Introducing: TOD: 'Campfire'

This post introduces what we are calling TOD:Campfire. Each Wednesday night going forward, we plan on highlighting a post/essay on what you, the TOD community, is doing about peak oil, and resource depletion in general. Topics will relate to wide boundary issues surrounding energy descent, including local food production, small scale energy production, experiments in living with less, or just general information and ideas to be shared with the online community.

The main fare on this site are empirical posts that highlight specific data surrounding energy depletion. The discussions that follow do not readily provide a forum for readers with special expertise in real skills or ideas not easily condensable into graphs or charts. We intend this once-weekly forum to be akin to a summer night sitting around a campfire, dreaming, hoping, and tossing around ideas that might bring about positive change. The types of discussions we would like to foster are where there are no right or wrong answers, just shared experiences, advice and wisdom. We have a wonderfully talented volunteer staff, but our expertise does not stray too far outside the analytical. Therefore we invite you, our readers, to submit guest posts that might be of educational interest to our online community. Next week we will kick this series off with a guest post from TOD commenter 'Wyoming'. Please use the thread below to suggest future post ideas or general comments. Email us at if you have an article you think would be appropriate to share.


This sounds like a good idea, I hope we get some good discussion going - there are plenty of good minds here on TOD. I have no practical skills, so I will probably just be lurking and asking questions on this forum.

Nate - thanks again for coming to Minnesota, we appreciated seeing you out here in the hinterlands.


I second the thank you from Minnesota. The U of M halls were ringing after you left. Hope to see more of you.


Greetings Campers.
This looks a great idea. I am generally a lurker, but this thread may encourage me (and others) to de-lurk. I used to think peak oil was a transportation problem. But now that I see how easily the economic system can be perturbed, it seems to be more of an economic problem. So the appropriate response may not be to buy a Prius (especially not if you to have borrow), but to reduce debt and expenditures of all kinds. As a recent retiree, I am particularly sensitive to the necessity of keeping expenses below (reasonably expectable - whatever that is) income.
Pass the marshmallows please. :>)

Yes, a good idea. My energy peaked several decades ago, but with this venue I may try submitting something on Radical Retrenchment, a notion I babble on (and on) about in the comment sections.

For more than 10 years I have been posting links to the articles by the late L.F. Buz Ivanhoe, Walter Youngquist, Matthew Simmons, Randy Udall, Steve Andrews and other experts at That web site was subsidized by Ivanhoe. It is now access denied. Is this temporary or has the Colorado School of Mines discontinued support?

Thanks, I was hoping that a Hubbert Center archive would be or become available.

Using the way back machine, theoildrum used to be about Brad Naylor's oil drum recordings!

Hi Robert,

I'm in contact with the site, but I need more info. from you if I'm going to make progress. Could you possibly email me? (in user info.) (I'll keep your contact info confidential, unless you tell me otherwise.)

Great idea! We can all throw some logs on the fire and tell a few ghost stories to the young uns.
Oh, and don't forget to bring the hot dogs and marshmallows...

One very minor change I made recently was to stop using shaving cream that comes in cans, and switch to an old fashioned shaving brush and some shaving soap. My wife got the idea after hearing what they use for propellant in those cans of shaving gel. I don't remember what it was exactly - Bill Nye the science guy had something about it on Planet Green a few months back...

I should add that my main preparations of late have had more to do with "de-leveraging", a process that is now complete :-). In theory we would like to have a place to live that has space for a garden in back, and is well situation for solar on the roof, but we will probably end up riding out the financial mess in our current house.

That's a good fireside chat topic. People have such conventional notions on what is accepted practice. How about no shaving cream at all, just warm water? How about using plain bar soap to wash your hair? How about folding TP in half to get multiple wipes out of it? The amount of "strange" things I do would probably frighten people. :)

A lot of shaving cream or a little bit of soap. I discovered the little bit of soap trick when I was out of shaving cream, then later found out it's a well-known substitute.

I grew a beard to avoid all the hassle but my wife rebelled and I am a kept man. It was tough. The beard finally filled in and then I shaved it off. A good lesson in letting go of what one is invested in.

I'm bearded. Still shave the cheeks and neck.
Asked for a razor-blade shaver for x-mas.

I grew a beard some 30 years ago because I was lazy and because my curly hair kept causing painful ingrown hairs on the face.

A beard is great because when we go on lengthy trips I just take one "disposable" blade for the weekly trim around the edges. Sure helps keep backpack weight down.

I highly recommend growing beards - but gee if most men do that how are people going to tell the difference between terrorists and non-terrorists?

They had a re-useable razor on a TV antique show-and-tell segment. It had a kind of mini belt sanding action, brand name Rolls I think. That has to be due for a comeback.

I had a full beard years ago when I was in grad school. I offered to grow one again, but my wife isn't buying it :-).

I grew a beard, but I'm ashamed to say, use a electric beard trimmer every 4-5 weeks. Mainly because it seems quicker than shaving (takes just under 10 minutes). Not sure about the comparative energy life-cycles there though!?

P.S. I also compost the trimmings. They almost seem suitable for a potting compost component actually, but I've not experimented.

I had a beard for years despite my wife's preference that I shave it off. After years of hearing her complaints, I impulsively decided to shave it off one day while she was out. After she returned, she took one look at me and said "put it back". I am now happily bearded once again.

growing a beard helps on energy consumption for some who work outside in colder climates..........not recommended for the fairer sex.

My wife says I look better with a beard, perhaps due to the lack of a chin

robert wilson,

Discuss pickensplan on oil and junk science sites like theoildrum

You consider theoildrum as which ? an oil site, junk science site or both ??

That was a poorly written sentence. I will correct it. What I meant was that I post at oily sites and at junk science sites

LOL ! I was just looking for more context, Robert.

Writing - well- is very, very much work for me.

My other half would probably leave me if I shaved my beard off.

Kill two birds with one stone, then.

On a business trip I discovered that a little hand lotion (like in those little bottles by the hotel sink) makes a dandy substitute. A little hard to rinse a multi-bladed razor though once it is gunked up with lotion. But it leaves you face nice and soft.

"what they use for propellant in those cans"

Those are called CFC's or Chlorofloro-carbons. They are banned, because they cause the ozone layer to deplete. So using different shaving cream doesn't really do anything except make you more old fashioned. But that might be a good thing on its own.

No, they don't use that any more. My recollection was that it was some sort of hydro-carbon. Wikipedia says mixtures of propane, butane and isobutane.

I use an old Gillette safety razor. They're fairly ubiquitous in antique shops, I'm sure eBay could deliver as well. Sharpening blades is a no-brainer, just strop them a bit. Actually I use the same blade for months, just heat it up before use. A fellow on said there are Swedish made blades that are highest quality steel to be had on eBay, too. We had a whole shaving thread over there this year, look it up if you're interested.

Don't attempt to use a straight razor - they called them "cut-throat" razors for a good reason. Those belong solely in the hands of barbers and Sweeney Todd cast members.

Sharpening old razor blades. Perhaps double-edge as well as single-edge.

What my dad used to do was take a round jar..maybe like a pint canning jar..but has to be fully square sides....put a dab of valve grinding compound in it. maybe a dab of kerosene to put it in a slurry form...the put the blade in and with a finger work it in a circular motion around the inside of the jar.

He said you could sharpen a razor blade many times.

My grandpa used a straight razor of course and I used to watch him strop it. And then shave.

So I have collected over the many years a couple straight razors , some shaving mugs and many styles of more modern razors. And some very very old ones.

I also have saved up many different brushes. Some with exotic bristles/hair and some more common around the sixties.

Its more fun to shave my mustache and sideburns with those old implements I have found. Heat some water in a cast iron kettle on the woodburner and will your having your morning coffee whack off the brushy undergrowth.

Well I do it actually only once every two weeks. Laziness.

So valve grinding compound and a good supply of razor blades and your set. Yet you might want to bid in a few of those old straight razor and a good strop. Still can be found in old country auctions.


A can of shaving cream that I looked at used propane as the propellant.


I shave my armpits

ooPs! did I type that out loud?

Wow. Who knew there could be 20+ posts on shaving and beards?
Puts all my fretting about getting in a spring crop and seeding a pasture in perspective.

Just don't confess the summer wax job to facilitate bicycle riding :-)

I have one of these,

Was great till the edge went off. I need to find somebody that can explain razor sharpening to me.

Albert Einstein maintained that lather was unnecessary because its only function was to provide lubrication, which water can do quite adequately. So he never used lather, only a cutthroat razor and water.

I do the same. Wash face with soap and hot water, rinse, and shave while freely splashing clean hot water on the face to keep the beard soft and the skin lubricated.

No messy foam to clean up, and best of all for me, no unpleasant razor rash on the collar line, something which distressed me greatly during my dating years.

Be careful out there!
Actor slices throat on stage in knife mix-up

The character played by Daniel Hoevels was supposed to commit suicide in the drama with a blunt stage weapon but had instead been provided with a real blade.
He collapsed on stage with blood pouring from his neck and the audience started to applaud the spectacular special effects.

Wonderful! Real whodunnit!

I could provide info on how expats manage overseas and offshore.

From high on the hog to existence a la' Waterworld.

Also tips on how to survive an insurrection.

Hi Nate,

I heard about the Campfire idea from TOD friends who requested more posts on preparing for Peak Oil and were told that TOD was going to do this in the Campfire in order to respond to those interests.

It is disappointing that the word "preparation" does not appear here, nor does the word "survival."

Most of the links of blogs and sites listed on TOD's sidebar relate to the environment, economics, energy production, and sustainability. Very few relate to preparing for Peak Oil of surviving Peak Oil.

I studied Google search history regarding Peak Oil, and 3 come up pretty high: surviving peak oil, preparing for peak oil, and peak oil preparation (s).

It appears that TOD is not interested in serving those folks, that is those who are looking for answers of how to survive Peak Oil impacts.

Your idea of survival is apparently to find/develop more energy. Some of us don't believe this direction will yield success. Because we see that the collapse is coming, we are looking for information on how to survive the collapse. We are looking for risk management, contingency planning, personal survival advice.

You could start by selecting some post material that is already out there, for example:

Best regards,

Cliff Wirth

Hi Cliff,
I don't think it is fair to say this about Nate: "Your idea of survival is apparently to find/develop more energy. "

He is not a big believer in supply side solutions. One of the reasons he's started this forum is for more of what YOU want to see here.

The debate, I believe is still open. Peak Oil is something that the world has never gone through before, so there will be many different opinions as to what the future will hold. If the collaps takes the nex decade or two to complete, then going into "survival" mode may be a huge mistake that may strip decades of joy from your life for no real gain. Plenty of people would rather party on and meet an abrupt end, than to linger in purgatorical destitution in the name of survival. No amount of hysterical browbeating is going to get them to change their mind either?

Hm, a lot of people are already starting to worry about survival, not because of PO, but because of the crash and their jobs. They don't know anything about PO and the wider ecological crisis. So the hysteria is already mounting. It's more a matter of getting people to look at the broader context of a disaster that they already perceive.

AND, one can still have fun, even in hunker-down mode. That rat I had last nite for supper down here in the sewer reminded me ... well, never mind -- I see a snack floating by.

Why does preparing for peak oil equate to deprivation to you? I assert it's because you've equated things to happiness.

The most valuable thing for people to get, I think, is that happiness can be independent of circumstances. It all depends on the context in which one is operating.

Why could Mandela emerge from jail not a bitter and broken man?
Why was Victor Frankl's experience of the concentration camps different than the others with him?

In both cases they took responsibility for the context in which the were operating. Said another way, they created the future they were living into rather than accepting whatever their brain threw at them at the moment.

There are countless cases in which people demonstrated that the experience of fulfillment is quite independent of physical circumstances. It is, however, the best kept secret to most of the world who are largely chasing whatever is just above their current level of prosperity, forever trapped in the hamster wheel — completely unaware that they are trapped.

Last night was music night. A dozen or so of us outlanders get together every week to eat some dinner and play music. We play a little music and make a lot of noise. There is a guitar, fiddle, accordion, autoharp, banjo, washtub base, tamborine, and me with my concertina. We're all neighbors, even though we're spread out over a considerable distance. Some live in town, others, out of town. None of us have a lot, but, we're all happy and, from my perspective, well adjusted. There isn't a restaurant in the county that is open from October through April, but, we have a single movie house that's been in steady operation since the late 1940's. Mostly, we make our own entertainment. During the winter months, we have regular dinners, birthday parties, and we celebrate the holidays together. We all get along just fine and we know our neighbors, in fact, we know about everyone in the "upper" county (some 1,000 souls all told). "Lower" county is 60 miles off so those folks are a little tougher to be acquainted with....just tough desert between here and there.

The Campfire is a good idea. Best from the Fremont

Hi Cliff,

Great as it is ( and it is) TOD can't be all things to all people, but the 'Campfire' idea sure seems like a step in the direction you've expressed interest in.

I would have thought that along with the 'Environment & Sustainability Sites' over there in the 'Blogroll' column, it would round things out enough to please you.

So I wonder why you said that " It appears that TOD is not interested in serving those folks, that is those who are looking for answers of how to survive Peak Oil impacts."

Those words come across as both unkind and ungrateful, which is not an appropriate attitude towards folks who are making an enormous (and free!) contribution to your chances of surviving the collapse that you foresee.

Here's the analogy I prefer. If you are on a runaway train headed for a broken trestle over an abyss, and there is either a dead man or a madman at the throttle, then timing is of the utmost importance. TOD provides the most thoughtful and detailed information anywhere about why, where and when to jump. There is a plethora of sites on how to survive tough times. There is only ONE Oil Drum.

Great idea. Don't forget timezones. Can TOD:ANZ start early?

1. Get out of debt. CHECK
2. Evaluate current house location for survivability. CHECK OK
3. Evaluate transport options from/to current house. CHECK OK
4. Evaluate current career. CHECK NOT OK
5. Evaluate food supply. CECK NOT OK
6. Evaluate local resources CHECK. THEY'RE THERE BUT DORMANT
7. Evaluate relationships with neighbours. CHECK NEEDS MORE WORK

Got a lot of work to do. Sometimes I wish for just a day or two of complete peak oil blissful ignorance! But i mus pay for my consumerist sins.

OK, I'll bite


2. Evaluate current house location for survivability: GREAT IF WE MERELY DECLINE, GAME OVER IF WE COLLAPSE

3. Evaluate transport options from/to current house: OK, WALKING TO WORK NOW, WALKABLE SMALL TOWN. NEED PASSENGER RAIL OUT, THOUGH




7. Evaluate relationships with neighbours: PRETTY GOOD, I AT LEAST KNOW MOST OF THEM; NEEDS MORE WORK

If we go into a fast crash total collapse and die-off, then I am assuming that it not survivable, at least for me. There may be a very few that manage to "survive", but I believe that will be more a matter of luck than anything. Whether managing to live through the collapse and its aftermath really is something that should give cause for any of the non-survivors to envy is another question.

My focus is therefore on something short of that - more of a slower, inexorable decline. I've been focused on how to prepare to live that for the two or three decades that I might have left. It looks like I just might be able to manage that, but it is a challenge.

1. Working on it.
2. Current house is good in a decline, bad in a crash. Girlfriends house is bad in a decline, good in a crash.
3. Excellent.
4. Secure (food-based).
5. Potential for significant home food production.
6. Overused.
7. Jettison half my neighbourhood. ;)

Be sure to pull the sticks out of the fire before they burn all the way to ashes. Bury them in the garden as a soil amendment :)

...and putting something around the fire, perhaps an old metal barrel might make a better use of the heat? :)

From the biochar list:

The International Biochar Initiative,, announced today that Biochar is now being examined by the UNFCCC (United Nations Council on Climate Change) for status as part of the CDM (Clean Development Mechanism.)

Small things.

One thing is preparing my basement 'sun room' with good southern exposure as a indoor green house. Sunday I started 12 tomato seeds.

Not hitting any panic buttons. Just trying to adjust hobbies, habits, and attitudes to make myself better prepared for a declining economy.

Hi Nate,

I think sharing what people have been developing (often quietly, for no glory) is a good idea to help dispell a bit of our doom and gloom. I'd be happy to send you/Leanan some article ideas. Possibly a guest post spot from Seattle? :-)

So up here in Seattle/Puget Sound, my 'hood, Ballard, celebrated its Fifth Annual Sustainability Festival. Each year it gets bigger and better; Amtrak was a new sponsor this year. Some of the other Sustainable Ballard projects:

Undriving Ballard

Ballard Homes for All Coalition

Ballard Bike Rack Design Contest

Saturday House

100 Mile Diet

There's another food and transport project we're starting up with the co-founder of Seattle Peak Oil, but it's not quite ready for public release yet...

Also on a growth note, we've seen a big jump in communities (65!) joining the supra-regional group, Sustainable Communities ALL Over Puget Sound (SCALLOPS). For an inspiring visual, click here.

The co-founder for SCALLOPS, Vic Opperman, was just lauded in Seattle Magazine as one of Seattle's Most Influential People.

One of SCALLOPS community partners is The MoonTown Foundation, which "works to help low-income and historically disadvantaged communities pursue green trades and earn livable wages and/or start green business ventures."

I also serve on the Board for our employee sustainability community at work: Microsoft Green, and do what I can to bring in practical speakers. We were honored recently to host Van Jones.

And like most people here, I've made some pretty dramatic changes in my life. One bitter lesson: losing the interest of the guy I was starting to court this summer when I confronted him a little too hard about Peak Oil.

And Jerome a Paris, you wonderful energy geek, if you are reading this, all my time sunk here is YOUR fault! :-) I followed you over here from Daily Kos, where I was part of the Seattle Kossacks.

Sust. Ballard,

Yes-- marry them FIRST and then hit them with peak oil. Sharon Astyk had a humerous blog entry on Staying Together through Rough Times

I have a "mixed" marriage-- me peak oil aware- husband who thinks I'm nuts (In fact I can see him putting in the gear box in the JD 4440 right next to 1,000 gallons of diesel and unleaded tanks).

I wonder if there would be demand for an internet dating site for PO aware singles. How cool would it be to go on a first date and be able to talk about Cantarell depletion and Ghawar watercut! Of course, there may not be enough in each city to reach critical mass.

LOL! Me too.
DH is a blissful electronic uber-consumer who tolerates my eccentricities, which are basically hoarding food and all-weather camping gear for the long emergency.

That's my advice, collect stuff that doesn't require power to run, like arctic-quality sleeping bags; curtain rods to hold big eiderdown quilts at the bottom of stairways; rainbarrels with hoses attached; potable filtration systems; sun ovens to boil clean water; and take up potato, bean, peanut, herb, and root gardening and learn how to store them.

Okay, DH might get a portable solar charger for Christmas. That way he can still run his cell phone and ipod etc. The kids will get rabbits. So cute! But Mom will have other plans for them if the need ever arises....

One bitter lesson: losing the interest of the guy I was starting to court this summer when I confronted him a little too hard about Peak Oil.

Look on the bright side (guys say things like that, don't they), you are not saddled with someone who will drag their feet and waffle as you do your best to prepare for the inevitable. I'm seeing fresh new 30 day tags on spanking new SUVs, and just shake my head at the culture shock that will await these people.

In the future, a slow, gradual exposure to PO doom might be more digestible :-) Maybe even a few KrisCan videos will keep them off balance long enough for the concept to sink in...

Yeah, that guy was an idiot. I think PO awareness is a total turn-on. I think it would be great to have a girlfriend who was into energy issues, and not committed to BAU conspicuous consumption.

Well-- I've had a good laugh out loud about the PO dating service! Certainly a niche market.

TOD:Match before TOD:Campfire???


I'm reminded of matchmaking forums for people who are involved in civil war re-enactments. Often times, the females put in their profiles "No TBGs", which means Tubby Bearded Guys. Would TOD:Match have phrases like "Soft-landers only", or "Need me a Sarah Connor", or "Want an organic gun-totin' knowledge worker"?

I think it would be great to have a girlfriend who was into energy issues, and not committed to BAU conspicuous consumption.

Consumer, meet Sustainable Ballard. Sustainable Ballard, meet Consumer. May sound silly, but I dated my wife while she was on one coast (Bothell) and I the other (NoVa). I used to tell people we had to get married, as the airline bills were getting too high. She would always say, "Don't start off saying it that way..."

SCALLOPS :-D Gloom and Doom with a Sense of Humor! Thanks for sharing a peek into your community.

I confronted him a little too hard about Peak Oil.

I am always cautious when speaking about it. Even with friends and kindred spirits I choose words very carefully. I know what I don't know. My fellow riders in the back of the bus know more about it now but they're a captive audience.

I might suggest "oil depletion" instead of Peak Oil and "price shocks" instead of "TEOTWAWKI" on the first date.

You'll find him.


Acquire the following (groups of) items:
-Skills to use the following items
-Personal defense devices (guns, crossbow, whathaveyou)
-Food - grow a garden (or farm)
-Tools - garden tools, building tools, preferably hand operated
-bicycle - and spare parts and tools (or a horse)
-The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It by John Seymore (a book)
-solar panels - if you want electricity
-friends and family worth living and fighting for
-good neighbors - bad neighbors will kill you and rob you
-live in a village - if you don't or won't, good luck

Post Carbon Marin, the Regenerative Design Institute and Marin Organic will be unveiling The 10,000 Garden Project in '09. It's our structure for teaching many people quickly how to grow their own food without chemical inputs.

Might this be the place to discuss vasectomy, tubal ligation and other methods of birth control?

If you think those are productive things to do, write an article and submit it to them.

I don't think those are good things in themselves, but we should have all sorts of stories and ideas tossed out there, because the exchange of ideas is definitely good. When two people who disagree talk, a third set of ideas can come out of that.

Birth control is a too personal . One individual might want five kids for old age security. Given current and expected economic turmoil another might not want to pay the obstetrical bill and educational expense for even one child. I am no Garrett Hardin and do not have the writing skills or intellect to do justice to a full article. Now do I have the courage to discuss illegal immigration or to argue that except for abortion, most birth control methods are dysgenic. Darwin's physicist grandson, Charles Galton Darwin has certainly received a bad press in recent years. His book The Next Million Years is available on the internet as are the criticisms. I will note that today it is much easier for both males and females to obtain sterilization than it was in the 50's.

Concerning the population problem an interesting green-peace article that was censored for, well, talking about the population problem is this one:

However it takes a very moderate point of view arguing that there are many tools before sterilization.

Yet to listen to critics of family planning, you would still think it’s all about coercion and control. Whilst only too happy to regale you with the shocking statistics about compulsory abortions and sterilisations (let alone very high levels of female infanticide) in China, they know nothing of the success stories in places like Kerala, Thailand, Korea – and even in Iran. With the full support of Islamic leaders in that country, their total fertility rate fell from 6 children per woman in 1974 to 2 children per woman by 2000. And a brilliant education campaign was at the heart of this success story.

So, yes, the problem is unavoidable, but the solutions to the problem are numerous and (as expected) expensive or difficult to implement.

The vasectomy that I had 35+ years ago after having two children was voluntary, relatively inexpensive and saved an immense amount of money and energy.

picked up a 30 acre farm in Kentucky, (hello Air Dale,) started my own garden, started canning the veggies, freezing the rest, trying to figure out how to get off the grid in terms of electricity,
But, i still drive a pickup truck and still have a mortgage. gotta start somewhere I guess!

zPick up an old Ford tractor, and pickup; and teach'em how to run on the hydrous ethanol from your home-made still (corn is easy to grow.)

You can feed the dried mash to your livestock.

Hi there you Ol' moonshiner (I could not discern your proper name from the handle "kdolliso"),

I live in a really great place to weather the storm, Calhoun County, Illinois, and one of the untapped resources around here is thousands of tons of unmarketable apples and peaches that just drop and rot every Fall after the harvest.

It seems to me that turning all that free fruit into ethanol would be quite an opportunity for someone with the right skills. As a matter of fact, moonshining was an important economic activity (and utterly taboo topic of conversation) around these parts in the old days. We've got it all. Unlimited clean water. Square miles of hardwood forests on limestone bluffs. Miles of black dirt bottom-land, and no place farther than 5 miles from either the Mississippi or Illinois River (your choice.)

Any advices on where I could find information on setting up a medium-scale distillery? Strictly legal, of course.


there's been a fair amount of talk about using waste peaches, apples, watermelons, etc. for ethanol feedstocks. It's, obviously, a very doable proposition. The closest any commercial refinery is coming, at present, to this proposition is turning waste alcohol from beer, and wine refineries/breweries into automotive moonshine.

I would contact the University of Illinois (they're knee-deep into ethanol,) and the Univ of Florida. Also, letters (emails) to American Coalition for Ethanol, Domestic Fuels.Com, National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, the, USDA, and Dept of Energy might yield some results.

You shouldn't have any trouble with the Revenooers. Just apply for a stamp, and promise not to drink any of it. :)

Call Broin (Poet,) or ICM. If they can't (don't want to) build it I'm sure they would tell you who could/would. D.Benton, I'm NOT an expert in this stuff; I just read about it a bit. But, it looks to me like the major Expense in ethanol production is Cost of Feedstock, and the transportation, thereof. A small to medium ethanol refinery within a couple of miles of a steady supply of high-sugar feedstocks such as melons, or fruits would seem to me to have a very high likelihood of being profitable.

I think you could probably figure on a plant cost of around $2.00 for every gallon of annual production. In other words, a plant that will produce 10 million gal/yr would probably run in the $20 to $25 Million range. That's a GUESS, based on corn-based refineries.

Wish I could help more. If you find out anything interesting let us know.

Sincerely, K. Dollison

K. Dollison

Thank you kindly for the good leads. My brother attempted engineering at the U of I and attests to both the breadth and depth of ethanol immersion at that fine institution; knee deep at least, especially on weekends.

On a serious note we currently have an initial line into Southern Illinois University on a closely related subject (engine design) and I will also try all of the contacts you suggested. I expect things to move along well and will report any interesting stuff that develops from time to time, around TOD's new Campfire.


But hard to malt, mash, ferment, and distill.

Much easier to get an oil seed press and run straight vegetable oil through a diesel engine.

I'd much rather drink my ethanol than burn it. :-)

Much easier to get an oil seed press and run straight vegetable oil through a diesel engine.

No argument from me.

Someone on a short budget, however, might be able to find an elderly ford gas-burner at a much more reasonable price than a diesel tractor. Ditto, for well-seasoned pickemup trucks.

One thing, both of these vehicles will use Hydrous Ethanol readily, which means you're into a much easier process than trying to produce super-dry anhydrous ethanol. We've been making this hydrous ethanol, also called Moonshine, in this country since . . well, before there was this country. We got it pretty well down-pat. (At least, our neighbor, back in the fifties did; but that's a whole nother story. :)

Anyway, they both are very advantageous over having neither.

Greetings then,

You come to the right place. Don't tell anyone else though.

30 acres is perfect. Now you must learn to speak Can-tuck-ee-ese.

Note that we hold much of the worlds gold(Fort Know).
Make the best whiskey.
Have the fastest horses.
And the slowest wimmen, but the fairest.
And the best 'backer. Some plant the lefthanded variety I hear tell.
And we invented BlueGrass.
BBQ is decent.


well, for start i bought a passive solar heater, want to give some money to my parents to build a huge cellar with a garage on top. but that's for spring.

right now, i want to buy some led lights, and a flashlight with a dynamo(edit)

I got a couple old bench seats I tore out of the travel all we can put round the fire.

Seriously though this is a great step for TOD, Thanks.

I will try and put up some constructive comments.


I think this is a great idea. In keeping with the main TOD theme of discussions about energy I'd like to see the energy impact be part of the discussions when applicable. Along the lines of the recently published Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air it would be nice to try to put energy in terms of kWh or kWh per day. Please take a look at the book for the reasoning. The electronic version is free and what I have read so far has been excellent.

Energy impact might not always be applicable, but even in the hard cases it sure would be fun to discuss.

For instance, the other night I rode my bike to an evening Greens meeting in a neighboring town. It was about 10 miles round trip. This time of year riding a bike in New England at night is not a trivial exercise, but it was above freezing and the precipitation was very light. 10 miles in my Prius is about 1/5 of a gallon of gas or about 7 kWh that I saved by driving.

David MacKay in Without Hot Air says that 1 kWh per day is about one days human labor. I saved 7 days of labor in one hour of effort by not taking the whole Prius with me.

But wait, I didn't calculate the battery drain of the lights. And do I count the energy provided by the batteries or the energy used to charge the batteries? Perhaps you think that the lights are negligible, and perhaps they are, but wouldn't it be good to know. Especially considering that I have a new 650 lumen LED flashlight mounted on the bike now.

So much to discuss....

Thanks for that excellent link. I have started reading and think it's very good. I hope you don't mind, I reposted your link in today's DB, so those that didn't look in Campfire can see it.

Did you buy carbon offsets for that bonfire?

Waste of perfectly good biomass if you ask me. Better put it out and hang a solar powered LED in a tree.

Glad to see that Campfire has come to fruition. I thought it had died since I didn't hear from you after you contacted me. There is no doubt that people will find this valuable since this sort of thing comes up in DBs.


I apologize for the delay. If you knew the # of things on my (our) plates, and remember this is all part-time...... Sometimes I wonder what we could accomplish if we had funds and staff to do this full time with the proper choreography (but our seat-of-pants-internet-altruism model has managed to work reasonably well so far).

Though no excuse for this delay, I for one, seem to perpetually be in a race to allocate my time doing what (I think) offers the highest leverage, and still carve out enough time to enjoy being human and alive. Please resend your article w/ any updates -we already have 3 in the queue, but yours will have seniority ....;-)

On my list of to-do-s I ticked off,

1) finish PhD ... last week :)

2) Learn more about Peak-oil, sustainability, development...

3) Do outreach about it (I wrote a website which tries to present rigorously the intricacies of oil depletion in Spanish, since there is not so much info available (but over 100 million Spanish-speaking web users). If anyone is interested you can find the web here Cenit del Petroleo

4) No debt, ... but I need to save money. So Job + investment are next.

5) I share my unsustainable village with 8 million people ... so eventually move to a better location.

6) On another note, I could write a post about appropriate technology. I have been missing this at TOD and I think a lot of knowledge about sustainability, low-energy lifestyles and ecology is out there hidden under the umbrella of third world development initiatives.

If people want to hear about it, I have been involved at the university with Engineers without Borders building simple technologies such as biogas digesters or solar cookers. I was also part of an MIT summit to develop technologies using simple local materials in collaboration with local artisans technicians and crafts-people (IDDS). A review about what design can achieve building very simple technologies could be interesting (me thinks!).

Congratulations for the campfire idea.

Well, I have been working on this sort of stuff since long ago I quit trying to kill people half way round the world on the first shot ( figured if I quit my double on the other side would make the same decision).

Things I try to get done

New businesses making wood gas generators for charging up bottles of gas to go into essential town transportation system including a cell phone share-a-car-club.

turn all town food "waste" into gas for same uses

Set up super-insulation clubs, go from house to house and insulate the hell out of 'em.

Make sure all such activities are first and foremost a lot of FUN.

Set up super-duper bike automatic transmission factory, so even decrepit geezers like me can climb all the local hills, slow but easy, without trying to remember which knob shifts which gear which way if the chain doesn't fall off.

Set up a business putting holes in walls and fridges and sticking a heat pipe thru so when it is colder outside than in the fridge, everything inside is still just right but no electricity goes to the fridge .-- Yes, I know about lubrication in compressors.

Set up another business turning small cars into full electrics, and set up battery switch-out stations so nobody has to gripe about long recharge times (gawd! why is this one so contriversial?)

And another business that takes heat/coolth out of big storage holes in the ground to keep everybody happy sitting around in their houses telling stories instead of looking at a boobtube.

And so on. Better yet- you do it.

I use very little electricity. I have a fridge, a hotplate, a computer, CFL bulbs, no stove or heater (not needed -- Mediterranean climate), and most important of all, a busted geyser (i.e. hot water cylinder).

The element blew just before a long weekend, and I was damned if I was going to pay overtime rates for a plumber to come and fix it, so I learned to wash without hot water from the taps. That was five years ago. I never got it fixed.

Here's what I do. I have a large plastic bucket with a lid. I partially fill it with cold water, then add boiling water from the kettle (three kettle loads if I'm washing my hair, otherwise two). Keep the lid on to keep the heat in.

Then place the bucket in the bath, kneel in the bath, and wash -- wet body, soap body, rinse body. I use two sponges -- a small hard one for soaping, and a large squishy one for wetting and rinsing. The trick is to keep the water in the bucket clean. From bucket to body, never the other way.

It might sound primitive, but it's quite pleasant and it gets you damned clean using minimal water and electricity.

Oh, and then I shave with another half a kettle of water, and leftover hot water goes towards washing the dishes.

And I'm single. But I suppose you guessed that.

so I learned to wash without hot water from the taps.

Good for you! When we put our minds to it, it is so easy to live simply using very little energy, and without major discomfort. You lead by example.

Each Wednesday night going forward, we plan on highlighting a post/essay on what you, the TOD community, is doing about peak oil, and resource depletion in general.

One thing I did, back in August, "about resource depletion in general", was cancel the land line and DSL connection at home. I'd gladly give up the internet at work, too, but my current employment requires it. Since I "work" during the day, I can't participate in the Wed. evening Campfire discussions (to the relief of many, I'm sure).

As for facial hair, I don't grow whiskers; they grow all by themselves. Periodically during the warmer months I whack 'em off with sissors, but let 'em grow from the fall to spring equinox. Six months of growth & I'm beginning to resemble ZZ Top. Since male facial hair is a sexually selected trait, I'm sure that all the women find me quite sexy, in winter anyhow. Scraping the skin with a sharp blade must be one of the most perverse activities humans have ever come up with. I haven't done it since I was in the Army during the Vietnam era. The very thot of shaving gives me the willies.

I think you have awakened the 'beast'.
Best of luck then. Its going to get wild methinks.

For my part for a long time now I have been archiving all good ideas I pickup on survival. I simply save the HTML or cut and paste the text and store it on my handydandy IBM ThinkPad T42p.

I believe I can power it for a long time with a cheap Harbor Freight 45 watt PV panel. Addition juice to a battery,maybe gelpack type.

If not I will run during daylight hours and also use it to power up my amateur radio rigs to listen in "On the Beach" style to the rest of the world.


Was it you or someone else who told me they found the charging circuit in the Harbor Freight Solar Package to be not so good to the batteries?

I bought this kit, too, but haven't been using the controller box. If you want an affordable controller that is sized well for these 45w of panels, look at the Morningstar Sunguard 4.5, which runs about $35 .. only essential it still needs for battery care would be a low-voltage disconnect circuit so the batts don't get over-discharged. (Many inverters will warn and cut-out with Low Volts too, which you probably already know)


What I would like to see is visuals(images/photos/etc) of some of the members work. Like staked tomatoes. Greenhouses. Root cellars.and so forth.

Talking is all well and fine but images make it come alive.

I have taken many cellphone photos out in the fields as we combined,planted,spread nutrients and stored our harvest.

I have an old old dusty website and put my images there so its easy to link to them but I have always felt that this was not the desired direction that TOD preferred.

A pix is worth many words then. Minus the ego stuff of course.

Would bandwidth suffer too much to just show links or maybe a thumbnail with a link? I think not.

Of late photos and such seem to have greatly diminished here on TOD.
So I thought ...verboten ....

Airdale-today I discovered through much research that I am about 1/8 Native American..Cherokee ..from my line who came here up the Trail of Tears and married 4 generations or so up the the first ancestor of my nameline who came to this country by jumping ship in N. Orleans and canoing up the Mississippi to within several miles of where I live.
I am proud to be part Slavonian and part Cherokee as well as part Irish and French Flanders. My kinfolk always had Indian characteristics and I diligently researched for a long time til yesterday a kinfolk now in a nursying home told me the history of the mother who kindled my ancestors. The Trail of Tears came to this area via the Benge Trail and crossed a dozen miles downstream of here. Some stayed..took english names and remained. Some of my other ancestors on my grandmothers side lived with D. Boone at Fort Boonesborough and fought in the War of 1812...given a military land grant the town seat sits on that very land of my GGGrandfather who was given the land grant by patent. Typing this I am just across the road from the old homestead of the first on my grandmothers side. All the graves have been dozed over and I could only find a few chips of tombstones. Yet their bones are surely still there.

Thanks Nate and TOD. Great idea for the community. It's fun and should continue to be a lot of fun. As always there's ample new knowledge.

I shave pretty quickly in the shower with soap. Need to get a straight razor and strop for my emergency kit...there, I said it. I am out of the closet.

Great Idea, Nate and TOD.

Well over a day late now, but I'll toss in my $.02 ..

I'm working on all sorts of alternative ways to keep a household or a business running without the complete dependency on 'imported energy'.. looking at ways to retrofit direct solar lighting and cooking into existing housing stock, various ways to heat the home and accomodate refrigerating food with less electricity. My wife and I are learning a lot more about food supply, gardening, nutrition and food lore that might deserve to be revived. I'm building shop-tools that run from the pedals of old Treadle Sewing machines and newer Exercise bikes, partly for the exercise, partly to have tool systems that are blackout-tolerant, and partly to have a quieter shop.

As Cliff knows, I am a staunch defender of electricity, but if it becomes scarcer or pricier I want to have other systems in place already.

I'd like to devise a way for the wasted space and drying asphalt on all these peaked roofs in this country to be glazed over and have the top floors of our houses turned into greenhouse gardens and well-lit solar kitchens. It shouldn't be too hard to make a tracked insulating panel that can hold the accumulated heat on cold nights.. Glass should be a premiere roofing material instead of our shunting off all that free energy as if it were an unwelcome guest.

So many possibilities.

I don't object to a good old real campfire.. some rituals are worth doing right.. but I do even have an artsy 'sim-fire' I made from a plastic egg-carton and 2 dozen LED flicker votive Candles. It's meant to give off a more pleasing (but low-powered and directional and not blinding) light during camping than these frosty moonlight white leds. Of course it's now powered with NiMH batteries and will be solar charged. If I can figure out the html for images, I'll drop in a snap of it one of these wednesdays.. or you could even have an animated GIF for the header, if you liked.

Bob Fiske

Hi Bob,

About making bicycle powered tools and machines there's an amazing guy in Guatemala who makes anything out of broken old bicycles ... washing mashines, blenders, corn shellers, water pumps, you name it.

You can have a look at a video here
and at some of the technologies here,

My steel burr grain grinder can be handcranked or run via belt to electric motor OR by belt from a bicycle frame as per an old Mother Earth News article.

Right now is the best time to be picking up used bikes. Later they will be tough to find.

Hooking up an alternator and battery shouldn't be hard.

Being able to grind corn and wheat is very important to my scheme of survival. I love cornbread,corn cakes and grits. Along with green beans,and potatoes I can survive. Well white beans I must also have.

I ordered the grain grinder way back in the leadup to Y2K.


Hello Mr. Hagens and other TOD'ers.

I think/hope this will be a great forum for pactical information of all sorts. What I'm doing is producing oil from a shallow field in Texas and would be interested in figuring out how to refine it into gasoline and diesel and lubricants. Worst case, I will find an old tractor and start a major garden, but my hope would be to barter the products for food stuffs instead. My production dosent amount to a gnat on the ass of big oil but I think I could supply 400 -500 gallons of fuel a day to keep some of the local farms running, and I don't see why this concept could not work in the many shallow fields that exist in many states. Anyone's thoughts ??

PS.The old Gillet safety razor with shaving mug soap is great - My mug given to me by my mother who use to collect them actually has a picture of an old "Gusher" from the East Texas Field with the crew standing in front of it. Gig-Em.

Hi Folks,

Great idea! This would maybe open up the field to an enquiry into a) why/how we got into this mess, and b) radical yet viable alternatives, such as
Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR), that with greater investment and research (some of those 'bailout billions' maybe) could help us reach that other shore of sustainable on demand energy that lies across the fossil fuel ocean.

Also the possibility of some serious introspection as to who and what we really are as both imagined individuals and virtual societies. Such areas as Headlessness which can help (or hinder!!) question assumptions of who we think we are; and the method of Dialogue as process for exchanging ideas between ourselves without resorting to punches - both literal and metaphorical.

" is proposed that a form of free dialogue may well be one of the most effective ways of investigating the crisis which faces society, and indeed the whole of human nature and consciousness today. Moreover, it may turn out that such a form of free exchange of ideas and information is of fundamental relevance for transforming culture and freeing it of destructive misinformation, so that creativity can be liberated."
David Bohm

While maybe not as glamorous as the mad max 'apocalypse-ian' doom mongering that goes on a lot in the comments sections (I am as guilty of this type of thinking as anyone else) I think there is a place for questioning some of our deeper conditioning - and being open to some rather unexpected answers.

This might then help in addressing the myriad other 'resource' limits that 'we' and 'society' apparently face.


I would like to see a discussion on job alternatives and job programs. One of the most immediate hits to our economy is going to be industrial 'restructuring', or just plain downsizing, if you want to look at it in the immediate term and drop the euphemisms.

Either way, it means people who were employed, now out of work, no income and too much time on their hands with which to be getting scared and frustrated.

I'd like to work on my personal plan, and also to hear discussion about Municipal, State and National programs that could provide for some kind of 'Baseline Labor' that would start to catch the falling bodies and apply their bodies and brains instead of letting them flounder unproductively. Naturally, I am talking about VOLUNTARY programs and not Forced Labor. But I'd like to hear what people can tell us about what parts of the WPA and such programs worked well, and what parts would need to be rethought..

For the personal planning, I know I have a number of fairly hirable skills. Painting and Plastering, Mechanical Repair, Electrical Installation and Repair, some combinations of my background leave me fairly well prepped to do home-insulation or RE Installalation or many other construction-related jobs, but I would like to have at least one or two of these very specifically prepared and ready to roll out, preferably with some days already logged and the right toolkit already assembled to jump right into it in a pinch.

Given the state of the 'Vintage' Housing stock in Maine, I think that starting an insulating service would have some potential, while I might want to figure out a pricing sheet that included some bartering options, some 'will work for food' contingencies, and ways to hire my neighbors so that they can pay for their insulation by working for me on some other neighbor's homes.. I did already test drive my own homemade insulation blower a couple weeks back, and was very pleased with it. It's smaller than the ones you get at the Home-Improvement Warehouses, and is meant to be used particularly for wall-cavities, with special fittings for vacuuming up after itself, etc.. I'm looking forward to even just renting and swapping this device to neighbors on it's own, which if it goes well, might prompt me to build a couple more, or some other related gear.


Just wondering if anyone here is interested Passive House certified housing made to order.
USDOE estimates that households use 1/5th of all US energy.
A Passive House certified residence is the highest level of energy saving possible ~+90% more efficient for space heating AND cooling than standard homes. That's 6 times better than an Energy Star home, 3 times better than a Leeds building and 1.5 times better than a DOE zero energy home.
Energy consumption of household appliances is part of the calculation in part because appliances provide the primary heat source for these super insulated homes.
Certification documents includes calculation of carbon savings.
These homes (or multifamily residences) conform to the requirements of the Swiss 2000 Watt standards as well.
Houses are field tested to make sure they meet the standard.
Over 10,000 certified Passive Houses have been built.