise chickens etc. This simply using your land productively. Of course for other jobs you don't want a suburbia style existence gardens or not dense population makes sense so for a industrial society commercial farming is a requirement.
Their are many ways to do it but the point is the homestead farmer thats self sufficient with little excess is not exactly a big contributor to future society. He may enjoy his life but you may find he is not helping as much as he could. This means you should be a real farmer and produce enough to live at farming.

In Taiwan the farmers live in apartment blocks standing in the middle of the fields it looks strange put its the best use of the land. Thats the right way to do intense agriculture. The scattered farmhouse are inefficient.
In Europe its small villages.

From what I can tell reading the list a lot of people are not really doing a good job of even getting the food part right. If you have the money you should do what I plan to do buy as much prime farmland as I can and invite Vietnamese and Mexican farmers to live for free if they help farm the land and we share the profits. Most Americans are too selfish to even consider this. But ten people on a village farm will easily out produce 10 scattered land owners any day of the week.

And as I stated before real Localization is very hard today.
ELP is not easy. But if we are serious about it consider real solutions.

Finally Peak Oil is real and we have to solve these problems regardless how how you feel about me bringing them up. I don't think making a bunch of people feel good is important.

Hi m,

re: "prime farmland"

Do you have a location in mind?

Thanks for your comments. Have been contemplating a Bergey myself and would be interested in your commments about it. Are you on the grid or operating with batteries? What part of the country are you in and what is your experience with generating efficiencies. How about your tower height? and did you get a galvanized tower? what do you consider the key backup parts. Regards

On January 18th of this year, I gave a presentation to the urban county government planning commission and part of that presentation stated plainly that the electric streetcars and trolley lines that had been eliminated previously needed to be put back and then some - that the system needed to be expanded to every neighborhood, not just the immediately downtown ones, and that express electric streetcars and/or light rail connections to the neighborhood trolleys needed to be developed instead of pouring more and more money into the buses everybody here hates (and won't ride unless they're forced to at gun point, because in spite of our "award-winning" traffic light system, the traffic is still mostly screwed up). Anyway, they just looked at me like I was crazy. In spite of our "comprehensive plan" process there is no way concerned citizens can compete with developers and other entrenched city departments (like the bus system) which ask for more and more money. Developers absolutely will not allot any of their land for such systems (or for affordable housing, either - but that's a different rant), and the urban county government has far too many other "priorities" than preparing for the future. It's hopeless. By the time I can go back and say, "I told you so," it will be far, far to late.

Hi Ahavah,

I'm interested in this, and sorry you didn't have better luck. Depressing.

I'm curious...did you talk about "peak oil" as part of your presentation (don't want to assume)?

If so, how did people respond to that part of it?

Had any of them seen any of the "peak" films or anything along those lines?

Did you have anyone else working with you?

I'm wondering if there might be another way to reach these stakeholders (developers, planners, entrenched city depts.) Not that there is - just if it's possible, it would be good to figure it out.

"I'm curious...did you talk about "peak oil" as part of your presentation (don't want to assume)?"

If so, I hope he didn't bring up that whole "iron triangle" theory....sounds as paranoid as the John Birch Society, and as nutty as a sack of cats to most people....if you talk about even good and sensible ideas like ELP, but open the subject with paranoid delusion, your sure to fall to the floor like a sack of shiit....oh yeah, and be sure to recommend against getting a college degree in a room full of people with a college degree, that's sure to be a crowd pleaser! :-) geeesh......

Remember, we are only one cubic mile from freedom

RC, I think that you do a disservice to Jeffrey when you you paint the Iron Triangle as though it is some sort of conspiracy theory. It's not as if newspaper editors and automobile dealership managers and real estate brokers and CERA get together in secret to plan their next assault on the public. No, it is simply that the interests of those groups are all interlocking and reinforcing, and that is something that can be analyzed quite rationally in the light of day. It's called groupthink: things have always been this way; today's conditions are an extension of how they have always been; and today's arrangement makes me money. Therefore, things will always be this way going into the future. Ipso facto, ergo profit, if I may be cute.

RC, I think that you do a disservice to Jeffrey when you you paint the Iron Triangle as though it is some sort of conspiracy theory.


Don't make me go Chimpy (TM) on your ass RC!

I did talk mostly about peak oil, mostly, with a bit about climate change thrown in. I can actually cut and paste the speech, which was also submitted in the form of a letter to them at the meeting (I made copies for everyone), if you want to see it. I may have sacrificed a bit in clarity or "justification" to cram more into the allotted 12 minutes, but it seems amazing to me that people would have no base knowledge of the subject. They said they wanted "concrete suggestions" from the public at the meeting, so that's what I focused on when I prepared, emphasizing steps they could adopt and not so much on rationalizations. My husband is a GIS specialist and has been with the division of long range planning for 30+ years, long before they even had GIS. At the office, all peak oil planning or references have been basically ignored or shot down in staff meetings and we're not inclined to jeopardize his job, so he didn't speak. I was/am a legal transcriptionist, and had been involved with the water supply planning commission, and the comp plan process of previous administrations, so the people there who knew me there would not exactly by shocked to see me making proposals. But they are absolutely deaf and blind to any suggestion that the status quo can't go on and that things need to change.

Hi Ahavah,

Thanks and I'd love to see your talk. Could you please email it to me at aniyacafe (at) yahoo (dot) com? I've been running out of time to read drumbeats and even articles lately.

You're in the Bay Area, right? I was wondering - doesn't SF have a "peak" resolution?

I see the water issue as crucial. To me, in the top of the list is a distributed, renewable (wind, solar) energy retrofit for purification and transport of water. Like...yesterday. i.e, ASAP.


Seems to me you're still in the "bargaining" phase. "Maybe if we just show them the right film" or "maybe if we just string together the proper sequence of sentences." No siree Bob.

Let's face it: what she said is true. There is nothing that can be done beyond the multi-family level, and even that is a bit of a stretch as you need to get A) your family on board and B) then find 3-5 other families similar minded.

It's not going to matter what film you show people, how persusively you argue your point, . . .

Hi Chimp,

Thanks for writing. I wrote a sincere reply to you - I think April 17. (I'll go look for it.) I don't know if I'm "bargaining" or not - I think not. I was asking her out of curiosity. I'm not sure there's "nothing" that can be done. Perhaps the things that can be done have nothing to do with persuading people of anything. Just don't know.

westexas, thanks so much for all the work you are doing to inform us about the many different aspects of PO.

There are a multitude of reasons why Portland is an attractive city. I'm thinking of moving out there myself. I'd like to know, though, how is the manufacturing base there? Given your recent trip there, what was your impression of the industry there as compared to other places? How robust is the manufacturing there? Are there many foundries, machine shops, etc...?

Anyone else have thoughts about this? Any Portlandians (er... Portlanders?) out there?

I think I've reached the limit of question marks allowed in one post so I'll leave it at that.


I am a native,what do you want to know? there is between 300 to 400 steel faricator shops listed in our company directory,we have one group who just started manufactureing streetcars...worlds largest solar cell manf. center will be started at a defunct chip plant,{that could clone itself...we got a couple of unused chip plants that could be switched over to solar cell manufacture}we got lotsa engineer types,top of the line robotics in accufab,and other firms here in the northwest...we have heavey manf. capacity,like Oregon Iron,but we just lost freightliner to mexico
Silicon forest is no joke...some very fine minds in that feild hang here.My brother is a robotics engineer,and is now doing bleeding edge work in RFID tech...

there is saturday market downtown,farmers markets everywhere,and the general state of mind is more"stay out of my hair,and I will stay out of yours"

I agree with you Jeffrey, as you know, although I would express your inflation/deflation argument differently. To me, inflation and deflation are are monetary phenomenon and as the money supply is either increasing or decreasing one could not have both at once. I am expecting deflation. However, price movements may still diverge and I would agree with you that most asset classes will decrease in price while energy may well increase due to the realization of geopolitical risks.

Deflation would result in a substantial decrease in purchasing power, and therefore in demand for most things as demand presupposes purchasing power. Demand for cash would be expected to increase as credit becomes less available (credit standards have only just begun to tighten, but this has much further to go) and people try to raise cash to cover debts and living expenses. Under such circumstances, many assets would be for sale, and prices would be falling (in other words the value of cash in relation to assets would be increasing).

Even energy prices could fall as economic activity would be heavily impacted (unless geopolitical risk - ie a war with Iran - intervenes to sharply reduce supply), but if that were to be the case it would not mean energy would become more affordable. If prices were to fall, but purchasing power fell even faster due to deflation, then energy would become less affordable even in the absence of geopolitical risks being realized. If purchasing power were to fall sharply against a backdrop of resource wars, then energy would become far more unaffordable, and far more quickly, than one would expect as a result of deflation alone. Such a scenario could put energy economically out of reach for a very large number of people over the next few years.

I would therefore strongly endorse your ELP programme.

Prices in some sectors can decline in an inflationary monetary environment, Stoneleigh. It happened in the 1970s. All that it means is that the value of a good or service is decreasing at a rate faster than inflation is increasing. What that means in reality is that a price is really crashing - i.e. a 2% price decrease in a market with 3% monetary inflation means that the price really fell over 5%.

And this could readily occur. Suburban houses could (and some already are) fall drastically in value even while other prices trend upwards due to monetary inflation.

Here is the kicker - for the US government to extract the "imperial" inflation tax, the rate of inflation has to exceed the real rate of cost increases due to scarcity.

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

I am aware that prices can fall in an inflationary monetary environment. We have had such a climate in recent years, yet it has not ignited a wage/price spiral thanks to downward pressure on both wages and prices due to globalization (ie competition form producers in low wage economies). Therefore wages (at the low end of the scale and climbing) and prices of cheap plastic consumer goods from China have indeed been crashing. Monetary inflation (in this case credit expansion) has disguised the on-going loss of purchasing power of the average worker, but a credit expansion is nothing but an elaborate pyramid scheme.

Credit bubbles are followed by credit contractions, which is what I would argue we are on the verge of at the moment. As available credit contracts and liquidity is reduced, the debt spawned by the credit expansion becomes unpayable very quickly. Debt default then further reduces the money supply in a deflationary spiral. During a deflation, wage reductions are no longer disguised by inflation - they are exaggerated. For wages to stay the same in real terms, they must fall in nominal terms, but if they are to be cut in real terms (as business seek to cut costs during the inevitable recession), then they must fall even faster in nominal terms. This is extremely likely to cause social unrest.

The housing market meltdown, and the concommitant destruction of far more supposed value in the derivatives market (mortgage-backed securities), is highly deflationary. If energy prices rise in a deflationary environment, as they could despite falling demand due to economic contraction if resource wars substantially interfere with supply or if nations begin competitive hoarding, then it would be doubly painful given falling purchasing power.

I'm puzzled a bit the outcome is not hyperinflation you have massive deflation in asset values. And the economy simply stops outside of exports. It literally flips to China mode on steroids. It leaves anyone thats not wealthy or with assets outside the US flat broke. This is I think a Russian style collapse.

Can someone point out how the ruble economy worked. They should have had the same Imperial Tax as we do. In fact it

It was exactly the same so the collapse of the Soviet Union was from doing the exact same thing we are doing. Its almost a perfect match. The only difference is instead of being pure military spending we are blowing money via excessive useless consumption.

If I'm right I think this is important. Reagan did not collapse the Soviet Union anything would have taken it down but dropping commodity prices where not the real cause. Its simply the straw that happened to cause the collapse.

I agree that there are elements in common with the Russian collapse, but there are differences as well. If memory serves, there was initially a substantial ruble inflation. After a time, the Russian authorities reissued the currency with several fewer zeros, but made it very difficult for ordinary people to exchange their old notes for new ones in order to reduce the inflated money supply (ie smoke out rubles under the matresses of the nation, of which there were many, and render most of them worthless). The middle class was financially wiped out and had to provide most of the necessities of existence for themselves (eg growing vegetables at their dachas if they were lucky).

Russians did not lose their homes (as those were owned by the state), did not generally lose their utilities (as few paid for those anyway), and often did not lose their jobs (although they were paid months late if at all). They often continued to work despite the lack of pay, as they still had access to a minimal level of the necessities.

The main difference between the Russian situation and ours is that Russia experienced a currency inflation as part of their collapse (prior to that they had experienced shortages, which are the command economy version of inflation). We have instead seen a credit inflation, which behaves quite differently. While too much currency chasing too few goods can persist as a problem for a long time (unless steps are taken to reduce the money supply as they were in Russia), excess credit simply disappears, and it can do so very quickly where very large amounts of leverage are involved. The US economy is a hollowed out shell of bad debt - an Enron on a huge scale. As the debt bubble implodes, much of the money supply - virtual money - will go with it in quite a short space of time. The Fed will simply be overwhelmed.


Forgive the financial "Dear Abby" question, but if you don't mind:

One hears people suggesting not to pay off fixed, long term interest rate mortgages, since inflation will make the payments relatively cheaper over time. Yet, one also hears that asset deflation combined with energy inflation could leave people short of cash to make the payments at all.

I have a relatively small mortgage payment each month. Would you suggest that people like myself make an effort to pay the house off completely as soon as possible so we are not at risk of losing it due to default in a PO world? Or is it better to sock a little away in the bank each month?

Signed, Cold and Confused
(still snowing here)

My advice is pay down debts from the highest interest rates to the lowest. If the mortgage is all you have left, then pay it off! But don't be throwing money at a small fixed rate mortgage if you have other debts accumulating interest at higher rates.

In my opinion (and just mine), you are better off owning free and clear than not. The key is making your money do as much work for you as it can. Once you are free and clear, that is cash every month that can be invested as you choose, from stocks to commodities to survival foods to guns.

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

What rate of return are you getting on the money you are saving? If it's less then the mortgage rate, you might as well put it into the mortgage.

If the rate of return is higher then your mortgage rate, you are better off saving it.

(Since you said it was small - I'm assuming you are using the standard deduction on your taxes and not itemizing - if you itemize, you need to factor that into your calculations)


Hi George,

Taking on debt and allowing inflation to eat it away worked in the 1970s because real interest rates (high nominal rate minus high inflation) were low. This time I think we are facing deflation, where the opposite would be true. The real rate of interest during deflation (nominal rate minus negative inflation) is high even if the nominal rate is low, in fact even if the nominal rate is virtually zero as it has been in Japan for years.

Deflation - a reduction in the money supply which I expect to result from the cllapse of the credit bubble - would lead to falling house prices. In other words, the debt would bcome a larger proportion of the value of the home, and may even exceed the value of the home if the price falls far enough (negative equity). With the debt growing as a proportion of the total value, the real rate of interest being high and the prospects for earning enough money to make the payments reducing as the economy falls into recession, that debt could become a very significant burden. As real estate can go illiquid quite quickly (ie no buyers), extracting oneself from a bad situation if necessary later can be difficult.

The classic recipe for deflation is to sell and rent, while holding on to the liberated equity in liquid form (cash and cash equivalents). As money would be in short supply, having access to some is very important. Under a regime of high real interest rates, its value would grow as asset prices fell, meaning that you could buy somewhere very nice to live after waiting for while and be debt free. The catch would be hanging on to the money, as the reserve requirements in the banking system have been reduced to essentially nothing and the banks may be vulnerable. Deposit insurance probably won't be worth the paper it's written on. For a while, short-term government bonds should be a safe cash equivalent.

Alternatively, if you've invested a lot in a set-up that would be low-energy and allow you to produce food (I remember you were talking about a commercial greenhouse a while back), it might be a better idea to share it with others who would contribute to paying off the debt ASAP. Personally, I'm planning on an extended family type situation here.

Thanks for the responses all.

Sounds like my ELP plan needs to kick up a notch - pay off the mortgage AND put money in the bank. And pretty darn quick too given the recent stories here at TOD.

Stoneleigh you are correct, I have put a lot of work into the property, and continue to do so, to reduce the amount of energy I need to purchase and to improve my ability to grow food. I've actually been getting some rather odd glances from visitors lately who wonder what in the world I am doing with a small farm. But it's my hobby and I enjoy it. I find something compelling about growing food rather than buying it.

I am actually engaged in a project to bring an organic farmer's market to a community near here this summer. If I get my act together I might just be able to sell some of my organic produce there instead of just giving it away to the neighbors. But then it would be work, wouldn't it? However, "One must bring one's pigs to market!"

PS - I chose not take the plunge for the commercial tomato greenhouse operation. Don Sailorman scared me off with his Depression-era stories about milk flowing in the gutter. However I know some organic growers around here and they sell everything they grow (to markets and restaurants down in Massachusetts). So if I can pay cash someday I might just go for it.

You might want to consider a low-tech greenhouse (cold frame with floating row covers) which can be used to grow certain lettuces (arugula, mache, Asian greens, carrots, kale, etc.) during the winter. Eliot Coleman's books are great resources for this. He sells to restaurants and local markets where he lives in Maine. I live in an area (Hudson Valley, New York) where I can get lots of produce from local farmers from May through November and stock up on root cellar vegetables. It's those winter greens that are shipped from Californa and Chile which need to be replaced. So, in addition to sprouting I am prepping the soil to put up a 24x48 foot greenhouse for about $2500.

Here is the kicker - for the US government to extract the "imperial" inflation tax, the rate of inflation has to exceed the real rate of cost increases due to scarcity.

Ouch !

I think your right. But the only way they can do this is to raise interest rates to keep the money flowing in as they increase the supply.

I think I know understand why the Fed is preoccupied with price inflation or better resource price inflation. As they print money they much raise interests rates to ensure that the imperial tax flows back to the empire by foriegn purchase of debt.

Ok I got it. So expect spiraling price inflation and I suspect monetary deflation ??
For sure high interest rates are in the cards we have no choice or we don't collect our capitol flows by selling debt.

But I can see why the feds don't care about M3 its not how devalued the dollar is that relevant but if we can sell our debt. I think the Austrian viewpoint is missing a big piece of the pie because of the nature of the Imperial Dollar.
The goal is to force the world to buy or debt nothing else matters. They must to sell our goods keep larger and larger reserves of dollars and use them to purchase more and more debt to keep their export economies running.

Its interesting because the US gets most of the blame for this situation but the export economies are just as guilty since they rate American debt higher since it allows them to
defeat to some extent the M3 pump and keep their prices low.
Its a big game America collects the imperial tax by staying higher than anyone else for interest rates and the exporters willingly throw money away to keep the US market.

The only problem is the American debtor will be wiped off the planet by skyrocketing interest rates and asset deflation and price inflation as this thing unwinds.

Thats exactly whats happening now. The asset bubble was just a prelude to the world trying to absorb all the excess US dollars that it cannot devalue. Same with the Stock Market
its going to blow big time when this thing goes poof.

We literally created to much money that was propped up by stupid global financial policies. Everyone played the game.
No wonder the US is desperate for the world to devalue its currency and basically wipe out its debt. If they don't play along with the next stage this whole game explodes.

Not to mention china and japan they are in it to the hilt. For them it will be hard as their currencies appreciate and the real prices of resources go up their internal wages will increase dramatically from the deflation of their currencies.

I'm not sure which way resources go valued in currencies outside the dollar initially it seems they get cheaper but I think this is temporary. Needless to say oil would go through the roof in terms of dollars and the petrodollar is toast.

Oil and indeed all resource prices may actually stay low in real terms outside the US and the world economy grinds to a halt swallowing the collapse of the US. The only way out is massive interest hikes in the US.

Wow are we in trouble.

Jeffrey, Great Job!
The real problem in the world is increasing population. The world had 1 billion people in 1900, and is 6.5 billion today and expected to hit 9 billion by 2030. And, they all want a rich lifestyle as pictured by the MSM of America.
Confucious said that if a man wants to correct the world, he first must correct the state, and if he wants to correct the state, he first must correct the family, and if he wishes to correct the family he must first correct himself. And correcting himself is of the only importance. Your ELP plan is a great example of this in practice.

Jeffrey, PG, Thanks for putting up a full description again.

I'm surprised not to hear more calls for Carpooling as a babystep towards Localizing. I guess there must be some of it happening on the QT, and easy credit and denial has mopped up the rest, until the crunch really sets in. I'd say that might turn out to be the (near term, at least) future of the SUV. An HDMB, or 'Housing Development Mini-bus'.. We'll see.

Well I'm commuting down to my basement workshop to start my busy day! (Currently Video Post-Production and Prop Building).. I'm debating just how 'discretionary' video communications are, since it's one form of HiTech that has a lot of uses during crises and transitions, esp. as an educational tool. Regardless, I'm also a carpenter and decent plasterer, with sidebars in Plumbing and Electrical.. not too worried about keeping alive in a local economy.

Thanks again for your thoughts and persistence!

Bob Fiske

Tiny Houses

Katrina Cottages, 308 sq ft.,21135,1195049,00.html

The second link has more details, different versions, etc.

Living experience in New Orleans with our shotguns is that one person needs about 400 sq ft minimum and a couple (sleep in same bed) need about 600 sq ft if one of the couple is female :-) for "long term" living without undue stress.

Real world experience and "common knowledge" here.

Best Hopes,


Here's another source: Katrina Cottages. "This site provides links to designers and manufacturers who provide plans, kits, modular construction, and/or stick-built construction of Katrina Cottages."

Built models range from 225 sf to 1182 sf, with an average around 600 sf. Models available from Lowe's are 544 sf to 697 sf.

Check with your local government about minimum house size restrictions. Katrina Cottages were originally designed as an alternative to FEMA trailers in the Gulf Coast, but ironically some localities have barred them because they are smaller than minimum house size requirements. Recourses include: Appeal the planning commission decision, change the regulations, move somewhere that doesn't have minimum size restrictions.

My husband and I lived quite well in 450 square feet in Manhattan for a while. But add a baby to that mix, and once the kid starts crawling, you need more space than that.

We now have about twice that much, and have more than enough space. It all depends on what's outside your front (or back) door, I think. If you have a yard or a neighborhood that's pedestrian-friendly, you can make do with about 700 square feet for a family with 2 kids, I'd say (from watching my friends and their families in similar spaces). Less than that, and you start to lose your mind. Of course, you need natural light, and decent weather, and and and.

The best solution to living in small spaces? Own less stuff.

I lived with my girlfriend (now wife) for three years in a 250 square foot apartnment in Tokyo.

Best place I ever lived.

Newlyweds and young couples need less room because they are usually sharing the same floor space. Wait til you get older...more space needed.

I think everyone should read the Senegal thread.

Then think hard about what you would do if you where in their condition. They are smart hard working people yet seem to be unable to overcome poverty.

Instead of foisting yet another possible high tech solution with dubious EROI and no deployment plan we should simply put our self in the shoes of the Senegalese and think hard about how you would do ELP. We may very well be in this position before long.

1.) Economize
For the most part if your this poor you walk and don't use electricity that much. But how you construct your building and heat and cool them is important. Thermal engineering concept can make a big difference.

2.) Localize
Food is obvious you need to grow it. Whats not obvious is how you solve manufacturing issues modern engineering is based o a web of global manufacturing how do you translate this into a local solution thats self supporting. Without manufacturing your stuck just as they are in Senegal. The implementation of and alternative solution to the manufacturing problem can and should use all our knowledge and create new concepts but they way we build things today is generally not suitable the assembly line is not the right answer for localization instead a universal assembler with plenty of human support is required. In general the methods will be much closer to those used to build prototypes than production solutions. Identifying equipment and processes needed to do small scale manufacturing is critical. We can assume any design is possible and computer aided design and manufacturing are possible. Even if the manufacture of computers declines we have plenty available and no reason to assume that we cannot maintain critical plants such as these. On the same note you could assume that raw materials such as aluminum would still be available either via recycling or from protection of critical facilities.

So in this case we differ slightly but critically from Senegal in that we have a manufacturing base that can be conserved and reconfigured.

3.) Produce
For produce you have extra food and goods made from locally resources such as cotton silk or exported ores or recycled materials. Mining our dumps and cities will provide base materials for a long time. Next on top of the generic manufacturing you can easily have specialization to produce goods that might be easier to make in a certain local. Although everyone is a generalist specialization is not lost. For example in regions where peanuts and soybeans grow well a focus on plastics might make sense.

I believe if you approach ELP assuming the lowest common denominator and carefully weigh whats needed to build a vibrant society your probably going to get the right answer.
While if you assume you will always have and require a high tech distributed society where manufacturing requires ordering many items produced all over the world your going to fail. Its important to identify the critical need areas that cannot be easily replaced.

Hi m,

Just a quick comment:

re: " that we have a manufacturing base that can be conserved and reconfigured."

I'd encourage you to set out an example plan. Also, the "reconfiguration" can be shared. (Yes?)

You know I read once that "Americans live inside their money (their homes and their cars) and dress like slobs, while Europeans wear their money (their clothing), but live inside tiny flats and tiny cars."

It was probably just a stereotype then, and perhaps even less true today, but it has always reminded me of the way in which we make big choices about what we spend money on in order to feel secure and happy in the world.

Like many folks I have a small house and even it is probably more than I need, and that 2001 Subaru Outback we own is definitely more car than two parents with 2 children really need.

I wish I spent less on mortgage and car insurance and gas and more on clothing. I'd rather wear my money than live in it.

I do love my bike, and the thing that makes my bike workable is spending good money on all weather clothing.

Cars, houses, clothing... all ways to shelter yourself form the elements... all have some value... but we need to choose wisely, and consider how adjusting our allocation to these sectors could improve the quality of life.

Technical Help with Digg

I apparently successfully set up a Digg for this article and, of course, recommended it.

However, it does not show up in the counter above.

What is going on ??



I tried to submit the link to digg, but the site repeatedly refused to accept the URL as valid.

Worked for me. Maybe they fixed something.

I had the same problem a couple of times in the past. (Creating a new digg)

After trying to figure it out over a half an hour each time, it then said someone else had posted it.

Alan, there appears to be a lead time between actually publishing your "digg" and it being sent back out over the wire to remote sites like this. If you submitted it, then it will get caught if anyone else tries. And by the way, I hit the "digg" button too and your summary showed up just fine.

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

A lot of good advice there. A few thoughts:

Economizing might actually require increasing household expenditures in the short term. What I mean is that there will be considerable investments required during the transition to a world of lower consumption. Housing is going to have to be insulated and retrofitted with things like geothermal heat pumps, PV arrays, etc. SUVs are going to have to be replaced with hybrids, electric vehicles, or bicycles. Lawns are going to have to be plowed up and homeowners set up to do home gardening. All of this is going to require an outlay of money. If one assumes annual energy price increases approaching or exceeding the double digit range, then pulling funds out of financial instruments to invest in such long-term economizing measures may not be an irrational strategy at all. In any case, while it may be a good exercise to cut one's ongoing living expenses now, don't put off these critical investments any longer than necessary.

As far as localization is concerned, my wife and I have finally succeded in getting our jobs within a couple of miles of our home, making commutes by electric vehicle, bicycle, or walking feasible. It has taken the better part of a lifetime to get to this point, and it is something we have wanted to do all along. Most people haven't given such a thing the slightest thought so far. It is not going to be easy at all to re-shuffle people and jobs to bring them into closer proximity, especially where two-income households are concerned.

I have only lived one place in my life (a major city) where mass transit was even available (and I did use it then). If the suburbs were a bad idea, getting rid of most of our mass transit was the other bad idea. It would have taken every bit of Hirsh's 20 years (and all of the hundreds of billions of dollars squandered on the Iraq adventure) to do a crash program to get enough mass transit capacity in place for when we will need it. This is obviously not going to happen, so we are going to have far too little, far too late. The absence of adequate mass transit is going to be the real killer as far as employment is concerned; we are going to have lots of people who need work, and employers that need employees, but commuting to match them up will be next to impossible. And the unfilled classified ads will be cited as proof that there's no unemployment problem!

One idea, free for the taking: Industrial and institutional facilities located far from residential areas had better start making plans for setting up free or low-cost dormitories to allow their employees to avoid the daily commute during the week; otherwise, how are they going to be able to get staff when nobody can afford the daily commute? While far from ideal, there probably will be a supply of workers willing to do a weekly commute if they can get a free or inexpensive place to eat and sleep near their jobs.

The real tipping point in all of this will be the amount of time that a worker must work to pay for their commute. Presently, even minimum wage workers typically only need to work around an hour per day or so to cover their commuting costs. When a gallon of gasoline hits double digit rates, however, it is going to start taking a lot of people two, three, or more hours of daily work just to cover their commuting costs. This is what will ultimately drive people toward mass transit if it is/were available, toward carpooling if it is workable, or to leave jobs to seek more local employment. When people realize that they must work sixty minutes to pay for the same commute that they can walk in thirty, that will be the point when you start seeing significant numbers of people walking to work. In many cases, we will see people taking pay cuts, because they will start to realize that it is their paycheck net of commuting costs that they really must focus on, and in many cases the lower paying job within a mile or two of home is the better deal. This, by the way, will have major implications for the revenue stream from the federal income and FICA taxes -- I wonder if this has occured to anyone in Washington DC?

As far as production is concerned, there are other dimensions to this that you haven't touched upon. I would see growing food in a home garden or cutting firwood for a wood stove as being as much of a production activity as an economizing activity. Such things could be scaled up to produce surpluses for sale. It may not be necessary for everyone to sell their large house and move into a small one. In many cases, large houses could be subdivided into multiple units, or homeowners could take on boarders. I consider that to be a production activity as well. People who have invested in neighborhood electric vehicles and PV arrays to recharge them might find that they could do a good side business doing some pick-up and delivery for their neighbors, or taking on paying passengers. There's a lot of stuff that a lot of people could do on the side that is productive -- don't just think in terms of one's main job.

Finally, more needs to be mentioned about retirees. Their (our) income stream from social security, pensions, and investments that they have been counting upon will not be secure, and thus many retirees will have no choice but to find some means of producing something. Many of them will have limited abilities to take on full time work, but they will be well positioned to do many sideline jobs. For example, people that still have to commute to a job during the day may need someone to come over and feed their small livestock, water their gardens, adjust their solar systems, etc. There will be lots of those type of opportunities available.

Dormitories. Just like in China. The issue isn't whether the workers earn enough to go home, but whether they earn enough to pay for their stay in the dormitory.

cfm in Gray, ME

Of course, this idea is not unprecedented even in the US. There are workplaces right now that provide on-site lodging for their workers so they don't have to make an impossibly long and expensive daily commute. Perhaps some of you have heard of them. They are called oil platforms.

Well another example is the old Coal Towns, and their 'Company Stores'.. just keeping the employees in perpetual debt.

I thought you were going to say prison
teach you're children well, cop's, prison guards and probation officers. real viable in the near term/long term. sex workers for the ladies, target practice for the old? personally I'm working up a recipe book for the very young, they're tasty if prepared correctly.
how bad is it gonna get? it's all ready pretty bad. if things break down as much as most doomers here feel it is, I plan on not being here. I'm not afraid to die and don't plan on killing others to live in a miserable bleeped up world.
all I have is hope, and a very, very large market garden.
stephan this is not directed at you specifically but at doomers in general

Hi earl,

Re: "...a very, very large market garden."

With seeds, starts (and chickens?), you could teach/encourage others, as well.

I am

Jeffrey, thanks for a thoughtful and -- at last-- a NEW and relevant discussion.

Lately, gazing at the fancy charts and stupendous graphics and energy-sucking pix from the "experts" about the precise location of that last oil to be extracted and whether or not the "peak" will be at 10 am on July 5, or happened Christmas Eve at 11:49, or whether this or that equation clinches the precise essence of the perfectly unknown depletion profile of X....all this has been exhausting, if interesting in the sense that it reveals apes seem to do what they always have done in an impending crisis: chatter.

Some chatter is better than others. This here chatter is pointless (which is why I keep it short), but I like to remind people like you when you say something worthwhile, because the air is now thick with a DIN from which it is difficult to extract anything meaningful.

As for ELP: been there, doing that. For twenty years. Thanks goodness for Professor Hatfield.

Of course, like almost everybody else, I built on work done by others. In my case, principally Deffeyes, Simmons & Kunstler (using Khebab's excellent technical work).

Imagine for a moment that one wrote a movie screenplay, "Peak Oil: The Movie," based on work by Deffeyes, Simmons & Kunstler, et al.

One thing that is striking to me is how events are basically following the hypothetical "script," i.e., declining oil production, declining oil exports, rising oil prices, falling dollar, expanded military presence in the Persian Gulf, real estate meltdown (especially in outlying areas), etc.

So, if the "script" has been correct so far, what are the chances that the script will be correct going forward? IMO, pretty good. Therefore, better late than never, for those who have not started ELP, start preparing for the worst, while hoping for the best. As I said last year, if I am wrong, you will have less, or no, debt, more money in the bank, and a lower stress way of life.

Or, as I have asked before, does anyone now wish that they had Maximized their spending, commute and consumption by purchasing a large SUV for a long commute to and from a large 100% debt financed suburban McMansion?

I wonder how many teenagers are not getting cars because of my recommendations? I may need to go into hiding.

Sometimes a monumental depression comes over this household (there are two of us). We have enough knowledge of everything from carpentry to pickling cabbage between us that you would think we'd be "happy" going forward.

But no. We're social apes after all, and while there are a couple of people we know who get it, whom we can talk to without that eye-glaze we've learned to recognize, most of the people we've tried to educate just blow it off. One seemed to really get it--then went out and got pregnant. Another decided to move to an "upwardly mobile" area. Others just drive serenely forward into that evening sun.

A note about how serious we're taking it: we're about to lose our third April in a row: there is now a foot of snow on the ground. We spent the morning piling up manure around cold frames to keep my little seedlings warm and happy. They may be seeing us through next winter. Or maybe not. But they'll taste good anyway.

I would like to throw a mildly contrarian post into the mix. Westexas' post, and the recent substance and tone of posts on TOD quite generally, seem to suggest that an acute crisis, especially affecting suburbia and the middle-class portion of the workforce servicing mere "wants," is right around the corner and may very well occur as soon as later this year. But is it not entirely possible that this process will play itself out very gradually, in a non-acute manner (as in fact it has been for some time already), over the next couple of decades, so that there is no reason to worry about your middle-class, high-energy lifestyle for now unless you are part of the small minority that is already at the margins?

Indeed. But how long are we going to reiterate, "We don't know anything!"?

Everyone, all together: WE JUST DON'T KNOW!

Now, which is the best course: prepare for whatever hardships you can imagine, or "let the chips fall where they may"?

I hardly have to leave the house anymore.

As Jeffrey often points out, if he turns out to be wrong, there will be nothing lost by following his recommendations.

As Jeffrey often points out, if he turns out to be wrong, there will be nothing lost by following his recommendations.

I disagree that nothing will be lost. Comfort, convenience, safety, social status and prestige will be lost. Your child's future will be lost. Not that I advocate a debt fueled lifestyle and SUVs; but living in a 250 sq. ft. prefabricated house and asking your kids to get an Associate Degree instead of going to a good University does strike me as extreme. If you are wrong your kids will blame you for the rest of your life. And you will be the laughing stock among all your friends and relatives.

My recommendation is to buy a fuel efficient car with cash, pay off your mortgage as quickly as possible, try to live close to mass transit if possible, try to move close to your work place if possible and convince your employer to let you work from home if possible. And grow some food in your garden. I think WT's recommendations are too extreme even for a peak oiler.

I disagree. They are recommendations I would consider even if I were not a peak oiler.

Kids make up their own minds about what they want to do by the time they are college-age. If they really want to go, there are ways. In any case, a two-year college can be a great, money-saving choice to start with even if you end up getting a four-year degree or more.

The whole college thing is killing a lot of young people today. They drop out before they graduate, and end up with the worst of both worlds: crushing student loans, but no degree to show for them.

I disagree. They are recommendations I would consider even if I were not a peak oiler.

You said "nothing will be lost even if WT is wrong"; that is the part I disagree with. I already gave you a partial list of what would be lost if he is wrong.

Kids make up their own minds about what they want to do by the time they are college-age.

That is ofcourse true. But I guess the debate is about what advice you would give them as a parent. WT is recommending that they go to a 2 year college and then work on a farm during summer because most college education will be useless in a post peak world. If your kids take your advice and WT turns out to be wrong, they will blame you for the rest of your life.

The whole college thing is killing a lot of young people today. They drop out before they graduate, and end up with the worst of both worlds: crushing student loans, but no degree to show for them.

It is ofcourse foolish to spend money on college and then drop out before you graduate. But that was true even when oil was at $10/barrel.

I would want my child to go to a very good University and get high quality professional education. Later if it all comes crashing down due to peak oil and they end up working on a farm, so be it. But I would want them to plan for success and not failure.

Comfort, convenience, safety will be lost

I'd call this the Big Lie of modern life.

One is much more comfortable at home than in a car or office (at least I am);
One finds it much more convenient to get one's food out of the cellar or the garden instead of at the market five miles away (at least I do);
One is much safer at home than on the road (I definitely am).

I'd say ELP actually ENHANCES all of the above. As for "social status"... a fig!

One is much more comfortable at home than in a car or office (at least I am);
One finds it much more convenient to get one's food out of the cellar or the garden instead of at the market five miles away (at least I do);
One is much safer at home than on the road (I definitely am).

I agree with all of the above. By all means, live close to your work, work from home if possible and grow food in your garden.

I'd say ELP actually ENHANCES all of the above.

Yes, unless you take it to the extreme like living in a 250 sq ft prefabricated house and riding a bicycle to work in traffic or after dark or in cold weather. I am not opposed to ELP; I have lived below my means all my life. I am just saying that comfort, convenience and safety is compromised when it is taken to the extreme.

As for "social status"... a fig!

Easier said than done. While an obsession with social status is unhealthy, you have to think about the impact on your child's social life if you live in a 250 sq ft home. How do they bring their friends home without being considered poor, weird or strange? How many would want to date a teenager whose parents live in a 250 sq ft home? What are your child's chances of finding a spouse with desirable characteristics if they go to a 2 year college and work on a farm during summer with illegal aliens? How do you celebrate birthday parties, network with friends, socialize, if you live in a 250 sq ft house? Who would want to do you any favors or associate with you if people think you are unsuccessful and a failure? See what I mean? ELP, when taken to its extreme, is a recipe for disaster. You will fail because you planned for failure.

I hear you, but I don't have kids, so it's like living in another world (one I enjoy).

I've noticed friends often fob off their own needs/ambitions "for the sake of the kids," but I've a feeling it's BS half the time.

"Oh, we have to move to a better neighborhood/school district for the kids," etc.

Kids are adaptable and less needy than people like to imagine, I think.

"Oh, we have to move to a better neighborhood/school district for the kids,"

That would be code for "We have to move to a neighborhood/school district with fewer minorities."

Though normally I would whole-heartedly agree, this is not always true. The schools in Fairfax are much better than the schools in Washington, DC - and a major reason is the difference in tax base. And quite honestly, any parent choosing DC's public schools over Fairfax's lives in a very, very different world than what we would consider typical.

The German system (which is my eyes has its own fairly unique and very deep flaws) allows any student above 5th grade to go to any school in the region for which they are qualified (this is part of the flaw - a 3 tiered system). Where you live is not the determinant of which school you must attend as an 8th grader.

But in Virginia, it is fixed - leading to such neat boundary lines that kids that live literally 25 yards from a county high school take a bus to a city high school. This is utterly unimaginable here.

And to avoid any confusion - the tax base problem could be easily solved, but that would require 'them' getting more than 'us' - which would be unfair to 'us.' Whether this is based on racism or class is a fascinating but fruitless debate.

One thing that has always disturbed me about much political rhetoric in America is how it is able to defend the disadvantages facing a 7 year old in a place like DC or truly rural Virginia - the child is utterly blameless, but will pay for decisions made by others who cloak themselves in righteousness.

All I can say is I grew up poor or lower middle class my parents where Catholic School teachers. But in Arkansas education is respected or at least was when I was a kid so from my experience if people respect your parents profession income is not relevant. If you child can be proud of what you do and explain it to his peers that's enough.

So if you have children and want to live a frugal lifestyle its important I think to take on a job that contributes back to the community regardless of the pay. Teaching/Social Work etc should be part of your life or another way to become a active and respected member of the community maybe work for the local paper etc.

How many would want to date a teenager whose parents live in a 250 sq ft home? What are your child's chances of finding a spouse with desirable characteristics if they go to a 2 year college and work on a farm during summer with illegal aliens?Who would want to do you any favors or associate with you if people think you are unsuccessful and a failure?


I'm sorry that sans your bank account and the size of your home you think you would have trouble attracting a mate and socializing with friends.

I have no intent to have children but if I do they will inherit their father's good lucks and natural charm. =) In which case I'm not the least bit concerned that living in a small home will disadvantage them one bit in the mating game.

See what I mean?

I completely do. From what you have written I have inferred - and I don't think unreasonably mind you - that you lack the sort of personal manner and social skills that allow you to connect with other people sans your percieved "social prestige", whatever the hell that is based on. (bank account and square foot of your home I take it from what you've written.)

If you did possess a significant degree of charm, humor, and social grace you would not be the least bit concerned about the things you have expressed concerned about here.

suyog wrote:

I would want my child to go to a very good University and get high quality professional education. Later if it all comes crashing down due to peak oil and they end up working on a farm, so be it. But I would want them to plan for success and not failure.

I'm sorry, but it's worth pointing out that this sort of ingrained cultural imperative about going to "a very good University and get[ting] high quality professional education" because *you* "want them to plan for success and not failure" is nuts. It accurately describes and practically ensures the success of all our present days failings! Even worse is that this sort of poor thinking goes hand in hand with your lament about losing "comfort, convenience, safety, social status and prestige"!!!


The legacy of such self-centered arrogance in pursuit of comfort, convenience, social status and prestige is without exception one of utter desecration across the width and breadth of this good earth, and their is no safety in any of it!

Furthermore, this is not the legacy of the unschooled. Instead, it is the work of people who, in Gary Snyder's words: "make unimaginably large sums of money, people impeccably groomed, excellently educated at the best universities -- male and female alike -- eating fine foods and reading classy literature, while orchestrating the investments and legislation that ruin the world."

So, here's my advice: GROW UP!

Like 99% of the humans I want a comfortable and safe life. And while I am not obsessed with status and prestige, I don't want people to look down on me either. And naturally I want my child to get a good education and do well in life. So I am not sure why all this is so shocking and scandalous to you. I don't consider my desires to be abnormal or unnatural. I don't advocate buying SUVs or debt fueled consumption. I support ELP; just not the extreme version of it. I merely stated in plain words what 99% of people think and want all the time.

Furthermore, this is not the legacy of the unschooled. Instead, it is the work of people who, in Gary Snyder's words: "make unimaginably large sums of money, people impeccably groomed, excellently educated at the best universities -- male and female alike -- eating fine foods and reading classy literature, while orchestrating the investments and legislation that ruin the world."

And what is it that the "unschooled" want? They want their kids to be "excellently educated" so that they too can be one of the people who are "impeccably groomed, eat fine food and read classy literature" :-)

And I can assure you that I am an ordinary person and I have never orchestrated investments or legislation that has contributed to ruining the world. :-)

So, here's my advice: GROW UP!

And my advice to you is to get off your high horse. For all I know you may have a carbon foot print that is bigger than mine.

We recycle, compost, grow vegetables in the garden, use CFL bulbs, turn off the lights when not needed, use programmable thermostat to cut our natural gas consumption and dry our clothes on the rack instead of a dryer. Our house is not huge by modern American middle-class standards. And I live only 1 mile from work. And our next car will be a Toyota Prius.

So what exactly is your problem? If we move into a shack and if our daughter aspires to go to a community college instead of Stanford, will it make you feel better?

suyog, I'm sorry, again, but it is my understanding the discussion at TOD revolves around PEAK OIL. As in, oil is a finite resource, of which there is a beginning to its production, an end of its production, and a middle -- the peak of its production. Despite the lack of complete clarity and certainty about exactly when PO arrives and how fast the post peak world oil production decline comes down, there is absolutely no doubt that it will happen -- probably much sooner than later. And as most people posting on this site are familiar with what this means, whether slow or fast, I assumed you too would understand what this means.

I'm sorry, but your posts exhibited no such comprehension, or you would not have placed any such undue emphasis on *loss* of "comfort, convenience, safety, social status and prestige" as you did over and over. And especially not on the very same day there is an entire other thread about how Senegalese are living without all the comfort, convenience, safety, social status and prestige that oil gives us!

(And BTW, no where in Jeffery's post does he "recommend" that we all need move into a 250sq.ft pre-fab homes. If you had read it correctly he clearly states he only "thinks" that such small size structures as these may be more predominate in a post PO world. Overall, I think his post was hopeful and not at all "extreme." Some of the other replies bear me out on this.)

When it comes to the *losses* of our children, and I have two (11 & 8 yrs of age), these things you specifically linked together and did harp on lamenting about are the furthest things from my mind. This is not to say that I don't worry about their comfort and safety -- that goes without saying! But in a post peak world our children will not have either the time or the inclination to worry about their *social status & prestige* as they will be too damn busy working their butts off trying to overcome the *uncomfortable* mess of no where's near as much oil to go around as the world is presently and all too *conveniently* (i.e., in a patently and criminally insane way) consuming, while also coping with *fail-safe* climate changes already built into their future.

As to any so-called *high quality professional University education* I can not for the life of me think of one such University (certainly not among the Ivy League and all their ilk) that offers any humanly decent semblance of a Peak Oil education, never mind a *post* Peak Oil one! What I do see our *high quality professional University education* factories offer is a Peak Oil ignorant education; one that basically amounts to: Party On!!! Good luck to your kids in such a vast wasteland of time, money, and their future human prospects. And all for what? Just so they too can secure their unquestionable privilege and *successful* place of "comfort, convenience, safety, social status and prestige" as *you want*!

I am sorry, suyog, but this is what your originally stated and repeated words revealed about your Peak Oil concerns to me, and your follow up reply shows no further comprehension of the problem. I'm sorry one last time, but as someone who is deeply concerned (angry even) about what Peak Oil means to my kids future safety and comfort, your explicitly expressed concerns are FUBARed.

Bottom line: What you and 99% of the rest of the world *wants* is not likely to be had in a post Peak Oil world, with or without a University education -- barring a miracle happening with our collective awareness and willingness to deal with the problem. Lastly, if you think Jeffery's post was extreme, all I can say is: Girl, you are in for one heck of a reality surprise!

But I do wish your kids the best of luck!

I have been peak oil & global warming aware for 3 to 4 years. When I talk about it to the people I know, the usual reaction is disbelief & ridicule. I was called a "pessimist who always sees the glass as half full", "a prophet of gloom & doom" and accused of scaremongering and creating unnecessary fear. When I look outside everything looks normal and everyone looks happy. No one seems to be worried. So sometimes I wonder if others are right and I am just crazy. I hope that at least in this country (US) we somehow muddle through the transition period. Maybe some combination of technology & conservation will allow us to muddle through.

I have done all the obvious things to reduce consumption and protect my family. Beyond that, let the chips fall where they may.........

And I honestly feel that personal conservation is not going to change when oil peaks because if you consume less, someone who earns less than you will consume more. So the end result will be the same........

And by the way, I am not a girl but a boy.

And I honestly feel that personal conservation is not going to change when oil peaks because if you consume less, someone who earns less than you will consume more. So the end result will be the same........

The key point is to rearrange your life so that one is at least better prepared for what is coming. Assume that Simmons is right and oil is at $200 per barrel in 2010.

In 2010, would you rather be:

(1) Driving a H2 Hummer on a 50 mile roundtrip commute to and from a $500,000 mortgage, working in the travel/leisure industry, or

(2) Living within walking distance of your job, or along a mass transit line, in small, energy efficient housing, and in a job providing essential goods and/or services?

I completely agree with this unless you take "small housing" to its extreme :-)

First Adopters that chose get more of a choice than those that are later forced by circumstances to "downsize". Extra thick walls for extra thick insulation can offset more sq ft as one example.

Lots of interesting floor plans in the Katrina cottage links. Two bedroom, almost 700 sq ft, etc.

Best Hopes,


Actually, community college is one of the best bargains of any kind available today. I'd say that for almost anyone that isn't absolutely top tier elite academic material (e.g, MIT, etc), they would probably be better off going to community college for their first two years. They will get an education that is at least as good as anything they will get from 90-95% of traditional 4-year colleges. (I am talking about community colleges that offer A.A. degrees with articulation agreements with state univerities.) In addition to the savings on tuition (which is a huge differential), there is also the savings by living at home, plus the opportunity to combine study with work (many classes are offered at night, making it possible for the student to pursue better job opportunities than the food service and retail that are about it in most college towns).

For someone that just wants the credential of a bachelor's degree (i.e., someone that isn't pursuing a professional career that requires graduate education), there are accredited intitutions that offer alternatives to the traditional programs. Some offer innovative accelerated course schedules. Others offer courses through distance education or online. There are also programs that will evaluate life experience and actually give you college credit for that job you worked to help pay your way through school. Sometimes it is possible to put together credits from two or three different programs. A motivated person can get a bachelor's degree for just a fraction of what a traditional 4-year program costs, if they put their mind to it.

I am talking here about getting a credential. This should under no circumstances be confused with getting an education, which is something altogether different. The vast majority of American students these days go through 12 years of public school and 4 years of college, and they are less well educated than the typical 8th grade graduate was a century ago. If you are a parent and are serious about making sure that your child actually gets an education, then you are going to have to make a proactive effort to make this happen -- it won't happen at school. This does not necessarilly mean that you have to do the whole homeschooling thing (though that is a commendable option). But it does mean that you are going to have to spend some time with your child(ren) each day working with them through their homework and SUPPLEMENTING what little they are getting at school. You are also going to have to take the kids on frequent trips to the library, museums, etc. What you really need to do is teach your kid to learn on their own, because ultimately, learning isn't something that can be done to a person, it is something that happens internally. If you can equip your child to be a lifelong self-directed learner by the time they approach adulthood, you won't need to worry too much about whatever educational pathway they select.

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."

William Butler Yeats

I agree.

I'll also add that you often get a lot more personal attention at community colleges. I went to a "highly selective" school, known for the attention it gave to its undergrads (as opposed to the grad students, as is the case at many such schools). But still...the professors were rated not on their teaching skills, but on the number of papers they got published, and on the grants they brought in. Naturally, teaching wasn't a priority for them. I actually had more than one professor complain that an important man like him shouldn't have to deal with students.

You said "nothing will be lost even if WT is wrong"; that is the part I disagree with. I already gave you a partial list of what would be lost if he is wrong.

I don't consider that much lost.

WT is recommending that they go to a 2 year college and then work on a farm during summer because most college education will be useless in a post peak world. If your kids take your advice and WT turns out to be wrong, they will blame you for the rest of your life.

I doubt it. As I said, most kids make up their own minds by that age. And it's not like they have to go to college at age 18, or forfeit it forever. A lot of people go when they're older, and get a lot more out of it because of their maturity.

I would want my child to go to a very good University and get high quality professional education.

And if he has to drop out before graduating because of financial considerations, and is stuck with huge student loans that dog him for you think he'll "blame you for the rest of his life"?

And if he has to drop out before graduating because of financial considerations, and is stuck with huge student loans that dog him for you think he'll "blame you for the rest of his life"?

We will pay for her college; there won't be any student loans. Unless things completely fall apart, money is not an issue. We are not rich, but both of us have good jobs because we are extremely well educated. We are somewhat frugal and have been practicing a mild version of ELP all our lives.

I understand your concerns Suyog. If I was you I'd have the EXACT same concerns.

After all, you come off as a snob with a stick up his ass. If your kids inherited or learned these traits from you, they will have no hope of being able to attract mates or friends sans a huge degree of "social prestige."

You may think that you and your wife are hot shots - even if you deny thinking so, it's obvious you do - but you have huge and I do mean "HUGE" blind spots. They're so huge I'm not even sure how to begin explaining them to you and I don't really care to bother anyway. To be quite frank, I feel very sorry for you and your kids.

Matt, I think it is time for you to take your medication. Whatever you may think of me from a brief exchange of opinions on the internet, at least I can express myself without hurling gratuitous insults and making personal attacks.

One of the differences that I love about New Orleans is the that people look at people and character.

At parties elsewhere, I am asked "And what do you do ?" in the first 5 minutes of a conversation. People seem to have an overwhelming need to cubbyhole/sterotype you. I can spend an hour in animated conversation at a party here without that question coming up. Although "How much water did you get ?" is now frequently asked and the classical "Where have you eaten lately ?"

A friend of mine (a gay banker) had an interesting and true observation. "New Orleans is the only place I know where there is no social pressure to conform, you can be who you want to be".

In my experience, New Orleans is the only place where "being a good guy" is positively rewarded and has significant social worth/entre in a wide variety of social settings. Randomly "Hey, I have some extra Jazz Fest tickets" but rewarded none the less. And I find it interesting to be one of 2 or 3 straight guys at a gay party, or whites at a black party or the only engineer in a party of artists and musicians.

And I have a FAR wider range of friends here.

Best Hopes for Naw'lins,


westexas' education plan is what I've asked my own two teenage boys to consider as my recommendation as well. Take some time after high school, *learn a trade*, then if they want go back for college, fine when they feel ready. It's not the conventional wisdom path, but it worked for me, so at least it needs to be there as an explicit option. If they want to study history, music and liberal arts, all the better; if they want to study business or economics, no support from Daddy. :-)

cfm in Gray, ME

Hi cfm,

Thanks and I had the thought, Q: Are these two types of learning *necessarily* incompatible? Learning navigation/tracking, and astronomy (practical course, theoretical course). A Trade: farming, agriculture - there are now even org. ag programs in college. How to build things, and how to engineer (the physics behind some of the practicalities). Lots to do and choose from, of course... my point is just...
Young men with lots of energy - perhaps they can do both. Some college with the trade and practical learning?

I disagree that nothing will be lost. Comfort, convenience, safety, social status and prestige will be lost.

My advice is worth what you are paying for it, but if I were you, I would be more concerned about feeding my family than with "Comfort, convenience, social status and prestige." (I deleted "safety.")

This does remind me of some discussions with upper income Peak Oil aware Baby Boomers regarding their kids. A common refrain that I have heard is there will still be a need for "Policy Makers."

In other words, it's okay for someone else's kids to do the hard work of providing essential good and services--especially food and energy--but their little darlings would still have comfy white collar governmental jobs. I wouldn't count on it. And I would avoid law school like the plague.

As I said, a better investment may be for your kids to train to be an engineer, or a mechanic, or something in agriculture.

Hi WT. I greatly appreciate your invaluable posts re ELP (and all other issues) and I generally agree with your opinions re peak oil and ELP.

Where would you place the need for legal services ie attorneys and other legal professionals in the context of ELP as the effects of peak oil etc play out?

This does remind me of some discussions with upper income Peak Oil aware Baby Boomers regarding their kids. A common refrain that I have heard is there will still be a need for "Policy Makers."

This reminds me of a post from the early days of TOD. There was a TOD'er named "Bubba" (?) who had family oil. He was a great poster with lots of stories. One of them was about a party he attended of the very wealthy in Nevada. He told them about PO. They didn't blink. First, they wanted to figure out how to make money off it. Second, they knew they were inoculated from any really negative outcomes by their money. Their life would go on; too bad about the rest humanity.

I tried to find this story but there are no comments from the old Oil Drum archives.

But is it not entirely possible that this process will play itself out very gradually, in a non-acute manner (as in fact it has been for some time already), over the next couple of decades, so that there is no reason to worry about your middle-class, high-energy lifestyle for now unless you are part of the small minority that is already at the margins?

If it weren't for the Export Land model, I would agree. Unfortunately, every time I look at the numbers I get more--not less--concerned about how bad it will be. This is a simplistic model that Khebab did for me:

Note that the combined effect of a 5% annual decline rate in production and a 2.5% increase in consumption resulted in zero net oil exports in 9 years. Then consider that the UK went from probably maximum net oil exports, in 1999, to probably zero net oil exports 5 years later, in 2004 (they were a net importer in 2005).

In any case, forced energy conservation is moving relentlessly up the food chain, or as I put it, "Ask not for whom forced energy conservation comes, it comes for thee." (With apologies to Hemingway, et al)

Finally, this is one of the reasons that I recommend taxing energy consumption, offset by cutting or eliminating the highly regressive Payroll Tax. You could, if you wish, continue with the SUV/Suburban way of life, but you would pay a heavy tax if you chose to continue conspicuously consuming energy.

Great post, WT.

I am looking forward to your next one.
Hmmm...April 16. What the taxman taketh away
WT returns with priceless advice! :-)

Hi Jeffrey,

Much appreciation for all your work here.

re: "Finally, this is one of the reasons that I recommend taxing energy consumption..."

The other day (week?) - (I will lose my comment if I try to find) - a poster suggested a tax on oil imports (and on oil/energy producers) and gave several supporting reasons. (I'll try to find it when I'm done.)

This would be (if I remember correctly), the easiest and most direct way way to tax FF use. My next Q was "yes, but doesn't this mean the price of oil would then be higher in the US than elsewhere?"

In any case, I'm wondering if you might go in to a bit more detail - sometime, (at your convenience, of course)- on how a tax on energy consumption would work, Who collects? Who determines how much is collected? Who pays? How is this different than a sales tax? Why not tax producers, rather than consumers?

I agree, I tend to doubt the doomer TEOTWAWKI scenarios.

However, no matter how much oil or fossil fuels there may be left in the ground, there is that one inconvenient truth: it is all becoming ever more expensive to extract. In other words, the real core of the problem is EROEI, and that is why an inexorable increase in energy prices is inevitable and totally predictable. It is only the annual average percentage increase in prices that is uncertain.

I would point out that even a relatively modest annual rate of increase of 10% above the base rate of price inflation would result in a doubling of prices every seven years. $3.50/gallon gasoline this summer would become $7 by 2014, $14 by 2021, $28 by 2028, and $56 by 2035. Those are real dollars by the way, not nominal ones. There are a lot of people who are by no means doomers that would consider that to be a relatively optimistic forecast. Prices for other forms of energy are likely to more or less correlate with this same pattern.

A USA where gasoline prices equal $56/gallon will be one that is different from our own in ways we can't even begin to imagine. Even $14/gallon will be a radical discontinuity.

The bottom line is that household investments in energy conservation or renewable energy production are likely to be a prudent financial investment.

If there is one thing we learned from the whole Y2K thing, it is that people in positions of wealth and power will do whatever it takes to preserve their position of weath and power. They are not going to just sit back and see everything destroyed. That does not mean that everything will be A-OK for you or for I; the people in positions of wealth and power don't care about you or I, but they do care about themselves. They cannot prevent the fact that oil (and all energy in general) is going to get more expensive. But there are things they can do to assure that a minimal level of civil order is maintained, along with the essential financial, energy, transportation and commercial infrastructure. We have the best politicians that money can buy, and you can count upon it that the people doing the buying will pull the right strings to assure that their balance sheets and personal safety are preserved. Our challenge will be to live in the world that results from all of this.

The only problem with that price rise scenario is that you'll be hard pressed to find people willing to transport the stuff to the people who can still afford it-

It'd be like making the basra-baghdad run-

I would point out that even a relatively modest annual rate of increase of 10% above the base rate of price inflation would result in a doubling of prices every seven years. $3.50/gallon gasoline this summer would become $7 by 2014, $14 by 2021, $28 by 2028, and $56 by 2035. Those are real dollars by the way, not nominal ones. There are a lot of people who are by no means doomers that would consider that to be a relatively optimistic forecast. Prices for other forms of energy are likely to more or less correlate with this same pattern.

Greetings Stefan,

Sorry, but I just have to say this.

What you and too many others don't get is that the real pain is not more expensive oil, but it is when there are chronic, lasting shortages of gasoline. But when lines start appearing at gas stations, that is where the real pain and damage begins. That when the D gets put into Demand Destruction.

As long as the gas comes out of the nozzles, we will deal with it one way or the other. Month after month of gas lines? Shudder.

got news for you stefan...many of those of wealth and power blew off the warnings,and would have been well and truely screwed if y2k had been more than a hicup

if you dont have the energy imputs,it is very hard to maintain "order",just ask anyone who spent the last ten years in moscow,or in argentina.

Those tall silver towers ,and multi-story ,mega-apts will be hard to live in with little power and less food.I live outsiide portland oregon,and am watching in dis-belief as ven more old buildings are renovated into new lofts,with a cool $750,000 pricetags,and the funky weird town I spent my youth in is turned into a new,shiny 21cen,energypig of a town.The whole downtown is going thru a transition to something most of us native folk dont care for much...

Even more old buildings are renovated into new lofts,with a cool $750,000 pricetags,and the funky weird town I spent my youth in is turned into a new,shiny 21cen,energypig of a town.The whole downtown is going thru a transition to something most of us native folk dont care for much...

Many people always resent change, and condos in the "Pearl" may be overpriced, but I think you are VERY wrong about downtown Portland Oregon turning into "an energy pig".

Portland has a mild climate and superinsulation is not required for fairly low energy consumption. A good amount of insulation is needed and the more the better of course.

Auto use is *WAY* down in downtown Portland and non-oil transportation (streetcar, MAX light rail, bicycle and walking) is enough to get by. (is that true in your rural area ?)

Auto ownership in the Pearl (a transformed old warehouse district once largely abandoned) is down and rent by the hour cars are common.

Energy Pig ?



Well, Snuffy, a longtime resident, is obviously comparing the city to the way it used to be...and reacting negatively more to the consequences of growth more than the energy usage, I suspect. Alan, along with the rest of us, recognizes how progressive Portland is compared to the rest of the country...a shining example of what could be, which for the most part, is almost completely ignored by the mass of clueless Americans. Well, not completely, as I said, since apparently many people recognize the livability of the city...and want to move there.

Alan,I am BUILDING INSPECTOR...primarily structural steel,but I watch these monters go up,and their primary heat systems are nat. gas,or worse..Electric,and the new ones have the charm and dignity of a rabbit hutch.I am quite a bit more familer with the pearl,haveing inspected the steel in half of the buildings there.They are concrete boxes,
and as far as "mild climate"let me tell you about the 9-10 weeks of bitter cold this winter....

> primary heat systems are nat. gas,

That is the role that natural gas is best suited for. A proper use and probably the "highest & best use".

> or worse electric

The Columbia River is a mighty source of hydroelectric power. The aluminum smelters are movong out, freeing up power. And Oregon has decent wind potential that is being developed.

I am curious about the levels of insulation being installed ?

>The charm and dignity of a rabbit hutch

Since many of them were formerly warehouses (or mills ?), that is not surprising. And I agree that modern architecture is an aesthic failure.

Small is *GOOD*, MultiFamily, multistory is *GOOD* for energy efficiency.

The heating requirements for condo with a 10' x 16' wall facing outside and common walls for all else are fairly small. Yes, corner condos have two exposed walls and top floor condos have an exposed roof as well.

500 sq ft also takes less energy to light, as well as heat and cool. And 500 to 650 sq ft is "enough" for a couple.

And the vehicle miles traveled by the residents of the Pearl are low.

I suspect that you use more energy in your single family home and more oil commuting than do the vast majority of Pearl residents.

Best Hopes,


PS; Read the post a few down from this about the apartment building in Switzerland. And if there is a "Greatest Nation in the World", Switzerland is at the top of the short list of candidates.

if I recall corectly,the nat.gas "cliff event" will be even more dramatic than peak...when the nat.gas bill is the same size as the morgage...Oh,I heat with wood,and have r-50 walls,ceiling,and will have passive solar,soon as the attached greenhouse is done.I dont expect my gas use to change much ...sooo I was priceing scooters w/100miles per gallon,but I need to scare up $3500 for the one I want

Remember how electic prices got screwy when a substantual portion of the facilities were down....columbia hydro can be sent to calf. in a heartbeat then what? When L.A. is in darkness,or hollywood,where do you think it will go? to my little place?,or hollywood?

If one only has a 10' x 16' exposed wall (you did not mention insulation levels) with double pane windows and R-19 walls (add a hanging blanket over that) will NOT use much natural gas and can certainly afford it.

The calculation for heat loss if delta Temperature x surface area/ R-Value = BTUs/ hour.

Portland will have a slighter lower delta Temp (AFAIK) than in the hills; but the Pearl condos will have a MUCH smaller surface area.

You may have 6,000 sq ft of R-50 walls & ceiling (plus windows) but 120 sq ft of R-19 + 40 sq ft of R-3 windows will have less heat loss (or gain). Wood as a primary or backup fuel is, of course, good as well.

And the Portland streetcar and MAX beat your hoped for 100 mpg scooter hands down. Especially when you can walk to work and the grocery store.

Best Hopes,


Alan,The insulation,as is always the case,the bare minimum the code will allow,something like r-19 for multiple dwelling .a builder will never install more than the minimum the contract/code reqires....{my speciality is steel}

Dont get me wrong...I love my hometown,and would never move,but I have seen the warts ,and underside of stumptown most of my life.We do have the most progressive city gov,and some rational folks in the state gov.,but we also have some truely barbaric state Karen Mennis,and still have some in positions of power who stopped thinking in the 50s

I dont see a lot of the high dollar jobs like webdesigner,progammer,highend ad service,artist,ect being the bread and butter type jobs that may exist post-peak.I see a lot of hungry ,ill trained yuppie types who will be saying"like whaa happened?"
My wife works for the state and rides MAX daily.If its going where you need to go,fine.My job requires I visit many poduck out-of-the-way places.Untile you can explain to me how to telpathicaly examine 200 embeds at a welding shop 40miles from where I live,ill do the best I can

"got news for you stefan...many of those of wealth and power blew off the warnings,and would have been well and truely screwed if y2k had been more than a hicup"

What I meant was that there were plenty of TEOTWAWKI doomers around in the run up to Y2K, too. The reason Y2K was a hicup was that corporation and institutions had a lot to lose if they didn't remediate, and so there was this huge reprogramming effort, old COBOL programmer came out of retirement, lots of organizations decided to take the opportunity to go ahead and change out old legacy systems with new technology, and so we had a late 90s technology bubble and no Y2K meltdown.

The many of those with wealth and power blew off the warnings because they knew this was all happening, because the people that worked for them knew damn well that they better make it happen.

It is always a mistake to assume that everyone with wealth and power is a stupid idiot that will just sit around with their heads up their rears as the world changes.

In my youth ,the U.S. gov. spent a about .5 mil. traing me in emergency mangement,after 2 years of babysitting nuc. subs,I went into commercial power.37 outages at 17 nuke station later,I was tired of traveling,and went back into steel inspection
What I am getting at is that I have seen ,and had to deal with,high stress,emergecy situations,and have a pretty good idea how people react when it counts.
I dont assume that the wealth and powerful have their head up their ass when it gets hinky...what I ment was that they have a vested interest in things staying exactly the way they are...which ensures they stay in the position they are G.M. purchase of a certain new battery technology,and then sitting on prevent it being used..

The desire to remain "on top"might continue to choke new tech,right when we need it the most.

Bottom line,5%of the population will be busy little beavers,like myself,prepareing for a uncertain energy future.{as soon as I finish these responce's I need to work on my Kiwi grove,whose kiwis I intend to sell to those liveing in the little concrete rabbit hutches in the pearl}

That 5% is split between those like Raintree, a billionaire who is savvy to peak,and prepareing,and people like me,of a bit more modest means.My 2.9 acres at the end of a dead end road,with a spring,40x60 pond R-50 house isulation,wood heat,and 80% of my ground in fruit trees,grapes,Kiwi vine,will be what keeps me and mine,from being whats going to be a huge problem, for whom ever is the"goverment"

Regardless of a persons weath,the willingness to see the leak in the boat,and whats even more,the willingness to act on that information,is what will be the darwinian choice all will make.

I am accepting that particular challange,and have changed my lifestyle accordingly.I work every day to try and make my place a bit more secure,and efficient,and productive.My observation has been the people here,in oregon, are starting to change without the political animals even being involved.{They will get it eventually}.

IF we are at peak THEN the only thing that matters is rate of decline.

If the decline rate is very modest, as suggested by Stuart almost 2 years ago, then we'll adapt as we go. If the decline rate exceeds the adaptation rate, then trouble ensues. How much trouble? It probably depends on that pesky decline rate again, doesn't it?

So what happens if you ELP and peak oil does not occur til 2030? Well, you get yourself debt free, have more to save, and are in a more secure position anyway. But what happens if you do not ELP, peak oil was actually May 2005, and the decline rate exceeds adaptation rate?

I see ELP as a "win-win" scenario. Either I am protecting myself from today or I am saving more for my retirement tomorrow. In either case, I win.

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

I should think the world decline rate will be very modest for at least the next five years - if only because there are a lot of new projects scheduled to come on line from now until 2012 - over 20 million B/D, by Skrebowski's reckoning. Under these circumstances, why should we expect decline rates of more than 2-3% annually before 2012 - and even, quite possibly, for some time beyond? And, in the wealthier countries at least, there is a lot of "low-hanging fruit" in terms of possibilities for conservation that can keep things basically running for some time to come (lower speed limits, for example - though I don't relish the thought).

And Westexas' Exportland model is duly noted; but as he also has often pointed out, the wealthy countries are outbidding the poorer ones. I propose that this may also continue essentially unchanged for the next five years, leading to a situation where we essentially maintain business as usual in the wealthier countries - including the US - while those in poorer countries increasingly starve (but invisibly to the affluent world, of course).

Also, I would say that Westexas' Exportland model overlooks the possibility of certain importing countries commandeering for themselves what would otherwise contribute to increasing internal comsumption in the exporting countries. Yes, yes, I know - Iraq is a failure in this regard so far - but that can be changed with the application of sufficiently genocidal measures.

I should think the world decline rate will be very modest for at least the next five years...

Oil supplies could decline at a modest rate if there were no supply interuptions due to resource wars (personally I think there will be). However, a deflationary credit crunch is not a gradual phenomenon. I would argue that there's plenty to be concerned about in the short term.

In regard to new production coming online, assuming a 6% decline in existing production (the upper end of ExxonMobil's estimate), we will lose close to 40% of our existing crude + condensate production--about 30 mbpd--from 2005 to 2012.

Regarding exports, see my comments down the thread.

You are certainly entitled to assume whatever decline rate you wish when you structure your plans. When I structure mine, I will assume whatever rate that I feel is prudent.

Best of luck to you going forward. I hope you are correct about the relatively modest decline rate, but I am not going to plan on it.

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

I'm with you -- ELPing like crazy, planning for the worst, and contrary to what many of the cornucopians seem to think about "doomers," I'm hoping with all of my heart and soul for the best, not the worst. I get no joy whatsoever from the thought of spending my retiring, declining years, toiling at back-breaking labor just to eat. I worked my butt off since I was a kid (and yes, we were poor), and have lived very frugally and saved like a madwoman for the past 16 years. I wanted a nice, easy retirement of travel and leisure. But due to peak oil and my strong belief in it, I don't think my retirement will be anything like I hoped for. I'm past the anger and disillusionment phases, but I'd love nothing more than to find out it is all a false alarm. If it is, I may still get the retirement of my dreams....only better because I scaled back, planted food, and paid off my debts.

But if it does truly turn out badly, just maybe I still have a few good years left because I ELPed. And some of us old coots actually have good, useful and marketable skills that we could teach to younger folks and help them. I don't know a single young woman (under 45 is young) that can do the things I can do, and frankly most young men can't either. Maybe the younger folks will be glad some of us old coots planned for a future of diminishing energy so that we are still around, for a while at least, to pass on needed physical skills that they never learned in a cubicle or in a car commuting to that cubicle.

[I removed text, it accidentally posted twice. - E]

It seems to me that there are diminishing returns to investment in Peak Oil preparation here which are rarely discussed because the people advocating these investments view them as desirable (morally or otherwise) in themselves rather than as expenses to be undertaken in place of other uses to which money could be put. (I understand. I feel that way about guns.)

Who could argue against abolishing consumer debt? I did that years ago. But it’s one thing to become debt-free, and another to move into an eco-trailer park and switch to a diet of turnips and boiled carrots (harvested from the plot of turf in between the solar panel and the septic tank cover). I’d say I’d lose quite a bit if I did that and the economic effects of the great collapse proved less apocalyptic than many around here seem to hope.

And, of course, if I did move into an eco-village (I’m sorry, “sustainable community”) then I’d have to live with the people in the eco-village. I’m reminded of the commune scene from Easy Rider.

All the Best,
“I may be wrong about God, but at least I won’t spend eternity surrounded by a bunch of shrieking Baptists.”

I'm wondering if we're actually very close to the point where prices induce demand destruction. Nationally, the US saw increased gasoline consumption in 2006, but in California, where prices are higher, we actually saw a slight drop in 2006:

California's consumption in 2006 fell by 0.7%, to 15.8 billion gallons, figures from the state Board of Equalization show.

Demand destruction and ....... just maybe because we (CA) allowed hybrids to use the diamond lanes. :)

My great-grandfather bought a 1/4 section of land in Saskatchewan for $10 in 1896 and homesteaded. They were completely energy self-sufficient and mixed farmed. Contrary to all of the biomass energy schemes, biomass went back to the soil (straw and manure) and was sustainable soil stewardship. The cellulosic ethanol from straw scheme isn't sustainable, but continuous cropping with nitrogen fertilizer from NG isn't long-term sustainable even without removing straw. Returning biomass to the soil and summerfallow will produce close to the same yields as chemical fertilizers.

They didn't commute to work. They heated their homes with wood cut and transported by hand.

They were able to produce ethanol without any fossil fuel inputs. They didn't have cars to burn it in, so being a resourceful bunch, they found something more entertaining to do with it. :)

I grew up on the same farm, and I am not nostalgic for chores whatsoever and it's just not realistic to go back to farming with horses, but if the energy inputs in agriculture were moved away from fossil fuels to renewable sources and proper soil stewardship was maintained, there is a starting point for a sustainable society.

My thoughts on agriculture and sustainable energy.

p.s. You can buy a 1/4 section of prime farmland in Saskatchewan for $30k-200k, which adjusted for inflation is comparable to the 1896 $10, and try pioneering yourself. It drops to -30C in the winter so you probably want to get something for shelter for the kids cobbled together your first summer.

Regarding winter in -30C you may want to check out this Earthship style house in a similar climate and it has NO insulation!

I'm considering something similar but with insulation and for 10+ families. But the group is schizoid - some love it in town and many grew up in the country.

At least we can get localish organic food:

Friends from EcoVillage in Ithaca really helped kickstart us up here.

The earthen house is related. My family lived on the edge of the treeline and homes were log with a straw/clay chinking, but the sod house was the standard across the prairies.

Strawbale/stucco construction, especially from flax straw (flax straw doesn't biodegrade readily and insects don't like the linseed) is a realistic option.

I've been practicing my stucco skills. A fair warning: Lift a few thousand straw bails and mix up a couple of hundred batches of cement/lime plaster before considering strawbale construction. You wouldn't need to plan for an exercise room.

rohar - nice piccies. How does the lattice-core stucco wall compare in strength with a double-brick construction?

I'm wondering about garden security, and thinking of the old country houses I've been to where the kitchen garden is enclosed by a 9-12' (2.5-3.5 metres) wall. That was presumably to keep the cabbages in and the hungry peasants out.

How does the lattice-core stucco wall compare in strength with a double-brick construction?

The main considerations in this case were noise barrier (we back the Trans-Canada highway) and low maintenance. The reason for the diagonal lattice was to have a rigid panel without sheathing (cost saving). The fence is 190' and 6-10' high and sheathing it on both sides with plywood/OSB was another $3k.

The construction was a layer of poly, layer of tar paper, wire, first layer cement plaster, second layer cement plaster and then a third color coat. It ended up being about an inch of stucco and is reasonably strong, but obviously not double brick. The rear section was stuffed with insulation and the double diagonal 2x2 construction with insulation and double stucco shell is an amazing sound barrier. There is very little mechanical transfer through the wall. I setup forms cut from 3" pvc and poured cement with rebar to cap the top to give it stability and limit the chance of water penetration into the wall.

1 5
The cost was comparable to a cedar board fence, but it was an insane amount of work mixing and applying 80 wheelbarrows of cement plaster. I used a hopper gun for the color coat and that was probably the worst thing, holding 20lbs of cement in the gun over 3000ft2 of wall. This is the third year it's been there and I am very happy with it. My wife, neighbors and my back were happy when I finally finished it.

Rohar1, could you please email me at Stoneleigh2006(at)msn(dot)com?


Very nice work. If I could put together lattice work that neat I'd probably have just painted it white and called it done. :-)

BTW, what is it that you placed in the lattices before stuccoing? Some kind of insulation?

EDIT: Never mind... I see you answered my question in the previous post.

I've been wrestling with this myself.
How much debt to risk for pulling this off?
I could buy 100 acres close to town - be out of range of public transit; but still be bike riding distance to work for all but the 3 to 4 months of winter.
Do it co-housing style - bring the community with you! (local'ish group doing this)

Getting a farmer to grow organic is nigh on impossible. Who wants to compete with China and California with their slave labour and massive monoculture farms?

CSA's - food box programs are a way to go - but we just left ours behind and made a larger garden. Could one leave their job and make a go at living on a farm and farming at a loss while providing a better place for the kids and the future? Been there, done that; I was one of the kids and all that it took to support the farm (15 head of cattle, ducks, chickens and other small animals, 40 acres of pasture) was a full time job.

It costs us about $15k to live - food, housing and one car, no debt. Buy the farm previously mentioned or a 2nd car and watch the cost of living go up by 50%! What's that worth?
Of course the big unknowns are property taxes - being able to get the tax reductions for operating a farm - but then getting taxed as a business for running a CSA.

Will peak oil cause a quick collapse - I don't think so.
Will property prices start to drop with the deflating housing bubble in the USA? I think so. Then what? My hunches say massive demand destruction. Who is China, or the world, producing for?

Will people with cash then be able to make moves?
Where do we leave money sitting while inflation shoots up?
Ever since reading Your Money Or Your Life I've become a fan of bonds myself but my energy sector & precious metals investments have been doing well recently.

Either way interesting times are ahead.

My brother and I still own 2 sections of land and we quit actively farming in 1992 and the land is leased. There are very few self-supporting farms in Western Canada and most farmers have outside jobs or some value added secondary income.

In 1975 a 200hp tractor was $40k, diesel was $0.12/L, NH3 was $50/tonne and HRS wheat was ~$200/tonne. Now, a 200hp tractor is $180k, diesel is $0.90/L, NH3 is $600/tonne and...
HRS wheat is $200/tonne. Recently, feed grains are up (due to US ethanol), but it still isn't feasible.

There are 150,000 farms in SK carrying 6 billion of debt. We decided to quit while we were debt-free, and I work for a phone company/ISP. The company I work for just installed wireless highspeed in the area where my farm is, maybe they will let me telecommute. :)

Another good one WT,

I'm doing a peakoil slide show and presentation I put together for a local group tomorrow and you know ELP is the capstone. I'm asking people to pretend they are going to less than 50% energy use tomorrow and plan it on ELP. Do one personal and one community item for each component.
In putting together the talk I was struck with just how important it's going to be for folks to have this type of framework to be able to respond to the wrenching change. So many are going to be at wits end at one time. Hope I'm not one of em.
The talk has the new SS, FF, TT stuff with net export, and
the intersections between GW and PO. (Running Ho-Ho's and potato chips up and down the Interstates in long haul trucks would be discretionary, wouldn't it?:) Lot's of pictures, real basic concepts.
If their is any kind of telling reaction indicating the current thinking of our little mining/logging community I'll
report back.
You know come to think of it the idea of a source 'playing out' probably will be fundemental to miners.

How about a report on your presentation. I did a PO talk once, and found out I had WAY too much info.

Thats probably me too. I've done a few of these types of talks for work but the subject material wasn't near as vast. With your experience I may edit a bit.
There is the median level of the group. You get the person that is 'up' on the subject already who ho-hums and then the person who is oblivious.
What made you feel it was too much? Did they ask so many questions or comment so you couldn't get throught it? Surely they didn't find the subject boring.

ELP is good. I like it. Getting out of debt is VERY good. But, after reading the above, I fear that you're in danger of going over the edge into the black hole of "doomer" land.

You're very good on oil topics, but it appears you've given into dommer "histeria" in parts of this post. Some kind of weird Friday the 13th thing?

(1) "Very small (250 square feet or so), highly energy efficient, perhaps prefabricated housing makes a lot of sense"
-- 250 square feet? What nutjob "doomer" books are you reading? Smaller, more energy efficient housing may indeed be the next "big" thing, but 250 sq ft??? The large number of high rises getting built in downtown Dallas is consistent with the general theme of smaller, denser housing, but even they are not anywhere near as small as 250 sq ft!

(2) "Perhaps the best education investment that many young people could make is a two year associate degree in some kind of repair/maintenance area, perhaps with summer jobs in the agricultural sector."
-- You're recommending a two-year associates degree and then migrant agricultural work? Are you serious? Who's the target demographic? Do you realize that you're recommending that the best hope for a good chunk of the current set of American citizens under 18 is to target taking back the jobs currently held be illegals? How about tuition breaks to get more kids to study engineering instead?

Aren't there many other things we can do first before we resort to "doomer" hysterics?

How about getting the northeast off home heating oil? Or, getting Texans to properly ventilate their attics and put solar screens on some windows? Or, solar film? Heck, we could always just change the out-of-date building code to require better venting, better insulation, and roofing with better "radiant" properties. Why in the "bleep" builders are allowed to put black asphalt roofs on homes in the south completely baffles me.

How about car pools? More bus routes? CF lights? How about time sensitive/peak-load electricity pricing? Or, peak-load tollway pricing?

Isn't CONSERVATION, forced or voluntary, the next step before we start stuffing people in 250 sq ft pre-fab boxes and suggest to our kids that they aspire to work at the dirty, labour intensive, low value-added jobs currently held by the illegals?

Simmons was 100% correct when he said that the biggest oil field we're going to find is called CONSERVATION. The more I watch Matt Simmons, the more I like the guy.

Please don't get me wrong, in general, I LOVE your work and posts here at the Oil Drum. I just strongly disagree with a couple aspects of this particular post.

- Sonic

Smaller, more energy efficient housing may indeed be the next "big" thing, but 250 sq ft??? The large number of high rises getting built in downtown Dallas is consistent with the general theme of smaller, denser housing, but even they are not anywhere near as small as 250 sq ft!

I don't think that 250sq ft is small at all, actually. Just break down your accomodation to your basic personal needs. You need a bedroom for your self, and that's about it. Everything else can be shared, and in that perspective, 250sq ft is quite a lot. It's roomy enough even to accomodate a small personal bathroom if you'd want.

I see sharing of kitchen and bathrooms as no more different than carpooling. It's a resource that's seldom used and does not requre to be a private resource for any particular reason.

It has always amazed me that in an apartement block every household has their own vacuum cleaners... This is stupid and wasteful. Instead of every households buying their own $50 cleaner, 16 households could invest in two much better $200 cleaners for everyones use and still have $400 left for something else. And there'se more potential to sharing. Power tools, washing machines, etc.. Think "everything that's absolutely not got to be personal, that you don't need most of your time and is quite expensive".


Tis why I believe that a return to a closer family unit will be beneficial. Grandma may not be good out in the garden since she can't bend over to till the soil, but she sure can cook! Aunt Bettie is so good with the children, and she can tend to them while I'm building a fence. The older son is learning from me while he helps me build the fence. The younger son is tilling the garden soil where just pulled up the latest harvest of XYZ crop, where we'll be plantin ZYZ crop. Uncle Joe is down at the town square selling carrots we planted, while my brother is up on the roof repairing some damage caused by a storm that ripped through 2 nights ago.

A 3,000 sq ft home may seem like a monstrosity in the eyes of most Peak Oil aware individuals, but that's because we're looking at it from the perspective of a single family inhabiting it. Grandma & Grandpa will be there, along with maybe an aunt and an uncle and maybe your adult brother and sister as well. Suddenly that 3,000 sq ft home isn't a waste, but a good thing, as that shared kitchen space becomes a factor, etc.

3,000 sq ft divided by 250 sq ft per person is 12 people in that house. That's a LOT of people if you ask me. I think that 400 sq ft per person is pretty reasonable. That would be 7.5 people in that 3,000 sq ft house, which is easily approachable from the current American mindset.

We'll see lots of people moving back in with their parents, and instead of it being a burden on their parents, it likely will be a boon.

Personally, my home that I plan on building (by hand myself with help of my brother and a few friends) will be 625 sq ft, unless I decide I want to include enough room for a wife and kids, then I'll bump it up to 900 sq ft. I plan on designing it to be as energy efficient as possible, and hopefully running it off of a 1kw solar array along with a 500w wind turbine. Heat from wood and solar, and air conditioning will be an occasional luxury, or something to use when temps are over 100F.

"I see sharing of kitchen and bathrooms as no more different than carpooling. It's a resource that's seldom used and does not require to be a private resource for any particular reason."

I spend over half my day in the kitchen! There's no way a family with kids can share a kitchen: preparing breakfast, eating breakfast, cleaning up after breakfast, preparing lunch, eating lunch, cleaning up after lunch, preparing dinner, eating dinner, cleaning up after dinner, not to mention all the fun extras like having the kitchen counters as the only place for working on various household projects, canning, freezing and drying garden goods, baking and preparing other on-hand staples (grinding, chopping, washing, etc.). Are you crazy?

Suppose your neighbors are from a culture that eats stuff you wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole, for religious or personal reasons? You want to be sharing cookware? Suppose one of them has hepatitus or TB (now untreatable thanks to these very conditions in many countries) or some other communicable disease and "neglects" to mention it to everyone? Or doesn't know? A family takes that risk - strangers shouldn't have to. It's not like everyone can run out and buy commercial grade sterilizing equipment. The conditions you are suggested is what caused widespread dissemination of diseases and illnesses in the early 20th century hospitals, barracks, tenements with common bathrooms and kitchen sharing, and other similar situations, and is replicated today in daycares, nursing homes, etc. It's not like they didn't wash the dishes - it's from too many people using the facilities and a lack of ability to reach medical sterilization of said shared devices. I don't see how that's going to change in the future, especially when modern appliances may be items from our nostalgic past.

And sharing vacuums? Get real. The exhaust air would be blowing animal fur, mold, mildew, dust and who-knows-what from other people's houses into yours. Nobody is going to thoroughly wash and dry the machine between uses. It would only take one idiot to kill a neighbor with an allergy, and apologizing for being too busy to clean the unit is going to be a bit lame, don't you think? How available are antihistamines and epi-pens going to be, or just plain nyquil or asprin? I have enough of other people's germs from my schoolage kids, thank you. I don't need any help from various cleanliness-impaired renters, college students, unimmunized illegals, or other less-than-fastidious neighbors.

What you are suggesting is ridiculously unworkable. Of course, if your goal is to stealthily reduce the population by killing all the children and elderly, this will do it. If your goal is to suggest a practical way for families to live, it hasn't worked in the past, doesn't work now, and won't work later. Who pays for the water and electricity when some families hog the facilities when others don't (presuming there is any in the first place - here where we are the electric plants are coal-fired, but that's not true in some places)?

Excellent reply. What you are describing (the reality in the Third World and Third World like sttlements in the first), tends to be pretty negatively correlated with life expectancy.. the Tragedy of the Commons, benefits of resource use are internalized and costs borne by the group (in reality by the generally few members of the group willing and able to shoulder the burden; this sort of system makes suckers out of the producers, as anyone who had to participate in group projects as a kid will remember).

One of the reasons I hate community talk so much; to the extent the communities ever really exist people like me end up doing all the work. No more.

Amen. I was always the one who got stuck actually writing the report! The people like me who want to "save their grade," so to speak, will end up being forced to make all the effort to take care of themselves and the welfare of their own kids, parents, etc. Others will coast along, because they can. Or they'll be some who have every excuse in the world why they should have a bigger share, and give nothing else quid pro quo to make up for it. Etc., etc., etc. It's just like the home owner's association, too. Some small group of bullies always takes over and does things to their own liking, which isn't necessarily in the best interests of the whole community. As much as we hate to admit it, that's just human nature. There's alway someone willing to help, and also always someone willing to take advantage of it.

Hi Ahavah and Hans,

Thanks for your responses, lots to consider.

Just to toss in a little bit of a counter-example, I recently visited a well-organized, exceptionally clean (co-ed)household of 19 adults (ages 18-21 or so)...I was actually amazed at how clean it was, and how much fun they had. Physical lay out was a converted "frat house", with one kitchen and dining area, a large walk-in storage closet in the kitchen, and 19 separate bedrooms, each quite small. A friend lived in a tent outside, shared meals and bathroom, so that actually makes 20.

It may be the organizational aspect had something to do with it. A couple of jobs were for pay, the rest volunteer, and people signed up for what they wanted. Each job spelled out in great detail. Small enough of a group that individual contribution is noted, and, I'd say, some pride taken (good meals are valued). It seems to me that the idea of people making decisions for themselves is a big part of it.

It works for them, anyway.

Nice gentle response, and makes good sense too, -- good for you Aniya. Glad you replied before I did. (Incidentally I asked my wife to change my password for TOD and hide it thursday, but we were unable to make that work so I lasted till yesterday evening before breaking down. A total of about 26 hrs I think. Too bad WT hadn't posted before my attempt at cold turkey. but tomorrow is another one.)

I hadn't even thought of taking in people but we have a basement bedroom that has never been used and if things start getting snarfy it wouldn't hurt taking in someone, maybe give them a bath and dose them with DDT first of course. Gee I don't ever remember having a cold or flu living with a ever changing feast of people in our 4th avenue 'hippie-house' in th 60's. Those were good times and what a person didn't do (like dishes or paying rent) they usually made it up some other way, those were days of almost pure anarchic cooperation (or symbiosis?).

Its always tempting to generalise from personal experience, and always wrong. Many people raised in abundance have difficulty pulling their weight, we're just not used to real quid pro quo. Which is why we're going to get a lot better at calling bludgers' bluff and ensuring the required effort is supplied. Scary? Embarrassing? Too hard? Too bad, time to learn how; we will no longer have the luxury of letting spongers get away with it. After seven years in intentional community i no longer have any shame in saying, 'its our way or the highway'.

On university education/advanced childcare, i'd swap both my sciences quals for a trade (so does anyone know a Boilermaker needing geodata?)

One of the reasons I hate community talk so much; to the extent the communities ever really exist people like me end up doing all the work.

Well said.

It's usually some well educated white middle class office worker who sets up the "game" and then becomes "co-ordinator" whilst others do the hard work.

The "co-ordinator" then gets to allocate the results of this hard work.

If you don't want to play the "game" that these creeps have set up than you are being" selfish", "anti-social" etc.

Some well-spoken & persuasive people are very adept at this sort of manipulation.

Just go to a local meeting where your local political representative is speaking to see how the peasants can be kept in line by some fancy speaking.

Post-collapse I think I will invent my own "game" which involves a tree and a length of rope. Public servants & smooth talking creeps beware.

Difficult or challenging, certainly, but unworkable? There have always been communal or semi-communal living arrangements where the task of food prep was shared in a common kitchen. Visit the Ammana colonies in Iowa, or any of the Shaker villages for historic examples. Or visit a co-housing community today. The individual living units have kitchenettes, but there is also a community kitchen, and most residents choose to (but don't have to) eat community meals.

The American suburban nuclear family way of life is by no means the only possible way of life. There are alternatives, and some of those might work for quite a few people.

What you are suggesting is ridiculously unworkable.

Points taken about the hygiene issues but I generally don't agree with your concerns. You really managed to pick the worst-case scenarios for living together and sharing and exaggerate them to point of ridicule. The parallels to early hospitals and barracks generally don't apply since we have today both a greater knowledge on how to deal with hygiene issues and more modern equipment to do so with.

I don't see the risks you mention as far greater than living with your own family. Anyone of your family members might have hepatitus, wash the dishes poorly or forget to clean the vacuumer. It's about communication and agreement of a set of rules, exactly like a family.

I've been sharing apartments and resources with other people (not counting family or girlfriend) for a third of my life. Did that with up to twelwe people at most and somehow we all managed to escape the cruel death scenarios you imagine. Also did meet many interesting persons, some who are friends for life today. I won't say there aren't problems. You might have to wait five minutes to get a shower (like this problem didn't exist in a family), someone is using more electricity though the bill is equally shared (.. again, normal family), etc.

It is not "ridiculously unworkable". People are already doing this in modern western countries. Go to any major western european city and you'll find thousands of people sharing apartements/resources with each other. It's so common so nobody reflects about it or thinks of the people as poor, sick or otherwise pityful. Besides it's a great way getting to know new people if you're new in town. Beats the cr*p out of sitting alone in an apartement in some depressing suburb, feeling pity about oneself since you don't have anyone to play with.

I think your greatest concerns seems to be that you'd meet total strangers that you'd not like. It's okay not to like everyone but this is not how it works when sharing an apartement, generally the ones already living in there meet whoever answered the ad and decide if they want him/her to join the quarters.

This might work for you too if you did concentrate on solving the problems you mention and not seeing them as such great obstacles. It's not all that bad actually talking to people.. But then again, maybe not.
Anyhow you seem to enjoy cooking and kitchen life and that's great! If in any grim doomsday scenario you'd be forced to share a kitchen with other people I'm shure they'd appreciate your cooking skills!


"The parallels to early hospitals and barracks generally don't apply since we have today both a greater knowledge on how to deal with hygiene issues and more modern equipment to do so with."

My point was exactly that in all likelihood, these things will not be available. Sharing an apartment is hardly the same as having a group of families with children (which can realistically be in the neighborhood of 30 people) trying to share a single kitchen. So you had two or even three roommates? Multiply that by ten.

You are presuming, also that things like antiseptics, petro-chemical anti-bacterial cleaners, and other "modern" conveniences will be available or affordable. Ditto for birth control, prescription antibiotics, and other "modern" products that rely on petro-chemicals.

I don't necessarily enjoy working in the kitchen. I do what I have to do, what women with kids and elderly parents have always done. Are you going to have raman noodles, or spaghetti-o's, or campbells soups available? You presume so. I presume not. If you want to eat organic and healthy even now, that means spending a lot more time in the kitchen to prepare foods the old-fashioned way - whether you want to or not. Now do it for 20 or 30 people. Get the point now?

My point was exactly that in all likelihood, these things will not be available.

That's quite far into doomerland if you picture a future without any of todays knowledge or chemicals (or substitutes for them) available.. I don't think we'll ever get that far but that's just my personal view.

I don't know about todays detergents, are they really made up with petrochemical ingredients, other than they're transported with the use of oil? If this is the case, please enlighten me.

There are other alternatives to cleansing chemicals, one for instance the saponification of glycerol, which by the way is a by-product from biodiesel manufacturing. Great process, no fossile oil involved unless you choose to.

As for medication, condoms for example have been around for thousands of years. And if we're not heading to Complete Dystopia (which again I don't think we are) I would think that our remaining resources should allow us to have antibiotics in the future too.

that means spending a lot more time in the kitchen to prepare foods the old-fashioned way - whether you want to or not. Now do it for 20 or 30 people. Get the point now?

No, not really. If you're going to prepare a meal for 30 people you're most likely not going to do this by your own. Preparing a meal for 30 people doesn't take 10 times as much time as it does for 3 people. If done alone, it might take 3 times as much time. If your friends are helping you out, it might just add half an hour to the process..
Who's to say that all the cooking should be done by one person only? When I was a kid in my family of 4 children we all prepared meals when we were old enough to work on the kitchen counters, and that's around age 10-12. Kids are not stupid and they can contribute to much of the household needs, and in the process feeling part of the family and strengthening it's values.

If you picture a scenario where a large family of 30 are living together, this is already kitchen-sharing as opposed to how we (in the western world) live today. Does it still sound so bad?


'What you are suggesting is ridiculously unworkable. Of course, if your goal is to stealthily reduce the population by killing all the children and elderly, this will do it.'

You really believe this fantasy perspecitve, don't you? Especially telling was the 'How available are antihistamines and epi-pens going to be, or just plain nyquil or asprin? I have enough of other people's germs from my schoolage kids, thank you. I don't need any help from various cleanliness-impaired renters, college students, unimmunized illegals, or other less-than-fastidious neighbors.'

Surprisingly, much research suggests such concerns as yours are the cause of allergies, especially among children that grow up in environments which approximate sterility exactly at the time their immune systems are developing to handle the real world around them - which unfortunately no longer exists in their case, thanks to people who believe that reducing a person's exposure to the world around them is to their benefit.

No arguments about kitchen cleanliness being important, but I guess you never, ever use a public bathroom, and your children (if you are a parent) always avoided public bathrooms, too.

Quite honestly, this could only be written by someone who grew up in North America - if you didn't, then accept my apologies for my mistake.

Luckily, I don't live in North America anymore - and you can't buy nyquil here either - but some doctors still actually make house calls at 2am. Personally, I prefer German attitudes. And going to the local lake, and swimming without any clothes is just a nice extra benefit - can you imagine, swimming without clothes? Probably just another stealth attempt to change the natural North American view of how the universe works.

You've obviously never been in the middle east, or any third world country. Did no one ever tell you the vast majority of the people in this world practically live in squalor, because they don't have "modern" conveniences and couldn't afford to buy them if they did. Your Euro-centric point of view may be valid there for now - as long as the economy and monetary systems hold out - but the way you are living now is a fantasy for most of the people in the world. Suggesting this can't be your future is unrealistic. It can be - probably will be. There's nothing special about western civilization in the great scheme of things, and that includes Europe. Take away modern energy inputs, and you may as well be in Calcutta.

Actually, my view is pretty much American-centric - I'm American, after all.

My experience of the 3rd World is completely second hand, so to speak - but does Eastern Europe count? You know, places which also lacked modern conveniences like private kitchens or bathrooms. Somehow I missed the fact that all the children and old people were dying off.

And considering how long people have been living in Germany, without ever once approaching what is found in modern Calcutta (if only because the population density was lacking), I'm not entirely sure of your point.

As for the economy and monetary system holding out - surprisingly, not only has the economy and monetary system in this part of Germany been destroyed and rebuilt repeatedly since 1870, so has the political system. And yet, for some reason seemingly beyond the grasp of modern Americans, at no time did the Germans clear cut their forests to make a little extra money or keep themselves from freezing.

Hmmm - maybe a certain dedication to long term planning pays off in the long term. Not that anyone in America seems to believe in such unproven or unsupported anecdotal evidence that it is possible to live differently.

But I will concede that I actually did ask a friend to bring back some Robitussin when my kids were younger. Personally, I think not coughing at night so a child can sleep is healthier (the few times it has occurrred over the last 10 years) than the German medical framework of using a drug which is supposed to make the mucus/phlegm more liquid. (And since the two concepts are dangerous if not often directly fatal when combined, you can see why nyquill and such are uncommon here.)

By the way, I have decided to say something. I have a feeling I'm just a bit older than you, and far more experienced. I learned to prepare, can and preserve food, etc., from my great-grandmother and two grandmothers, who lived on a family dairy in a house with no indoor plumbing or running water. How many outhouses have you ever used? How much questionable quality well-water have you hauled in buckets or jars to your house? And I have five children, thank you, and I am not "germ-phobic" in any way. (I also still have elderly parents still living, and one grandmother is still alive, believe it or not.) So I have an up close and personal view of what life is like for children and the elderly in a world without modern conveniences. In fact, I don't use modern anti-bacterial products to this day, precisely because they're made with petrochemicals. I've seen what real poverty and lack of access to modern conveniences looks like - I have a feeling you have no idea. So kindly refrain from the ad hominem comments and try and address my comments with logic and reasoning, please.

You may be older, but I do know something about using outhouses - not to mention placing them, digging them, etc. And you might be surprised at the number of people in West Germany who didn't have running water, central heating, or an indoor bathroom into the 1970s.

Apart from backpacking, I have never really used questionable quality water in any amount - one of the things I try very hard to avoid. Yes, I have lived in the lap of luxury (it is), and also gone thirsty for a few hours at a time instead.

I was the oldest of five, but only have two children myself.

As for anti-bacterial products - they don't really seem to be sold here in Germany, though having never actually bought any myself, ever, that is not conclusive. And lacking a TV, I'm not sure even if they are advertised, assuming they are sold.

And living close enough to West Virginia, and having been tangentially involved in providing a sort of cable service to a part of that state, I have seen people who live in a way which would be unimaginable for most Americans, except that those people always seem to scrounge up enough money to keep the TV on, even if they have don't have running water or indoor plumbing or heat apart from wood.

The choices well off Americans like those make is beyond me.

But you are right - I have never experienced real poverty. Lived without TV, car, or telephone - sure. Never owned a microwave or dishwasher since moving out - sure, though a couple of rental places I lived in did have them. Never owned any credit cards, or ever used debt to buy anything - sure. For most people I know, this seems like a life of poverty. But you are right, it most certainly wasn't. It just seemed that way to them.

Simmons was 100% correct when he said that the biggest oil field we're going to find is called CONSERVATION.

I find Simmons' soundbyte here 100% wrong, offensive, and just plain incorrect.

Any energy (oil) one doesn't use will simply be used by someone else. NONE will be "conserved." That's how big a monster demand is now.

"Conservation" is a choice, a way of saving up during abundance for an uncertain future. But the future is here, and if one simply DOES NOT HAVE, one isn't "conserving," one is adapting to shortage.

A broke man isn't "saving" (conserving) his money, and a starving man isn't on a diet.

But something tells me Simmons' offensive little soundbyte isn't going to go away, and people will think we can "conserve" our way out of the crisis...

It all comes back to decline rate though, doesn't it? In truth, conservation cannot hurt us given the widespread excesses of modern industrial civilization. At worst, it is useless. At best, it may help us bridge the gap if decline rates are slow enough.

I say this believing that decline rates will not be slow but I also freely admit I could be wrong. The consequences of my being wrong though are simply more savings for myself later, either in the form of money or goods. The consequences for someone being wrong the other direction are rather terrible though, aren't they?

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

Well, i think it would do a great deal for us no US citicens if you americans would conserve from your extremly wasteful use of oil. You wasteful morons use tvice as much oil per capita then us europeans.

And your lifestile is not negotiable as you say.

Why? Do the Europeans conserve so that Indians and Chinese could consume more? Do the Indians and Chinese conserve so that Bangladeshis and Africans could consume more? Do the rich Bangladeshis and rich Africans conserve so that poor Bangladeshis and poor Africans could consume more? Where do you draw the line? Who gets to draw the line?

Americans consume more because they are fortunate enough to live in a vast country with lots of oil, natural gas, coal, fresh water and agricultural land. Because land here is cheap and abundant, houses are bigger and the population is more spread out. There is no crime in any of this.

The Europeans are not more virtuous than the Americans. They consume less per capita because they don't have as much oil & natural gas (exception: Norway) and because Europe is densely populated.

All humanity is guilty of lack of foresight; not just the Americans.

All humanity is guilty of lack of foresight; not just the Americans

In 1994 the Swiss voted in favor of the concept of the TransAlp project, the centerpiece of which is transferring freight from heavy trucks to (hydro)electric rail.

In 1998, the Swiss voted for a specific set of projects costing 31 billion Swiss francs from 2000 to 2020.

Adjusted for population & currency, this is equivalent to the US voting to spend $1 trillion.

Of course, the Swiss were prepared for a six year, 100% oil embargo during WW II and got by.

Few nations are as myopic as the US, it is not a universal trait of humanity.

Best Hopes for foresight,


Few nations are as myopic as the US, it is not a universal trait of humanity.

Energy rich Americans having experienced privilege for a long time tend to be optimistic about the future. Thus, they are less likely to plan for a disaster. Europeans having suffered in the recent past (endless wars fought on its soil) and never having been as energy rich as the US tend to be somewhat anxious about the future and thus are more likely to plan for a disaster.

Don't worry, American myopia will be cured within a couple of years as peak oil becomes obvious :-)

I think that a few years post-Peak Oil, Americans will be focused more on the immediate future to the exclusion of future planning.

"Give us this day our daily bread" may be the primary focus, unfortunately,

Best Hopes for Rational Planning,


Swede -- I've lived in London, some relatives lived in Belgium for many years, and I traveled Europe. No European should ever call anyone from any other country a moron. Europe has has an ample supply of morons in every country.

I'm glad you're proud that Greater Germany, err, I mean Europe, uses less fuel per capita than the US.

So, what are you going to do when Europe goes Muslim in the next decade or two? I assume you are aware of the demographics. The Western Europe that you love will cease to exist in our lifetimes.

I didn't know that being a Muslim was genetic.

By all means, please get the northeast off of home heating oil. And get Texas to reform their building codes too. And do this before peak hits (if it hasn't already). Get back to me when you tell me how much success you are having.

Peak oil is a completely solvable technical problem, even with 7 billion people on the planet. But it may not be a politically or socially solvable problem and that's the rub, isn't it?

Talking about what the northeast or Texas should be doing doesn't mean jack squat. Get them to change. Try it. Get all those SUV drivers to swap out their vehicles. Get people to move closer to work. Get all that electric rail installed too while you're at it. And after you fail miserably at any of these things, then come back here and tell me that this level of rhetoric is unnecessary.

The political system is broken. When you realize what that means, technology doesn't matter one bit.

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

Hello Grey,

I don't mean to doubt you, I'd just like reinforcement here:

re: "Peak oil is a completely solvable technical problem, even with 7 billion people on the planet."

Qs: Do you really stand by this?

Qs: Can you paint a little bit of a picture for me about what this looks like?

Not about the politics of it not happening (point well taken)...but about how, more specifically, the present technical "capacity" might give us this world?

(We'll take on politics next. :)) Not to make light of it. I'm serious and I'm wondering if you could fill this in some.


Any such response would both be far longer than is merited by a comment on TOD's blog and rather off topic for TOD's blog. I may choose to write about that at my own blog at some point.

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

Hi Grey,

In case you see this...

I'd encourage you to do whatever makes you most happy (truly) - just that I would really like to see it. And I'm guessing everyone else would, too.

If you write it on your own blog address, could you please link it here?

If you write up a guest article, perhaps the editors would post it? As well. Then you could link it also to Energy Bulletin or visa versa.

This is important, I think.

It's especially important coming from someone who can see many of the shocking facts and constraints we are looking at.

I hope you do it, and I'm sure others are interested.

you wrote-
---- How about tuition breaks to get more kids to study engineering instead?----

and build what??

more seemless drill pipe's ?

a better M-16 or m-50

a new ipod?

Hi sleeping,


re: " what?"

Water purification and distribution systems that rely on minimal amounts of renewable energy, (seesaws?), applications of solar, etc. Acoustic guitars. Food dehydrators. Improvements on Alan's trolleys (not that they can be improved upon.) Understanding distributed energy. Sailing ships. Retrofitting just about everything.

And there's always the idea of preserving human knowledge for it's own sake or for the sake of what might be possible.

No more guns.

great ideas-
Dont' necessarily think they require a 4-5year engineering degree-
solar- net waste, eroei proves it
food dehyrators?(think solar)- if the food you want to eat needs to be dehydrated, you need a new diet

retro-fit> like the nations bridge and tunnel system?

as Kunstler says, get the work going on rail- on that i agree
that should take about 500-1000 designers , architects and such- and a lot of labor-

my idea has always been instead of mandatory military service, make it mandatory farm service- agri or livestock

Sleapingbear -- Don't you believe in higher education? Engineering is but one example. I could have just as easily listed nursing or chemistry or education as alternatives to picking strawberries or lettuce.

Engineers have added much value over the years. When I survey the landscape, I do not see a shortage of migrant agricultural labor, but I do see a shortage of engineers, nurses, & teachers coming. A recent TOD thread documented the age demographics of the oil & gas business and the work force is *old*. It will need replacement.

Also, where are all those new, super energy efficient devices going to come from? Certainly not from migrant agricultural labor.

So, why not offer some mild financial incentives to the next generation to study areas of need? States have been doing this for years in medicine via offering forgivable loans to physicians who end up working in that state.

West Texas
Exellent, ihave already done the ELP before you have written about it.

I wonder if you have any idea about the differences between Europe and USA regarding the possibilitys to cope with PO?

In Europe we have also a housingbubble, but we have not the insane US speculation with flippers and subprime loans. Also i believe, that europeans have a positive savingsrate.

In Europe we also have more electified railwaysystems, and not so much urban sprawl as you have in US.
But we are also relying mostly on imported oil particulary for transportation fuel.


Following is a copy of my post on the Senegal thread:

This is the WSJ article that I frequently post. The author pointed out that it is not the poorest in Africa who were most heavily impacted by higher oil prices, nor the very richest, but it was those who were just beginning to use fossil fuels who were most impacted.

I do think that it is a mistake to assume that what is happening in Africa holds no lessons for developed countries. In Africa, we are simply witnessing the effect of Forced Energy Conservation starting at the bottom of the food chain. As oil production--and especially oil exports--decline, forced energy conservation moves up the food chain.

Published on 18 Nov 2006 by Wall St Journal. Archived on 23 Nov 2006.
As Fuel Prices Soar, A Country Unravels

by Chip Cummins

Conakry, Guinea

The impact of today's energy crunch on the poor is plain in rich nations such as America: Expensive gasoline and soaring heating bills make a hard life harder. In impoverished countries such as Guinea, where per capita income is just $370 a year and surging gasoline prices have helped spark bloody riots, the energy shock has become a matter of life and death.

Some general observations/comments:

Insofar as complaints are concerned, it looks like there are two primary comments up the thread: (1) The ELP plan is too optimistic and doesn't go far enough and (2) The ELP plan goes way too far. But that's what forums are for.

But again, the export situation is key.

Since 1990, Total US petroleum imports have been going up at close to 5% per year.

Based on the HL model, US oil reserves are about 85% depleted.

The top net oil exporters, in aggregate, are more than 50% depleted (based on HL), and their consumption is growing rapidly.

The US has drawn down its Total Petroleum inventories by over 100 million barrels since the fall of 2006, and OECD petroleum inventories are also rapidly declining.

So, our expectation is for a continued exponential increase in petroleum imports, while world export capacity is clearly falling. If, as I predict--and as even the Russians and the IMF have started suggesting--Russian oil production starts declining this year or next year, we could easily see something on the order of a 50% drop in net oil exports in five years by the current top 10 net oil exporters.

I would like to respectfully suggest that if you are not scared s---less by the net oil export situation, you don't understand the problem.

As I said up the thread, look at how unfolding events are following the "Peak Oil Script." I don't see anything that will change the rest of the story.

"Perhaps the best education investment that many young people could make is a two year associate degree in some kind of repair/maintenance area"

As someone who works in the university sector in the UK, in what might kindly be described as a second-level institution, I've been very interested for some time in what peak oil might mean for the future of that sector. What courses would be useful to people in a post-peak world? How long should courses be (presumably shorter than the current 3 year degrees) - one year, two years, full-time or part-time? How much demand will there be for them? - there have been opinions that university will again (as it was pre-WWII) an elitist option for the wealthy few.

Bear in mind that in most UK universities degrees in engineering, maintenance and allied subjects have undergone a huge contraction due to lack of applicants and many such courses - indeed whole departments - have closed. The same is true of pure science subjects - geology, physics and chemistry have all shrunk dramatically. Commonplace degrees now are media studies, psychology, business studies, music technology, sport science and a host of other things for which it is difficult to see much need in a post-peak world.

There seems to be little discussion of these issues on TOD so far and my own feeling based on observation and spoken opinions are that most academics are of a cornucopian mindset, thinking that technology will solve all problems. I'd be keen to see opinions of other TODers on these issues. I think it's particularly important as education and career prospects will influence the attitude and outlook of a whole generation of people in post-peak world.

Commonplace degrees now are media studies, psychology, business studies, music technology, sport science and a host of other things for which it is difficult to see much need in a post-peak world.

I agree, and I think that this is a huge problem. Wave upon wave of college graduates in the US--with the kind of degrees that you are mentioned--are coming out of school with heavy student loans, all assuming that they are entitled to the SUV/suburban way of life.

In UK now all students except those with very wealthy parents, leave university with debt. The government have a student loan setup where the ex-students only start to repay the loans when their earnings reach a certain level. With recession looming presumably many of these will never be repaid and will have to be written off, either officially or de facto.

In terms of the degrees, many of the academics see them as evidence of decline in the abilities of school leavers to tackle technical subjects. In many universities, overseas (often Asian) students make up a big proportion of students on traditional, technical courses. The academics however, having seen numbers shrink in traditional areas, simply have to offer such degrees in order to keep their jobs, whatever they think of them.

Certainly there would have to be quite a transition in mindset of school leavers to switch from many of these subjects to ones which would actually be needed. And almost as big a change for most universities to actually offer such courses - how to run an energy-saving home, how to run a food-producing smallholding. I wonder if what we'd actually see would be a massive contraction of this sector, as 3-4 year courses are replaced by 6-12 month part-time training.

The reason is simple.

Why study difficult subjects for poor job prospects, when you can study easy subjects and part, and then maybe even get a better, and certainly more fun job.

I'm not in the UK but USA---the overall level of IQ is just as high now as it ever was. (Gradual trend over generations is slightly up).

If there were this great demand for engineering talent in developed countries, they'd be paying for it.

When fresh out of (good) college nuclear engineers are earning $90k, with 5 year experienced ones earning double that---then they'll be plenty of supply.

The reason there are many Asian students in engineering is that their jobs, when they go back home, are prestigious and comparatively well paying. They'll be far more respected, have a nice lifestyle, marry the best spouses, etc.

In Germany the word "engineer" is a prestigious one to have on your office door. In UK, (the perception is that) an "engineer" is someone who comes to fix your washing machine.

I'm an academic (free-lance these days) who has spent time at various universities in the UK, both second and first tier - Westminster and Coventry (former polytechnics) as well as Warwick and Oxford. I am now giving my own teenagers advice on their futures, but would not necessarily recommend university. I think university will once again become the province of the elite, and taking on debt to fund a useless degree is extremely counterproductive.

My eldest will probably study for some form of primary healthcare role, which may involve university or tech college, possibly part time. My middle child plans to be an opera singer, on the grounds that some people will still have money and will still want to be entertained. My youngest is interested in farming, horticulture and animal husbandry, which is useful since we live on a farm, but is unlikely to involve university. All of them know that debt is not an option and being able to put food on the table is essential.

Very interesting. Did your children come to the opinion that university might not be for them, themselves or did you persuade them with peak-oil scenario messages that it would be best avoided? Certainly the oldest and (especially) the youngest are making wise choices.

If university education becomes elitist again, I would imagine we will go back to greatly reduced numbers of universities. Many of the ex-polytechnics (for US readers, these were basically technical universities for vocational subjects, all made up to full university status in 1992) would in that case shrink quite rapidly and many would disappear.

I guess it would be a tell-tale of general decline when the proportion of people going to university significantly decreases - I would guess that number probably parallels oil production for most of the last 100 years.

We have always discussed all the options with them, but have taken care to set the discussion in the context of expected constraints in the future. My children know all about peak oil and economic depression, but also know that practical skills have value and a frugal life need not be unpleasant. As they have never watched network televsion and we live in a rural area, they have never had the path of least resistance dangled in front of them as an option. They understand where the essentials of their own existence come from and are prepared to work for them.

Strange as it may seem, even singing is a practical skill. If one doesn't end up singing opera for the elite, one can always be a travelling entertainer. Providing cheap escapism is a relatively depression-proof activity.

That is what Robert McKee says in his book on screenwriting, Story. He wanted a job that would provide security, and his mom, a product of the Depression era, pushed him toward entertainment. She said that a good storyteller would never be out of work.

"I guess it would be a tell-tale of general decline when the proportion of people going to university significantly decreases - I would guess that number probably parallels oil production for most of the last 100 years."

So maybe we should start a "Peak Education" thread? ;-)

That question came up today at a conference here in Portland Maine put on by Physicians for Social Responsibility:

"What do children today need to learn for their role in society 30 years from now?

  • skills
  • attitudes
  • knowledge

cfm in Gray, ME

Here are some excerpts from a blog I wrote a few weeks ago. The subject was religious education but it kind of wandered off course. I thought some of my thoughts might be relevant to your comment. An aside: I don't apologize for the "anti-feminist" perspective of some parts - but the family "social contract" is a topic for another forum, I guess. Anyway:

The secular public school and university system is not without problems of its own, and while young men and women can go there and become actually employable, the American system as a whole fails a huge percentage of its students. First and foremost, high schools make no allowances for kids who would be better served learning trades than going to college. They devalue doing manual labor or learning skilled craftsmanship of any kind. They worship the desk job above all others, because - like the Roman empire just before it, too, fell - Americans think they're too high class to get their hands dirty...

...Another symptom of this malaise is the tendency to hire illegal aliens and other cheap unskilled sources at an idiotically low wage - one they would NEVER agree to themselves - to do their housework, laundry, etc. American women, especially feminists, should be the most acutely aware of how this demeans what they and their grandmothers and great-great-grandmothers ad infinitum have contributed to the family, community, and economy for a hundred thousand years. But instead of paying these women what they're really worth for the work and chores that they do, they demean them and consider them "unskilled" - as if half the yuppie moms today even know how to manage a household and cook and clean properly (which they don't). Ditto for men's yard and home maintenance.

So women who choose to put their family ahead of expensive toys and stay home are also devalued, and not just by feminists - by the entire American education system. Young women are told point blank that if they don't go to a university, they are useless and "dependent" and in terrible danger. What a crock of bull! Guess what, class? No one in this world is "independent." The whole human species is designed by evolution/mother nature/God or whatever you want to call it to be an inter-dependent system where everyone pitches in together according to their ability to meet the family, community, and society needs.

And what society needs is more skilled tradespersons and skilled craftspeople and less young men who think playing computer games or sitting in yeshiva all day is a viable plan for their future - and less young women who think children don't need a mother during their formative years or need a father at all! What the community needs is more woman (and men) who take care of charitable and community needs for the sick, elderly, and less advantaged - instead of relying on government programs which end up doing more harm than good (unless you're profiteering off of them, that is)...

But you won't hear anyone telling high school kids these things in America. Self-sufficiency means that we should never be in a situation where we have to rely on something or someone outside our own community to get our needs met. That means every item that we use everyday needs to be made by someone in our community and be repairable in stead of disposable. The young men and women of our community need to learn to make every stitch of clothing, household appliances, furniture, tools, utensils, and yes, food, needed by the community to develop a sustainable, self-sufficient economy. Getting your hands dirty and doing real work or making real goods in exchange for other such real work and real goods from others doing the same is the only basis for a functional economy. Yes, this includes doctors and lawyers and others who need a university degree. But the vast majority of what we need every day used to come from skilled tradesmen and skilled craftsmen, and needs to again.

That is what high school teachers and counselors should be telling the students. Unfortunately, class, it's not what they're hearing...

What courses would be useful to people in a post-peak world?

Well if everyone ELPs like WT suggests, we would rapidly move back to a world where 90% of the people farm, and 10% provide all other (limited) services. In that case, college is about as useful as tits on a bull.

Of course, we will have to get past that pesky problem of eliminating 80% of the current population to get back to an agrarian lifestyle.

ELP is great for the individual (every real book on how to become a millionare covers basically this topic), but for the world economy and population, it is a disaster.

Yes, Westexas can correct me if I'm mistaken, but I'm sure that ELP is a personal response only, not meant as a systemic solution, and as you point out, it would probably crash the economy. More in the lifeboat area than the kumbaya "let's all get together and solve this" area...

I left the UK university sector some 3 years ago, and had experience in I guess what are termed 'mid and upper ranked' universities (Liverpool, Imperial, Kings College London etc). I was offered voluntary redundancy off the back of the closure of my department and was more than happy to take it, having begun to despair of the way things were going. My speciality was not some esoteric subject, rather it was an area of medical microbiology with applications in tropical medicine - reasonably applied and relevant one might think. However a form of slash and burn has been going on in UK universities these past 10 years. I have no doubt standards have been dropping, almost inversely at the same rate that red tape has been increasing. The comments about the creation of meaningless degrees seem highly pertinent; the goal of getting huge numbers of 18 year old's through the system just so they can pin up a less than useful certificate on the wall 3 years later has never seemed more ridiculous to me than it does now. How the system will work in a post peak world is unclear, but I imagine a drastic retraction is in order with presumably a re-orientation towards more applicable degrees; after all we will need agriculturalists, medics, vets etc in the future just as we need them now. Some rump catering for the moneyed elite and offering less applied studies might persist - I guess you would be looking at a scenario of 10-20 universities rather than the 100 plus there are now. I don't see a great future for Readers in media studies and Senior lecturers in sports science that's for sure. After all universities don't come cheap, and there will be a lot of other priorities on the government's mind, with a declining tax base making life very difficult. The same goes for the otherwise excellent universities pension program (USS); I cannot see how this will remain solvent in a post peak world - the 2000-2003 stock market crash put this scheme under immense pressure from which it has inadequately recovered. I shudder to think how it will prosper 10 years down the line (it is still around 70% exposed to equities, and has an unhealthy ratio of dependents to contributors)

Some late comments on what has been written in the posts above:

"As they have never watched network television and we live in a rural area, they have never had the path of least resistance dangled in front of them as an option." It seems to my perhaps jaundiced eye that many 17-18 year olds of limited intellect and commitment who do watch endless TV and live in urban/suburban areas, simply gravitate to university. There, they seek the easiest course they can find, avoiding anything needing maths or other "hard" technical knowledge or long hours of rigorous study. The son of a colleague started a degree in electronics and gave up after a week as he found it too hard with too many hours of lectures, etc. He switched to a degree in sociology & English where he had 6 hours of lectures a week and apparently only did any work in the last 6 months of the course. After several months unemployed he got a job at a few % above minimum wage and is now disappointed that he is unable to afford his own flat, car, etc!

"They devalue doing manual labor or learning skilled craftsmanship of any kind." Very true - many don't want to get their hands dirty, work outside, do hard technical work, have to work in various places away from home, etc. It has been too easy for too long for many such young people and the party will soon be over.

"we would rapidly move back to a world where 90% of the people farm." Richard Heinberg said at the last Soil Association conference that by 2020 UK would need 10 million farmers (nearly 20% of the population). Unlike Stoneleigh's youngest, most young people in UK would only opt for such work if they had absolutely no option. It's not easy to see, at least until a collapse of some sort is clearly in progress, how one could recruit large numbers of young people onto courses in organic agriculture, smallholding, etc. It might be that older people might be a better target, with part-time courses.

andyh: Thanks for observations, I entirely agree. As mentioned above, getting people to do the courses that will actually be useful in the future is the difficult trick. Even getting the universities to offer them is not easy. While the "bubblegum" subjects continue to attract applicants, they will continue to be offered and more such ones devised. One comment I had from a colleague when suggesting a new module was "training people to wear cloth caps and work on allotments", which he saw as totally unattractive - and at present he was probably right!

It seems to my perhaps jaundiced eye that many 17-18 year olds of limited intellect and commitment who do watch endless TV and live in urban/suburban areas, simply gravitate to university. There, they seek the easiest course they can find, avoiding anything needing maths or other "hard" technical knowledge or long hours of rigorous study.

I agree. When I think how hard I worked and how little I slept for 5 years when I was doing my first degree in science, I find it hard to imagine the university students I know now doing the same. Thankfully there are exceptions, but there are also far too many who can't be bothered. IMO TV makes people passive and generates the dissatisfaction that encourages people to spend what they can't afford. Computer games are a complete waste of time as well - I've never had them in the house and my children have no interest in them (ie they never developed the addiction).

They devalue doing manual labor or learning skilled craftsmanship of any kind.

All of my children (male and female) can knit, sew and make rugs, and my eldest can also spin, weave, paint, draw, sculpt, carve and design. All of them can plant, weed and harvest vegetables, and all of them have pitched in with haying (imagine standing on a yawing haywain being pulled by a tractor over a bumpy field and stacking the bales 7 high while moving, then lifting hundreds of them into a hayloft with a tin roof in the height of summer). Two of my children belong to the 4H agricultural club and are hoping to raise a dairy calf this year and show it at the local fair in the fall. They know what work is. They may or may not choose university eventually, but if they do they have to have earned good enough grades to qualify for a scholarship as debt is not an option.

Well done, Stoneleigh. Your children will be amongst the better off or survivors, however things pan out.

my only criticism is that the whole plan requires a good amount of money at your disposal. by good i mean in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, though most of that is buying a smaller house off the bat so your not in debt and sabotaging the whole plan from the get go.
buying a new place without going into debt is not cheap, moving to a said place isn't cheap, buying the needed equipment to produce stuff isn't cheap, buying the needed stuff to make the new place more secure/sustainable is not cheap.
you have done it from your own accounts by drawing from the pension you made from before you knew of this. same with the other people here who vouch for your plan so far that i have seen.

not everyone is that lucky.

Debt reduction is top on my list for discussion when I go to my local event for global warming, proposal for reducing CO2 emissions 80 by 2050! (yes, I think they're delusional)

I agree with the idea that in "good time" (yes now), best to be prepared to know how you can live on half your income. (Sadly I think governments must think similarly, even if I'm not a republican!)

I felt enlightened when I was once told debt is the way that society initiates the young into adulthood, AND gives the incentive to work hard. You can't easily be a beach bum or (internet bum?) when you got debt repayments sitting on top of your bill pile. Made sense to me (benevolant slavery to a work ethic), but after college loans and home mortgage, and a short term USED-car loan, I'm sure people are always best off in the long run living by savings rather than depending on future income to pay for the present.

Whatever the future hold (higher energy/carbon taxes) for global warming, or high prices by supply and demand, people need to know things are gonna get harder, and those who are not prepared will suffer first.

Too many people are stretched past sane limits now, and there can't be political will for honest debate under such conditions.

I notice few here are defending debt. To condemn debt with too broad a brush is, IMO, a mistake. It depends on what the debt is used for and the interest rate. Also how old you are is very important. I love credit cards and have quite a few and have used them often. Once in a snit of stupidity I cut them all up and went debt free. Big mistake. Credit cards give you options. Just never miss a payment and never be late. Also don't carry purchase balances. The only balances to carry are the teaser offers that come with low interest rates. The best of these are those offers under 4% and good until paid in full. During the easy money years after 911 I got quite a few of these and accepted every one. Interest rates are higher now so I don't get many offers I can accept anymore. If you go to you can calculate how long it will take to pay off a credit card debt and the total interest charges. Most of the time it will take 25+ years to pay off the debt. If you are in your sixties as I am that means that the debt for all practical purposes will never be paid off in your lifetime, but will be paid out of your estate. In effect I am playing the same game the government is. Of course, I have no immediate use for the money, so I park it in CD's at my local bank which pay about 5%, resulting in a 1% gain. I keep track of my interest expense and my interest earned very carefully. I can earn about $1000.00 per year extra doing this. But the real gain comes from the inflation protection and the locking in of a low interest rate. In effect you have I have locked in a 4% or less rate for the rest of my life and it is on unsecured debt. I do not believe the government inflation figures of about 3%. I think inflation is running at least 5-7%. Therefore the real cost of having this debt is a negative 2-3%. I know a lot of people will not be able to repeat this now. But in 2003-2004 it was a no-brainer.

gee , a whole $1000 for a year-

your my hero-

is this the kind of mind numbing things i have to look forward to in my 60's?

why not instead transfer all your asset's to your heir's now, take the credit money out of the cd swirling plan,
and go have some fun, before tshtf-

I'm sure there's lots of good games out there. CC companies try to lure people into paying interest and fees, and clever people like you can get ahead of the game, beat the house and make a few bucks. Of course your "take" is a drop in the bucket compared to the profits they make. If everyone were smart like you they'd have to be more careful with their bait.

I don't consider debt money on a credit card and paid every month from savings you had all along. I don't approve of users who use credit cards to stretch their budget (spending what they haven't yet earned). It's part of the bait, get people acclimated to stretching their budget a little further each month.

Anyway, glad you have a good hobby that can earn you a little money. Most hobbies cost money!

What the ELP concept runs up against is: How much is enough? This is the central question asked by E.F. Shumacher over 35 years ago. The answer is very much location dependent. The amount of heating fuel needed in the Yukon is very different than what is needed in Costa Rica. Below a certain level Economize becomes life threatening. A household that goes from $200,000 to $100,000 per year can still live a pretty good life. Going from $20,000 to $10,000 can be life threating and could be considered child neglect. If you cut your living expenses in half this year could you cut it in half again next year. There are already a great many Americans, at least 20% of our children, who already are officially in poverty. Odds are that some of them live less than 10 miles from every reader of this website. I am currently a renter and try as I can to save money every month something comes up. My daughter needs text books before her scholarship money is deposited. My 17 year old car needs new brakes. Urgent dental care costs $400. Every month it's one thing or another. Investing in anything is out of the question. As a Social Security recipient these ideas about offsetting higher gas taxes with a payroll tax cut do me and millions like me no good. I've already had the big paycut, the bankruptcy, the foreclosure. Imagining is one thing. Living through it is HELL.

During WWII the U.S. government encouraged the planting of "victory gardens"; vegetable gardens in people's back yards to increase U.S. food production. My grandparents had good soil in their mid-west back yard and had tomatoes and a cherry tree. Those little garden plots fed many people.


I had decided to go off site for a while, but I read your post.

If I read correctly you are replying to Thomas DePlume? I doubt that you are as heartless as your posting implies, merely unthinking. I suggest you re-read his statement. I have often, while posting on TOD, found that what I was saying was inappropriate and unfortunately would realize this often only days after posting.

Maybe I have done the same here and misinterpreted Thomas' Post but a Victory garden placed against home and job seems quite out of balance.

I retired about six years ago and wanted to get on with my real vocation of being a hermit. Happily my wife felt the same so traded our paid for home in Atlanta, GA. for 60 wooded and isolated acres with a house already on it. We'd both had good jobs and always sort of lived on one salary and saved the other so we started this phase of our life debt free. Our property has a creek, we installed a wind turbine, solar panels, we heat with wood, make our own maple syrup ( wood fired, of course ) raise pigs and chickens and garden some and will expand that.
I had only a pre-verbal recognition that the oil just has to be finite, but had not allocated any mind space to thinking about it. Probably had not ever heard the term peak oil. Living like this was what I wanted to do and since becoming a devotee of "The Oil Drum" I'm starting to develop my Peak Oil Ministry. Very persuasive bunch of folks.

About two years ago our daughter and son-in-law wanted to leave city life and come live with us. She's a nurse and had a job within minutes. He -degree in classics - wanted to farm and learn timber-frame building. With one year of working as a t-f builder he's learnt enough for us to have bought a portable saw mill and milled out timbers for a porch, wood shed, pig house and materials for chicken houses.

He and our daughter wanted to raise and slaughter pigs and they did that. I'd done it as a child and knew it to be hard work, but they wanted to say that they could do it if/when it becomes necessary. Now they can and they know that they can.
We don't watch tv; no reception and don't want to anyway. Watching chickens is way more educational and fun. I mean it; chicken society is substantially more complex and interesting than one might think.

There's an organic farm nearby and they operate a CSA fresh stand during the summer. I maintain his web site and he gives me CSA coupons.

Having two or more generations living in the same house was pretty common when I was growing up in North Georgia, USA in the 1940's but that gave way to the fragmented way of life capitalism demanded and automobiles and cheap gasoline promoted. I imagine that it may become the norm again.

We live where the winters are long and cold - we just got about ten inches of snow a couple of days ago- and you have to be pretty fit to live in this mountainous terrain and climate. Sometimes we bring in food on snowshoes but you'll do anything when you've just finished you last bottle of red wine.
The point of these ramblings? I acknowledge my good fortune, but just post this as a report to support folks who might be contemplating developing such a life. You can do it and have lots of fun too.

--Going from $20,000 to $10,000 can be life threating and could be considered child neglect---

you should read george ure's site-

all day every day, he advertises on how one can live on 10g's a year

Its sad that you can't live a reasonable live in America on a low wage once you drop below a certain level it seems lot the only way you can go is down. I've seen this many times in my life and lived it a bit. I wish you luck. Try getting a cheap hobby you would be amazed. I did two things carved wooden figures include Ship in the Bottle Models. And grew bonsai trees. Going out in the morning to play with my little forest made a huge difference in my life.

When you can't change the big things in your life its often little things that make the difference.

Shaping a sustainable life in a Post Peak Oil world

Here's the first installment, relating my findings as I attempt to fashion practical solutions for future family life with the options at hand.
Over the last few weeks I've been more earnestly attempting to put the fundamental pieces in place to assure our wellbeing as post peak realities dawn.
1. Heating, Electricity and Hot Water, Water-
2. Planting - Food and Energy
3. Transport
4. Livelihood, Money
5. General Provisions, spares, education, security

1. Heating, Electricity and Hot Water-
In Order of Priority

1.1 Insulation-
Dull but worthy. Currently a 100m2 groundfloor over an unheated, cellar with garage door, is a huge heat sink, undermining any efforts to realise an independant economical warm house. Solution: 17 layer aluminium, polyester, cotton, insulation blanket,EP30, 7 off 15m2 rolls, 780Euros(special offer Brico Depot).

1.2 Heating System - Geothermal (The French definition - taking heat from groundwater, not as more commonly understood tapping core heat)
Cost 25000 Euros (without 50% tax credits available for French tax payers towards the heat pump capital cost) installed serving 200m2 floor space, approximately 400m3 volume, including Heat Pump (pompe a chaleur) , groundwater bore hole pump, radiators. Coefficient of performance nominally 5.7, ie 5.7kW heat output/kW consumption, based on groundwater at 11C, room temperature 21C. Heat Output 13.8kW. Replacing 25year old delapidated electric convection heaters and electric under floor heating- Coefficient of Performance 1, Max consumption 12kW (300Euros/month to shiver in Winter).

1.2.2 Limitations of application: requires a groundwater flow (handily in our case an underground stream passes near the property at 30m depth, 5m3/hr flowrate, so says the silver ball and chain swinging diviner- supposedly never fails....)
1.2.3 Bonus - the bore hole pump should provide a natural unmetered supply of water, which may prove to be invaluable especially if tests show the water to be potable.

1.2.4 Alternatives - Air- heat exchanger heat pump, as featured in your average Motel room. Disadvantages, lower coefficient of performance (4.3 median), especially when you need it with cold Winter air. The hum of fans. Advantage, reversible for air conditioning in Summer.

1.2.5 Conclusions
A heat pump system can only be considered to be a short to medium term solution, say 5 years up to 25 years. Limited by either the system components life (, pumps, compressors, heat exchangers, refrigerant charge etc.) or (even though electrical consumption is slashed) the grid (still required, see electrical generation section below)
along with the French nuclear stations . whichever goes first..

1.3 HotWater (getting into?)
I had anticipated ordering a solar thermal system (two panels each comprising 30 black vacuum tubes 2 off ~2mx2m) for atleast the water for baths/showets/kitchen. Two versions were available, One at 9200Euros installed was supplemented by an air exchanger heat pump mounted on the storage tank for hot water even when the sun don't shine. However it relied on interior installation with air temperatures above 10C, not feasible in our chilly cellar.
The other option at 7500Euros installed had the same panels, but backed up by an electrical element in the storage tank. The renewables company were frank enough to admit that in Brittany for 5 months of the year the electrical element would be standing
in for the sun. So despite the 80% efficiency for solar conversion (far higher than solar voltaic 15% max) the retrofit option didn't make economic sense. Maybe we'll return to option one installed in the warmth of the house, when the existing water tank gives up the ghost.

1.4 Wind - (Blow me down, its all hot air)
The renewables company was offering a vertical axis wind turbine, with a 10kW rating, for 30000 Euros installed. In France planning permission isn't required for turbines under 12m height.
Their demonstration model appeared to be installed in a good location, exposed on the top of motorway banking. However, on enquiring on the actual output obtained, I was surprised to be told, 1000kW hours per year. ie. 125Watts
on average, just enough to sustain two conventional filament light bulbs. Looking at the accompanying brochure the, paucity of power, was obvious. 1.3kW at 54Km/h 33mph,
4.4kW at 90km/h 56mph, 10kW at 140km/h 87mph. I suspect that even when my neighbours pine tree was blown down rearranging his cars this winter, the wind speed on our patch at 12m elevation wouldn't generate enough power to boil a kettle.
An annual inspection was required for the contraption, and the guarantee was 3years.
On top of all that you need a battery bank to profitably (????) use the power.

1.5 Solar Photo Volataic - (not tonight Josephine)
18m2, 2.94kW, 23200 Euros roof installed (Solar World)
Annual KW hours for the system in Brittany mounted on a South facing roof, 3000. At least the guarantee is 25 years, and the kW/Euros is vastly better than wind. however Winter sun, aint too strong at Brittany's lattitude, so another power generation method would be essential. The trouble with relying directly on the sun for generation is the need for electricity arises because the suns not shining.....
The French government pays 55cents (5 times the standard domestic rate) for each kW hour sold back to the grid, but still the economics don't quite add up. However, with the advances in solar PV, organic surface treated films, threatening to emerge from the labs, at forecast costs 20% or lower of current silicon cells in 2 years, maybe .....

1.6 Batteries
An essential complement to solar PV and wind. Battery packs seem to be the least sustainable element of all the electricity generating kit. Even if the battery are not discharged more than 40% in cycles, their life is likely to be 5 to 10 years. Just when you most need them, in cold conditions, their capacity is compromised. If your desperate enough to use their full capacity regularly, then their life could drop to a year.

1.7 Wood
We have installed a 14kW wood burning stove in the living room for 450Euros, which makes a fine warming roar.

Will our 1 acre (5000m2) patch be enough for food for a family of 4 (or more) and fire wood?????

The best solar battery by far

Growing buying, Chopping, cutting wood, drying wood,

I'm in the happy position of working in the oil and gas service industry, I have a pleasant daily cycle to work in the Hague, Holland. However
I suspect the Dutch population density is unsustainable post peak.
Hence we're working on our rural retreat in Brittany France.

After reviewing the options, for power and heating, and making some serious steps towards sustainable living, I still see an unbridgeable gap which will lead inexorably to a population crash. In temperate climates, we will be entirely dependant on what can be grown on the available land, population will return to equilibrium with natures capacity.

Thank you, Records, for your home scale, real-world report. I'll link to it the next time a cournacopian pops up here with some simplistic techno-fix.

And thank you West Texas, for stimulating discussion on PO preparedness. Your efforts will make some lives better.

Some technical points.

Why can't ground water source heatpumps (geothermal) be used for cooling as well as heating ? All it takes is a reversing freon valve.

Have you considered an Edison battery ? Lives of 50 years have been noted.

If heat pumps and the grid go, so do the things that use electricity (after the old ones wear out).

Have you planted fruit and nut trees and berry bushes ? The old man's farming :-)

Have you looked at ways to increase the walls & roof insulation ? And new, better windows ? Insulating shades (two layers of fabric hex cells work well) ?

Best Hopes,



A heat pump system could indeed be designed for cooling as well as heating, the compressor configuration is swapped so the evaporator becomes condenser and visa versa, as per the air to air exchanger systems found in most motel rooms. however the system we have bought relies upon
water circulation through high surface area radiators (water circulating temperature is only around 42C to achieve 21C room temperature. The low circulating temperature helps realise the better 5.7 COP by minimising evap/cond temp difference and hence the compressor pressure ratio). If it was attempted to work our system in reverse, the radiator temperature difference required to give comparable cooling (ie. 21C) would have to have the water circulating round the house at 0C, flow would be 'compromised'....

I did miss one key part of our heating strategy - passive heating, it was late last night.
A large conservatory is on the shopping list, which, should capture weaker winter sun with appropriate selection of dark floor matting and wall curtains, and minimise our wood demand .

I've not come across the Edison battery. I'll look into that further.

Our windows are double glazed, and the house is only 25years old, so whilst not marvellous the insulation is a reasonable standard. We are initially plugging the biggest heat sink (sorry about the pun) the cellar ceiling/ground floor and hoping this makes a marked effect.

We have planted, apple, pear, cherry, peach and nectarine so far. The ground in our part of Brittany is quite acid, so we'll have to import significant amounts of lime to make our
vegetables happy. A 10m by 5m poly tunnel, is on the agenda for our next visit to the rural retreat, we may be able to
obtain two crops a year.

One other generating scheme we have considered-
We have a stream running round the boundary of our land, which I had hoped might be just possible to generate a little electricity from especially in Winter when solar was weak and occasional. however the zero head water turbines (as dragged behind yachts) applicability is very marginal, with the flow velocity (maximum 5mph), and the depth (0.5m)width (1.5m)of our stream. The stream does at least ensure that half of our land isn't prone to drying out.

So all in all, the outlook is challenging without the grid. Matthew Simmons is correct, serious research is required for alternative large scale energy generation such as oceanic sources. There maybe mileage in generating using ocean vents, perhaps the waters thermacline can be used to generate. However theres plenty of technical issues to resolve, storage/transmission inparticular, there maybe unforeseen perils in such schemes too, I wouldn't want to try to harness or do anything impacting on the Gulf stream for instance, which seems to have slowed markedly 30%+ in the last thirty years. If that ground to a halt then it really is game over.
As an aside, I did purchase the Renewable Energy handbook, but I note that all the 'independent' off grid homes feature big diesel/gas generators (15kW etc.), substantial tracts of forest, and battery back up racks......... I hope they've bought thick duvets...


These guys, at link below, sell Edison battery but don't seem to give weights or storage capacity. The price is a shocker and depending on the use it might be better to buy greater quantities of old fashioned rebuilt large capacity lead acid and store some for later.(the ones I used on my fishing boat were about double length of a car battery). Without that price on the Edison they do look good though, especially I think for small vehicle applications.

The bottom table on page 2 gives Edison battery weights in kg, and storage capacity in Ah.
Probably a 600Ah, 24V battery (~14.4kWh),at 6440 dollars will be adequate for the most daily power 3kW of solar roof panels (18m2) could hope to generate in Summer.
I'll have to find a European supplier. Their characteristics do make them an attractive proposition despite their cost, as without them a solar panel based system (30000 Euros installed) will be high maintenance, low reliability, poor longevity.

Alan, we don't have much scope for modifying our streams course, with dams etc, I'd say the fall over the entire perimeter (maybe 150m)is less than 2m. My neighbour
upstream has a pond, which attracts a few trout... and heron.
However blueberries would be a tasty addition to the fruit harvest. There must be an off the shelf water heating system somewhere that makes use of groundwater heat. There was an alternative Viessmann heat pump system using ground water, for home heating and hot water, but underfloor heating was required, which was not practical as a retrofit. We'll look again at the water boiler in a few years, and
DoctorBob, namesake of my brother, I'm a product of the UK University Engineering System, though I now work in Holland, and have a house in France. Looking at the population density in England, its high dependence on coal, gas and food imports (for which there's very short term storage), commuting miles, out of town shopping developments, I'd say England's at least as vulnerable as the US to peak energy, and supply interruptions- Mr Putin, Iran etc. The population density in Holland, does not bode well for the medium to long term, but at least in the short term, their bike centric local facilities, and excellent transport infrastructure, trams, trains and ports, make it resilient to initial shocks (6years ago, a few days into the refinery blockades, petrol had run out at the forecourts, and supermarket shelves were empty. The UK gas storage capacity is currently around 11days, I did some initial work on one of the salt cavern gas storage facilities which will eventually increase the UKs capacity, but not to the 80 or so days enjoyed by France ). Our rural French site's transport infrastructure is limited, though ports and mainline aren't too distant. In the (4+ years) medium to long term, unless fusion or other yet to be commercialised large scale power generation scheme comes along, self sufficiency within the commune will be the name of our game.

Edison’s nickel-iron battery:

“Its limitations, namely, low specific energy, poor charge retention, and poor low-temperature performance, and its high cost of manufacture compared with the lead-acid battery led to a decline in usage along with it having the lowest energy-to-weight ratio.”

> low specific energy

A problem with mobile applications (car batteries) but this only affects the cost/watt-hour in most residential applications

> poor charge retention

AFAIK, a problem for long term storage, but for 12 to 60 hour storage (typical for home PV & wind applications) it holds the charge "long enough". It would be nice to see a chart. (In most home PCV set-ups, the batteries rarely rest. They are either charging or discharging, so "hold time" has little relevance.

> and poor low-temperature performance

This implies that winter required some source of moderate heat (perhaps leaking from house into basement from wood fired stove ? or 11 C water from the well into a radiator ?) I would like to look at temperature curve. 0 C may be adequate for example

It does have exceptionally long life.

One other problem is that it is hard to tell when the state of battery charge. Voltage is "flat" over a broad range of charges AFAIK.

Best Hopes,


Can you create a small head (even say 2 m) by building a small dam upstream and running pipes to a downstream point (perhaps joining with a neighbor) ?

A fast moving stream can also support a water wheel with a small dam (good for a small fish pond as well).

Blueberries LOVE acid soil and the US uses two species; one for north and the other (rabbiteye) for the south. They can be dried and saved for winter or eaten fresh.

Does your heat pump use a closed loop to circulate heat ?

There are freon/water heat exchangers to harvest domestic hot water from the air conditioning/heat pump. A useful supplement to solar hot water ? And a point of use electric resistance hot water heater whenever the supply is too cool for use ? (With a switch so if teh water is lukewarm, you use it anyway).

Having lived over a year in New Orleans without natural gas (and hot water/much heat) I can attest that even luke warm water is "enough" but true hot water is a VERY nice luxury.

Best Hopes,


In UK and other northern climes, I think we WILL get (and need) one more generation of nuclear stations just to keep people alive in winter until we can replace current housing stock with super-insulated ones. The trick for Uk is getting through from 2015 to 2025 when most such stations would be online - plenty on this elsewhere.

Thanks, records - look forward to further installments on how ELP/self-sufficiency efforts work in the REAL world.

The second greatest mis-allocation of resources behind the growth and servicing of suburbia is the elimination of rail service to rural towns across America. The money wasted in the military occupation of Iraq could have been used to rebuild America's rail system.

Jeff, as an occasional e-mail correspondent with you and former suburban Dallas resident, let me say that, as usual, you've hit one out of the park. To the degree we can't immediately localize more, things such as an immediate and serious increase in the CAFE are important, in my book.

This is scary!

"To put our current rate of worldwide crude oil consumption in perspective, during George W. Bush's first term, the world used about 10% of all crude oil that has been consumed to date, and based on our mathematical models, the world will use about 10% of our remaining conventional crude oil reserves during George W. Bush's second term."

Jim Gagnepain

I've found it to be a simple way to introduce people to the impossibility of an infinite growth rate against a finite resource base.

It's interesting to ask people to guess what percentage of all crude oil consumed to date worldwide was consumed in the first four year Bush term.

I've found it to be a simple way to introduce people to the impossibility of an infinite growth rate against a finite resource base.

You could have said the same thing 50 or 100 years ago. How relevant would it have been then?

It's interesting to ask people to guess what percentage of all crude oil consumed to date worldwide was consumed in the first four year Bush term.

Again, the same thing would have held true throughout the 20th century, that a substantial part of all oil "consumed to date" would have been during the previous Presidential term. It's a inherent property of exponential growth.

If these are supposed to be arguments for Peak Oil then I guess we should have all moved back to the farms back in the 1920s, because they were just as true then as they are today. Do you tell people that that is the true lesson of your observations?

This is what exponential growth (usage) is all about. It's also, in some sense, what Peak Oil is all about.

Jim Gagnepain

What part of exponential growth against a finite resource base do you fail to understand, Halfin?

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

Again, the same thing would have held true throughout the 20th century, that a substantial part of all oil "consumed to date" would have been during the previous Presidential term. It's a inherent property of exponential growth.

Of course, it's really a two part question, since George Bush had the misfortune to be in office when the world crossed the 50% of Qt mark on Deffeyes' HL plot.

So, in his first term, we used 10% of all crude oil consumed to date, and in his second term we will use 10% of all remaining estimated conventional crude oil reserves. As predicted, world crude oil production is declining--which is the whole point of this essay. As I said somewhere else, there are two types of Americans: (1) Those who now realize that Americans will have to curtail their consumption and (2) Those who will realize that Americans will have to curtail their consumption.

I have been doing this for the past few years - having left a research position to be a gardener and tutor; a 50% reduction in earning would be a luxury! but I digress.

Finally, if we are wrong about Peak Oil, and if you followed the ELP plan, you will have less--or no--debt, more money in the bank, and a lower stress way of life.

Further to this there has been a lot of discussion about the negative psychological impact of affluence (as oposed to just the stress associated with gaining it):

Since having left my previous work and the associated earnings and so needing to spend time growing my own food and fixing my house by myself, I feel much more of a whole person.

The shift is one from gratification to satisfaction and contentment.

China is experiencing inflation in the cost of farm land and meals. The one child rule was more easily enforced in the cities where couples risked losing their jobs for noncompliance than in the countryside where the state had less control over agricultural laborers. A friend who was teaching in China sent back an email that there was an orchard of a few trees and they had to put a barbed wire fence around it to keep the peasants from stealing the trees for use as firewood for cooking. Some of the rural Chinese were not able to have enough wood to heat their homes in the winter, but used wood for cooking. Many of the young adults from the area had gone to the cities to work.

I have been reading about Daqing Oil Field, China. By some sources the crude production is declining at about 7% per year, about 900,000 bod production 2006. Other sources may list their BOE production as the Chinese seem to have begun to produce natural gas from some stratagraphic sequence in the oil field. The addition of natural gas to the BOE production of the field may produce a more shallow decline for overall hydrocarbon production, yet it does not fill a growing need for petrol.

I picked up this article:

It is a rumor hard to believe, but if true, China may be heading towards a sharp oil production decline.

I believe that China just crossed the 50% of Qt mark on its HL plot. Someone, with quite a bit of experience in China, posted a note a few weeks ago to the effect that they thought that China was about to start a terminal decline in production.

Assume, for the moment, that Russian oil production starts declining this year--and the Russians and the IMF are beginning to warn of an imminent decline--and assume that Chinese oil production is in terminal decline.

The following would be true about the two top net oil exporters (Saudi Arabia and Russia) and the two top net oil importers (US and China):

Their domestic production, in all four cases, is declining and their domestic consumption, in all four cases, is growing (in three out of four cases, growing very rapidly). So, the top two net oil exporter are expecting an exponential increase in net oil imports, while the two top net oil exporters are experiencing exponential declines in net oil exports.

I have sympathy for "localize" as a goal, but I am lately seeing a lot of people getting carried way. They preach hard and fast limits (100mi, 100km) rather than teaching the underlying physics:

One gallon of fuel moves a ton of goods 59 miles by tractor-trailer.

One gallon of fuel moves a ton of goods 202 miles by rail.

One gallon of fuel moves a ton of goods 515 miles by inland barge.

One gallon of fuel moves a ton of goods 377 miles by container ship(*)

... and then consider the sort of vehicles you see at the local farmer's market, and their percent loading. It's easy to see how the 100mi/km rules could become self-defeating, from an energy and greenhouse gas perspective.

Shorter: use the real numbers, not 100mi"limits" pulled out of thin air.

* - found in a dangling Ergosphere comment, backed only by a dead link

I concur.

I have no problems eating bread from wheat barged down the Mississippi, bananas & coffee shipped (via ship) in from Central America, spices shipped in from around the world and even apples railed in from Michigan or Washington State and potatoes from "up north somewhere".

Please note that short lived produce is trucked, but longer lived produce (apples, potatoes) is shifting to rail.

Rice is a larger part of my diet (and the local cuisine) than wheat and we have limited citrus production that I patronize heavily in season (satsumas grown in Mississippi River mud taste MUCH better than those raised in sand). Local fish, crawfish, shrimp and oysters outweight meat in my diet; but chicken comes from Mississippi (both free range & factory).

Given the differential in energy by mode, New Orleans may have the lowest energy density basic food sources and a natural preference for our 1800s diet.

My basic feeling is that if we ate it in 1880, it is sustainable. Bananas came in sailing ships and then steamers, apples were floated downriver on rafts even before steamboats, etc.

Best Hopes for Fine Dining :-)


I found a reference for ocean freight efficiencies.

The larger ships are moving a ton of goods better than a thousand miles on one gallon of fuel.

"Ocean vessel net ton-miles per gallon varies widely by size of ship and backhaul percentage. With no backhaul, the average net ton-miles per gallon were as follows:"

Size of ship Net ton-miles per gallon
30,000 dwt 574.8
50,000 dwt 701.9
70,000 dwt 835.1
100,000 dwt 1,043.4

For yucks, compare that to a 15mpg truck moving 500 pounds of vegetables ... 3.75 net ton-miles per gallon?

(People are full of irrational expectations, but thinking that shipping "goes away first" in a crunch goes against all logic. When fuel hits $10/g, you may drive less, and you may rely on those efficient shippers even more.)

Enjoyed your article Westexas and will tune into TOD for your next part. I did delicious but diggit doesn't seem to work for me.

One area that doesn't get too much discussion because of it being equated with fear/greed under the heading of Hoarding is storage of food in good times for use in the bad.

I remember in grade school being told stories of the Egyptians storing enough grain to last seven years of drought. Sounded a pretty sensible thing to do at the time and still does.

I think the world food supply is about 55 days ahead of empty? I don't know what all the various governments in the world are doing, I would guess we in N. America are at better than 55 days, does anyone have a figure? Anyway I doubt that I would like to depend on food handouts from the government. I think the last depression proved that, and from relatives stories and reading novels Grapes of wrath, by Steinbeck, it looks that people depended on each other like their lives depended on it. While we have become a very self serving society, I don't see that Mad Max future; we are much too superficial for that. Can you imagine a bunch of unemployed lawyers and stockbrokers on their Harleys raping and pillaging, they're more likely to swipe your beer when your head is turned.

If we each put something away to get through the temporary bad times it may take to reach a new stability it is not hoarding it is just Good old Egyptian common sense.

Http:// -- the site for times when company will be coming for dinner ;-)

how's that tanker going to get to Phoenix?

The same way it did in 1887?

July 4, 1887, would have been just another Independence Day had not the first Southern Pacific train arrived that day from Maricopa Wells. This had been a long-anticipated event.

The coming of the railroad was the first of several important events that revolutionized the economy of this area. Merchandise now flowed into the city by rail instead of wagon. Our products went quickly to eastern and western markets. In recognition of the increased tempo of economic life, the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce was organized on Nov. 4, 1888.

That same year, the city offices were moved into the new City Hall, built where the downtown bus terminal now stands. This building also provided temporary offices for the territorial government when they were moved to Phoenix from Prescott in 1889.

The location of Arizona's Capitol had been moved several times since 1864. It was first established at Navajo Springs, then Prescott, then Tucson after an attempt to move it to La Paz failed, then back to Prescott, and finally to Phoenix.

(Funny when people forget which towns were built by the railroads ... as now sadly when Tucson fights railroad expansion.)

I wasn't going to post to this thread but finally decided a few comments are in order. Although there is nothing wrong with ELP, it really is an attempt to maintain what I would call Status Quo Liteand, as such, is not sustainable as a strategy. I'm not even convinced it will be a valid in ten years.

I think a much more useful approach to future living is given in the book , 1979, published by the Farallones Institute which covers everything from conserving energy and resources to home food production. The Mother Earth News had a couple of articles about it: Issue #42 (November/December 1976) and Issue #61 (January/February 1980). They were in the NEM archives.


Well, for some reason the name of the book was dropped. It is The Integral Urban House. I highly recommend it,

A small late addition on housing and sharing. In Switzerland, sharing is more common and more traditional than in many other places. Free mountain huts, you know? You leave that extra packet of macaroni and ALWAYS two boxes of matches.

Apptmt. building in town (real.) About 70 flats, all of them small, minuscule by US standards. A swop arrangement is implemented; with luck, one can move to smaller / bigger in the same building with changing family size.

Each flat has a small balcony, for extra fridge in the winter and drying laundry in the summer. And an ‘outlook’.

The communal equipment: a laundry room (practically all apptmt. buildings have at least that), a drying room - previously used to be a huge hot air cupboard, now with electric driers. A sheltered locked outdoor space on the ground floor near the elevators for bikes and prams. An indoor ‘playground’ for tots and moms who can be lost and isolated in winter. A communal kitchen and dining room (seats about 80). This is used for ‘school lunch’ and can be rented out nites. A work space - mend your bike, put together that furniture, make that box. Garbage; full recycling options on the spot (no individual driving to a pick up point). Cellar: each flat has storage space for stuff that is not in use. The stuff isn’t alive, it doesn’t need light or heat. And wine does better in a cool dark place..

The loosers are teens, who have no ‘own’ space, and that is a problem.

Two full time employees who keep the place orderly and clean (excepting kitchen) are needed. And at a stiff price, a parking place in an underground garage, not managed by the building owners, but by a para-state organism, can be had.

This works fine, and respects privacy, Western ‘values’ etc.

--used to be Noisette

Sounds like a glimpse of our future. The problem is that the transition is not going to be pleasant, especially since so many people and organizations are promising trillions and trillions of remaining oil reserves.

IMO, there are two types of Americans: (1) Those who now realize that we will have to dramatically reduce our consumption and (2) Those who will realize that we will have to dramatically reduce our consumption.

Just finished reading Hartmann's book westexas references, it is on our church library reading list.

The book "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight" is divided into 3 parts: what the physical problems are facing us, why we tend to create unsustainable societies, what to do about it.

Aside: As an independant, I find much of his writing full of liberal party line crapola. Anyone who says "Michael Moore" and "brilliant" in the same sentence is somewhat suspect.

Still, his first recommendation is for people to spend time in prayer or meditation to envision first what their core values, what our human core values should be moving into a new world. I was very sympathetic to his idea that we can define moving forward what community looks like, that we can choose to move forward with dignity and grace into a different world, most likely one supporting a smaller population. That we, as did Job, have a choice in our response to the unfolding challenges to humanity.

But this is a site about energy details, not re-envisioning our role, our community.

Anyone know of politically neutral sites out there dealing more with a positive approach to these ideas of intentional community, re-inventing our core values?

I don't think that left/right labels make a lot of sense in a post-peak world. I would primarily divide people into two camps: those who understand the problem and those who don't.

Case in point: Consider the fact that Texas oilman and life long Republican Boone Pickens advocated raising the gasoline tax (so that gasoline in the US would be the same price as in Europe) offset by cutting the Payroll tax--before Al Gore finally endorsed the same position.

csprings asked,
"Anyone know of politically neutral sites out there dealing more with a positive approach to these ideas of intentional community, re-inventing our core values?"

Here are a few. Please note that i am not personally endorsing all of these, but even though I differ with them in various ways, they are excellent starting points:
(the first two are related to a longstanding intentional sustainable community in Illinois, Stelle IL
They are pretty good, as Stelle, although an "intentional community, was set up around private ownership of housing and property, and this may have contributed to it's sustainabilty, unlike many communes born in the 1970's energy and social crisis, which simply fell apart:

Carfree is associated with a book of the same title. While I personally see no great advantage for a nation to be "car free" unless the cars are so poorly designed as to be horrendous in inefficiency, many here at TOD are devoted to the war against the automobile (although in the future, destroying the auto will not have a great effect on oil consumption as the auto becomes different than it is today. However, for those who like the car free idea, or simply enjoy interesting community planning/city architecture design, there are interesting things to be found at this site:

These two are very to the ELP ideas, and the links page is very good:

This one is a well known site among the peak oil crowd. There is much to be studied here, it is the organization located at Yellow Springs, Ohio

Community Solution is also the intellectural stomping ground of Megan Quinn, who is outreach director, and every peak oil or energy concerned persons poster girl/earth mother, all around interesting woman in the cause! :-)

Community Solutions does much good work, however, it's tone is much too dark for my taste. It disavows most technical ideas, uses Cuba as an example right on it's front page (much the embarrassment of some associated with the "peak cause". I know that I stopped referencing Community Solutions to friends who were not already in the cause at about that time) Community Solution uses the phrase "running out of oil" in banners across the website, a terrible error and poor choice of words, easily sliced up by any one with knowledge of minerals/oil/gas.

They do endorse something not far from Jeffrey's ELP ideas, however, which they refer to as "lifeboats", very, very tiny houses "outbuildings" actually) and very local production of all needs, with a belief that real national/international commerce will be wiped out. Essentially, it is a belief in a collapse back to about 1850 levels of development in most ways, and as I say, dark beyond what I percieve any reality based scenario should be (likewise Jeffrey's scenario), but I will deal with that in a sperate post.

So there you go, happy reading!

Remember, we are only one cubic mile from freedom

I'm probably more optimistic than most re post-peak North America. Here is an example of a new condo building being constructed in Toronto-heating and airco from geothermal- they are digging down 300 ft for it

I am out of debt , have a small farm . 50 mpg Geo metro + an electric one.

Most of our energy is staying cool in the summer.

My thoughts are one needs an earth coupled structure so I am looking at a metal building with foam insulation on the outside only. Any thoughts ???

Go all the way. Look into earth bermed or earth sheltered housing. In fact, use those as keywords in Google searches and see what you find. Such structures can maintain constant mid-60 degree temperatures year round in almost any climate often with no heating or cooling costs at all.

Check out this video from Earthship Biotecture for one example. Note: I have no affiliation with Earthship Biotecture or other earth sheltered home producers.

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

Earthcoupled only works in a certain climatic range. Ground temperatures have to be close to what you want to live in AND high humidity on a warm day will condense inside, creating dew / mold problems. Add wicking through the concrete and "all is not good".

You did not say where you live, but talk to people in your region who live in earth coupled homes. If none are easy to find, perhaps there is a reason.

Another alternative is a highly insulated and "tight" box with a small ground source heat pump and perhaps a dehumidifier. DEC majes the most energy efficient dehumidifiers.

In New Orleans, ground coupled would be foolish to the extreme. My "dream house" would be new construction that blends into the existing neighborhood. Steel studs; 8" vertical tied together with 4" horizontal studs, all insulated with good windows (but not too many). Raised as traditional homes were and again required for new construction.

Best Hopes,


Alan, you are correct that earth coupled has it's limits, particularly in the deep south.

But for much of the courntry it is great.

Likewise, underground or bermed housing, which brings me to the little story I wanted to tell anyway:

Jeffrey's ELP ideas will work in many ways, (but not all). I know this because I actually have seen many of them practiced:

When I graduated high school in 1977, I had a friend who was absolutely convinced the energy crisis was here to stay. In this he was not unusual, but he was convinced that gasoline prices would be $8 or $10 per gallon by 1980, and the country was nearing the end. He was sure that no jobs would be available except manual labor (he had long been a farmer's son and was used to that, and a young guy who could do it.

So, he bought several acres out of town where he could drill a well for water, and built a "basement" house, i.e., the basement, which was open to the South side, and with an insulated roof on it. He put in a woodstove, and built (by hand with help from friends and brothers) a concrete block building on the surface of the ground to store and work on cars, farm and garden equipment, etc. This building was large enough to act as a huge wood shed, and he normally easily had 3 or 4 years worth of wood to heat with on hand, which with the efficient inground house, was very low on consumption.

He bought a Volkswagen Rabbit Diesel pickup truck (I call it the only real "post peak" vehicle ever built!) when the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis hit, as this convinced him of the energy crisis, and the end of the days of oil. So, he was getting about 50 miles per gallon on Diesel, which in those days was much cheaper than gasoline, heating with wood, had a garden and chickens. For larger meat, he would buy a cow or pig from a local farmer, take it to the slaughter house, have it killed and tossed the meat in the deep freeze. Elecrtricity costs were, as they are now, givaway cheap here in the Ohio Valley, this is coal country.

His children are grown and to my knowledge he still lives in the same basement house. He and his family, I am willing to bet, used less than a third or a quarter of the energy used by the average American over those years. If the crisis of the 1970's had lasted, he was better prepared, and for cheaper, than most of the people I know of, and many would have starved before he would have suffered at all. BUT, he was not the only one. In KY and Southern Indiana, this lifestyle was not at all uncommon in the 1970's, both for financial reasons, and because many young folks in those days thought the crisis was permanent. They spent far less than most people in America in what was one of the highest inflation times in history. It allowed them to survive one the worst recession since the Great Depression, as they began their family life, and had children of their own.

So, how did it come out for them?

Not that well, actually.

In 1982 the energy prices halted their upward spike, the price peaked, the prices began to fall. The crash in oil prices was spectacular. It is hard for anyone not around in those days to believe the change. On one sunny summer day, in that same year, the stock market wobbled down to a point around where it had been in the early 1970's (a decade long sideways and bear market!), and then took off upward.

It would become the longest bull market in world history, the greatest period of wealth production in history. And the young men, who had believed so strongly that the bad times of the 1970's were only the beginning, who had endorsed a version of ELP that would make Jeffrey proud, missed it. They had miscalled the future. They missed the greatest opportunity at wealth production and retirement nest egg building the world had ever seen. Because they spent little due to their frugal ways, they also earned little, at manual labor jobs, and they invested little, because it goes to follow that a person who believes in perpetual contraction of the economy does not invest in the stock market.

Now, they are in their late 40's and early 50's, and have no real savings, no retirement invested. They have not expanded their skills (again, if you believe that good jobs are gone forever, you do not invest in the cost and effort of college) Many of them have no health insurance, because they never had a professional or corporate job. Now they are at the age that their health is beginning to fail them. Manual labor is much more difficult for them now, but being still 12 to 15 years from possible retirement (on social security only, they have nothing to suppliment with), they have to try. It is all they know.

At a personal level, some have suffered even worse, as their wives became disenchanted with a frugal life of living on nearly nothing, and left them, either taking the children, or leaving as the children reached adulthood.

So what is the moral of this story? It's simpler than you may think: Wealth is a comparative sport, and economics is a social science. There is an advantage to being a part of an economy, a culture, a nation, otherwise, such great effort would not go into building them.

And the moral is: If you bet against your nation and it's economy, YOU HAD BETTER BE RIGHT. The penelty for being wrong is very, very severe. If you lose the best earning and investing years of your life, it is very, very hard to try to come back into the game. It is easy for others to advise you to walk away, THEY know what is going on, and the nation does not. Right. So they will say. It is you who will pay the penelty if they are wrong, and you have taken their advice.

Cover your bets folks. This is not an easy time to read what is going on, and what will happen. But then, it never has been.

Roger Conner Jr.
Remember, we are only one cubic mile from freedom

When I graduated high school in 1977, I had a friend who was absolutely convinced the energy crisis was here to stay. In this he was not unusual, but he was convinced that gasoline prices would be $8 or $10 per gallon by 1980, and the country was nearing the end.

Your friend should have listened to Hubbert.

Published on 6 Jun 1974 by Archived on 27 Feb 2007.
Hubbert on the Nature of Growth

by M. King Hubbert

What is most strikingly shown by these complete-cycle curves is the brevity of the period during which petroleum can serve as a major source of energy. The peak in the production rate for the United States has already occurred three years ago in 1970.

The peak in the production rate for the world based upon the high estimate of 2100 billion barrels, will occur about the year 2000.

For the United States, the time required to produce the middle 80 percent of the 170 billion barrels will be approximately the 67-year period from about 1932-1999. For the world, the period required to produce the middle 80 percent of the estimated 2100 billion barrels will be about 64 years from 1968 to 2032. Hence, a child born in the mid-1930s if he lives a normal life expectancy, will see the United States consume most of its oil during his lifetime. Similarly, a child born within the last 5 years will see the world consume most of its oil during his lifetime.

The foregoing example (regarding inflation) has been discussed in detail because it serves as a case history of the type of cultural difficulties which may be anticipated during the transition period from a phase of exponential growth to a stable state. Since the tenets of our exponential-growth culture (such as a nonzero interest rate) are incompatible with a state of nongrowth, it is understandable that extraordinary efforts will be made to avoid a cessation of growth. Inexorable, however, physical and biological constraints must eventually prevail and appropriate cultural adjustments will have to be made.

I think the problem you have raised is simple and I agree completely. If you choose to go off grid fine but if you don't finish ELP and produce you end up like these people. Their is a reason why WT calls it ELP and not just EL. You have to produce something of value to society so society will take care of you in your old age. If you don't then you end up like these people and I've seen this all over Arkansas. At first it looks great since you can sustain yourself but the fact your not producing anything of value leads to a downward spiral and it takes a long time to realize you have made a mistake.

Now if these people had created profitable farms with decent disposable income that could be used for investment then they would not be facing the problems you mention and once they got older they could have readily sold the farm or passed it off to their children.

If you can both live sustainable and continue to produce you
have lost the game it just takes a long time to realize it.
Farming is a business if your not ready to enter the farming business you have no reason to live in the country. The sustainable lifestyle part is simply prudent business.


Regarding EL, this has no real bearing on one's job and investments. And as several people have noted, it's actually the same advice inherent in books like the "Millionaire Next Door."

As you noted, regarding "P" the key point is to work for, or become, a provider of essential goods and services.

However, even if one does choose to stay on the discretionary side of the economy, Economizing & Localizing is still very good advice.

It's a little strange, to put it mildly, that advice that people live below their means and save is construed by some as being possibly dangerous to their welfare. So, some people (not Memmel and I) would assert that maximizing one's spending and commute is good for you?


Yes this can easily be construed incorrectly. The important part is the original post showed someone who got economizing and localizing part right but made the mistake of not being productive. You have to produce if you wish to retire later in life this means you still need to maximize the income you can save. Thus if you make 15k a year you need to live on 5k and save 10k its the savings rate thats critical. If your worried about various investments buy land or rental property with your money. The trick is to live on 5k and make 150k :)

The moral of the story is you still need to be productive to society just wasting your productive years taking care of your needs is not a smart move. Note this is true no matter what lifestyle you adopt frugal or flagrant if you don't save for a rainy day your toast. So the heart of the problem with the original story is these people did not save even though they had low expenses.

Its important for long term living. Kudo's to how they lived but you still have to follow the laws of economics no matter how frugal your live. A lot of people think that some how living sustainably of their labor means they don't need to save money. Look at the Amish they keep big savings accounts even though the seldom need money it now a question of how often you need it but when you need it.

Lowering your living costs means your not wasting tons of resources with a wasteful lifestyle and its much easier to ensure you can save if your productive.

The moral for people wanting to practice ELP is you have to ensure your still capable of saving a significant amount of money each year if not you have a problem.

West Texas said,
"Regarding EL, this has no real bearing on one's job and investments."

Memmel says,
"The moral for people wanting to practice ELP is you have to ensure your still capable of saving a significant amount of money each year if not you have a problem."

Now of course, we see what a very tricky and complicated game the ELP method becomes!

Take a look around in much of the country, the south in particular: Most of the people who provide "essential services" as you folks call them are not well paid. The good paying jobs are have been in fact over at the "descretionary side" of the economy. Low income assure low savings. This is why I am greatly confused by the statement above ""Regarding EL, this has no real bearing on one's job and investments.""

Well, of course it has a real bearing. Economize and Localize will dictate one's jobs and investments in many, many ways.

Educational level will dictate one's jobs and investment in many ways. It is easy to get into the fantasy picture of the "gentleman farmer", a new type of gentry that is both self relient out on the farm, well educated (why? At whose expense?) and well invested (in what? If a person presumes a contracting culture, and a declining ecomony, he/she does not "invest" in any way the same as if they presume the survival/expansion of same economy.) There is much psychology at play.

The difference in decisions made at the front end will compound as surely as the interest will. Small amounts can add up. Small decisions loom large later in life.

Example A: A female friend, never married. Her families place in America was almost shattered in the 1970's, they held on by a thread, father was laid off from work for long periods, interest rate on home extremely high, what little he had in the equities markets STOOD STILL for over a decade. This was the world she knew growing up.

When she reached adulthood, she knew nothing of energy issues, but did know that the equities markets were losers, robbers, no way to make money.
She invested in bonds, CD's, money market funds, often against the advice of brokers and advisors, for her young adulthood. They were at least safe.

Example B: Young person B had paid no attention to finances in the 1970's. When he started working, he simply trusted the advice of the broker/401K planners. 60/40 equities/bonds roughly, sometimes higher in stocks), his line, "what the helll, I pay it in, I will probably never see it anyway" (he laughed)

Now, some 30 years later, Example B has little financial concern, his estate is more than one one million $ greater on balance then our frugal and careful young girl in example A. He has enjoyed the greatest run up in value in equities in history, while our careful but studious woman, alert as a hawk, thought hard, paid attention and thought her way out of wealth.
Needless to say, the now middle aged woman is hurt and confused at having given away what may be a once in a lifetime chance to gain what she now will surely not have time to gain. To her dismay, she must economize, while her less alert friends (and sometimes even other family members) raced off into much greater prosperity. She must work, without fail, to the age of social security, with no prospect for an earlier reprieve, while others retire and vacation early.

These types of stories are not so rare as you may believe. The penelty for guessing wrong becomes ever greater.

We have not even touched on the issue of health. One in four or more Americans have a diabetic condition of some type, requiring medication. There are more than 30 million Americans with hypertension, and with age, the number grows. Heart blockage and stroke, kidney problems, and various types of cancers......

If Americans assume that we can walk away from our American economy, and see it decline to a pre industrial state of development, it will consign vast numbers to an early death. ELP in it's truest sense, if forced by economic/logistical collapse, will assist with one problem: America will become much less crowded.

I myself must work for the preservation of a modern culture. Along with a fair number of uncles, aunts, and surely cousins as they age, with chronic hereditary hypertension, I know that my life depends on America's success in dealing with our energy and logistical issues. Mine and easily some 60 million or more other Americans.

Roger Conner Jr
Remember, we are only one cubic mile from freedom

WT and I are saying the same thing as I think your are. ELP is no magic bullet that will solve your financial problems or ambitions. At its hear its a matter of first and foremost conserving. This means better gas mileage smaller homes etc etc. If your torn on moving into the country or keeping the high paying job then buy the smallest home that will fit your family and buy a place in the country with the proceeds.
In today market I'd say sell and hold cash for a bit. Generally buying land if you know the historical price ranges and their is no bubble where your looking is a fairly safe bet if say using it as a private campground or putting a small cabin on it means something to you. My suggestion is to have a move quick scheme in place. The oil thing will build slow enough that you should have six months to a year to make a decision. As far as a way to maximize your wealth I don't see that ELP is about that its about minimizing your expenses ELP can be reduced to being prudent and frugal in your daily life.

But Consider what I'd call the minimum worst case scenarios.

This means you may want to buy land and get a well and septic in and electricity to it. You can stop there. If things get bad then just bring in a double wide trailer or a prefab home or a older towed rv I know as a fith wheel tailer.
Here is a used fith wheel and truck for 4500.
Say your in the land at 2-4k a acre and bought 4 acres thats 8-16k another 2-3 grand for the well and 2-3k for septic.

So for a total of about 25k you can have a safe haven.
If peak oil is really going and gas is 5+ a gallon people will be begging you to take their fith wheels and trucks off their hands. I'm sure small tractors from failed McMansions will go for a song and you can buy a motorcycle and cheap car as transportation. The reason to get two is to handle repair costs by using one or the other. Generally you can get a good used bike that should last for years. And of course a bicycle. So using this as a baseline scenario your best bet is to get some land and get the basics in well septic electric and get it paid for free and clear. Then you can sell it later if things work out. Land with well/septic/electric hooked up is a valuable commodity.
If things go bad before you can make a move then take the trailer or prefab home option as short term quarters. You may want to learn a bit about these items so you don't get sold junk.

Now you can drop the land down to say 1 acre and you can even bit the bullet and look for a used trailer in a rural area this probably does not save a lot of money. Of course their is the Detroit area but thats like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. You would need to consider some sort of employment in your new locale depending on how bad things get. But in short a low budget fall back that give you clean water sewage and electric if you can afford it is somewhere in the region of 5-25k I think this is doable by most people even if you had to do it on credit.

I'm just presenting a super basic semi-long term survival plan that should get you into a situation that is survivable. If your income is so low this is not and option I'm not sure what to say but if your credit its good you could buy the land and work a part time job to pay for it.

Here is close to the minimum.

A small say 450-750cc used motorcycle is less than 500 dollars. One acer with water is lets say 2k a small used trailer is say 1000.00 and the luxury of a very old farm truck is another 500-1000 dollars. So add in a few more needed items hand tools etc. At 7 dollars a hour 20 hours a week you get about 400 a month take home which means with nothing else you would have a minimum place free and clear in about one year if your healthy I'm assuming your using your regular job to pay bills. If you can't do this then you have other problems that need to be addressed.

Sorry for the long spiel but I think talking about a minimum solution that gets you land for a garden makes sense. I've seen a few comments by people claiming they could not ELP I think the above shows you can if you wish. It seems a worst case scenario plan could be implemented by a lot of people assuming peak oil is now soon.
Any thing above this is gravy.

I think we will be seeing a lot more shows like this one on the Internet soon!