Thursday, November 6, 2008

Mitigation strategies for Peak oil

Peak Oil represents a unique challenge and unlike 1973, peaking won't be brief but permanent. The inescapable conclusion is that the scale and complexity of the problems that must be resolved to avert a permanent crisis are enormous and almost inconceivable. More than a decade will be required, under the most favorable circumstances, for the collective contributions of substitutes to produce meaningful results. Understanding Net Energy is crucial. Optimists may argue that technology, the market, brilliant scientists, and comprehensive government programs are going to hold things together. However, with an acute lack of awareness, time, knowledge, capital, energy, political will, and international collaboration, it is difficult to see how business can continue as usual. This is a startling conclusion, but it would be the most logical and likely outcome of a process that has been building for decades. Addictions are hard to shake...

“You cannot solve this world’s problems with the same thinking that created them”

Albert Einstein


"You must not only be able to survive the crash, but continue afterward"

The experts and politicians have no plan B to fall back on. On a global scale Peak Oil is a problem without a solution.

It is extremely difficult to gather and process the enormous amount of information available and figure out what to do about it. Is it not a problem with an immediate solution or as some say a condition without a remedy. You must not only be able to survive the crash, but continue afterward.

We must shortly choose a new path, or one will be forced upon us

In the short time available, attempts to make collective changes are most likely to fail. Energy expert Simmons says that once energy peaks, the shock will be greater than anyone could imagine, while there is no solution to the problem other than to pray.

However, on the level of the individual/family there is much that can be done at relatively low cost to not only prepare for an economic crash, but to leapfrog past it to a post oil paradigm. While the present infrastructure continues to function you still have vast resources disposable that are only a click away. Once a crisis begins, it may be too late.

There is probably no cluster of solutions which do not involve some major changes in lifestyles, especially for the global affluent. Peak Oil presents the potential for quite catastrophic upheavals, but also some more hopeful possibilities, a chance to address many underlying societal problems, and the opportunity return to simpler, healthier and more community oriented lifestyles.

Hope for the best, Prepare for the worst, and Accept whatever comes.

*the majority of the preparation (perhaps as much as 2/3) is mental preparation. Acceptance of a new future is crucial and knowledge about Peak Oil will give you a new perspective on life and the future and will serve as an excellent guidance when making important decisions in areas such as careers, real estate and retirement, even absent a well defined 'plan B'.

*protection of your wealth is a crucial step, and having many of your assets hedged against inflation, in my opinion, is never going to hurt you, even if a peak oil crisis fails to materialize in the short or medium term future. Purchasing power will most likely have a positive impact on survival chances during a crisis.

*if you think the crisis is going to be severe, if you can afford it, it would be a good idea to plan some sort of safe haven, at least 200 miles or so from any major city / metropolitan area. Where this should be is a difficult question, but there is some in-depth information and research in the Peak Oil Survival guide about which countries are likely to fare better than others.

*I am fairly pessimistic about the feasibility (especially long-term) of isolated retreats. It is going to involved extensive, informed planning tailored to the precise needs of the people who will use it. The problems that you must resolve in making such an arrangement viable are enormous and most likely unachievable.

*land ownership laws may be meaningless in a post-oil world

*it is useless to be well prepared if you are in the wrong place to start with. Some countries around the globe will without doubt suffer much more than others as a result of a Peak Oil crisis. The odds of eventually being discovered are not negligible and will go up as a function of general population density. And then, once you have been discovered, the chances of you becoming a target of jealous & needy thieves, mobs or organized gangs much depend on how relatively well-off a country is as a whole during a global crisis. As an example there is the story about a village in India during a famine. After a while, the starving villagers noticed that some villagers did not seem to be as starving as the rest of them. The end result was that the well off who had stored food were killed and the food stolen. You may be better off ill-prepared, but in the right place than vice-versa. There are going to be some countries that may remain relatively immune, based on their geographic position and potential degree of self-sufficiency, where ambient chances of survival are relatively higher. This is why the focus of my research & planning is on individual countries.

*when considering strategic relocation and you want to also take into account climate change, an excellent and very recent source of information on average predicted temperature changes is the BBC site that ran an experiment involving millions of computers from around the world. In its conclusions, countries like New Zealand will be relatively unaffected, while other areas like Asia and Central America will be greatly affected.

*you can never be sure what will happen, and it is extremely difficult to cross that mental barrier to jump into action. Any life impacting decision you make, you must be able to live with until the crisis unfolds, even if this is still a decade away.


For a year five experts ditched theory for practice, running a Welsh farm using 17th Century methods. What lessons for modern living did they learn?

The BBC series Tales from the Green Valley follows historians and archaeologists as they recreate farm life from the age of the Stuarts. They wear the clothes, eat the food and use the tools, skills and technology of the 1620s.

It was a time when daily life was a hard grind, intimately connected with the physical environment where routines were dictated by the weather and the seasons. A far cry from today's experience of the countryside, which for many involves a bracing walk ahead of a pub lunch.

While few would choose to live a 17th Century lifestyle, the participants found they picked up some valuable tips for modern life.

1. Know thy neighbours. Today it's possible to live alone, without knowing anyone within a 20-mile radius (the same goes for townies). That was simply not possible in the past - not only did the neighbours provide social contact, people shared labour, specialist skills and produce. "And women were judged on good neighbourliness," says historian Ruth Goodman. "If you were willing to help others - particularly during and after childbirth - then others would be more prepared to help you in times of need."

2. Share the load. It was nigh on impossible to run a 1620s farm single-handedly, and the family - either blood relatives, or a farmer, his wife and hired help - had to be multi-skilled. Labour, too, was often divided along gender lines, but at busy periods, such as harvest time, it was all hands on deck.

3. Fewer creature comforts have some benefits. No electricity meant once daylight faded, work stopped in favour of conversation, music-making and knitting. And no carpets meant fewer dust mites, which are linked to asthma and allergies. "They scattered herbs on the floor which released scent when trodden on - this drove out flies and other insects," says Ms Goodman.

4. Eat seasonally. Today it's because of "food miles" and the inferior quality of forced products. In the 1620s, it was because foods were only available at certain times of year - and not just fruit and veg. Mutton, for instance, was in abundance in spring, soon after shearing time. This was because a sheep's wool quality plunges after eight years - thus animals of that age were killed after their final fleece was removed.

5. Tasty food comes in small batches. Today farmers' markets are a tourist attraction and many delight in regional specialities. For these producers play to the strengths of their ingredients, unlike, for instance, the makers of mass-produced cheese. This has to taste the same year-round, despite seasonal variations in milk quality. "So high-quality milk in the spring is downgraded so the finished product is consistent throughout the year," says Ms Goodman.

6. Reuse and recycle. Today we throw away vast mountains of packaging, food, garden waste and other materials. In 1620s, there was a use for everything, with tattered bed linens made into fire-lighters and animal fat into soap. Even human waste had uses. Faeces was a fertiliser, and urine was stored to make ammonia to remove laundry stains.

7. Dress for practicalities. Today fashion and social convention dictate our wardrobes. While polar fleeces and high-performance tramping boots may be all the rage when going rural, the wardrobe of 400 years ago proved more comfortable. "While the crew shivered in their modern garb, we never felt the cold in just two layers - a linen shirt and woollen doublet," says archaeologist Alex Langlands. Breeches meant no wet and muddy trouser legs, and staying covered up - rather than stripping off in the heat - prevented bites, stings, sunburn and scratches.

8. Corsets, not bras. "By that I don't mean Victorian corseting," says Ms Goodman. "Corsets support your back as well as your chest, and don't leave red welts on your skin like bra elastic does. They made it hard to breath walking up hills, but I get short of breath doing that anyway. And most people feel sexy in a corset."

9. Biodiversity protects against unforeseen calamity. While the developed world no longer counts the cost of crop failure in starvation and mass migration - the result of Ireland's Great Potato Famine in 1845 - the 2001 foot-and-mouth crisis decimated farms up and down the country as animals, the farmers' livelihoods, were put to death. The 1620s farm had grains, fruit and vegetables, and a range of animals - if one failed, alternatives were available.

9. Reliance on any one thing leaves you vulnerable. Hence the country ground to a halt during the petrol blockades of 2000, and a shortage of coal during 1978-9's Winter of Discontent caused electricity shortages. On the 1620s farm, when oxen used to plough fields fell ill, the implements were reshaped and horses did the job instead.

10. No pesticides means a richer variety of birds, butterflies and other insects, many of which feast on pests - a result as desirable for the gardener as the farmer. And the hedgerow and fields of wild flowers of the past are today making a comeback, as these provide habitats for these creatures and allow edible plants to flourish.