Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A short history of peak oil preparation

Frankly, when I first learned about peak oil, I was a bit freaked out. But after time, a little too much wine, a lot of research, and some productive action, I recovered, and went on to slowly change my attitude, expectations, and lifestyle to accommodate a radically different reality from the one I previously knew.

Here's a year-by-year summary of the last five years of my efforts at peak oil preparation in three key areas: Short term (Emergency planning), Medium term (Economic / Financial crash), and Long term (Sustainable Future). Keep in mind, this does not cover the first, and perhaps most important area of preparation: psychological adjustment.

I first had to mentally adjust from the "normal" middle-class expectation of general peace and prosperity, a steady career, and an easy retirement, to an expectation of rapid change, potential austerity, and the need for self-sufficiency combined with an awareness of my interdependence on the people surrounding me. Accompanying this change in expectations is my ongoing search for meaning in a world that, in the future, may no longer provide comfort and progress the way I once thought it would.

Is this a model or perfect plan? No. It's just an actual report of what one person has been doing....

Year 1 - End of 2004, 2005

What's happening in 2005? President George Bush is sworn in for a second term; Hurricanes Katrina and Rita rock the Gulf Coast. Richard Heinberg's The Party's Over is published. The Hirsch report, warning of severe consequences if peak oil is not addressed, is released by the Department of Energy.

Personal Preparation
- Moved to OKC from Denver to be near family and for my husband to pursue a more lucrative job.
- Chose home in the closest thing to a walkable neighborhood we could find, with a lot and a half to grow food and a southern-facing exposure (unfortunately requiring many compromises).
- Purchased Energy Star appliances with best energy rating available for fridge and washer.
- Chose a 15 year mortgage, started paying it down.
- Started analyzing the lay of the land for my garden/orchard.
- Obtained two large rain barrels and set them up.
- Put in first garden bed, realized I was clueless about gardening.

- Became obsessed with energy blogs (Energy Bulletin, LATOC, Sharon Astyk).

Year 2 - 2006

What's happening in 2006? Ben Bernanke is confirmed Chairman of the Federal Reserve, the Patriot Act is renewed, Saddam Hussein is hanged in Iraq, US population passes 300 million. Matt Simmon's book Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock is published.

Personal Preparation
- Suffer through two natural gas leaks in 17-yr old furnace, installed geothermal HVAC unit for heating, cooling, and hot water.
- Put in insulation and sealed our house "envelope", replaced light bulbs with CFL's, thereby decreasing our energy bills.
- Realized pecan trees shade most of the back yard, established 200 sq. feet of gardens in the sunny areas.
- Planted two peach trees.
- Purchase Katadyn water filtration system.
- Purchase tent, sleeping bags.
- Install Solatube.
- Start Peak Oil library: both "watching the train wreck" books and "how to" books.
- Sell most non-IRA/401K mutual funds, put into savings.

Year 3 - 2007

What's happening in 2007? The US Supreme Court rules the EPA has the responsibility to regulate car emissions, an interstate bridge in Minnesota collapses, the US Government Accountability office releases a report calling for the US DOE to create a plan to address peak oil, Al Gore and the UN IPCC are awarded the Nobel Peak Prize.

Personal Preparation

- Son is born. (Technically, not peak oil preparation.)
- Continue aggressive savings plan despite uncertainty of inflation, deflation, stagflation, or imminent destruction.
- Replace drafty old front picture window with nifty superinsulated window.
- Begin storing food: rotational (stuff we eat regularly like oatmeal, canned beans and veggies, applesauce, rice) and just storage (wheat berries, sugar, etc).
- Purchase Country Living Grain Mill.
- Plant 2 apple and 2 plum trees.
- Buy solar light and campstove for emergencies.
- Put together "Go Bags" in case of evacuation.

- Begin storing items from this list (for example, toilet paper, liquor, matches).

Year 4 - 2008

What's happening in 2008? The Russia-Georgia South Ossetia war raises tensions in Europe, rising fuel and food prices trigger riots in "third world" countries. Oil prices hit $147/barrel, the subprime housing bubble pops, the stock market crashes, President George Bush authorizes $700 billion to buy bank assets, Barack Obama is elected President of the United States. Rob Hopkin's The Transition Handbook is published.

Personal Preparation

- Establish inside water storage.
- Purchase good-quality gas can in case evacuation is necessary (in which case gas stations would be rapidly depleted of supplies). Implement 6-month rotation plan for gas.
- Purchase large first aid kit for house and two small ones for cars.
- Plant herb garden.
- Start seriously using and experimenting with the Global Sun Oven; purchase second Sun Oven (Tulsi).
- Experiment with canning, freezing, and drying food.
- Join Oklahoma Food Co-op.
- Purchase Kelly Kettle for extremely efficient water boiling (soups, tea, coffee), using wood.

- Begin discussing peak oil preparation with my parents, who prove to be uncommonly receptive and who begin pro-actively preparing themselves, providing us with a "safe haven."

Year 5 - 2009

What's happening in 2009? Russia shuts off European gas supplies through the Ukraine in the middle of winter, the Icelandic government and banking system collapse, and Australia is ravaged by drought and fires. The H1N1 flu becomes a pandemic, the US Cash for Clunkers program pays people to buy cars, official US unemployment exceeds 10% while unofficial unemployment climbs over 17%, Richard Heinberg's Blackout is published. And Michael Jackson dies.

Personal Preparation
- Purchased used 2007 Prius after 1993 Prizm needed $1100 of repair work.

- Purchase spare bike tires and patch kits.
- Transition Town / community preparation movement: initiating group, training, website, brochures, presentations, events, meetings.
- Put up clothesline (formerly kiwi trellis).
- Plant blackberries and persimmon tree.
- Remodeled kitchen for more storage, counter space and easier cleaning.
- Start networking with local sustainability and local food activists.

I know I have forgotten some of the preparedness steps I've taken, and some I purposefully haven't mentioned (related to home defense - watch out for the alligator moat and Molotov cocktails, zombie invaders!), but that's the bulk of it. In retrospect, I should have done some things earlier, like food and water storage, and I should have done other things better, like planting trees in spots more suitable for fruiting.

I haven't accomplished nearly what I'd like - bees, chickens, a solar battery charger, first aid class, and a fireplace insert are all still waiting for me to get around to them, among other things. But Year 6 promises to be productive, and hopefully Year 7 even more so.

Remember, nothing in this post should be considered investment advice! Which is one reason I didn't include much information on investing....


Donna said...

Wow! What a great rundown of your preparation. We just got PO aware in the last year or so, but are making major strides -- we were already very eco-friendly. This is the year we build a rocket stove in the backyard, install a pellet stove in the family room, and ditch one of the cars. I work from home and live within a mile of all other things important (DH's work, school, library, local grocer, pharmacy, etc).

I used to live in Tulsa, and you are one brave woman to take on PO preparation in OKC, the cheap energy capital! Kudos to you. Love the blog.

Mia@agoodhuman said...

I'm envious of the fact that you've been peak oil aware for that period of time, but I guess we all come to it in our own time. We've been aware for just over a year and I feel like we've made major strides in that time.

You're right about the mental preparation being the most fundamental step. I remember the first three months of heart palpitations and way too much wine :) But after taking our first steps about a year ago, I feel like our plans are all unfolding as they should.

Steve in Hungary said...

What a good run-down on your preparations, Hausfrau!

I discovered Peak Oil purely by chance, and I went through the classic five stages. I was depressed about it for quite a while, but eventually got to acceptance.

There was absolutely no way I had any chance at all of any meaningful preparations in the UK. Where I lived I couldn't even afford to buy a bedsit! So I made the decision to do what I am doing now.

I considered a number of destinations, but what clinched it for here was the ease of purchase, the price and the fact that there is here a very well-founded and long established routine of establishing legal ownership of property.

I have a small cottage, built of earth (I can highly recommend it) and a fraction under an acre of land. All was very run down. It had been unoccupied for four years at least. It is in a small (300+) community and I stress it is a community.

I'm making slow but steady progress towards self sufficiency. I have a root cellar where I have stored potatoes and carrots sufficient to see me through the winter, plenty of onions and lots of other pickles and preserves.

Next year I want to get into chickens and possibly rabbits, and the next step after that I think will be a goat.

I'm rebuilding skills that I have not used for many years, plus acquiring new ones. I hope, with my gods' good grace that I will be given the time to pass these skills on to my grandchildren. I fear they will need them, wherever they choose to live.

Wendy said...

I had the same reaction when I first heard about peak oil (in 2006). I was terrified for myself and my family, and I spent too much energy being afraid and angry and feeling very helpless.

Most of our preps have been with the goal of self-sufficiency in mind, starting with small-scale, small space food production :), and I've found that being proactive and moving toward a purpose has been both calming and empowering.

Thank you for sharing your preps. You've made some amazing strides for both your family and your community.

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

Glad to hear from everyone - sounds like you are all making strides towards your own preparedness!

Steve - thanks for your story, I was wondering how you ended up in Hungary.

Donna - are you using a plan from Aprovecho? I saw that you can buy rocket stoves from them as well.

Donna said...

I saw a do it yourself link on another PO prep blog I follow, made of recycled brick and stovepipe with ash as the insulator. DH is plenty handy and so I think we will be able to recreate it.

Shamba said...

Thanks for telling us all your own prep efforts. I actually have a list I made and add to from 2007 when i really had time and money to do some preparing. This was after I retired early from a job for various personal and famliy reasons. I'd say being peak oil/peak resource and peak finanacial aware since 2005 was also an element in my leaving the job.

Mosly my preps had to do with food things, storage, solar ovens (after reading about them here and other blogs) cooking from scratch and walking everywhere possible.

this year big projects like getting rid of carpeting for noncarpet flooring is on the list.
There's lots more on that list, but there's only so much time to do these things. I couldn't handle doing them all at once.

thanks for your blog and the commentors also,


Anonymous said...

Wow. I thought I'd been aware of PO forever, until I read this, looked back and realized that I first heard those words in the the spring of 2008, which doesn't seem long ago at all. Right about the same time I started reading (much of it courtesy of Sharon Astyk, gee, thanks! ; } ) that catastrophic climate change was even more disastrous and imminent than previously realized. And the panic attacks and heart palpitations haven't quite stopped yet ... But after a few months, I did finally uncurl from the fetal position, force my hands down from covering my eyes and ears, and start thinking about practical steps. Planted more fruit trees and shrubs, expanded the garden, added some water storage, and, biggest step, decided to change careers. From reporting to farming (influenced also by the state of my industry). Hasn't happened yet, still in the planning, thinking, looking for land stage. But just making the decision was major. Now I'm praying for the time to make the actual change. Also learning to knit, and filling bottles I empty with water, and increasing the amount of canning I do. And shopping for a new refrigerator and freezer, since ours are 15 years old.

Anonymous said...

Lots of good information on this blog!
I'm an ex-pat living in Qatar working for a big US company, re-awakining to the peak oil facts happening all around us... Let me tell you first hand, that the derrick and natural gas plans are indeed moving out to sea indicating that Ghawar is spent. Lost of good resources here... Looking forward to re-patriating to Calif. and employing some of the techniques listed here.
good stuff!

Vancouver real estate agent said...

Hi. I really admire your determination, it's amazing! Wish more people were thinking as you do. I must admit that I heard about peak oil just about a year ago, but I think I'm on my way. I totally agree that the major step is one's mental adjustment, it took me a while to consider all the aspects of such a change. Even though I know I am just at the beginning I right now trying to walk as much as possible and planting trees in my garden, I believe I'll get further.
Thanks a lot for sharing your ideas!

pgrass101 said...

Thanks for posting this, my wife and I have just discovered your blog, and you have motivated us to do more now to prepare!

We already have a very small garden, but were putting off most things until we "had the time".

You made us realizes that time might be a luxury we do not have.

Anonymous said...

I really liked your preparation blog essay...this is all common sense stuff for a new century. It has one fo the best "lists" I have seen anywhere. One of the things you mentioned, that you are short on, is self this is controversial, but you can obtain, become familiar with, and rely on a few firearms for defense, and not go overboard or become militaristic. It is a sad but true commentary on human nature, that some unscrupulous characters might just come and "take" your preps, especially since they are made public on this blog. If you approach security with as much common sense as your other preps, you should be alright. This includes banding together with neighbors for neghborhood security.
Good luck to you and your family.

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

Hi Anon - Thanks for your concern. We actually do have defense preps, but I'm not listing them publically. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say. :)

Opt Out En Masse said...

Great diary; I appreciate you sharing it. The"what's happening in the world" summary was interesting to look back on! Our digital diary is organized by these topics:

1. Philosophy
2. Water Security
3. Food Security
4. Personal Training
5. Physical Security
6. Alt Transportation
7. Wealth Management
8. Energy Security

Stop by for a visit sometime!