Saturday, January 31, 2009

IEA 2008 World Energy Outlook Forecast

This was the most significant news of 2008 and I'm sorry for not posting it sooner. Life's been pretty crazy. Since the price of oil has collapsed I feel it makes the report even more important.

I'll keep it simple. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has historically been very optimistic on the ability of the world to continue meeting its liquid fuel needs as demand increases. Such as saying peak oil is real, but won't happen until 2030. As the years go by, they have been becoming much more realistic.

This latest report shows total energy liquids which appears that energy availability is growing, but the top part is natural gas liquids (yellow), which is not used by the average person for transport, biofuels (green) make up a small percentage, the most important and largest part is the dark blue section.

The dark blue is existing fields in production of crude oil, which is used to make gasoline and diesel which is what makes our civilization hum and purr along. The shocking news is that this graph shows a potential 4%-9% decline THIS YEAR, unless we have new investment into existing oil discoveries (light blue). Since the price of oil has dropped so low, these investments have been put on hold because they are no longer profitable (all the cheap stuff has been tapped).

Furthermore, even if we do invest everything to develop all the new fields, plus find new ones (the red section, which is pure hope), we will only be able to keep a plateau of supply until 2015, which means demand will be required to stay constant or decline, if this does not happen then there may be shortages and/or prices will increase rapidly again and stay there, until demand declines again to keep up with supply.

Once supply declines and we are past the peak of oil production then there is no going back and prices will stay high no matter what, with potential shortages and/or wars without proper global governmental co-operation and global demand reduction of oil consumption matched to the global supply decline rate. Good news Obama is in office, since I feel he'd have a kinder and much more co-operative approach to diplomacy than our previous president.

Regardless of where things go, I encourage everyone to reduce their dependence on imported goods and energy for their livelihoods. Sure, enjoy life while you can and be extremely grateful for what we have. But please think ahead and be proactive. We must take this seriously and start creating our local economies. Life as we know it is about to change drastically.

The sooner we start on this inevitable change, the easier it will be for all of us.

Much love to everyone who is being the change!

To read more about this report, check out the summary over at the oil drum.

No-Till Gardening

No digging! Making life easier, this is the permaculture way! Also, less weeding after the first couple years. Good visual of setting up and maintaining a no-till garden.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pangaia Off-Grid in Hawaii

This is a tour of Pangaia's permaculture property on the Big Island of Hawaii. Note how they have a dry toilet and they "grow" the toilet paper next to it, which is a bush with wide leaves!

I can't say they are truly "off grid" since they need all that technology to support the solar and electricity.. What happens if it breaks? But it surely makes for more luxuries - like a washing machine, internet, refrigeration and night-time lighting. But I suppose I could live without those if I had, I wear just shorts and hand wash them (or go naked!) in paradise, spend time learning and receive entertainment from living with nature and working with community instead of needing the internet, we could have a community kitchen where we share cooking responsibilities and all the food is fresh or dig a hole 3-6 ft into the ground or find a shady stream or spring to keep things cool instead of a refrigerator and go to bed when it's dark instead of needing electricity at night!

I suppose living without the internet would be very hard since it is so damn convenient for communication to the outside world! Ahh, let us hope for technological innovations for us to keep this going.. For example, there is a way to eliminate the need for silicon in solar panels from blueberries. And scientists are working on artificial photosynthesis which could turn CO2 into Ethanol! Maybe there is some hope after all?

More videos and information on Pangaia (including tours) can be found on their website.

Brick Rocket Stove

Since we've past the peak of natural gas already in north america and importing liquid natural gas is a disaster waiting to happen (and unsustainable), we must find other ways to cook our food.

I think this is a great way to cook using all local materials, as long as you have access to clay to make the bricks! No need for imported metal cans for a regular rocket-stove or materials to build a solar oven.

Since small pieces of wood are used in a rocket stove, the wood can easily be grown by using the coppice method. Which means cutting down a tree and letting the stump re-sprout into multiple, smaller trunks. They then slowly harvesting your woodlot periodically in sections and as long as you do not cut down the tree too fast and let it grow and generate more stored energy, the stump will keep generating new sprouts for firewood!

I'm not sure how long the wood lasts and how often you have to add to the stove, but it uses much less energy than a traditional fire. It also does not need much space so this could be used in most if not all living situations. The only requirement is access to fuel, the community would need to have a dedicated and managed coppiced forest.

A more transitional approach would be to use an electric cooking stove and hope for power from 100% renewables or a new invention sometime in the future. But how much will electricity cost, could you depend on it, and will you have a job to afford it? Furthermore, as globalization becomes less dependable because of the peak in oil production it may not be easy to throw it away and buy a new one from the local corporate box store. So we need to ask, who will repair the stove or make a new one when it breaks? If a new one is made, what materials will be used, and how will those materials be mined using what kind of fuel... Maybe it's easier to just plant a tree.