Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Community Solutions for Peak Oil and Post Carbon


Click on any question for the answer:
Q: What is Peak Oil?
Q: Why should I be concerned about Peak Oil?
Q: Will this just mean higher prices at the pump?
Q: Does the arrival of Peak Oil mean we are running out of oil?
Q: If half of the oil that ever existed is still in the ground, and demand for oil is rising now, why can't we keep increasing oil extraction?
Q: When will Peak Oil occur?
Q: What will the history of oil extraction look like?
Q: Why is oil production described by a bell curve and a peak? Why isn't it linear or some other shape?
Q: Aren't we discovering more oil all the time?
Q: What is the difference between extraction and production?
Q: What are some of the consequences of Peak Oil?
Q: What will happen as Peak Oil occurs?
Q: What will happen after Peak Oil occurs?
Q: We have enough oil to last 40 or 50 years. What's the problem?
Q: What is per capita oil production and what significance does it have?
Q: What is "Energy Returned On Energy Invested" (EROEI)?
Q: I heard that the U.S. has 200 years of coal left, so why can't we just replace the oil with coal?
Q: What about hydrogen?
Q: What about using ethanol made from corn as a substitute for gasoline?
Q: We'll simply develop alternative sources of energy to keep the economy going. This won't be so difficult, will it?
Q: How will we know when we've arrived at the peak?
Q: Surely we'll find a technological fix to get ourselves out of this bind, don't you think?
Q: Where can I find more information on Peak Oil?


While Plans A and B seek to maintain unsustainable levels of resource consumption through energy alternatives, Plan C advocates for cultural change.

Plan A – More and dirtier fuels like tar sands, oil shale, coal-to-liquids, and “clean” coal (bury CO2) to keep up with growing energy consumption.

Plan B – The "clean and green" approach proposes using large-scale renewables like wind, solar, biofuels and hydrogen to maintain our high energy way of life and keep us complacent and consuming.

Plan C – Our strategy of culture change, conservation and curtailment.

Through reductions in resource consumption, dramatic conservation and curtailment of energy use coupled with an increase in local community living we can survive peak oil and create a sustainable world in its wake. Plan C addresses many of today’s issues head on and reduces the impetus for war. Our solutions look at how each individual can make a difference, reduce CO2 emissions, and help bring peace to the world.

Food Housing Transportation
It's not just what we eat, but how we grow it, ship it, process it and store it. To reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and to slow climate change, we need to grow, shop and eat local! More Go to linked file In spite of improvements in efficiency, our homes today use more energy than they did 40 years ago. Why? They are bigger and use many more appliances than ever before. Just what is sustainable housing?
More Go to linked file

The freedom of the road will soon be a thing of the past unless we can get over our love affair with the car, and reduce our society's reliance on cheap, polluting transportation.
More Go to linked file



Our solution for housing is Home Retrofitting, a plan to make improvements in the energy efficiency of existing residential homes to reduce energy consumption and increasing energy costs to operate buildings. With more than 20% of America's energy used to operate its 100 million existing residences, retrofitting is a critical strategy to conserve energy.

The "Green Building" movement in this country has had minimal effect on the consumption of energy in buildings. Green building councils and similarly named groups abound but have had only limited impact on actual construction practices. The LEEDS certification program for commercial buildings has made only marginal progress and its parent organization has acknowledged that its position on energy consumption has not been a strong defining one. Green committees in home building organizations have focused mostly on new building; few are looking at the existing building problem. New green or energy-efficient buildings are being construction in the thousands per year, small numbers when compared to the 1.6 million new homes built yearly. In 2005 the National Association of Home Builders defeated a proposal to make the minimum thickness framing of walls 5½ inches versus the current standard of 3½ inches. The building industry has not yet realized the magnitude of the energy and CO² problem.

The average home lasts 75 years. Homes being built today will still be in use after all oil has been used and possibly all natural gas. Thus the problem facing society is not so much changing current codes and practices for new construction but how to deal with the energy inefficient homes built in the last 75 years.

Home Retrofitting would focus on making the changes with the greatest energy savings and least cost such as window coverings and/or replacements, finding and fixing leaks, and adding insulation. All changes are based upon an assessment of the home, and may include:
• Installing insulated window coverings (interior or exterior) to reduce heat loss at night
• Installing new heating systems utilizing a point heat source (rather than forced air)
• Double framing exterior walls to increase R-factor
• Replacing appliances with more efficient versions, such as thick-wall, SunFrost type, refrigerators and freezers as well as smaller appliances.

The reduced energy use would conserve scarce resources, an important priority in the post-peak oil world, so the project would produce more benefits than costs over the long term. An initial specification is currently being developed as well as preliminary research into home energy efficiency retrofitting.

Transportation Solutions

The Smart Jitney is a system of efficient and convenient ride sharing that addresses in the short-term the problem of transportation in a post-peak oil world. The system utilizes the existing infrastructure of private automobiles and roads due to the time, expense, and difficulty of building a new transportation infrastructure amongst such a dispersed population. The goal of the system is to insure that each private car always carries more than one person per car trip, optimally 4-6. This would cut auto gasoline usage by an estimated 80 percent and commute time by an average of 50 percent within two years.

The Smart Jitney system would use cell phones and the Internet for ride reservations and coordination. Riders and drivers would have modified cell phones with a Global Positioning System (GPS) function. Software experts from the military command-and-control communication systems would join engineers and programmers from the nation's airline and automobile reservation systems to create the tracking and scheduling database for a new nationwide human transport system using existing cars.

In a Smart Jitney system, every person may be a "driver" or a "rider" at different times. The system would connect drivers with riders to insure optimum routing and minimum time delays. Each person who wants to take a trip, whether to work, school, shopping, or recreation, would use his or her cell phone or web browswer to request a ride from the system. The system will locate the appropriate vehicle and driver to pick up and deliver the rider (or riders) making the request. Drivers are those who have planned trips of their own and need riders to fulfill the requirements for ride-sharing � individual trips will be limited in a time of energy scarcity.

As the system develops, a huge decrease in roadway accidents and fatalities can be expected. This could result in substantially fewer insurance payouts and, hopefully, a concurrent reduction in premiums. Additionally, the nation would experience a major reduction in road construction and maintenance since wear and tear would be reduced. We expect that, as people became aware of the system's benefits, any sense of sacrifice would diminish, replaced by a sense of excitement.

A completely developed Smart Jitney Car System will take some years and some millions of dollars. Currently, a detailed 15-page specification of the Smart Jitney is available in our New Solutions report #12. This specification covers the function, vehicle and driver rules, police involvement, privacy, dispatching, reporting, benefits, societal changes, cultural barriers, and financing and implementation.

We are next focusing on developing a more in-depth specification and implementation plan. It will address the specific design issues in order to define a rough specification from which pilot projects can be developed. A similar specification must be developed for legal implications and include a summary of the changes in laws that must be made to achieve full scale implementation.