Published on The Doomstead Diner on March 14, 2017
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Notes from RE and the Diners
Last week, Dr Geoff Chia put up an article/announcement of a lecture he was giving at the Ecocenter in Queensland Oz on March 10th, which he fortunately got recorded so it can be more widely dispersed. You will find the lecture and the slides he used in the video above. Also included here is an Audio only track you can download to your mp3 player or smartphone to play while you are gardening or biking to work, or sitting in traffic in your SUV on Diner Soundcloud.
The lecture has inspired some lively comentary Inside the Diner, here is a sample of that:
From Lucid Dreams:
Dr. Chia is a good speaker.
I agree, although after listening to the whole thing, I felt he was a little heavy handed. Imagine if I pitched that spin at the convocation! The movers & shakers would have looked at me like I was from Mars! I wrote Geoff back I think he needs to take it down a notch for the Newbies.
Why pander to the newbies? The sooner one can accept the truth and reinvent themselves to carry on in spite of the doom before us the better! Perhaps convincing people that massive change is coming but playing down without denial the misery and death part of the fate before us could wake up more people. I will agree with that.
From Lucid Dreams
Speaking from experience with speaking to crowds about these topics, doesn't matter how much you down play it. Most people are not going to recognize the information as valid because it amounts to pulling the rug out from under their sense of security. People start marinating on the ramifications of Peak Oil and then they start to hyperventilate (only in their unconscious mind). The unconscious mind then promptly kicks out the possibility of even entertaining the doomy notions presented. Vaporware, scientists, renewable energy, and technotriumphalism coupled with the psychology of previous investment all finish the job of denial.
Simply put, it matter not how you present the information. Whether you do it with a spoon full of sugar or with a fuckin' sledge hammer, the results are always the same…denial…
Unless the person is ready to accept the information…in which case they will likely have found that information by a simple google search.
I think there is a balance to be struck to begin opening the window without having them freak out and go into full denial mode. Remember, a Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Medicine Go Down!
For more commentary or to post your own opinion, join us Inside the Diner for a Collapse Meal!
Published on The Doomstead Diner on March 1, 2017
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CALLING ALL OZ DINERS! BRAZOS!*
Dr. Geoffrey Chia Presents at the Griffith Ecocenter in Queensland, Australia on March 9, 2017
Be there or be square!
(*Brazos was the code word for the Texas Rangers when they had to call for assistance)
…(but which I will nevertheless say)
Dialogue from “A Few Good Men”: Lt. Kaffee: “I want the truth!” Col. Jessep: “You can't handle the truth!”
I am due to speak at the Griffith Ecocentre on 9 March and will run through the usual gamut of why things are fiendishly rotten in the state of Denmark and what to expect in the near future. "Denmark" is of course the metaphor for our besieged planetary ecosphere. It is a commentary familiar to Diners: why global warming will have consequences far worse than the mainstream population have been led to believe (but will NOT cause NTHE by 2026) and why the depletion of "easy" oil guarantees that the collapse of industrial civilisation will be complete within 20 years (a conservative estimate, based on falling EROEI and the ELM). However the fraud pervading our banks and sharemarkets will cause financial and economic collapse and the demise of our global industrial system much sooner. Not to mention all the other fun stuff ahead like mass human die-off, mass extinctions of other species, the rise of fascist extremists around the world, increasing conflicts between nations, increasing risk of global nuclear war, the possibility of pandemics etc. This is all old hat to Diners, but not to the general public. My purpose will not be misery mongering and nihilism however, but to encourage members of the audience to set up their own remote, climate resilient, off-grid homesteads to weather the coming storms. They must not look for salvation from without, but from within. Not everyone will succeed but some will.
Griffith Ecocentre, Queensland, Australia
Dr. Geoffrey Chia Presents on March 9, 2017
The Diner requests an Oz Diner with a camera that does MP4 recording to Video the Presentation and forward it to the Diner for Broadcast on Diner YouTube and Publication on the Doomstead Diner Blog. Contact RE via the contact page on the Diner if you record this video. If you know how to Livestream it off your smartphone, we will publish the link to your stream for live viewing.
I expect the majority will find my commentary repugnant and reject it. I expect the Q&A session will throw up the usual predictable questions such as "how can we fix these problems?" or "surely technofix A can solve problem B?" The standard answer, which Diners are familiar with, is that the issues we face are not problems for which there are solutions, but are predicaments (or conundrums) for which there are no solutions. The correct question at this late stage is not "how can we fix these problems?", but "what can we do in anticipation of these events?". Given the more than century long build up to these events, the sapients realise that global industrial collapse is unavoidable, as has been amply demonstrated by even the most optimistic scenarios modelled by the updated Limits to Growth analyses. We have fallen off the cliff and even though we may feel “fine” now, we will not feel so good when we inevitably and excruciatingly smash into the ground. Gravity is a bitch and there is no prospect we can invent an anti-gravity device before impact, or indeed ever.
Not satisfied with such an answer, there is usually the odd tenacious audience member who attempts to pose the same question in a different manner, such as “if you were King of the world and had unlimited policy power, what would you do to tackle these predicaments?” The unstated expectation behind such a question is that a benevolent “philosopher king / ecosystems guru” can find ways to keep 7.5 billion people alive, solve climate change, find a replacement for petroleum etc, etc. Well I ain't no King and I ain't no Guru, but for the sake of argument, let us play along with such fantasy based wishful thinking and imagine we can enforce the following:
Abolish all nation states. Demobilise all military forces everywhere and re-employ all ex-military personnel for the refurbishment and maintenance of essential domestic infrastructure, for civil defence and for disaster relief. All nuclear weapons to be dismantled, all weapons manufacturers to be eliminated.
Equitable redistribution of resources, which will require that people in the rich parts of the world give up their luxuries to allow poorer people to survive. This will also require that refugees from climate ravaged and war torn parts of the world be allowed to emigrate to more climate favoured areas.
Impose a moratorium on all human reproduction for the next 30 years, following which we allow only one child per couple until the global population falls to perhaps 100 million and thereafter allow only for replacement reproduction rates. Draconian? Yes, but far preferable to chaotic die-off which could trigger nuclear war.
Transform the existing predatory rapacious capitalist system to a steady state ecology based economic system which penalises polluters and “closes the loop” – to treat and use all waste as a resource.
Stop all unnecessary “economic” activity which will include the cessation of all fossil fuel based tourism and the entire process of globalisation. Limit activities to essential ones such as the production and distribution of food and clean fresh water and the construction and maintenance of dwellings. Localise all economic activities, although international trade in non perishable goods can still occur by use of sailing vessels.
Educate everyone that the main “solution” to our looming energy shortfall must be energy efficiency and conservation, not new whizbang technowizardry such as fusion energy. Cease all fossil fuel electricity generation and change electricity provision to decentralised renewable energy systems such as solar PV for individual dwellings or microgrids. Let the central grid rot or better still, cannibalise it for materials. Pursue research to determine whether we can manufacture and maintain renewable energy generators and batteries using only renewable energy sources.
Phase out all industrial scale monocrop agriculture (which is doomed anyway as fossil fuel based fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and the petroleum to run mass agriculture will eventually become unavailable). Reduce meat and seafood consumption by more than 90%. Food security to be achieved by the establishment of hundreds of millions of local permaculture smallholdings providing a plant based diet with abundant protein from peas, beans and nuts and supplementary protein from eggs, dairy products, aquaponics and even farmed insects.
What is the likelihood of achieving even one of the above? We are, on the whole, moving in directions away from each and every one of the measures indicated above. So get real. Even if they could all be done, the following issues will remain:
Additional global warming from existing GHGs in the atmosphere is already locked in place but is yet to fully manifest and will render most of the planet uninhabitable. All existing coastal cities will eventually (perhaps in 200 years) be submerged under at least 23 metres of seawater.
We have no liquid transport fuel to replace "easy" oil at scale, which means that industrial civilisation as we know it is still doomed.
Enforcement of the policies outlined above can only be carried out through edict and coercion. External imposition of policies on an ignorant and resistant populace will fail to address the primary underlying reason for all our planetary travails: the possession of advanced, destructive technology in the hands of a “trumped up” (pun intended) species of ape governed by their reptile brain. Cleverness without wisdom. This means that even if all the predicaments above could magically be made to vanish and we could magically reset human society and our planetary ecosphere back to, say 1950 before overshoot began in earnest, we will merely repeat the same patterns over and over again, in the absence of restraint and wisdom. Groundhog day with no hope of redemption, no matter how many times the scenario is replayed.
Semi-sapient people must abandon childish fantasy notions of what we would like happen, grow up and accept the reality of what is going to happen.
The bottom line is this, and I have said it before: the only hope for the continuation of our benighted species is that the survivors who emerge at the other end of this genetic bottleneck are truly sapient and adopt the principles of restraint (in resource consumption and reproduction) and vigorously protect any viable ecohabitats remaining (and cultivate new ones as icebound areas of the planet melt). It is possible, although by no means certain, that the impending cull of the global population may result in just such an outcome, especially if the sapient 0.01% of the population can be encouraged to save themselves NOW. The sapients should be advised not to grieve as future events unfold and they observe, from a safe distance, the morbid spectacle of billions of clueless sheeple killing each other, egged on by the 0.1% psychopathic sheeple herders who had promised to make them great again. Such is the nature of a cull.
G. Chia, March 2017
Published on The Doomstead Diner on February 14, 2017
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Above is a link to a set of slides in pdf format which you can present to your family and friends, on why the IPCC projections are watered down guff, why climate catastrophe is inevitable and why you should stop worrying about it. The slides are largely self explanatory however two slides require elaboration which I have provided below. Before presenting this information to others I recommend you listen to David Wasdell's "facing the harsh realities of now" talk http://www.apollo-gaia.org/harsh-realities-of-now.html at least 2 to 3 times. His summary is probably the best compiled by anyone to date (although he ends with a delusional message that solar energy can save us, which is unfortunate).
Why the IPCC's information selection process is deeply flawed:
In October 2013 at the Griffith University Southbank campus in Brisbane, I attended a talk by Professor Nathan Bindoff, a climate scientist from the University of Tasmania who is highly regarded by the international scientific community and who was chairman of many previous IPCC proceedings. He presented the IPCC fifth assessment report.
The knowledgable audience were less than convinced about the IPCC projections, which were out of date even before AR5 was published and we asked him specific questions about the IPCC process and assumptions.
He described their process of information selection: scientific studies for inclusion into or exclusion from the IPCC report are selected by a large number of government employed scientists from around the world. However it is not a democratic process where, say, if more than half of the group decide a particular paper is important, it is included. The IPCC uses a "lowest common denominator" process whereby if just one member of the audience objects to any part of any paper, it is completely thrown out.
Dr Bindoff described the process where perhaps a couple of hundred scientists sit in a room and painstakingly go through every line of every paper submitted. He mentioned that typically by the third day, 80% of the originally submitted peer reviewed scientific studies have been thrown out, to be completely excluded from IPCC consideration.
Clearly this is not honest science, it is a political process designed to select only the most watered down, low ball estimates, so as to fabricate the most optimistic future climate scenarios. This explains why report after report, real world events have exceeded the worst case IPCC projections eg ice loss, sea level rise, severe weather events etc.
Why the IPCC's climate sensitivity calculations are grossly inadequate:
When specifically questioned, Dr Bindoff also admitted that the IPCC had completely ignored the most important climate event ever since the Earth was hit by a dinosaur killing asteroid 66 million years ago: the release of methane from the Arctic coast which has gone ballistic since around 2008. To me this confirms that the IPCC is a bogus pseudoscience body perverted by governments addicted to fossil fuels and that they only tell the public half the truth.
Arctic methane release is just one source of methane they have ignored and methane release is just one of the so-called "slow" feedback loops they have ignored, which are in fact occuring much faster than anticipated.
The IPCC calculate future temperature rises based only on the direct greenhouse effect of CO2 and a few fast feedback loops which themselves have been grossly underestimated. For example the IPCC grossly underestimated the loss of Arctic sea ice and therefore grossly underestimated the loss of albedo over the Arctic and therefore grossly underestimated the magnitude of this feedback loop.
There are other new, previously unanticipated, self reinforcing feedback loops which are now coming to light and therefore also completely off the radar of the IPCC eg the ingress of warm air into the Arctic due to marked weakening and waviness of the North circumpolar jet stream. The IPCC can hardly be blamed for not considering that, however it shows how the rapid onset of real world events quickly render their assessment reports obsolete.
Why Guy McPherson's prediction of NTHE by 2026 due to global warming is complete nonsense:
Just as the IPCC have misrepresented things by selecting only the most unreasonably optimistic scientific papers to promote their views, similarly GM has misrepresented things by selecting only the most unreasonably pessimistic scientific papers to promote his views.
We do not know what the most probable future scenario is, nobody does, but let us make an assessment of circumstances in the year 2100 based on a worse than worst case scenario. Let us assume all people in the Northern Hemisphere will be dead by 2100.
The IPCC AR5 worst case sea level rise by 2100 of 1 metre has now been rejected by most climate scientists since publication of a paper in 2016 by James Hansen and colleagues. That other doyen of climate science, Dr Michael Mann, had some reservations about the Hansen paper, but many scientists now regard a 2 metre sea level rise by 2100 as possible.
Hansen had however in an older paper projected as much as a 10 metre sea level rise by 2100, so let us instead adopt this worse than worst case scenario.
We know that complete melt of both the Greenland and West Antarctic ice shields will raise sea levels by more than 14 metres https://water.usgs.gov/edu/sealevel.html
By implication, the worse than worst case sea level rise of 10 metres by 2100 means that some of the Greenland and/or West Antarctic ice shield will still be intact in 2100, and indeed most of the ice on the Antarcticic continent will also be intact then.
Ice moderates nearby air and water temperatures. Cold melt water flowing into the sea keeps that sea temperature cool, which in turn keeps coastal areas bathed in that sea cool.
Therefore high latitude coastal areas in the Southern Ocean (the southern tips of NZ, Chile and Argentina and some islands eg the Falklands) will remain relatively cool even if GATR rises by 8 or 10degC by 2100. Those areas in the deep south will still have habitats with moderate temperatures conducive for growing food and rearing livestock in the year 2100 (and for substantial time after), even using this worse than worst case scenario. By definition, survival of even a small number of people means that human extinction will not occur by 2100 even based on this worse than worst case scenario. For someone to declare that NTHE will definitely occur by 2026 is thus completely nonsensical, is not scientific and is based on nihilistic ideology, not logic or reason.
As the Antarctic ice melts it is almost inevitable that humans will migrate to Antarctica if all other parts of the world become too hot.
Published on The Doomstead Diner on January 31, 2017
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Why you need to set up an off-grid Rural Homestead part 3
by Geoffrey Chia, January 2017
Long winded FOOTNOTES:
I have, in previous articles, already provided the scientific references for the major assertions made in this three part essay. The following are additional comments (related to issues flagged in parts 1 and 2) which have also been factually validated:
1: Desperate fantasies about "fertilising" the oceans with iron filings to create CO2 absorbing phytoplankton blooms (which has been tried and does not work) or chemical carbon sequestration or biochar carbon sequestration have been suggested. Even if feasible and upscalable, they will do nothing to substantially draw down atmospheric CO2, unless there is also simultaneous sudden massive reduction of the global human footprint.
2: The only other group who possess the smallpox virus are the Russians, who although not exactly angels, are nowhere near as dangerous as the US psychopaths who crave world hegemony. The US hegemonists are the descendants of those invaders who gave trusting Native Americans smallpox-ridden blankets. They are the descendants of those invaders who slaughtered 50 million bison to deprive the First Nations people of their food source and induce mass starvation. They are the architects of the invasion of Iraq, a despicable war crime. They are the people now taking control of the White House, Mike Pence being a great admirer of Dick Cheney and Donald Drumpf* being a politically clueless but ultimately self serving narcissistic megalomaniac. To imagine such people are not capable of planetary genocide is naive in the extreme. They consider themselves the "exceptionals among the exceptionals" and have corresponding contempt and disregard for the rest of humanity.
3: Ever since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, America has made more hamfisted attempts at regime change in other MENA countries to try to install puppet leaders under the US thumb, so as to control the MENA fossil fuel resources. Every single attempt has failed miserably and backfired, however the US nevertheless continues to pursue the same failed tactics, thus proving that the US "leaders" meet the definition of insanity.
Intent: Invade Iraq, replace Saddam Hussein with a US puppet so that Iraq will change their oil trade from Euros back to Petrodollars and the USA will control the flow of Iraqi oil and gas.
Result: the violent devastation of Iraq with brutal extremists filling the power vacuums, the massive outflow of refugees and the democratic election of a Shi'ite government which then aligns closer to Iran, the sworn enemy of the USA (Iran is also a victim of despicable US skulduggery dating back to 1953)
Intent: Bomb Libya to get rid of Gaddafi and "somehow" replace him with a US puppet who will then allow Western corporations to control Libya's oil.
Result: the violent devastation of Libya with brutal extremists filling the power vacuums, the massive outflow of refugees, the capture of Libya's huge armamentarium by Al Qaeda who morph into ISIS then start rampaging across MENA causing more havoc and refugee outflows.
Intent: Use American proxies Qatar and Saudi Arabia to astroturf "rebel" groups within Syria** to manufacture a "civil" war, topple Assad and "somehow" replace him with a US puppet who will then deny the Iranian gas pipeline through Syria and eject the Russians from their bases in Tartus and Latakia. Enlist US/NATO "ally" Turkey to help in this skulduggery, but if Erdogan fails to cooperate sufficiently, implement regime change via a coup to replace him with a Gulenist US puppet.
Result: the violent devastation of Syria with brutal extremists filling the power vacuums, the massive outflow of refugees, the entry of Russia into this proxy war and the eventual recapture of Syria by Assad. Meanwhile a pissed off Erdogan accuses the USA of engineering the failed Turkish coup and mends fences with Putin. In December 2016 Turkey and Russia, together with Assad, broker a ceasefire in Syria, to the complete exclusion and humiliation of the USA. Another epic fail by America AKA Exceptionalistan.
I have said this before and will say it again: the psychopaths (Neoconartists, Military Industrialists, Wall Street Bankers etc) who run the USA are greatest threat to peace in our world and to life on Earth. The evil nutcases who run the UK, Canada, Australia and NZ are only slightly less dangerous. Not all US politicians are chickenshit armchair warmongering lying psychopaths however. Democratic Congressional Representative for Hawaii, Tulsi Gabbard, as a former active member of the US military, was deployed twice to combat zones in the Middle East. She now holds the rank of Major in the Military Police of the National Guard and is a qualified martial arts instructor. Despite, or perhaps because of her background, she is staunchly non-violent. She has a deep understanding of issues in the Middle East and spoke against the funding of Islamist extremists by the US and its proxies Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. She reiterated the fact that there are no "moderate" Sunni rebels in Syria, all the rebels being violent radical extremists. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76GhC5d52d8 Imagine how much better the world would be if someone like her became President of the USA. She is a true patriotic American who has put her life on the line for her country, unlike “fake hairpiece” Drumpf who is a parasitic fraud who knows how to work the system to his personal advantage.
4: Advice for young folks confronted with an unaffordable property market: do not fall into that trap, do not become a lifetime debt slave. There is a high chance you may end up like the victims of the predatory subprime mortgages in the USA. If possible, build or buy a tiny house on wheels where you can live debt free, however you will also need to find land to place it on. If local council regulations prohibit the tiny house option for you, rent part of a cheap share-house and while you continue to work within the system, use your savings to buy a good quality RV or caravan which will be your bug out vehicle and future off-grid dwelling. Cultivate skills which will be useful to homesteaders. Store enough fuel in jerry cans to ensure you can easily reach your bug out destination (diesel is much safer to store than petrol and a diesel vehicle will also have greater range, litre for litre. Diesel engines are also more reliable and durable). However if your current location and future bugout location are both coastal, a comfortable sailboat may be a better alternative than an RV or caravan. When TSHTF and the highways are blocked or there are bandits on the roads or you have insufficient fuel to get to your destination, a boat sailing freely across the water, propelled by the wind, will be infinitely superior to a stranded RV or tiny house. However it is impossible to live afloat indefinitely, independent of the land. Your boat must ultimately be tied to a land base where you can obtain fresh water and grow food. This is the limitation of Dmitry Orlov's ideas: he focuses heavily on boats but says little or nothing about the importance of having a land resource base, perhaps because of his view that providing a water transport or trading service to land based homesteaders will, in the exchange economy, enable sufficient acquisition of fresh water and food for his life afloat. Here is the problem: if my land based homestead provides adequately for my needs (in conjunction with an exchange economy with my neighbours), I will have no need for any water transport services or trade, hence I may decline to provide a yachtie with fresh water or food, which I myself may have in short supply. Other drawbacks: a life afloat is less convenient than life ashore, is not suitable for everyone and maintaining a boat is much harder than maintaining a land dwelling.
5: To expand on this "piano hanging by a frayed cable" metaphor:
The majority of people can be represented by a man standing under the precarious piano who is obsessively playing with his smartphone and refuses to look up even when warned. He is killed by the falling piano because he is an idiot.
Sapient people can be represented by a woman standing under the precarious piano who looks up, sees the frayed rope and carefully walks away to safety.
The Near Term Extinction cultists can be represented by a man standing under the precarious piano who looks up, sees the frayed rope and refuses to walk away for fear of oncoming traffic, even though there is no traffic in sight. He channels Buddha and contemplates Death with every breath in and out. He is killed by the falling piano because he is nuts.
* Footnote for footnote 2: I have been using Donald Drumpf's original surname before it was changed by his grandfather, a German immigrant to the US who made his fortune from saloons and brothels in the Pacific NorthWest and was refused re-entry back to Germany because of his moral turpitude. We face an appalling next few years with this infantile thin skinned egomaniac in possession of the nuclear launch codes. For want of a better title, may I suggest we call Drumpf “Mr HWAFL”, which stands for “Hairpiece Without A Frontal Lobe” and rhymes with “awful”.
** Footnote for footnote 3: Obama's famous “red line” speech in 2013 blaming Assad for a nerve gas attack against his own people on 21 August 2013 was proven to be complete bullshit. Evidence showed the culprits were almost certainly mercenaries paid by Qatar and Saudi Arabia who gassed their fellow Sunni Muslims in Damascus to provide an excuse for the US to bomb Assad. https://www.voltairenet.org/IMG/pdf/possible-implications-of-bad-intelligence.pdf Hence we must question whether the US intelligence community are completely clueless or intentionally deceitful. Here is valuable information I offer the US intelligence*** community for FREE: The US government-military-industrial complex, according to General Lloyd Austin in September 2015, had established a half billion dollar program in the hope they could train a few thousand so-called "moderate" Sunni rebels in Syria to fight against Bashar Al Assad. However they ended up with only 4 or 5 fighters. The rest of the recruits somehow mysteriously vanished. White House spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau, at a Q&A session in October 2016, admitted that the so-called "moderate" Sunni rebels in Syria were indistinguishable from Nusra, who were basically Al Qaeda in Syria i.e. extremist terrorists. The US "experts" were utterly perplexed, puzzled, confused, bamboozled, dumbfounded, flummoxed and discombobulated. Where were the moderate Sunnis in Syria? Here is the answer: the true moderate Sunnis in Syria were fighting FOR Assad, AGAINST the so called "rebels". All the "rebels" were extremists, NONE were moderates. Many of the tens of thousands of pro-Assad Syrian government soldiers who gave up their lives to reclaim their country were in fact Sunni. This FACT is never mentioned in the prostitute Anglo mainstream media, the main source of fake news in the world. http://nationalinterest.org/feature/why-assads-army-has-not-defected-15190
*** Footnote for footnote for footnote 3: Obviously the word "intelligence" here is used in the most ironic sense. This is my theory: the "leaders" of the USA are actually Keystone Kops Komedians (or some other triple K abbreviation).
Published on The Doomstead Diner on January 21, 2017
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Erratum from “Why you need to set up an off-grid Rural Homestead” part 1:
"Consider this carbon neutral scenario…The current atmospheric GHG concentrations today of more than 480ppm CO2 equivalent…will still commit us to around 4 degrees C global average temperature rise and around 25 metres sea level rise in the long term (perhaps 80 years)" should be corrected to …will still commit us to around 4 degrees C global average temperature rise in the medium term (perhaps 80 years) and around 25 metres sea level rise in the longer term (the "locked in" ice melt which eventually raises sea level by 25 metres will take much longer than 80 years to complete).
Why you need to set up an off-grid Rural Homestead part 2
by Geoffrey Chia, January 2017
A minority of people in the rich countries, the semisapients, accept that we urgently need to radically transform our unsustainable profligate lifestyles, but still avoid taking any meaningful action. They prefer Dr Suzuki's message: if only we vote Green, get our country to transform to 100% renewable energy, then things (hopefully) may turn out fine. This will almost certainly not happen because the semisapient voters are a tiny minority nowhere near the critical mass needed to vote in transformative governments. The semisapients are overwhelmingly outnumbered by the clueless sheeple and the knuckle dragging rednecks with the “drill baby drill” mantra. More progressive nations such as Germany and France are far more conscious of environmental issues, but are now faced with huge, destabilising, unwelcome distractions, viz: the influx of hundreds of thousands of desperate MENA refugees who have fled their homelands which were destroyed by the failed attempts of the USA to bring about "regime change" and control the MENA fossil fuel resources3. The destruction of those MENA states has provoked hatred from many of that heritage and thus hugely aggravated blowback terrorism, for which there is no end in sight.
If, despite using irrefutable evidence-based arguments that our planetary future will be dire, we are still unable to persuade the semisapients to establish rural homesteads for themselves, how else can we encourage them to embark on this undeniably difficult task? Especially since their city lives may be quite comfortable at the moment? People will certainly resort to desperate and futile measures when their urban neighbourhoods collapse, but by then it will be too late for them. How else can we motivate the semisapients to act now so that they will be well prepared when the crunch comes?
The pursuit of a more satisfying lifestyle and of happiness
I confess I am addicted to one particular genre of reality television i.e. shows about people building or choosing a tiny house so they can embark on a new, more satisfying low consumption lifestyle. There are many good ideas about tiny house design to glean from those programs, but more than that, I always feel a warm glow when I watch the exuberant joy those folks radiate when they inspect their new tiny house for the first time. Some may be downsizing from McMansions, yet all seem genuinely happy to live according to their basic needs and not according to contrived desires borne of envy, fabricated by the mainstream media.
What are the ingredients of happiness? Let us exclude the views of psychopaths, who enjoy killing and bullying people, from this consideration. Sociologists tell us that for most ordinary people, these are the ingredients which comprise happiness:
Basic material needs and comfort (clean water, food, shelter, good sanitation, physical security) must be met, beyond which there is no evidence that greater wealth leads to more happiness. Living in a McMansion does not offer happiness, only larger spaces to clean.
Good health, for which good nutrition and regular physical activity are necessary.
Good relationships, not just with family and friends, but within a harmonious community, and making meaningful contributions to that community. The person who volunteers in a soup kitchen for the homeless invariably gains more happiness than the billionaire who makes yet another million from his newest corporate acquisition. In general we gain more happiness from giving (to appreciative and deserving people) than receiving. This explains why Bill Gates quit his role in Microsoft to spend all his time on philanthropy.
Interaction with Nature. We are biophilic creatures. This explains why urban families feel the need to bring their kids to the park or beach at least once per week. Children need to learn that food and water come from the land and from Nature, otherwise they will grow up to be delusional fantasists whose eyes are always glued to computer screens and thoughts are completely divorced from the real, natural world (and hence do not care about the destruction of the real, natural world – which is leading to their own destruction)
A sense of meaning or purpose, which varies among individuals according to their inclinations. This may take the form of social, intellectual, musical, artistic or other creative endeavour e.g. fine cooking. Unfortunately one type of person who may not be able to pursue their passion in life on a permaculture homestead is the elite sportsperson. They need urban facilities and services to attain and maintain such elite levels. Having said that, when all the urban facilities collapse, the city based elite sportsperson will die. Being an elite sportsperson will not help them die any later than the average person, although they will certainly die fitter than the average person.
I believe a carefully planned rural permaculture community can offer the above and thereby provide happiness for its inhabitants. A good internet connection (for as long as the system allows) means that even folks in the most remote areas need not be deprived of the best intellectual, musical or artistic resources in the world, including the ability to visit virtual museums and virtual zoos. They can also interact with people on the other side of the world who may have similar rare esoteric tastes e.g. ancient Sanskrit poetry. Networking by teleconference or skype is far, far preferable to burning jetfuel to attend meetings. Homesteaders will need to preserve their own archive of hard copy reference documents so that when the internet and their computers eventually go down, there will continue to exist disseminated repositories of valuable printed legacy information around the world. Important knowledge and skills can still be passed on.
Financial and Economic reasons
We were born into this growth dependent financial-economic system and it is all we know. We were told we must work within the system to earn fiat currency to purchase the goods and services we need to live well. We were brainwashed into believing that more is better and we should sign up to 30 year mortgages for capacious McMansions. We were bombarded with advertising telling us to "use money we don't have, to buy things we don't need, to impress people we don't like". When terror strikes, go shopping. This system appeared to function satisfactorily in decades gone by, when the world was on the upslope of the Hubbert curve. Now we are on the Hubbert downslope, real economic growth has stopped and contraction has started. With zero or negative interest on savings, but ongoing compound interest payable on loans, with flat or declining wages, it is now impossible for many people to pay off their debts. They are lifetime debt slaves4. This economy is a Ponzi scheme and like any Ponzi scheme, those canny enough to exit at the peak will benefit, the rest will lose their shirts. These are powerful arguments for the semisapients to sell their assets, get rid of debt, buy rural land with a good fresh water supply and establish their off-grid homestead where they can provide for themselves and participate in the local exchange economy. Those who lack sufficient individual financial resources can join with their peers to purchase or lease land-in-common. They can then park their mobile tiny houses or RVs on their jointly owned land and live in their own off-grid community. Those who lack the money to invest in a land owning partnership can acquire the skills to make themselves indispensable to such a community (horticulture, plumbing, electrical, welding, building, carpentry skills etc). They need to make themselves known to the landowners and land cooperatives now. How much does a good second hand RV fitted with composting toilet and 12V electrical system using solar panels cost? A damn sight less than a McMansion. Not to mention ongoing McMansion maintenance, utilities and fees. After TSHTF, life on the homesteads will be egalitarian. All residents in theory should be considered equal in dignity, but not everyone in practice will be equal in value. Even if you are not a partner in the land ownership, if you can offer the community skills to grow food or deliver good drinking water sustainably, you will be considered more valuable than the land owning rocket scientist or brain surgeon or cardiologist who no longer has the high tech infrastructure to practice their skills. Well before we reach that stage however, there are tremendous psychological benefits to getting rid of debt now: a sense of freedom, less mental stress and improved interpersonal relationships.
The Moral Imperative
Living on an off-grid permaculture homestead can reduce your resource consumption and waste production by more than 90% compared with the average fossil fuel addict in the industrial world. More people going off-grid will ease demand on an already overstressed central grid. Gandhi put it most succinctly, "be the change you want to see in the World". Nuff said.
Timing is everything
Some people claim that positive, inspirational arguments are more effective than negative, fear based arguments to motivate people. That opinion is not based on any evidence whatsoever, only a warm fuzzy mindset. Humans evolved to react towards real or perceived immediate threats with "fight or flight" responses. That trait promoted survival in our hunter-gatherer past. Apart from immediate threats, most humans tend to be lazy, complacent, passive and inert. We tend to choose the easy options for short term gratification. Few choose to expend blood, sweat and tears pursuing lofty long term goals. Negative messages about real or perceived threats can and do work to galvanise the public. They are the most effective propaganda tool of governments. Like any tool, negative messages can be used ethically (when based on truth to save lives e.g. public health anti-tobacco campaigns) or criminally (when based on deceit to rob and kill innocent people e.g. Nazi anti-Jewish propaganda). The chickenshit warmongering US Neoconartists were very effective in promoting the invasion of Iraq by brandishing the fearsome bogeyman of WMDs, even though it was utterly bogus. However, that unjustifiable invasion could not have been sold to the US public if 9/11 had not occurred beforehand. Hence timing is everything. The Neoconartists used the psychological trauma of 9/11 to promote the invasion of Iraq, even though the two were completely unrelated.
I suspect the events that will eventually motivate the semisapients to act will indeed be negative factors. When adverse events start to affect them personally, they will realise that the limits to growth have come knocking at their door. Some people need a short, sharp, shock to get them off their butts. Different people have different "road to Damascus" moments. For some it is when they see a piano above their head suspended by a fraying cable. For others it is when the piano falls on their head5.
Survival of the species
Many Extinction pundits, including Guy McPherson himself, frequently conflate the question "will humans go extinct?" with the question "should humans go extinct?" despite the two being very different questions, the latter being heavily value laden. The fanatical NBL hangers-on in particular, the “true believers”, are so infused with their loathing of humanity and so fixated with their rabidly held view that humans should go extinct, that they vehemently insist that humans will go extinct in the near term, in order to spread dismay and hopelessness far and wide (hence they troll every “collapsitarian” blog). If they can demoralise and demotivate others from attempting to save themselves, such failure to prepare for the coming collapse will indeed cause those dismayed to perish, thus creating a self fulfilling prophecy. Those toxic NBL ideologues are so hell bent on perpetrating their agenda of schadenfreude, because that is the only way they can feel any sense of power or influence in the world, being useless no-hopers themselves. I strongly oppose such malevolent nihilism, which I consider downright mischievous, even evil. Whereas I have a dim view of humanity in general, I know some people who are strongly ethical, honest, honourable, reliable, hardworking, kind, generous and decent and who must be saved and must be encouraged. Readers of this article will know similar people. They are the best seed for future human survival. Sentience is rare in this Universe, wisdom even rarer and in my view must be preserved. That is my value judgement. Humanity's only hope is that a small number of sapients may emerge on the other side of this near-extinction bottleneck to create truly sustainable and wise human societies that live in harmony with the environment. I agree it is possible there may be no survivors in the Northern hemisphere before the end of this century. None. Complete human extinction is also possible and I have no problem with someone expressing a personal view that NTHE may be 99.9% likely based on the environmental devastation facing this planet. But nobody is entitled to promote a message that human extinction is guaranteed unless they can prove they are clairvoyant. Our extinction is not a forgone conclusion, it is not a certainty, so long as you can demonstrate there is just one feasible scenario in which human survival may be possible. Just because McPherson could not imagine such a feasible scenario, does not mean that human extinction is guaranteed. It just means that McPherson has a limited imagination. I previously described such a feasible scenario, which does not require complex technology, in which humans may migrate to a thawing Antarctica and survive an 8 or even 10 degree C global average temperature rise, a scenario which McPherson could not logically flaw, and hence chose to disregard. He then portrayed me as a nasty villain who had upset the delicate sensibilities of his emotionally fragile Extinctionist disciples on NBL by contradicting and ridiculing their stupid ideology of utter nihilism. If human beings are forced to migrate to the Southern tip of South America as global warming spirals out of control, they will. If human beings are forced to make the sea crossing to a thawing Antarctica, bringing along the necessary seeds, saplings and livestock required to settle there, they will. The survival imperative is strong.
Some say that setting up a remote homestead and giving up on mainstream society is a selfish act. However, if you have been sounding the alarm for ages that our house is on fire, but have utterly failed to persuade the Establishment to quell the flames which now rage out of control, surely the only remaining option is to advise people to leave the collapsing house and for yourself to do the same? What conceivable purpose does it serve for you to burn to death in "solidarity" with the clueless sheeple who scorn you, especially if you are fortunate enough to be near an exit? Furthermore, action speaks louder than words and your action may encourage a few semisapients to follow you out to safety.
Here is another metaphor. You can sound the alert about the sinking Titanic, but you cannot force other passengers onto the lifeboats. The evidence that our ship is sinking is irrefutable: it is listing at an alarming angle, the meatballs have rolled off the dinner plates and water is lapping at our ankles. The people at the high, dry, end of the ship remain comfortable and reject the idea of moving onto a small, cold, dark, bouncy lifeboat which lacks a live orchestra (the orchestra continues to play on the high end of the main deck). They believe the denialists, who confidently declare there is no hole in the hull and insist that present troubles are only a temporary phenomenon ("economists say that current difficulties are just part of a normal cycle and it is merely a matter of time before global growth is restored"). The optimists say a huge hole in the hull does indeed exist but it can be repaired if we just vote for leaders who will fix it with sticky tape and chewing gum ("elect a government that will transform your society to 100% renewable energy"). The fantasists say that aliens will descend from outer space and teleport us to a techno-utopia just before the Titanic goes under ("science fictiony technology will save us"). The supernaturalists say that Jesus will descend from outer space and teleport us to heaven just before the Titanic goes under ("the second coming is nigh"). The nihilists assert with clairvoyant certainty that all the lifeboats, every single one, will sink or fail to reach any shore, therefore it is futile to board any lifeboat and everyone must passively wait to drown or perhaps kill themselves beforehand (but nevertheless should "live lives of excellence" – whatever that means).
Very few passengers are boarding the lifeboats, hence you will not be depriving anyone of a space if you are lucky enough to have access to one.
So review your options and make your choice. Not every rural homestead will succeed in the long term, but some will. Not trying will guarantee failure.
G. Chia, January 2017
PS: If you live in South Eastern Australia (or plan to move here soon), have similar views and values, are physically fit with a cooperative personality and have practical skills to offer, please send your details to RE who can forward them to me.
PPS: footnotes to the red reference numbers will appear as part 3 of this essay triptych
Published on The Doomstead Diner on January 17, 2017
Discuss this article at the Doomsteading Table inside the Diner
I pondered many of the following issues in previous articles and provided the scientific references for the assertions made. This three part essay refines some concepts and includes updates based on developments over the past couple of years. Some repetition was necessary to provide a holistic overview for the first time reader.
Dr David Suzuki delivered an inspirational talk in Adelaide in March 2016. He said we must not give up the fight to save our planet from climate devastation. Unfortunately he gave no details as to exactly how this can be realistically achieved. He offered only general advice that we should elect governments which must transform our societies to use 100% renewable energy. He praised the South Australians for reaching a 40% renewable energy level. Unfortunately, even if we can muster the political will and even if we can scrounge up enough remaining high net energy petroleum to undertake such a belated widespread transformation (both prospects being highly doubtful), it will still fail to address the underlying problem of our excessive human population (with accompanying excessive resource depletion and waste production), which is the "big fat elephant" of the apocalypse.
It is now well established that IPCC projections have been watered down rubbish which only took into account the greenhouse effect of CO2 and a few short term feedback loops (but ignored other GHGs and many other feedback loops). Real world events such as the Greenland ice melt and severe weather events have proved far worse than the IPCC worst case scenarios. We have NO “carbon budget” remaining, within which we can prevent a 2 degree C rise.
Consider the path we are now on: With ongoing emissions, ongoing large human footprint and unchecked positive feedback loops, we are probably looking at a long term global average temperature rise of 8 to 10 degrees C or more. "Geo-engineering" such as injecting sulphates into the upper atmosphere may temporarily reduce temperatures in localised areas, but will almost certainly create even worse unintended consequences e.g. acid rain, disruption of monsoons. In the long term these ideas are insane. Nevertheless insanity has never stopped homo stupidus from pursuing bad ideas. Let us consider more optimistic scenarios which require the application of wisdom and restraint (and hence will not occur):
Consider this carbon neutral scenario: Imagine if we could magically transform all societies to 100% renewable energy and magically cease all fossil fuel emissions tomorrow. However if the human global footprint remains otherwise unchanged, planetary re-vegetation and CO2 draw down cannot and will not occur. The current atmospheric GHG concentrations today of more than 480ppm CO2 equivalent, combined with loss of global dimming effect when emissions cease, combined with the unavoidable (albeit limited) positive feedbacks associated with this capped GHG level, will still commit us to around 4 degrees C global average temperature rise and around 25 metres sea level rise in the long term (perhaps 80 years). Those are determined by physics and chemistry and are cast in stone. Magical immediate transformation to 100% renewable energy will not stabilise global temperature at our current level. However four degrees, although devastating, is still far better than 8 or 10 degrees long term and is therefore a lesser evil compared with existing coal mining, gas fracking and unconventional oil debacles (harvesting all the tar sands in Alberta alone has the potential to raise the global temperature by 2 degrees C.)
Consider this even less likely carbon reduction scenario: Imagine if 99% of all human beings were to magically vanish tomorrow and the remaining humans (and associated crops and livestock) were to occupy only 1% of our current planetary footprint. Will it be possible for rapid re-vegetation of the remaining planet to sequester enough CO2 to halt, possibly even reverse, global warming by 2100? Climate scientist Professor Jason Box has done the sums and says we will need re-vegetation areas equivalent to seven planet Earths to draw down atmospheric CO2 from 400 to 350ppm. http://jasonbox.net/area-needed-plant/ Hence the only conceivable scenario in which a CO2 reduction to 350ppm by, say, the end of this century can possibly occur will require not only the sudden disappearance of virtually all humans and rapid re-vegetation of the entire remaining planet, it will also require additional urgent artificial carbon sequestration on a huge scale, the proposals for which are unproven and purely hypothetical1.
Nevertheless, let us continue with this thought experiment. Just how may a sudden massive reduction of the human population take place? Ignoring the unlikely immediate prospects of an asteroid impact or a mega volcanic eruption e.g. from the Yellowstone caldera, the only other credible scenarios are:
global thermonuclear war. This will ignite all the cities and burn the remaining forests, producing black smoke, initially causing nuclear winter, but ultimately liberating vast quantities of CO2, which will horrendously exacerbate global warming… or
a global human pandemic. A naturally mutated bird flu virus or haemorrhagic virus may kill several hundred million people, however that will still be woefully insufficient to significantly diminish our human planetary footprint (especially if it mainly affects Third World countries, which have a minuscule carbon footprint compared with the Industrialised World). Only a highly contagious, universally lethal, genetically engineered microbe (namely, weaponised smallpox), mainly targeting the industrialised countries, may reduce the human footprint by sufficient magnitude to make a meaningful environmental difference. The survivors of such an engineered pandemic will be those who have vaccinated themselves in advance i.e. the very architects of this vile genocide i.e. the psychopaths who run the USA2. However they are the worst specimens imaginable for further human propagation. Indeed, due to the megalomaniacal, narcissistic, deceitful, manipulative, toxic and homicidal nature of such people, the inevitable chronic infighting and backstabbing amongst them will lead to their demise in the long term. If the parasites of society have killed the hosts from whom they leeched sustenance, the parasites themselves are doomed to perish.
The outcomes above are horrific from the human point of view, although the pandemic scenario would undoubtedly be highly desirable from the non-human point of view, if our planetary co-inhabitants had any say.
Given our present circumstances, there is NO possible outcome which will be pleasant for humanity. If, as we expect, human numbers (and associated resource depletion and waste production) increase over the next few years while we pursue business as usual, the inevitable resource constraints (especially of centrally distributed water and food, which both rely on "high net energy" petroleum, which is scheduled to decline precipitously) will be the main mechanism causing widespread human die-off in the short term (less than 20 years, possibly only 10 years). This is what "overshoot" means: that a population has exceeded the carrying capacity of its environment and will inevitably exhaust its resource base. This is an indisputable mathematical fact of Nature and is no more open to debate than the fact that 2+2=4. It highlights the fact that it is impossible to have infinite growth on a finite planet. Malthus was not wrong, he was merely ahead of his time. Our existing World Order, a covert neocolonial system enforced by propaganda, politico-economic skulduggery and military brutality, is designed to funnel resources from poor to rich countries. Therefore the poorer and politically weaker nations of the world will be the first to be starved of resources and implode. This concept has been expressed in another way: that collapse will destroy the “periphery” first, before decimating the “core” nations. Ultimately all organised large scale societies will collapse (including NZ, unless Kiwis are able to wean themselves off fossil fuel addiction ASAP). Population decline will be relatively sudden, although not nearly as abrupt as with a thermonuclear war or a global pandemic. Regional conflicts, pollution, climate chaos (heat waves, droughts, floods, storms) and tropical epidemics will also play significant roles in the die-off. This is the path we are now taking, mathematically validated by repeated updated computer runs of the Limits to Growth models, which however may be over optimistic according to analysis by the Stockholm Resilience Centre http://www.stockholmresilience.org/research/research-news/2015-01-15-planetary-boundaries—an-update.html
Contrary to the fake news expectorated by the mainstream media, the real world economy has stagnated and indeed contracted over the past decade, generally as a result of the Limits to Growth but specifically as a result of resource constraints, principally Peak Oil. Whereas impending precipitous curtailment of “high net energy” petroleum ensures that global industrial collapse will be complete within 20, or even 10 years, it is probable that financial and economic collapse will occur much sooner because of the massive fraud pervading the entire financial framework. “Price discovery” brings about the “Minsky moment”. Economy paralysis can cause abrupt curtailment of centrally provided services every bit as devastating as resource depletion can.
This message of a dire future, despite being supported by irrefutable evidence and logic (and mathematical modelling), tends to be universally rejected by "normal" people in conventional society. Some like to believe that space travel to Mars can save us. Or the "Singularity" can save us. Or the "Rapture" will save us. Some even deny that there are any problems whatsoever. If such insanity is considered "normal" then I am thankful to be abnormal.
I explored every avenue available to alert the public to these issues starting with two talks on ABC Radio National, broadcast in 2005, regarding the need to develop an emissions neutral liquid hydrocarbon fuel to replace petroleum. I subsequently made representations to politicians and had personal meetings with State MPs who later became the State Ministers for Transport and the Environment. I also wrote letters of petition to those Ministers. I corresponded with my local Federal MP, Kevin Rudd (who later became Prime Minister) about Peak Oil concerns. I conducted mass mailouts of data discs containing copious information (audio, video and text) about Peak Oil to approximately 800 GPs around Brisbane at my own expense. I organised monthly free meetings for doctors, scientists and the general public on environmental and social topics from 2006 to 2013 which merely ended up as talk fests among the converted. I had a meeting with the medical staff of the Public Health Department of the Royal Brisbane hospital (with the support of Dr Jane O'Sullivan, agricultural scientist and Dr Michael Harrison, physician and chemical pathologist) to present these issues, which ended up a complete waste of time. I organised education sessions on Cardiology for medical students, on the understanding that they also had to learn about sustainability issues during the second half of each meeting. They lost interest after three sessions.
Over the years our planetary problems have only worsened. It is estimated that 50% of all animals in the wilderness have perished over the past 40 years, a sure indicator that our ecosystems are collapsing, that the 6th great global mass extinction is well under way. If anything, public denial of reality has become more entrenched, thanks to propaganda from the mainstream media, the primary source of "fake news" in this world. Crass buffoonery, racism and a strident sense of entitlement have intensified among the general population of many rich countries, as evidenced by the rise of the "One Nation" party in Australia, many right wing factions in Europe and the election of Drumpf in the USA.
The only conclusion possible now is that the general population cannot be saved from their own stupidity. It is impossible to prevent mass human die-off. It is pointless expending any more time and energy trying to "save society". As per capita resources diminish and people experience more hardship and deprivation, the inevitable consequence is escalation of domestic and international conflicts around the world. This is happening right now. Sapient people who grasp these concepts must also realise they can do nothing about this. The best they can do at this late stage is to get themselves, their family and their friends out of harms way (provided family and friends are willing to listen, which is often not the case).
Complacency will guarantee the die-off of those people who place all their faith in centrally controlled services (water, food, waste disposal, energy), which are certain to eventually collapse. Exactly when the lights will go out in each particular location is unknowable. Most likely they will flicker on and off for a while before going dark for good.
After years of futile effort, I finally concluded in 2012 that the establishment of numerous off-grid permaculture homesteads in climate resilient locations is the only feasible strategy which may offer a reasonable quality of life to a tiny proportion of people when the crunch comes. The sapient must seize control of their own future and must not foolishly look to governments or corporations for solutions. Those self serving edifices are the source of our problems. The non-sapient population will simply have to be written off and are not worth mourning. Certainly not the people in the rich countries who created this mess in the first place, yet deny its existence. And yes, I too am an egregious contributor to this mess, having been born into a high consumption capitalist society and being a major beneficiary of this monumental fossil fuel mediated clusterfuck. So I don't deserve to be mourned either. Those we should mourn are the poor of the world, especially in India, Africa and Latin America who bear tiny individual environmental footprints. They are the least culpable people but will suffer the most.
G. Chia Jan 2017
PS: footnotes to the red reference numbers will appear as part 3 of this essay triptych
Note from RE: By request from GC, comments will be suspended on this series until chapter 3 is published.
Published on The Doomstead Diner on November 27, 2016
Discuss this article at the Energy Table inside the Diner
I gave a mini presentation at a Griffith University “sustainable economy” seminar on 29 November 2016 https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B21KVqpkTSnrQ2haWFAwaU5MRjQ/view As the themes were slanted towards “business opportunities”, I chose this title for my talk: “Tiny House Communities: grassroots solutions for those with sufficient initiative to exit a collapsing industrial civilisation”. In my pre-conference paper/abstract submission to the GCSE, I made it clear I was going to talk about much more than just tiny houses. Ultimately I spent only 5 minutes talking about tiny house communities and 15 minutes talking about our collapsing industrial civilisation. I focused especially on the sudden global energy descent we will soon be facing and tried to explain the key concepts with my “post peak oil” slides http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/blog/2016/11/12/post-peak-oil-slides-for-diners/
I received the usual denialism response I have come to expect from one individual in particular, a person who in a previous session advocated that if only we use objective science to persuade the public, we can transform society and create a great future. That person also said we should not convey negative messages to the public because that would alienate them. I had neither the time nor inclination to engage with that person. I did not bother to point out the obvious contradiction in his position: that objective science unequivocally shows our future to be dire, which by necessity will convey a “negative” message to the public.
At a subsequent main session, Professor Susanne Becken, a highly acclaimed professor of “sustainable tourism”, spoke about Peak Oil and Aviation and projected this slide from the International Energy Agency on the screen:
To her credit she couched those IEA future oil projections in cautionary terms and advised the audience NOT to invest in the aviation industry.
As an audience member at the Q&A session, I made this comment and posed this question to her (I paraphrase here. The event was recorded and my exact words may be audible if Griffith eventually post the session as a webcast):
“I was amused to see the IEA slide you displayed, which included “oil yet to be found” and “oil yet to be developed” in the projection of future oil available, which made the future total oil curve look flat or even rising. Such wild speculation brings to mind the thought that if pigs had wings, pigs could fly and flying pigs will solve all our aviation problems. IEA are well known for always overestimating future oil availability, then having to revise those figures downward when reality proves them wrong. In terms of deceit they are second only to Daniel Yergin's CERA, a stooge of the fossil fuel industry. I am sure you know who I am talking about. I am sure you are familiar with David Murphy's Net Hubbert curve which takes into account energy returned over energy invested. I am sure you are familiar with Jeffrey Brown's export land model, which looks at future oil availability for oil importing countries. If you superimpose the ELM on the Net Hubbert curve, which you must do if you believe in basic physics and mathematics, you will realise that Australia will have no more conventional oil available to import within ten years. Do you not think such a graph is more accurate and appropriate to use?”
To her credit, the professor did not take offence at my “flying pigs” comment and acknowledged the validity of my points. She really had no choice, otherwise she would be denying basic physics and mathematics, which would make her look foolish. She accepted that proper assessment of actual oil availability should subtract the amount of oil needed to produce that oil. To her credit she stated that unconventional oils such as tar sands have such poor EROEI that in reality they are not worth pursuing. However with regard to the short term prospects for her particular fields of interest (aviation and tourism), she was sanguine. She expressed a “Realpolitik” view that when there are competing interests for diminishing oil supplies in the future, such as whether to allocate oil to produce food for the poor or to fuel the aviation industry, the business interests of aviation will win out and the poor will starve. She made a valid, if cynical point there. That view is not dissimilar to my own view about how the “five fingers” of net energy will be allocated in the future when we tumble even further down the net Hubbert cliff: Military activities will be given priority over everything else, thus promoting human die-off. Gotta love the human race.
My ongoing concern is that such “peak oil experts” continue to use fraudulent fantasy graphs based on cornucopian speculative projections in their presentations, which to a less critical audience will otherwise be accepted and go unchallenged. Here is one solution to this conundrum: make the audience less critical by getting rid of troublemakers.
Needless to say I do not expect to be invited back by that particular department of Griffith University in the future. And so it goes.
G. Chia Dec. 2016
Published on the Doomstead Diner on November 12, 2016
Discuss this article at the Energy Table inside the Diner
by Geoffrey Chia, November 2016
These slides (four figures followed by four graphs) are for any Diner readers who wish to explain the looming decline in global petroleum supply to their family, friends or community. This impending sudden energy curtailment will guarantee that the collapse of global industrial civilisation will be complete within 15 years (which is an exceedingly conservative estimate – Dr Louis Arnoux believes a 10 year timeline is more likely and I fear he is probably right). This does NOT mean we have a 10 or 15 year window to prepare for an offgrid fossil fuel free lifestyle, it means global industrial collapse will be complete by then.
Those fortunate enough to be able to prepare, have at best a 2 to 3 year window of opportunity, however it is possible that if global financial collapse occurs sooner, then our ability to act will be lost sooner.
The slides can be explained to your audience using background information from my previous Diner articles:
The appendices explaining EROEI from my articles "How the world works" parts i and ii
"Peak oil revisited part 1a"
"Open letter to TZM" which I wrote in lieu of my "Peak oil revisited part 2" article.
SOME BASIC FACTS:
"Easy" oil (high net energy conventional petroleum on the upslope of the Hubbert curve) is the keystone commodity which enables industry and large scale agriculture (and the debt based economy) to function. Even the supply chains and infrastructures for coal, natural gas and nuclear energies require petroleum. Even the construction and maintenance of "renewable energy" infrastructure requires petroleum.
"Difficult" oil (unconventional oil or conventional petroleum well past the Hubbert peak) is no substitute for easy oil. Unconventional oil is in fact a fools' errand and a financial scam. We will continue to extract post peak conventional oil until the net return falls off a cliff.*
Oil price is an inaccurate and misleading index with which to judge oil availability. Price in itself is meaningless. What is important to the consumer is affordability.
Gross production of crude oil (or other liquid hydrocarbons eg light tight oil) at the wellhead is meaningless. It is the NET availablity of refined petroleum products delivered to our point of consumption which is valuable to us, which enables us to do useful things. This is best analysed by EROEI methods** This idea is exactly analogous to the fact that your gross salary is meaningless and it is only your net income after business expenses and taxes which allows you to do useful things.
Oil importing nations need to consider the rising domestic consumption of oil exporting nations (most exporters have increasing populations) when estimating the oil available in the coming years. This concept is the ELM which is simple primary school subtraction arithmetic. The ELM concept is also important to oil exporting nations because once their rising consumption curve intersects with their falling production curve, their oil export income will vanish to zero which will trigger economic collapse if they lack a diverse economy.
The only realistic way to judge future net oil availability is therefore to superimpose the ELM curve on the post peak NET Hubbert curve
One of the biggest impediments to public understanding of these urgent issues (apart from people equating low oil prices with petroleum abundance) is faulty linear or symmetrical thinking. It may take 10 minutes to build a Jenga tower, however once it reaches its maximum height, it will NOT gradually decline over another 10 minutes. It will suddenly collapse in a split second. Similarly the graph showing that Net oil availability falls of a cliff once EROI goes below 5:1 explains why societies will suddenly shift from a seemingly "normal" lifestyle, to severe privation in the blink of an eye.
*The only possible carbon neutral substitutes for petroleum are either: biofuels from algae (which must NOT encroach on food producing areas) OR artificial photosynthesis, both of which I discussed in various articles dating back to 1999 (first in the Australian Skeptic journal). As things now stand, the former cannot be scaled up and the latter remains a pipe dream. Hoping for a breakthrough in either in the next couple of years is like depending on a lottery win to pay off your mortgage, the false hope of a fool. Furthermore, energy decline is but one of many threats which will cause civilisation to collapse, the others being depletion of other resources, climate catastrophe and ecosystem destruction, all driven by the massive consumer and waste footprint of 7.5 billion homo stupidus. The key measures to survive must therefore be simplification of individual lifestyles by reduction of consumption and waste production (ideally combined with "closing the loop" eg using humanure for local crop production). Population reduction will take care of itself in the form of massive human die-off ,which may occur over decades (famines, regional wars, epidemics especially among war and climate refugees and the spread of tropical vectors) or may occur overnight (global thermonuclear war).
**EROI analytical methods continue to be refined by those working in the field. At this time, even basic definitions are unclear, for example, what exactly are "Energy Returned" and "Energy Invested"?
Consider a post peak "nodding donkey" oil rig which requires saline to be actively injected into the oil well to enable a saline/crude oil mix to be extracted. Saline injection is performed by a diesel pump, hence that diesel is the "Energy Invested". That diesel is a refined petroleum product which has been delivered to its final point of consumption.
In order to compare apples with apples, we should therefore define the Energy Returned NOT in the form of crude oil, but in the form of refined petroleum products which have been delivered their final points of consumption. I would argue that "Energy returned" is NOT the calorific value of the crude oil produced at the wellhead. Crude oil in itself is NOT a useful energy source, it is nothing more than a toxic pollutant. Energy Returned must be the calorific value of the refined petroleum products derived from the crude oil and delivered to their final points of consumption. Energy Returned must subtract the sum of energies required to transport the crude oil to the refinery, to refine that crude into usable petroleum products and to transport those refined products to their final destinations.
Please not that this Energy Returned is NOT the same as Net Energy available.
Net Energy available is Energy Returned from the previous cycle of energy production MINUS the Energy Investment required for the next cycle of energy production.
EROEI is Energy Returned DIVIDED by Energy Invested.
Previous overestimations of EROEI were because ER was defined as the calorific value of crude oil produced at the wellhead which in my view is inappropriate and does not reflect the real world.
Clearly using solar or wind energy to power a "nodding donkey" pump will increase the net energy gain from a depleting well, which may be a final act of desperation for many producers.
G. Chia Nov.2016
Published on the Doomstead Diner on October 13, 2016
Discuss this article at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner
Geoffrey Chia, October 2016
Some errors I made in previous essays:
"SYRIA VIEWED THROUGH MULTIPLE LENSES"
I wrote that Netanyahu advocated bombing the crap out of Syria in his address to the US congress in 2015*, which was incorrect.
It was actually in his address to the UN in 2015, in which Netanyahu claimed Syria was a proxy of Iran, which he said was an existential threat to Israel, and declared that "no one should question Israel's determination to defend itself against those who seek its destruction". In such newspeak, defence=offence, as is also evidenced by America's term for their offensive military establishment, the so-called "Department of Defense".
Israel had in fact previously bombed Syria eg. on 3 May 2013 when they bombed a Syrian convoy and on 5 May 2013 when they bombed a scientific research facility near Damascus. Israel ludicrously claimed they were neutralising threats against themselves from Syria. However it made no sense whatsoever that Assad would plan to attack Israel for no reason, while simultaneously fighting for his very survival within his own borders. Israel was in fact neutralising Assad's ability to defend himself against the "Syrian rebels" (who actually consisted of many foreign mercenaries employed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar), which would help with America's agenda of "regime change" in Syria.
Subsequently the US decided they would bomb the crap out of Syria while pretending to fight ISIS. Last month they killed at least sixty-two Syrian government troops (and wounded at least 100) when US jets bombed a Syrian government base on Al-Tharda mountain near Deir ez-Zor, which the US later claimed was a "mistake". Interestingly, last October in Kunduz, Afganistan, the USA bombed an MSF hospital killing many patients and medical personnel, which they also claimed was a "mistake". When Russia bombs the wrong targets, it is a war crime. When USA bombs the wrong targets it is OK so long as it is an "honest mistake", just like the "honest mistake" they made when invading Iraq. The difference between Russian and US bombing is that the Russians have actually been able to liberate Palmyra and are on the verge of liberating Aleppo city, whereas US bombing has just killed and maimed a lot of people, achieving nothing except chaos (which, just coincidentally, serves Israel's interests).
*Netanyahu's rant to Congress in 2015, at the invitation of the insane Republicans (who egged him on with standing ovations and cheers after each utterance) was an attempt to derail Obama's negotiations with Iran by demonising Iran and exaggerating its nuclear weapons capability (which was and is in fact zero). No mention by Netanyahu however that Israel has in fact possessed nuclear weapons for many years now. Funny thing that.
"A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO HOW THE WORLD REALLY WORKS: PART 1: IMPERIALISM, THE GREAT GAME AND PETROPOLITICS"
I wrote: From 1932 onwards, numerous massive oil fields were discovered on the Arabian peninsula. Ghawar, the largest of them all, was discovered in Saudi Arabia in 1948.
That should read "From 1938 onwards…"
"A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO HOW THE WORLD REALLY WORKS: PART 2: CAPITALISM, THE PETRODOLLAR AND FINANCIAL BUBBLES"
I wrote: It is possible the 16 trillion dollars or so of insolvent US debt, if called in by creditors, may cause the core to implode sooner rather than later.
Around the time of writing of that essay, US debt was around 18 trillion dollars and is at present just shy of 20 trillion dollars.
"HOW TO CURE TERRORISM"
I wrote: Before 2013, Iraq was blameless with regard to Blowback terrorism. Nevertheless the Halliburton terrorists used 9/11 to motivate their braindead American followers to invade Iraq, even though Iraq had nothing to do with Al Qaeda.
That should read, "Before 2003, Iraq was blameless with regard to Blowback terrorism." After 2003 of course, the collapsed state of Iraq became the centre of terrorism, mostly inflicted within Iraq itself, however Iraq also became the fertile ground for the creation of ISIS, all thanks to the USA, the greatest creator of terror in the world.
Published on the Doomstead Diner on October 8, 2016
Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner
Many commentators have sought explanations and solutions for the Syrian debacle. Only by accurately identifying the underlying cause(s) of a situation can we begin to craft workable solutions, if any solutions are possible at all.
To me, this is akin to making an accurate diagnosis when faced with a complex pathological condition, then trying to shape a management plan to achieve a cure (or at least to aim for symptomatic relief and palliation, if the situation is irredeemable). As I have stated before in my essay "How to cure Terrorism" 1 it is essential to identify not only the underlying cause(s) of a situation and any predisposing factors, but should also (in the case of sudden collapse), identify any proximate triggers.
How do we know a diagnosis is accurate? Because the correct paradigm bears all the hallmarks of Truth, viz:
It is supported by the best evidence
It is coherent (internally and externally consistent), with plausible underlying mechanisms operating within its framework
It offers the best explanation for the situation
It may have useful predictive value for future outcome(s) ie it can offer a prognosis
The elimination/resolution of properly identified underlying cause(s), predisposing factors(s) and proximate trigger(s) will offer the best prospect of a cure.
Again, I have used these principles in past essays when outlining the epidemiological truth that smoking causes lung cancer (even though it is impossible to demonstrate a one-to-one cause and effect relationship in any individual lung cancer case). I also used these principles to prove that the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 had nothing to do with WMDs or the pursuit of "freedom" or "democracy" nor was it about deposing a tyrant "for the sake of the Iraqi people". The truth was that the invasion of Iraq was about OIL: specifically about the US pursuit of oil related economic, political and military global power. The ideology of US neoconartist global dominance mediated by the control over the flow of oil and the enforced continuity of the petrodollar scheme.
I cannot delve into the Syrian situation in detail here, which would require a lengthy Phd type thesis. Instead I will simply outline various useful lenses through which the Syrian situation may be viewed. Lenses are meant to help us see better. They may help us see clearly various portions of a jigsaw puzzle which make up our "big picture" of Truth. However some lenses may be fabricated for political purposes and cause complete distortion. They are contrived propaganda, crafted to serve the agenda of the angloeurozionist "GIMME" (Government, Industrial, Military, Media & Economic) establishment. Intellectual Kool Aid to keep the masses brain dead (to mix several metaphors).
Let us first cast aside a couple of blatantly bogus paradigms:
The Syrian situation is a revolution against tyranny by the common Syrians who are clamouring for democracy and freedom, which was what the "Arab Spring" was all about.
This utterly bullshit paradigm was best demolished by Tom Lewis with his inimitable wry manner in a podcast I have referenced in the past. 2
The Syrian situation is a religious civil war, mainly a domestic Sunni versus Alawite/Shi'ite conflict. As I mentioned in a previous essay, Bashar Al-Assad, nominally an Alawite, was a member of the Baathist secular party and he himself married a Sunni lady. There are NO clearcut religious lines here. Nor is it a particularly domestic dispute. The so-called Syrian Sunni rebel groups include among their numbers many foreign intruders. ISIS is a foreign invasion force. The most effective fighters against ISIS are the Kurds and most of those in Syria are indeed Syrian. Kurds are nominally Sunni and may be genuinely religious, but their outlook is fairly progressive and they take pride in their courageous female soldiers who do not wear headscarves. ISIS claim to be pious Sunni Muslims, which is a complete lie. ISIS are fake Muslims, they are primarily terrorists, rapists and gangsters who hide behind the bogus banner of a religion to legitimise their anti-human activities in pursuit of their unrestrained lust for power. This is identical to how the US corporate owned politicians hide behind the bogus banner of "freedom" or "democracy" to legitimise their anti-human agenda of global ecocide, in pursuit of their unrestrained lust for power. ISIS was in fact the creation of the US GIMME establishment. The "religious civil war in Syria" paradigm ignores the numerous external operators who are major players. The so-called "moderate" Sunni rebels in Syria are deeply intertwined with many Salafist extremists including the notorious Jabhat Al Nusra (who are Al Qaeda in Syria). US State Department spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau admitted this fact at a press conference on 3 October, which was held to announce the breakdown of discussions between Russia and the US over Syria. Trudeau said the US had been unable to "demarble" (her word) the "moderate" Sunni rebels from entities such as Al Nusra, who she admits are Al Qaeda terrorists. Hence by their own admission, ongoing US support for these rebels represents support for terrorist criminals. I have provided other references for these facts in previous essays.
Evidence-based "lenses" with good explanatory power, which confer better understanding of the Syrian situation:
The events leading up to the collapse of Syria were manifestations of the Limits to Growth. In a previous essay I outlined the problem of declining Syrian petroleum production which intersected with their increased domestic oil consumption (Peak Oil combined with the ELM) which resulted in zero oil income and hence contributed to their economic demise. 3 A smaller Syrian population of the past could have been sustained by fewer resources, but the large population of 23 million by 2011 faced severe per capita shortfalls of everything. The worst drought in living memory from 2006 to 2010, which was aggravated by climate change, led to agricultural collapse, the mass migration of impoverished farmers to the cities, food shortages, conflicts and the breakdown of society.
The LtG re-ignited old tribal and sectarian conflicts which were greatly magnified by the post colonial legacy of egregious gerrymandering (Sykes-Picot "treaty") 3. Each sect is largely motivated by their own self interest, irrespective of whatever religious banner they may claim live under, whether they be the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood (who have a long history of striving to gain power in Syria), the Kurds (who are struggling for an independent homeland), the Alawites (who initially hoped to maintain control over Syria but are now engaged in an existential struggle for survival) and so forth.
Syria is a proxy war in the new Great Game. The US has more than 800 overseas military bases 4 around the world. In contrast, Syria is the last remaining foreign outpost of Russian military influence in the world, with the port of Tartus and the airfield at Latakia hosting Russian warships and planes. Since the end of the Cold War, the unbridled US hegemonic agenda of complete global dominance has been characterised by their mindless and destructive policy of foreign regime change to install puppet leaders under US control. This agenda was exemplified by the US / NATO covert regime change imposed on Ukraine with resultant civil war and the ongoing encirclement of Russia by US nuclear missles. Ukraine, formerly the bread basket of Europe, has now become the basket case of Europe. Let is not even delve into Iraq or Libya. In the case of Syria, the US have been trying to get rid of Russian ally Bashar Al-Assad and replace him with a US puppet. Why did Russia begin their foray into Syria by dramatically launching low flying, contour hugging "under the radar" cruise missiles from ships far, far away in the Caspian sea? Why not just use their bombers based in Latakia? ISIS may have copped the cruise missiles, but the Russians were primarily sending a message to Uncle Sam: your super expensive high tech US aircraft carrier fleets are now completely obsolete. Russia these days is able to deploy unstoppable massive conventional force from a distance which the US cannot possibly counter (the same capability is certainly true for China, who spend far more on their military than Russia). The USA is now railroading the entire world into a possible Hot War which can easily turn into a global thermonuclear war, for no reason other than their crazed hunger for power.
Apart from Russia and the US, there are other "lesser puppet masters" who have their own reasons for meddling in Syria. In the "Russian" camp there are Iran, Shi'ites from Iraq and Hezbollah. In the "US" camp there are Saudi Arabia and Qatar (and to a lesser extent other Gulf players such as Kuwait), who have also employed foreign mercenaries such as Chechens.
The schizophrenic involvement of a particular proxy player, Turkey: Turkey, as a NATO member, nominally claims to be on the US side and against ISIS. However under the wily maneuvering of the duplicitous Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the reality is much more complex. What Erdogan says and does are often contradictory and discordant. One fact is crystal clear however: Erdogan's actions are always in the service of his own self interest and in that sense he cannot be regarded as a true US puppet. Recent events in Turkey have been thoroughly fascinating and warrant detailed analysis far beyond the scope of this short essay. Some examples:
Erdogan had been buying cheap oil illegally from ISIS, oil which had been stolen from Iraq. This oil entered Turkey via road trains through the (intentionally) porous Turkish-Syrian border. Erdogan was therefore in fact financing ISIS, his nominal enemy. This fact was patently obvious to the USA from satellite images, which America chose to ignore, which adds credence to the view that the US actually supports ISIS while pretending to oppose it. This illegal oil trade was abruptly terminated by Russian bombing, in response to which Erdogan petulantly shot down a Russian plane, a reckless act of despicable bastardry which could have triggered wider scale war if not for Russian restraint.
Last year, Turkish media exposed the fact that the Erdogan government had been illegally supplying weapons to extremist insurgents across the (intentionally) porous Turkish-Syrian border. Such a domestic media expose will not happen again, not because Erdogan has changed his ways, but because he has now muzzled the Turkish media.
Erdogan regards his primary enemy as the Kurds because the Turkish Kurds threaten to secede from his neo-Ottoman aspirational empire to form an independent Kurdistan in conjuction with the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds. Therefore he does not hesitate to use a secondary enemy, ISIS, as a tool against his primary enemy. This explains his partial support for ISIS, even as he fights against ISIS at other times and in other places that suit him. Note that the Turks, Kurds and ISIS are all supposedly Sunni, hence none of this has anything to do with religion.
We do not know for sure who masterminded the recent "failed coup" in Turkey, but we do know who has benefited the most from it. Erdogan has since been able to cast aside any pretence of due process and has summarily purged more than a hundred thousand potential dissidents and opponents from all positions of influence in Turkey. He has thoroughly entrenched his power and is essentially now a totalitarian dictator. He embarrassed the US with the accusation that America was harbouring and supporting the purported coup organiser Fetullah Gulen. It is true that America will stand to gain by installing a more US compliant puppet leader in Turkey, hence this accusation is not one which can be easily dismissed by US propaganda, given America's well known repetitive policy of foreign regime change.
Being irate (or pretending to be irate) with the US, Erdogan then decided to kiss and make up with Putin, who then allowed the resumption of Russian tourism into Turkey, an extremely valuable source of income for Ankara. That, as well as the future possibility of a Russian gas pipeline through Turkey to Europe, another money spinner.
It is true that Turkey has taken on more than its fair share of Iraqi and Syrian refugees, now harbouring more than three million 5. On the other hand, Erdogan has cynically used the Syrian refugees as human bargaining chips to get what he wants from the EU. He has shown he is willing and able to open and close the floodgates of refugees from Turkey into Europe and thereby has been able to extort money from the EU and prise out freedom of movement privileges for Turks into the EU.
By offering Turkish citizenship to more than 2 million Syrian Sunni Muslims, Erdogan will be able to increase his support and power base in Turkey, as he is aligned with the Sunni fundamentalists. Erdogan opposes and is opposed by secular Turks (especially those in the military who had traditionally been faithful to the secular principles of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk).
The Machiavellian Erdogan has repeatedly demonstrated a nimble ability to have his cake and eat it (that is, until such future time when an jackal can find a way to penetrate his security detail and assassinate him). Any serious coup organiser worth their salt would have commenced their operation by assassinating the incumbent. The fact that Erdogan escaped such a fate indicates that either the coup planners were utterly incompetent or that it may indeed have been a false flag event engineered by Erdogan himself.
Syria is a proxy war over natural gas pipelines: In order to understand the geopolitical considerations about this proxy pipeline war, it is essential to understand the physical properties of natural gas, which render it a far inferior source of energy (and source of money) compared with petroleum. Nevertheless if sold in vast quantities to a vast market, the money to be made can be mind boggling. Key considerations:
If a natural gas field straddles a political border and is "shared" by two parties, the party which extracts the gas first and fastest will be able to harvest most, if not all the wealth from that field, because the gas will rapidly move through the field towards the extraction point. Contrast that characteristic with viscous crude oil, which can only sluggishly migrate at a maximum rate of 6% per year through porous rock.
Early gas extraction is of no value unless you have an immediate market to offload the gas. Natural gas is just too energy sparse to economically store above ground in significant quantities for any length of time.
The optimal market for the gas is one close to the gas field. The further away the market, the more expensive it is to transport the gas and hence the lower the profit margin. Even if the market is thousands of kilometers away however, profit margins can still be good, so long as the gas can be transported by pipeline in gaseous form. Export to far distant locations (eg another continent) is only feasible by liquefaction to render it far more energy dense. Making energy dense liquid natural gas requires refrigeration down to about minus 163 degrees Celsius, cryogenic storage and transportation in highly insulated, massive, purpose built LNG tankers which require continuous refrigeration. Refrigeration energy requirements are particularly high when the tankers sail through the tropics. Any power failure will be catastrophic. The LNG trade requires special facilities at the importing port which can accept and process this tricky commodity. All those factors amount to huge energy expenditure, huge capex, custom construction of port facilities and tankers and also requires a cashed up customer with advanced infrastructure. If the market price for natural gas falls, the whole system collapses financially, hence LNG schemes can be likened to unconventional oil scams. LNG export in lifecycle analysis has very poor EROEI compared with piped gas export.
The above considerations form the foundation for an understanding of the Syrian pipeline proxy war. The South Pars / North Dome gas field is the largest conventional natural gas field in the world. It is mostly located under the seabed of the Persian Gulf and straddles the borders of Iran to the NorthEast and Qatar to the SouthWest who are bitter enemies. Even though it has been in production for more than a decade, the party who accelerates their extraction will effectively steal most of that remaining resource away from the other party. However that gas cannot be quickly harvested without first ensuring there is a big market for it. A big market cannot be assured unless there are pipelines in place to supply that market. Qatar does export LNG (mainly to East Asia), but this is subject to the substantial constraints outlined above, with limited profit margins. The most prized gas market from the view of both Qatar and Iran, is Western Europe. The party that can establish a pipeline to Europe first will win that prize. The critical territory the pipeline must cross, determined by geography, is Syria. In 2009 Qatar, a Sunni client state of the US, approached Bashar Al Assad proposing such a pipeline through Aleppo province. Not surprisingly, Assad knocked back Qatar's proposal because it ran counter to his political alliances. A Qatari pipeline would undermine the price of Russian gas exported to Western Europe and would scuttle Iran's chance of benefiting from South Pars. When Iran subsequently approached Assad about such a pipeline, economic circumstances in Syria had by then greatly deteriorated. This new pipeline proposal from Iran, a Shi'ite state and ally of both Syria and Russia, came with the promise they would turn Syria into an energy processing, money making hub. Assad was therefore ready to proceed with Iran's deal. Shortly thereafter, the "civil war" in Syria broke out, instigated by so-called "Syrian" rebel groups which actually consisted of many foreign mercenaries funded largely by Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
At the time of writing of this essay in early October, Aleppo city is on the verge of being recaptured from ISIS by Syrian government forces with the help of Russia. That did not stop Turkey from moving troops into Aleppo province last month under operation "Euphrates shield", Turkey's proposal being to create and occupy a "neutral" buffer zone. Of course, it is nonsensical to regard such a zone in Northern Syria as neutral: if defacto occupied by Turkey, it is defacto neo-Ottoman empire annexed territory. Perhaps we should rename Erdogan's country "Vulture" rather than "Turkey", or perhaps Turkey Vulture. Of course such an occupation will also mean that Turkey Vulture may benefit financially in future by renting a gas pipeline corridor in Aleppo province to the highest bidder. No mention about that lucrative prospect from Turkey Vulture though, whose motives, so we are told, are purely altruistic, as is true for all Vultures.
Enter another player, Israel, into this sorry saga of greed. In December 2010 a gas field off the Levantine coast was discovered so massive that Israel called it "Leviathan". Whereas there is little risk of another country tapping into that field, there is a risk that either Qatari or Iranian gas piped through Syria to Europe will seriously undermine the price of gas exported to Western Europe. And what will be the natural market for gas from the Leviathan field? Why Western Europe of course. It is obvious that Israel will stand to benefit from ongoing chaos in Syria, chaos which will ensure that both Qatar and Iran cannot establish a pipeline to Europe, thus allowing Israel to develop its own Leviathan field for export to Europe at a premium price (expected start of production is 2017). America's failed agenda of "regime change" in Syria has resulted in nothing but chaos, however Israel is more than happy to support and maintain that chaos. Let us recall Netanyahu's squealing insistence that the US should bomb the crap out of Syria during his rabid rant to an insane Republican audience at the US congress in March last year. Who gives a shit about 23 million Syrian lives anyway if there is gas money to be made.
The gas story does not quite end there however. Get ready for an anticlimax. Only last year, an even larger offshore gas field, much bigger than Leviathan, possibly even larger than South Pars, was discovered off the coast of Egypt, the Zohr field 6. Due to Egypt's greater experience with the fossil fuel and gas industries, they have good prospects of fast tracking the gas production which will offer stiff competition with Israel's fledgling gas industry and severely blunt Israel's expected economic windfall. Oy vey, enough already!
Any astronomer will tell you that to properly study the true nature of a star, it is necessary to examine it using all the different electromagnetic spectra available to us, whether radiowave, microwave, infrared, visible light, UV, Xrays or gamma rays. That is the best way for us to build up a comprehensive and accurate overall picture of that star. Furthermore it is necessary to eliminate or compensate for other factors which may distort or falsify our interpretation, such as atmospheric interference or doppler shifts or gravity distortions by dense bodies (eg black holes) which may bend the incoming electromagnetic beams.
Similarly in order to properly understand Syria, we must view the situation through all evidenced based lenses available to us, while simultaneously discarding bent and bogus paradigms fabricated by the Murdoch/mainstream media and their fee-for-opinion prostitute talking heads, even though they may hold "impeccable" ivy league "qualifications".
US and Australian rightwing nuts will undoubtedly accuse me of being a greenie commie freedom hating eco-terrorist. Anyone who has read my articles will know I strongly support open, liberal democratic processes which must be guided by evidence, reason and fairness with particular emphasis on transparency and accountability. I strongly support responsible free speech based on facts and reason. I strongly oppose irresponsible deceitful speech based on blatant lies such as Holocaust denial or global warming denial. Opposing and suppressing such deceitful Neonazi or Orwellian speech does NOT contradict the principle of free speech, it removes noise and promotes the process of constructive dialogue and the transmission of useful information. I strongly support the original stated ideals of America; the ideals of Abraham Lincoln, of Franklin Roosevelt and of Martin Luther King. I view Americans (or Australians or any other nationality) with similar values as my natural allies, my friends. The America of Lincoln, FDR and MLK that I admired, with all the promise it held, no longer exists. It has been replaced by a perverse mockery of what might have been. The beacon on the hill has been extinguished, not from without, but from within.
The voices of ordinary Syrian people have been drowned out in all these proceedings. We can only imagine what they must want, be they Sunni, Alawite, Christian, Druze, Yazidi or any other group. Is it so difficult to imagine that they simply want peace, security, shelter, food, clean water, education for their children, health care? That they simply want what we, in more stable societies take for granted? Simple human requirements that the so-called "leaders of the free world", through their despicable foreign policy, have deprived them of? The best thing the USA can do, to allow any prospect of any beneficial outcome for the Syrian people, is for the USA and its client states to fuck off.
G. Chia, October 2016
Published on the Doomstead Diner on August 25, 2016
Discuss this article at the Energy Table inside the Diner
This open letter to The Zeitgeist Movement replaces an essay I originally promised to Diners, "Peak Oil Revisited Part 2: Why business as usual guarantees that global industrial collapse will be complete by 2030". I have not had the time to elucidate all aspects of my argument in detail and Dr Louis Arnoux is probably doing a better job with his articles on this topic anyway. He is a true energy expert, I am merely a lay person trying to interpret the thoughts of the experts for the general public.
The other "Peak Oil Revisited" essay I promised, "Part 1b: Is an International Standardised Energy Dollar feasible?" has proved to be much more complicated than originally envisioned and is the lowest of my priorities at the moment. Even if an ISED is feasible it is unlikely to ever see the light of day for political reasons.
Graph 1 Graph 2 Graph 3
OPEN LETTER TO TZM:
by G. Chia, August 2016
Dear L and C (Queensland TZM organisers),
As you know I ran sustainability meetings for doctors and scientists from 2006 to 2013. I note your Zeitgeist group is holding a meeting on sustainability on 10 September 2016. As a starting point for your discussion you may wish to display on your projection screen the letter I wrote earlier this year to "Doctors for the Environment Australia" (see attached pdf). When I subsequently met with the Queensland DEA representative, Dr David King, he could not offer any factual or logical objections against my letter. His only comments were that although my views were consistent with those of many scientists, he felt he had to give DEA members "hope". DEA are operating on the false hope they can fix rampant global warming which has now spiralled out of control. They have completely ignored more immediate energy and economic issues.
Energy analyst Dr Louis Arnoux has informed me that world average1 EROI (energy return over invested, or to use the proper mathematical description for this ratio, energy return divided by energy invested) for petroleum fell below 10:1 a few years ago. Dr David Murphy's figure for world average EROI of 17:1 for 2013 was an overestimate because Murphy himself wrote in his paper (published by the Royal Society) that his figure did not account for the energy costs of fuel refinement and transportation2.
According to other EROI luminaries, Drs Hall and Lambert3, a ratio of 10:1 is the minimum required for a complex industrial economy to function properly.
Some parts of the industrial world can continue to function at present because they have captured4 the few remaining high EROI (>10:1) sources for themselves. Others areas eg Southern Europe are losing or have lost access to such high net energy sources ("Hi-NES")5, hence they are now deindustrialising and collapsing. The rest of the world will never industrialise. We have no significant liquid hydrocarbon replacements for conventional petroleum. Unconventional petroleum, with its woeful EROI of 3:1 or less, is an environmentally devastating scam and a stock market Ponzi scheme.
Decline in Hi-NES is the primary reason for the current global economic contraction6, a fact that conventional economists are too venal or too stupid to acknowledge. The present low price of oil is deeply misleading and is hiding the fact that oil has become less affordable/available for most people around the world due to demand destruction and deflation, temporarily freeing up more oil for "lucky" countries such as Australia.
Dr Jeffrey Brown's export land model (ELM) shows that oil availability for oil importing countries will eventually fall off a cliff (see graph 1 from postpeakliving.com in which I have corrected a caption: the red line shows GROSS world oil production, which does NOT take into account the energy invested in that oil production. Hence the yellow circle is an overestimate of when zero oil will be available to oil importing countries). A more accurate curve on which to superimpose the ELM should be downslope of the Net Hubbert curve as shown in graph 2. Prior to me doing this, I do not believe anyone else has combined ELM and EROI concepts and it is high time someone did so.
A most vital concept to understanding why global industral societies will soon suddenly and catastrophically collapse, just as a teetering Jenga tower suddenly collapses, is the mathematical fact that the net energy available (= energy return minus energy invested) falls off a cliff when EROI declines to 5:1 (see graph 3).
Sudden catastrophic collapse is consistent with the view of Dr Ugo Bardi, one of the original "Limits to Growth" scientists, who calls this phenomenon the "Seneca cliff". Dr Bardi is an incredibly smart scientist whose dire warnings over many years have been blithely ignored by all the stupid sheeple around him, hence he titled his blog "Cassandra's Legacy".
In human terms, plummeting EROI in the absence of any plan to transition to a post carbon lifestyle, will mean social breakdown, war, starvation7 and mass die off on a monumental scale. No part of the world which depends on petroleum will be spared.
We can understand why TPTB promote false hopes for the future to the clueless sheeple, using extravagant bread and circuses like the Olympics. Such theatrics keep the herd distracted and subdued. Be assured that once the masses revolt, the drones will be deployed.
On the other hand, offering intelligent people false hope for the future is in my view deeply inappropriate, especially if useful measures can be taken right now to mitigate impending hardships. Unfortunately the window of opportunity is closing fast. What is your transition plan?
You may vehemently reject my warnings and choose to ignore this letter because everything seems "fine" to you now, however denial will not make a looming catastrophe magically disappear.
One of your previous speakers promoted manned space travel to Mars. How useful, do you think, is that sort of meeting?
Geoffrey Chia, August 2016
Global "average" EROI of below 10:1 at present means that most oil fields now yield EROI below 10:1 (eg perhaps only 8:1 or 6:1). However there are a few oil fields which continue to yield a high EROI (eg perhaps 20:1), oil fields which the vultures are now circling.
Murphy DJ. 2014 The implications of the declining energy return on investment of oil production. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 372: 20130126.
Lambert, Jessica G., Hall Charles A. S. et al. 2014. Energy, EROI and quality of life. Energy Policy 64:153–167 "There is evidence…that once payments for energy rise above a certain threshold at the national level (e.g. approximately 10 percent in the United States) that economic recessions follow. "
Such capture can be accomplished by fair means (eg providing useful products to the oil vendors in exchange for their oil), or foul (eg the criminal protection racket known as the Petrodollar).
Being starved of credit
In China, intolerable pollution has been a major factor for their economic slowdown, as well as the marked reduction in overseas demand for their industrial output
Mass agriculture is crucially dependent on petroleum (also natural gas)
Published on the Doomstead Diner on July 22, 2016
Discuss this article at the Doomsteading Table inside the Diner
Tiny House offgrid electrics: further insights and modifications
As I mentioned previously we must alter our plans if the original items we intended to source turn out to be unavailable or unaffordable to us. My further research showed that although lithium batteries have fallen in price, the models available to me still remain significantly more expensive than lead acid batteries, watt hour for watt hour, even taking into account the greater depth of discharge and longevity of lithium. Furthermore due to the specific electronics required for lithium systems (battery management systems, specific chargers) and the still small market for them, the costs of these additional essential electronic components remain high.
I will delay sourcing the batteries and solar PV panels for as long as possible because the prices seem to be constantly falling.
If lithium remains too expensive by crunch time, I wish to keep open the option of staying with good old, tried and true lead acid batteries, however one of the most essential features of a lead acid system must be a low voltage cutoff device located at the battery bank to prevent excessive discharge (>50%) and hence damage to the batteries.
My original plan was to run most of the tiny house appliances directly on 24V DC which should lose less energy over the transmission distance than a 12V system. There are a number of 24V DC appliances available and most DC fridges can run on both 12V and 24V, however the market is vastly bigger for 12V DC appliances. For example I was able to find 12V DC but not 24V DC models for the ceiling fan and kitchen rangehood (and hence would need to obtain 24V DC to 12V DC converters to run those).
The nail in the coffin against me using a 24V household system was my complete inability to source a low voltage cutoff device for a 24V lead acid battery system. Nominal "24V" lead acid battery systems may actually deliver around 29V when fully charged, but when half depleted may deliver around 23V and should be automatically disconnected then to protect the batteries.1
The market for 12V DC appliances is massively larger than 24V, because 12V is the standard for the automotive industry and for RVs and boats. Hence it is easy to obtain a low voltage cutoff device for a "12V" lead acid system which will cut off around 11V or 11.5V depending on your preference.
Hence for DIY tiny house electricians using lead acid batteries, it may be best to stick with a 12V DC system, not 24V, and to use extra thick copper cables to minimise voltage losses over distance, especially the cable to the fridge. You can use a pure sine wave inverter intermittently for the few items where DC appliances are unavailable eg washing machine.
DIY builders must not do their own high voltage AC internal household wiring unless they are suicidal. Market pressures these days are forcing people to use AC appliances (even for RVs) and it must be admitted that the efficiency of AC appliances has vastly improved over the years, whether they be fridges or computers or TVs (which all seem to be LED with no CRT or even plasma displays being sold nowadays). Furthermore the market for and hence availability of AC appliances is magnitudes larger than that for DC appliances.
My main previous reasons to avoid 100% AC in the household and use DC as much as possible were:
Everything being completely dependent on one single device, namely the DC to AC inverter, represents a potential "choke point" for total system failure. (The same can be said for the MPPT charger, however that particular item cannot be avoided no matter what system you choose).
Excessive complexity – DC current from the batteries being inverted to AC, then going to individual appliances and being rectified to DC again. Much simpler for the DC current from the battery to directly power DC appliances which minimises potential points of failure and hence enhance reliability and durability.
Efficiency losses (as heat) from inverter and rectifiers. In particular an inverter which is constantly on, even when no appliances are in use, represents a parasitic current drain.
An inverter may be rated as highly efficient eg >90%, however that depends on the load. At optimal load eg a 3kW rated inverter running a 2kW load, it may well be >90% efficient, however at a low load eg running only a 30W laptop computer, it may only be 50% efficient, depending on the efficiency curve.
The new arguments to adopt 100% household AC wiring are:
I understand that AC to DC rectifiers in just about all modern household appliances are extremely reliable. For example, many LED light manufacturers guarantee their AC bulbs (which incorporate rectifiers) for 10 years.
I was informed that modern inverters do not need to be fully "on" constantly. They can automatically go into sleep mode when no appliances are on, with miniscule current consumption, and can be woken instantly when there is a load sensed.
Modern inverters incorporate programmable low voltage cutoff devices. The commonest offgrid lead acid battery arrays are nominally rated "24V" DC and I understand that it is best to build up the battery system using numerous 2V cells rather than just a few 12V high capacity (eg 260Ah) batteries, because the former confer lower internal resistance. If, despite string protection, one of big 12V batteries fails, that entire costly battery will have to be replaced and until then, the whole system will run at much reduced capacity. If however a string of 2V cells fail, they can be removed and the whole system will run at only slightly lower capacity with the inverter reprogrammed to accept the lower 22V DC battery output and also to a lower cutoff voltage eg 21V (rather than cutoff at 23V for a 24V system).
Even if you run only one 24V DC appliance directly from the 24V DC battery system, if it is inadvertently left constantly on (eg shower exhaust fan), that could overdischarge and damage the lead acid batteries due to the lack of an intermediary low voltage cutoff device. This will not happen if 100% of appliances receive their power from an inverter which incorporates the low voltage cutoff protection.
Hence overall, if you are engaging a certified offgrid electrician to do your household wiring it may be better to go with 100% AC wiring in your tiny house. The system my electrician has suggested to me allows flexibility to accept either lithium or lead acid batteries in the future and it may be simpler to keep a spare inverter on the shelf which can be rapidly swapped if the active inverter fails. He advised me that inverters can usually be repaired, hence the faulty one need not be discarded. If you are building several tiny houses to establish a tiny house community, designing standardised setups allows the possibility of creating a microgrid.
If your system is being wired by a professional offgrid electrician keen to offer you the latest and greatest, and you are too weak to resist the seduction of standard AC appliances (like the author), then you may choose a 100% AC house system which is completely dependent on the inverter and can keep a spare inverter handy.
If you are stronger than the author and better able to adhere to the KISS principle and/or are a DIY electrician who is not intent on suicide, you may prefer a 12V DC system which uses as many household 12V appliances as possible with only one or two items being dependent on an AC inverter. You will use extra thick household copper wires and incorporate a low voltage cutoff device at your 12V battery bank.
If you choose to go with lithium batteries in the first instance, it will be useful to ensure your system can also accept lead acid batteries in the future. This is because if/when industrial society crumbles, replacement high capacity lithium batteries, being uncommon, may be difficult or impossible to obtain. However lead acid batteries, being ubiquitous, should still be easily obtainable for a long time to come.
G. Chia, July 2016.
Many thanks to Lachlan O'Shea of Lockstar energy, specialist offgrid electrician
Any errors in this article are the sole responsibility of the author
1. More precise lead acid battery management is more complex because the voltages mentioned refer to an open circuit without load after the system has "rested" for more than 24 hours. A fully charged "24V" system with an open circuit voltage of, say, 29V, when exposed to high load demand can drop its voltage to 23V, which is not necessarily a trigger for cutting off the system. However those details are beyond the scope of this article.
Published on the Doomstead Diner on July15, 2016
Discuss this article at the Doomsteading Table inside the Diner
The ongoing tiny house chronicles: A venturi exhaust system for the shower stall and solar hot water arrays incorporating a direct HWC
Geoffrey Chia, July 2016
VENTURI EXHAUST SYSTEM FOR THE SHOWER STALL:
I could not find any "off the shelf" exhaust fan models specifically designed to be located in a shower stall which operated on 12V or 24V DC.
A simple computer-type fan can certainly do the job, at least in the short term, and there are many of suitable size eg 12cm diameter, which can run on 24V DC diagram 1. However even if rated as "moisture resistant" they may not cope with sauna type humidity and are likely to fail prematurely. Even though they are quite cheap, the idea is to seek durable items and not be forced to keep replacing them. Furthermore heat loss from this open vent will be substantial, especially at night. A removable internal insulated cover can be added, however that will be another finicky add-on.
24V DC blower type ducted fans are easily available but are probably not suitable to be used "in-line" for air extraction. If embedded in the wall, due to the longer profile than a computer fan, it will stick out awkwardly. Even if mounted exteriorly and extracting air via a duct, it will be directly exposed to the sauna type moisture and may also fail prematurely, being made to do a job it was not designed to do. One way to ensure it has no contact with such moist air is to position the blower upstream of the shower exhaust port, to create a venturi effect to suck air out of the shower stall diagram 2. This will admittedly be an experimental system however I received no practical objections to the design from the intellectual resource folks I consulted (Doone W: scientist, engineer, geologist and homesteader, Lara N: architect, designer & builder, and Lara J: mathematics and physics expert). Any failure in execution of this system will of course be the fault of the author. This system will sacrifice some efficiency for better durability and longevity. If the external "inverted U" pipe or duct is well insulated, this configuration will help prevent heat loss because warm air from within the tiny house will tend to sit static in the top bend of the inverted U at night when the external atmosphere is cool (unless there are strong external breezes).
ADDITIONAL HOT WATER SYSTEM OPTIONS:
Roof mounted solar tube arrays utilising direct hot water cylinder (HWC) on loft floor
Designing a system in theory is one thing, but in practice we must always modify the design according to whatever components are available to us in the real world. I was offered false hope about obtaining a small indirect copper hot water cylinder by the false advertising of a UK vendor on eBay. Having now found the option of an affordable, small 50 litre simple direct HWC from an Australian vendor (diagram 3), this can be incorporated into the system and placed in the loft to increase the volume of hot water available and reduce concerns about inadequate pressure head for the taps. Unfortunately the roof mounted options require an additional small electric water pump and a small solar PV panel, however these are simple robust devices with good longevity. All these solar hot water system options remain free of dependence on microprocessors.
"Heat pipe core" type tubes (manifold on top of array) diagram 4
Caveats of this system: the manifold does NOT use glycol for heat exchange through internal copper coils in the HWC, water is circulated through a direct HWC. Hence it is NOT suitable for locations prone to substantial frost and subzero temperatures. However occasional ground frost should not be a problem as this should not affect the roof mounted system.
Pipes and Circulation:
All pipes are insulated except pipe 6, the overflow pipe from the header tank (which drains externally)
Each morning, water is actively pumped from the rainwater tank at ground level into the header tank (this inlet pipe is not shown in the diagram for simplicity). Water from the header tank passively flows down through wide calibre (DN32) pipe 1, through the low resistance valve, filling the loft HWC to the brim and also filling pipe 5 up to the same level as the water level in the header tank.
Water passively fills the electric pump which hence becomes primed. During the day when there is sunlight striking the PV panel, the pump drives water up pipe 2 and through the heated manifold into pipe 3. Note this manifold circuit will therefore automatically bleed air out by itself during initiation.
Pipe 3 joins pipe 1 but cannot backfill into the header tank due to the presence of the upstream valve in pipe 1. Water in pipe 3 is hence forced into the HWC. Water circulates continuously through this HWC/manifold circuit in the day, progressively heating up the water in the HWC but this flow ceases at night when there is insufficient light to power the solar PV panel.
Pipe 4 supplies the hot water taps. As water is extracted from this pipe it is replaced at the base of the HWC by cooler water from the header tank. At night there will be thermoseparation between the top hot layer of water and bottom cooler layer.
If the sunlight is too intense and the pump is working too fast, causing the loft HWC to overfill and overflow via pipe 5 into the header tank, then the flow rate from the pump must be dialed back with the potentiometer. The expectation is that the potentiometer will be set for the brightest summer day and thereafter be fixed in that setting and not need attending. The loft HWC cannot overpressurise or boil over because such pressurised water will spill over from pipe 5 into the header tank and be replaced by cold water via pipe 1. Water in the header tank does not overheat due to the large volume of water here. as well as the heat being radiated out of the steel walls of this uninsulated matt black header tank.
Over filling of the header tank in the morning is seen through the kitchen window as external spillage via pipe 6
"Hollow core" type tubes (small HWC on top of array) diagram 5
Pipes and Circulation:
All pipes are insulated except pipe 6, the overflow pipe from the header tank (which drains externally)
Each morning, water is actively pumped from the rainwater tank at ground level into the header tank (this inlet pipe is not shown in the diagram for simplicity). Water from the header tank passively flows down through pipe 1, through the low resistance valve, filling the 50 litre loft HWC to the brim.
Water passively fills the electric pump which hence becomes primed. During the day when there is sunlight striking the PV panel, the pump drives water up pipe 2 into the rooftop 30 litre HWC, filling it eventually to the outlet of pipe 3.
Pipe 3 joins pipe 1 and although the pressure head in pipe 3 is higher than pipe 1, water cannot backfill into the header tank due to the presence of the valve in pipe 1. Water in pipe 3 is hence forced into the 50 litre loft HWC. Water circulates continuously through this loft/rooftop circuit in the day, progressively heating up the water in both HWCs but this flow ceases at night when there is insufficient light to power the solar PV panel.
Pipe 4 supplies the hot water taps. As water is extracted from this pipe it is replaced at the base of the HWC by cooler water from the header tank via pipe 1. At night there will be thermoseparation in the loft HWC between the top hot layer of water and bottom cooler layer. There is no flow down pipe 3 at night.
There is normally free movement of air to and fro within pipe 5. The HWCs cannot overpressurise or boil over, because overpressurised vapour will exit pipe 5 (and will ultimately vent to the external air via pipe 6). If the sunlight is too intense and the pump is working too fast in the day, causing the rooftop HWC to overfill and overflow via pipe 5 into the header tank, then the flow rate from the pump must be dialed back with the potentiometer. The expectation is that the potentiometer will be set for the brightest, longest summer day and thereafter be fixed in that setting and not need attending. This overflow scenario is very unlikely if pipe 2 is narrow in calibre, thus limiting the inflow rate into the rooftop HWC, and pipe 3 is wide in calibre thus enhancing the outflow rate.
Over filling of the header tank in the morning is seen through the kitchen window as external spillage via pipe 6.
NOTES: in this system, the rooftop 30 litre HWC is treated as no different from a simple manifold. Hence the water in the rooftop HWC is "dead water" being generally unavailable for use*. Total available hot water remains 50 litres from the loft HWC only. The system will NOT work properly (for reasons too complicated to get into here) if water is pumped into the rooftop HWC at the level of pipe 3 connection and is drained from the base of the rooftop HWC at the level of pipe 2 connection.
*It will be possible however to manually harvest the hot water from the rooftop HWC at night from pipe 7 by opening the manual tap as indicated in the diagram. This tap in pipe 7 must be kept closed in the day for the system to function (otherwise water will merely circulate between pipe 2 and the loft HWC without going up through the solar array)
**Alternatively the connection in diagram 6 with an additional valve in pipe 4 should work well without the need for manual input. In this system, there will be an abrupt reduction of flow rate from a hot water tap when the rooftop HWC empties and the hot water then derives from the loft HWC. The disadvantage of this arrangement is that having a extra valve in pipe 4 can further reduce the forward flow rate from the loft HWC compared with diagram 5. To minimise this, it will be necessary for pipes 1 and 4 to be as wide as possible.
Thermosiphoning solar tube arrays utilising direct hot water cylinder (HWC) on loft floor
Whether or not the arrangements in diagrams 7 and 8 will work is unclear, because the basic direct HWC is not designed for thermosiphoning. Proper thermosiphoning cylinders have a convex top, in the centre of which is located the hot water outlet. Furthermore the connection ports are larger.
In diagram 8, air at the top of the 30 litre HWC may be an issue, however it should be possible to manually bleed most of this air out using the pressure release port at the top. I intend to give them a try.
Potential issue with all these systems: If the level of water in the header tank drops below the top level of the loft HWC, there will no longer be sufficient driving pressure to expel water from the latter. This can easily be resolved by refilling the header tank, a matter of turning on a switch.
G. Chia, July 2016
Published on the Doomstead Diner on June 27, 2016
Discuss this article at the Doomsteading Table inside the Diner
My preferred system for solar thermal water heating with passive gravity/thermosiphoning circulation was explained in these old diagrams: (for explanatory text see previous tiny house article on plumbing).
That arrangment offered these advantages:
Hot water cylinder (HWC) is located indoors, hence retains heat better
HWC positioned vertically, hence more effective thermolayering (smaller interface between cold water layer at the base and hot water layer above, hot water being extracted from the top)
The "heat pipe core" type evacuated tube is preferable to the hollow type, because if one tube breaks, the entire system can continue to function well
Unfortunately I was completely unable to obtain my preferred type of indirect small hot water cylinder with large bore internal copper coil capable of thermosiphoning. This forced me to change tack.
My other alternative is the "hollow core" type evacuated tube system with HWC mounted on top of the tube array, the entire system which sits outdoors. This is often promoted as a stand alone system: cold water is poured into the inlet near the top of the cylinder and after a few hours, hot water is drained from the base diagram 3. The tubes fill with water from the cylinder and this water is heated directly by the sun (in contrast to the heat pipe core type where fluid picks up heat within a manifold which houses the tops of heat pipes which contain acetone).
The stand alone system does not allow for continuous filling of the cylinder, unless a header tank with ball-valve is attached to the vent at the top of the HWC.
That arrangement was not suitable for my purposes, hence using some lateral thinking I am pursuing the following arrangement where cold water fills from the base of the HWC, hot water is extracted from the top and at night there is reliance on thermolayering to deliver further hot water. The vent connects to a vertical pipe of around 3 metres height, which ensures a constant pressure within the HWC of 3 metres water, above which pressure is expelled out of that vent (option to return it to the top of the header tank within the tiny house is shown in diagram 5).
Hot water cylinder (HWC) is located outdoors, hence cools down faster (unless extra insulation is added around it).
HWC sits horizontally, hence less effective for thermolayering
If one tube breaks, water will immediately drain out of the entire system (including the header tank)
One other option would be to mount the array on the roof and use a solar activated electric pump to pump the water from header tank up to the HWC, however that adds electronic complexity, hence I am going with the ground based system at this time.
Having visited a friend at his offgrid homestead who currently uses the "hollow core" type evacuated tubes, I was advised this system can cope with overnight temperatures down to minus 20 degrees C.
In the case of the heat pipe core type, if water is passed directly through the manifold, at night this small volume of stagnant water can easily freeze and break the manifold. Hence in the heat pipe core type, in cold climates, it is necessary to use food grade antifreeze (eg propylene gylcol) as the heat exchanging fluid through the manifold, which then circulates through a copper coil in the HWC. My friend previously had electrolysis problems with the heat pipe / manifold type system, presumably because, in his case, water rather than glycol was directly passed through the manifold. Some systems use magnesium anodes to overcome this problem but another way to minimise that risk could be to use pure (undiluted) propylene glycol as the heat exchange liquid in the manifold, which has an electrical conductivity a thousand times less than that of pure water. He has not however had electrolysis problems with the hollow core type system.
Having received the stamp of approval for my latest arrangement after discussions with my plumber, we will try it out once the plumbing has been fitted in the tiny house.
Current design of the header tank is shown in diagram 6 and the plan is to elevate it above the loft floor on a heavy duty support base as in diagram 7.
The plan to thermosiphon water heated by the wood stove through the header tank remains, however I discovered that the "Hobbit" stove I ordered could not incorporate both external air intake system and the backboiler tank together. Hence because the former option was far more important, I gave up the latter. This has actually worked out favourably because I now plan to harvest heat from a copper coil wrapped around the base of the hot flue and because this will be less efficient than the backboiler tank (which sits inside the combustion chamber) there will be little to no risk of the water in the header tank overheating (the main purpose will be to raise the temperature of the water in the header tank from finger numbing coldness, perhaps 10 degrees C to a tepid temperature, perhaps 20 degrees C. The header tank will then serve as a modest thermal mass heat radiator through the night).
G. Chia, June 2016
Published on the Doomstead Diner on April 21, 2016
Discuss this article at the Environment Table inside the Diner
In the USA and especially Hollywood, "DEA" stands for drug enforcement agency and conjures up images of trigger happy feds in helmets and flak jackets carrying M16s. In my world, DEA stands for "Doctors for the Environment Australia" which conjures up images of kindly, well meaning physicians who unfortunately do not fully realise the enormity of the planetary predicaments we face, nor fully understand exactly what can and cannot be done about them.
Open letter to Doctors for the Environment Australia
Geoffrey Chia, MBBS, MRCP, FRACP. April 2016
I attended your DEA conference in Brisbane on 17 April 2016 as a non-member delegate. I agree with the broad philosophy of DEA, that failure to care for our environment is causing adverse public health consequences worldwide and we need to take appropriate action. Unfortunately that is about as far as it goes. I have utmost respect for you as fellow medical professionals, but I beg to differ with the DEA's official position regarding the current state of the planet and the actions we ought to take to reduce human suffering and death.
Although I am a Cardiologist, my real interests lie in scientific and ethical philosophy and how these can be applied to confer the greatest amount of good to the greatest number of people for the longest duration. I convened the group "Doctors and Scientists for Sustainability and Social Justice" from 2006 to 2013 during which we held monthly meetings at the S&N pathology boardrooms in Taringa and invited many speakers, all experts in their fields, to educate us on important environmental and social matters.
Here are my points of disagreement with DEA:
DEA's overall message is that climate change, although accelerating, is still fixable if we campaign hard enough for reform. Climate change is without doubt the gravest challenge facing humanity, but I must emphasise two points. Firstly, it is no longer fixable, it has spiralled out of control. The IPCC reports were all politically watered down deceit. A proper understanding of the paleoclimate record, self reinforcing feedback mechanisms and observation of the extreme events occurring year upon year, which will only get worse, demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that even if all anthropogenic carbon emissions were to cease today, worsening climate change is unstoppable. At least 4 degrees C eventual global average temperature rise is already locked in, which will mean the end of large scale agriculture and hence the end of civilisation. However in the long run there will probably be 8 to10 degrees rise, although the final equilibrium temperature may be slightly reduced by what we do now1. Secondly, climate change is not the most immediate issue.
DEA focus almost exclusively on climate change and pay little attention to other major issues which will cause the collapse of industrial civilisation and massive global human die-off much sooner: namely the impending implosion of the worldwide financial/economic system and, intimately related to that, resource depletion, principally petroleum depletion. Economic meltdown will lead to civil unrest and, depending on the country affected, either collapse of the State as a functioning entity or imposition of martial law by fascist governments, with loss of democratic freedoms. Either way, there will be loss of future options for those individuals who remain trapped in the belly of the beast (the crumbling cities). Competition for resources such as water and energy will trigger wars between nations, which will become more frequent, more barbaric and possibly even global. These views are entirely consistent with hard headed think tanks such as the Peak Oil task force group in the UK (a business group), the Pentagon and the German military. Anyone who still claims the invasion of Iraq by the Halliburton proxies in 2003 was about anything other than oil, is either a liar or a fool or both.
DEA offer nothing with regard to the practical measures which sapient people can and must take now to mitigate against the above.
I realise my views may be viscerally repugnant to you, indeed I experienced the same revulsion when I came to those conclusions in 2012, which led me to disband my D3SJ group in 2013. Nevertheless it is absolutely essential that we accept the evidence-based truth of a situation, no matter how horrific, so we can pursue the most effective actions, to enable the best (or least bad) outcome. With my deepening understanding of these worsening predicaments, my thinking over the years has shifted from global technological solutions (now impossible), to the mitigation of suffering and death for the majority of humanity (now also impossible), to at present, striving to avoid near term human extinction. Bitter experience has taught me it is a waste of time and energy to look to governments and corporations for solutions. They mouth meaningless green-wash platitudes and are in fact the cause of our problems. The only solutions forthcoming will be those which arise from our own individual actions.
Here is another stark reality you may find repugnant: it will not be possible to prevent the premature die-off of the majority of humanity.
This is the goal of most Australian medical practitioners today, myself included: we take whatever measures necessary to ensure our patients can live a good quality, "normal" duration of life of at least 85 years or so. In our wishful thinking, we would like to extend that goal to the other 7.5 billion people around the world. However, with the inevitable curtailment of fossil fuel energy2, it will not be possible to generate enough food, services and materials to comfortably support more than 500 million people worldwide, assuming a stable climate and a thriving ecosphere. Unfortunately, with worsening climate devastation and the sixth great global mass extinction well under way now, even 100 million survivors will be extremely unlikely. Such a view is entirely consistent with those held by top scientists including James Lovelock, many members of the Royal Society of London including former president Martin Rees and scientists who updated the original Limits to Growth models, in particular Ugo Bardi and Graham Turner. We may well face a "genetic bottleneck" with human numbers reduced to just a few thousand, confined to the deep South of the Southern hemisphere.
I do not accept that near term human extinction is certain. NTHE is not a guaranteed, forgone conclusion and I vehemently oppose those who ideologically adopt such a nihilistic position and promote defeatism. However irrefutable evidence forces me to accept that NTHE is a genuine possibility, indeed a significant probability if we take no action or waste time pursuing the wrong actions.
DEA may feel politically obliged to offer a positive, uplifting facade to their members and the public, however such a position is detrimental, indeed actively harmful, to anyone who follows your manifesto and your recommended course of action. Why? Because adoption of your current goals will cause your members to waste precious time, energy, resources and money pursuing useless activities based on delusional hopes. I am amply qualified to make that statement because I too have been guilty of such useless behaviour.
You will be familiar with the "golden hour" after a severe injury, when appropriate vigorous action taken by ambulance officers and A&E staff can make all the difference between life and death, between good quality survival and permanent disability. Correct, timely action makes all the difference.
Time is short. Right now we are reaching the end of our metaphorical "golden hour”. If we miss this vital window of opportunity, we stand to lose all future options. The impending collapse of numerous fraudulent schemes such as shale oil (which dwarf the previous sub-prime mortgage scam) means that we are on track to experience the next global financial meltdown soon, from which systemic recovery may be impossible. This may occur in a couple of years or even this year. Things may seem “fine” to you now, however things also seem “fine” to the passenger snoozing in the plush seat of an air-conditioned coach which is speeding towards the edge of a cliff.
What correct, timely action should we take? Exhaustive studies and practical experience from contributors to research bodies such as the Post Carbon Institute recommend we decentralise our lifestyles and become as self sufficient as possible. Here are some practical suggestions:
One viable strategy: The off-grid Tiny House permaculture community:
I am not advocating that you move immediately to a remote off-grid self-sufficient homestead, but I am advocating that you set up such a homestead immediately, which will then be ready for you to move to at short notice. Alternatively you can, right now, build a relationship with an established self-sufficient community, which you can then move to at short notice, provided you have useful skills to offer and you have pre-arranged your own accommodation.
We face unstoppable and unimaginably horrific events which will radically alter our world. Only radical adaptation will enable our survival. Nature dictates that failure to adapt will lead to extinction.
It is no coincidence that by making the radical lifestyle changes suggested above, you will also reduce your carbon and environmental footprint to essentially zero, which I believe is the ultimate goal of DEA. It is not appropriate for us to harangue others to abandon coal fired power unless we ourselves can show them how to live well without coal fired power. Talk is cheap but if we lead by example we are more likely to be taken seriously.
David Wasdell's comprehensive explanation is probably the best one, available here: https://soundcloud.com/radioecoshock/facing-the-harsh-realities or here: http://www.apollo-gaia.org/ and independently vindicated here (transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh):
Current low oil prices are misleading. We are now experiencing the calm in of the eye of the storm, a storm which will shortly return to decimate the global economy. Please see: http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/blog/2015/11/16/peak-oil-revisited-part-1/
Published on the Doomstead Diner on April 1, 2016
Discuss this article at the Doomsteading Table inside the Diner
The ongoing Tiny House Design Chronicles: Maximising solar energy collection
Further thoughts about using the Header Tank as a source of thermal mass:
Here is a brief commentary expanding on the previously mentioned idea of using the water in the indoor header tank as thermal mass and how it can be optimally configured to collect solar heat. Further considerations:
As the header tank is located high within the house, any air that this tank heats up will stay high and will not heat the lower level, unless active mixing of the indoor air is enforced. This is simply done by turning on the ceiling fan.
Proper flow of air passing through the house is best achieved not by the fan, but by opening a low window (eg in the kitchen), to let cool air in; and by opening a high window (eg in the loft above the head of the bed), to let hot air out. On a hot summer day these windows (and others) will be kept wide open, but on a cold winter night all windows are likely to remain closed and the hot air in the loft can be allowed to accumulate for comfortable sleep. It is essential that the wood stove extracts oxygen from outside air and not from the air within the house.
For an optimal pressure head, the header tank should be positioned as high up as possible. The highest internal location for the tank will be up flush against the ceiling. In this configuration, the obvious location for the (double glazed) window to receive the sun's rays will be on the roof directly over the header tank*. Whereas at first glance this may seem like a good idea, it is actually not (see Figure 1). A roof window/skylight will optimally receive heat from an (almost) overhead sun, which will occur in summer. However the skylight will be inefficient at receiving the oblique rays from a winter sun. Accordingly this configuration may tend to overheat the house in summer and be poor at gathering solar heat in the winter. Hence my suggestion for optimal collection of solar heat for the header tank is shown in Figure 2 where an optimally angled reflective sill reflects light into the side window (North** facing) against which the tank is positioned.
Materials for the reflective sill: the most efficient reflective surface is of course a mirror, however glass can shatter with hail impact and mirrors are heavy, with sharp edges. A better and cheaper option may be mylar film glued onto (waterproofed) marine plywood.
*The considerations described in Figure 1 relate to a roof with a flat north-south axis or a skillion roof sloping down towards the sun-facing aspect and do not apply to a skillion roof sloping away from the sun. In the latter case the configuration in Figure 2 is the only sensible arrangement.
**South facing if you are in the Northern hemisphere
Maximising other solar energy collection systems:
The logical extrapolation of the idea of a reflective sill described above, can be extended to a reflective surface placed in front of your solar PV panels or solar evacuated tube array. This is relevant for steeply angled arrays optimised for the winter sun in high latitude locations (see Figures 3, 3a, 4 and 5) but does not apply to flush roof mounted arrays.
It is possible to estimate the extra solar energy collected by calculation, however the best method is to simply try these out using various different angles and measure the extra power output (either displayed on your battery charging monitor or measured with an ammeter).
Those with OCD may adopt the "frilled lizard" approach, emulating the reflective panels surrounding the front of solar ovens, to try to harvest even the weakest oblique rays of the rising and setting sun. For my part I think the configurations in Figures 2, 3 and 4 may be worth adopting but those in Figures 3a or 5 are impractical.
Simply placing a (more or less) horizontal reflective surface in front of your header tank, solar PV panels or solar evacuated tube array can significantly augment your solar energy collection. This may not be relevant for warm, high insolation locations such as Queensland, Australia or Southern California or Arizona in the USA. However for those living at high latitudes, it can be important for harvesting the oblique rays of the sun during short winter days. Such a strategy may accrue (wild guess) perhaps 20% extra energy, using the dirt cheap accessory of mylar film on plywood. It will certainly be much simpler and cheaper than purchasing a 20% larger solar PV or solar evacuated tube array.
As mentioned in previous articles, "stick on" mylar film and plywood can be used to construct solar ovens, sea-water distillation boxes and "greenhouse" composting chambers (to accelerate the composting of toilet waste). Hence off-grid wannabes should think about putting aside a store of mylar film and marine ply for future use.
Published on the Doomstead Diner on March 16, 2016
Discuss this article at the Doomsteading Table inside the Diner
PENULTIMATE AND ULTIMATE PASSIVE SOLAR AND PLUMBING DESIGNS FOR THE TINY HOUSE
Please note the last diagram in the addendum of this article http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/blog/2016/02/20/tiny-house-electrics/ was incorrect and the correct diagram should be this one:
The latest internal configurations shown here represent what I describe as the penultimate and ultimate passive solar and plumbing designs for a tiny house on wheels. If in the future I am able to tweak things to achieve additional improvements, I reserve the right to describe later revisions as the "super ultimate version" or "superduper ultimate version" etc, etc, outrageous ironic hubris intended.
In all versions I have always located the LPG stove and wood stove side by side (and the sink next to the LPG stove) so that a single rangehood can extract vapour from either stove, and to facilitate quick transfer of hot pots and pans from either stove to the nearby sink.
As mentioned in previous articles, passive solar heating requires broadside orientation of the dwelling to the sun, expansive double (or triple) glazed glass windows/doors on the sun-facing aspect, thick insulation of floor/walls/roof and a source of thermal mass. For a tiny house on wheels, concrete is not appropriate thermal mass, it is dead weight on the chassis. Water however has a high specific heat capacity and, weight for weight, offers superior thermal mass to concrete. Water tanks can be emptied when the tiny house is transported.
My initial intent was to locate internal water tanks(s) under the lounge seats to provide thermal mass, however solar heat transfer would be inefficient in that configuration and it would represent a great deal of dead weight on the chassis. I subsequently decided, for reasons previously explained, that a header tank for the cold water system will be an important component, however combined with the hot water cylinder and under-seat tank(s), the all up weight just for these water filled components will be excessive, around 700kg. It would represent an adverse long term load on the chassis. Hence I have now decided to eliminate the under-seat water tank(s) which alone would contain 400 to 500 litres of water and thus weigh more than 400 to 500kg.
THE PENULTIMATE PLUMBING DESIGN
The steel header tank, if uninsulated and painted matt black, despite its smaller size (150 litres), could still confer good thermal mass, in addition to its primary function of providing the pressure head. However, is there a way to make this thermal mass even more efficient? My advisers from the Tiny House Company http://www.tinyhousecompany.com.au/ (Lara Nobel, Andrew Carter and Greg Thornton) suggested that a mid point stair configuration will be more space efficient than my original design with stairs at the west end. This new configuration in fact offers a number of improvements. As the header tank can now be located almost directly above the wood stove, it makes sense to take advantage of this arrangement to design a gravity/thermosiphoning circuit between the backboiler tank of the mini wood stove and the header tank.
This will effectively harvest heat from the wood stove, for later slow release of heat from the header tank after the fire is out. One danger of this arrangement may be overheating of the water in the header tank, however this can be avoided by always ensuring the tank is full of cold water before firing up the stove and by not running the stove for extended periods eg more than two hours. The intent here is to utilise the header tank water as thermal mass, and NOT to turn the (uninsulated) header tank into a hot water cylinder (the header tank will not and cannot replace a proper, dedicated hot water cylinder supplying the taps).
THE ULTIMATE PLUMBING DESIGN
The next natural question is whether it may be feasible to harvest heat from the wood stove to supply the hot water cylinder, while also using the same cylinder to gather heat from the solar thermal array, all by means of gravity thermosiphoning which, not requiring pumps or sensors, will be the most reliable and robust system possible. The answer is yes, however it will require particular design of the hotwater cylinder according to custom specifications. If you live in an area prone to frost, the heat transfer from the external solar thermal array into the cylinder must be indirect, via copper coils containing a glycol solution. Heat transfer from the backboiler tank of the wood stove to the cylinder can however be direct. Hence the hot water cylinder design should be as shown in Figure 2
For adequate thermolayer separation within the cylinder, a tall vertical cylinder is best (rather than a squat horizontal cylinder).
It is essential to consider the requirements for effective gravity thermosiphoning which are:
To drive a circulating convection current, the heat source(s) must be below the hot water storage cylinder, and the hot pipe must be relatively higher than the cold(er) pipe.
Adequate flow requires minimum resistance within the circuit, which requires that the calibre of pipes be large (at least 28mm), that there are few or no right angle bends (gentle curves/bends in the pipes are allowable) and that the pipes should be relatively short (which requires close proximity between heat source(s) and hot water cylinder). Short pipes also minimise heat loss in transit (which is inevitable even with good pipe insulation).
The higher the temperature gradient between hot and cold pipes, the stronger the convection current. Hence the intense heat from the backboiler of the wood stove will still enable effective thermosiphoning through a long circuit, whereas the less hot solar thermal array should have a shorter circuit to function effectively.
As such, my ultimate iteration based on these plumbing considerations is as shown:
Solar heating of water
In the "ultimate" version, there is no connection between the (cold water) header tank and the wood stove. For thermal mass purposes, the most efficient way to transfer solar heat to the header tank will be for this uninsulated matt black steel tank to sit directly against a double glazed window on the sun-facing aspect of the house. Obviously this surface area for solar heat gathering will be tiny compared to the volume of water in the header tank. Nevertheless, a modest five degree rise in water temperature within the header tank (eg 15degC to 20degC) will be excellent for thermal mass purposes. However 20degC will be completely inadequate as a source of hot water for the taps. The uninsulated header tank cannot and will not replace an insulated hot water cylinder as the supply for the hot water taps.
A dedicated solar thermal array feeding a dedicated insulated hot water cylinder is necessary for the latter purpose. This outdoor solar thermal array, if located directly in front of the hot water cylinder, could potentially suffer from shadowing from the timber deck (and its overhead awning) in the morning, hence the array may be better located toward the west end, despite the slightly longer pipes required (which of course must be heavily insulated).
Passive Solar Heating of the composting toilet:
Proper composting of faeces to kill pathogens requires high temperatures and adequate duration of composting. High temperatures can be naturally achieved by exothermic reactions within a large mass of decomposing waste, however the volume within the bin of the composting toilet is way too small to achieve this. Hence to speed up the initial decomposition of such a small volume, it makes sense to enlist passive solar heating. It is therefore important to locate the composting toilet on the sun facing aspect of the house, immediately adjacent to double glazed frosted windows. Indeed, now being located at the north western corner, the toilet will receive heat from the evening sun as well. Obviously when one is using the toilet, the frosted windows will be blocked off by pull down modesty screens.
Full time use of the Nature's Head composting toilet by a couple may require that it be emptied once per month. Minimal composting will have taken place by then (indeed no decomposition of freshly deposited waste will have occurred). Odour is actually eliminated during active use of the toilet primarily by means of dehydration (continuous ventilation) and coverage with sawdust/wood ash. Fresh compost within the full bin (now removed from the toilet) will be sprinkled with fresh water, because additional moisture will be required for further aerobic decomposition. The bin will then be transferred to an outdoor "solar storage" greenhouse chamber where it will undergo further passive solar heating for a month, by which time the waste will be truly innocuous. Further composting will need to be conducted by emptying this bin onto a larger composting mass the size of, say, a rubbish skip (with a rainproof lid). The month old compost will deposited on the top of the larger, older mass of compost. The oldest compost (perhaps two years old) can be harvested from a cutaway opening at the very bottom of the skip. This biologically safe compost can now be scattered at the base of trees.
Uneven weight distribution in tiny house: there is significantly more weight from the header tank and HWC on the sun-facing side of the dwelling despite the fridge and washing machine being on the opposite side. This should not be an issue if the weight (when parked) is not borne by the tires but by jackstands or footings (important to locate jackstands or footings not only at the corners but also under the mid point of the chassis, thus directly bearing the weight of the header tank). This uneven weight will not be an issue during transportation when the water tanks are empty.
Standard mains pressure in domestic taps is around 3 metres of water height. The same pressure can be achieved by locating the header tank outdoors, on top of the roof, which will however eliminate the possibility of greenhouse heating of this header tank. The pressure head will be lower if the header tank is located indoors on the loft floor, but lower flow rates can be overcome by using wider calibre pipes to the taps (perhaps twice the standard bore).
Water overflow from the header tank should be directed to the exterior, proud and clear of the wall of the house, by means of a gargoyle poised above the kitchen window. Figure 4. This overflow will be visible through the window from inside the house, signifying that the header tank is full and that pumping of water up to the header tank must cease.
Comments on the "penultimate" design:
In this configuration where there is connection between the woodstove backboiler tank and the stainless steel header tank via copper pipes, electrolytic corrosion of both tanks can be prevented by the simple application of a magnesium anode in the header tank. The advantage of this configuration is that it confers residual heating to the house after the fire from the wood stove is out. The disadvantage is that it does not heat water for the hot water system. However it will be easy enough to just boil a kettle and mix that with cold water in a bucket to obtain tepid washwater.
If the header tank has a loose lid (and hence the water in the header tank is connected with the atmosphere of the house), and if this water is warmed excessively, it could result in copious condensation on the inside walls and windows of the house overnight. The way to prevent this is to construct the header tank to be airtight, however it will need to have a wide bore venting/overflow port near the top, which must be vented to the exterior, which will also allow the moist air to escape outside, via the gargoyle,
Comments on the "ultimate" design
The vendor I sought who makes custom hot water cylinders, Trevor, specialises in copper cylinders. I am uncertain if the copper hot water cylinder and copper pipes connected to the steel backboiler tank will in the long term lead to electrolytic corrosion of the backboiler tank. Mark of Salamander stoves was unable to advise me about this, apart from saying that after five years of use (with copper pipes) he has personally not detected any problem in his backboiler tank.
When the wood stove is fired up, water in the HW cylinder can easily become scalding hot, hence adequate care must be taken to dilute hot with cold water when operating the taps. Rather than depend on complex electronic sensors (which regulate the water temperatures in modern domestic systems), the philosophy in this design is to depend on simple common sense.
In view of the above considerations, I am actually partial to the "penultimate" design rather than "ultimate" design at this time.
G. Chia March 2016
Published on the Doomstead Diner on February 20, 2016
Discuss this article at the Doomsteading Table inside the Diner
Electrical layout for a tiny house design
Geoffrey Chia February 2016
It no longer makes economic sense for a new house owner (who does not need airconditioning) to purchase their electricity from the ever more costly (and expensive to maintain) fixed grid. Not only have the prices of solar panels fallen dramatically, the costs of lithium battery arrays (large enough for household purposes) are also plunging as a result of several factors. Economists who cite this as a triumph of "free market forces" are, as usual, deceitfully distorting the truth to claim undeserved credit for their bogus field of pseudoscience. The huge price drop of solar PV panels over the past couple of decades was in fact due to the decision by the central communist party of China to massively ramp up PV manufacture in response to their problems of domestic pollution and their political intent to achieve worldwide industrial dominance in this field. Their increased output of high capacity lithium batteries (mainly for electric cars) was based on similar motivations. The much hyped but as yet unavailable "Tesla wall" battery has played no part in any of this so far.
In order to preserve the electrical grid and delay the demise of their (soon to be) stranded assets, the threatened "big electricity" vendors, in collusion with governments, are pursuing the following agenda, at least in Australia:
Firstly if you live in a metropolitan or urban zone, they have made it illegal for home owners not to connect to the electrical grid. They do not care whether you actually consume their electricity – their only interest is that you keep paying for grid upkeep and upgrades, whether this benefits the consumer or not. This is how the electricity vendors and local councils will ensure their ongoing income, in the new commercial environment where it will be cheaper and more sensible for the householder to go completely off grid. So much for the economists' so-called "free market", which is employing heavy handed edict to obstruct the consumers' option to go off grid.
Secondly TPTB are now introducing schemes by which they will lease high capacity lithium batteries to individual households which have solar PV. These households will then be able to export electricity back to the grid instantaneously on demand, even at night. Previously, the only electricity sources which could quickly respond to sudden additional grid demand were hydro and gas turbine generators. "Boiler" based coal fired generators are slow moving dinosaurs, only good for baseload.
Household lithium batteries are indeed a game changer and could lead to the creation of a proper "smart grid". With sufficient widely distributed lithium electrical storage, the fluctuating nature of renewable sources such as solar and wind will no longer be an issue. Renewables can then be ramped up rapidly and coal fired electricity can be well and truly killed off. If vested fossil fuel interests had not actively sabotaged such initiatives over the past few decades and if the system of smart grid + 100% renewable electricity had been implemented years ago, this could have made a real difference to staving off catastrophic climate change. Unfortunately it is now too late and climate change has spiralled out of control.
Notwithstanding the noble, albeit belated, goal of 100% renewable electricity, there are several factors which are likely to foil the realisation of this technically feasible smart grid. First is the problem of scaling up: we do not know if there are sufficient lithium salts worldwide which can be easily harvested for the production of lithium batteries on the scale intended. Second is the problem of funding: the fraudulent Ponzi stockmarket and overleveraged banks are now on the brink of collapse. When economic collapse does occur, there will be no capital or credit to fund anything (unless the BRICS countries can establish their own financial/banking system in time and drive this project themselves, completely sidelining the Industrial West). Third is the problem of energy constraints: we need fossil fuels and petroleum in particular to manufacture and distribute solar panels, wind turbines and lithium batteries. The ultimate hope would be that renewable energy can itself eventually be used to manufacture more renewable energy generators in the future – which is yet to be proven and highly doubtful. The current low price of oil hides the fact that we are fast falling down the precipice of high net energy conventional oil availability. Below the EROEI of 10:1, complex industrial activities can no longer take place and the establishment of centralised, gridbased 100% renewable energy will not occur. This dream would have been entirely feasible if it had been commenced, say, 10 years ago, but now seems almost impossible. The worst thing about the "big electricity" advocates is that they fail to adequately emphasize the importance of energy efficiency – they want consumers to continue being addicted to high consumption lifestyles which is the cornerstone of their business model and is in my view criminal.
I personally do not see any point opposing plans of "big electricity" because even though, in view of the constraints above, the prospect of centrally provided 100% renewable energy is now almost impossible, it is not absolutely impossible. I rate the chance of their future success around 0.1%. There is however a better, proven strategy with a 100% guaranteed likelihood of success which can be done right now. It is also suitable (in more modest iteration) for people in poorer countries who can technologically "leap frog"over being tied to the grid and proceed directly to electricity independence, just as they have leap frogged over the need for fixed telephone lines and proceeded directly to mobile smart phones.
For those who are willing and able, the only sensible plan at this time is to ruthlessly pursue energy efficiency and to establish your own completely off-grid domestic electrical system, which is in fact super easy to do. For some, this may involve the construction of a tiny house on wheels in the metropolitan area where you live, which in the first instance can be connected to the grid while the industrial system still functions. This house can be rapidly moved to a remote location when TSHTF and then happily switch to off grid mode. The low prices of electrical components and (semi) intact industrial economy at present mean that there is no better window of opportunity to grasp than right now.
The fact that items such as solar PV panels and LED lights can easily last more than 20 years means that you will continue to enjoy a high quality of life well after the rest of the world has descended into the stone age. Even conventional lead acid batteries can easily last 15 years if depth of discharge is kept minimal each cycle. Even if your batteries and inverter ultimately fail, with a DC system you can run your fridge directly off the solar PV panels during the day. "Eutectic" mixtures (eg concentrated brine – which has a freezing point well below zero degrees C, which is frozen during the day when the compressor is running), kept in containers in the freezer, can keep the night time unpowered fridge icy cold. Repositioning your fridge to a cool shaded location outdoors will increase its efficiency. A little bit of creativity can go a long way to maintaining a high level of comfort and convenience over a long duration.
As mentioned before the first three principles of electricity management are efficiency, efficiency, efficiency. Only after that should you consider the questions of solar PV panel and battery capacities.
ELECTRICAL LAYOUT for a tiny house design (please refer to the diagrams)
This is configured for a particular design: http://www.resilience.org/resource-detail/2544932-building-a-tiny-house
I initially planned to have two lead acid battery arrays indoors, which I then changed to a single lithium array located in an outdoor shed (wired to an "electrical shelf" under the stairs). However in my final iteration I am opting for a single lithium array located under the front deck, wired to an "electrical shelf" in a nearby cupboard.
Whereas these days the risk of spontaneous combustion of lithium iron phosphate batteries is extremely low, it is still more prudent to store the batteries outdoors (furthermore the batteries also function more efficiently in a cooler, shaded, well ventilated outdoor environment).
Ground based solar panels feed wires to MPPT regulator (located under front deck) which feed the battery array (24V Lithium Iron Phosphate) which then send thick 24V DC cables into tiny house (location of electronic shelf has been changed from under stairs to top shelf of cupboard in updated diagram).
In tiny house, 24V DC bus (with fuses) feeds 24V wiring to DC appliances (fridge/freezer, ceiling fan, kitchen exhaust fan, shower exhaust fan, water pump), as well as various DC sockets which sit beside AC sockets
24V DC bus also feeds pure sine wave inverter which then goes to 240V AC panel with circuit breakers. This panel then feeds the washing machine and the AC sockets.
Safety cut off device is also incorporated.
The 240V AC panel can also be supplied directly by a mains electricity plug-in supply (switch toggles to either mains supply or battery supply from inverter)
*MPPT regulator and battery sit on heavy duty cargo trolley (with fireproof, waterproof covering) which can easily be wheeled in and out, from under the timber dec
WM = Washing machine
FF = Fridge/Freezer
SEF = Shower exhaust fan
TEF = Composting toilet exhaust fan (12V DC fan)
REF = Rangehood exhaust fan
WP = Water pump
Ceiling fan as labeled
LED strip lights:
These are all "warm white" and of the latest type where the light output is diffuse along the strip (not able to see focal bright points, unlike the old type)
1 = On ceiling, illuminates both staircase and head of loft bedroom
2 = On ceiling, illuminates both foot of loft bedroom and West end of lounge
3 = Above windows, under shelf
4 = Above windows, under shelf
5 = Weatherproof outdoor LED striplight above panoramic door / window
6 = Above kitchen counter at junction of wall and ceiling
7 = three small strip lights on underside of cross beams
8 = At top edge of mirror cabinet
LOCATION OF SWITCHES (red letters A, B & C):
Switchpanel A is located on the wall above the kitchen counter here and has switches which control lights 1 and 7, and another switch for the water pump
Lights 6 and 8 have their switches immediately adjacent to them
Switchpanel B is located on the side of this storage cupboard around chest height and has five switches which control lights 2, 3, 4 and 5 + ceiling fan
Switchpanel C is located at loft entrance, on the side of the headboard cupboard, situated low down near the loft floor and has two switches which control lights 1 and 2
Switches for exhaust fans (in showerstall or rangehood) are next to / on those appliances.
Exhaust fan for composting toilet has no switch, it is merely unplugged
Please note: light 1 can be turned on and off from BOTH switchpanel A or C
light 2 can be turned on and off from BOTH switchpanel B or C
LOCATION OF SOCKETS:
Loft bedroom sockets are located on the wall as indicated, just above height of headboard
Kitchen sockets are above level of kitchen counter (just under cabinet)
Indoor lounge sockets are located in wall about 10cm above floor
Outdoor sockets are low and towards eastern edge, out of swing radius of opening lounge door
There is great pressure from the commercial sector these days to force you to wire your offgrid dwelling with an AC system only (whether 240V 50Hz as in Oz or 110V 60Hz as in the US). This is certainly the easiest option – it is what conventional electricians are familiar with and are comfortable with. However it means your entire electrical system will be completely dependent on the flawless performance of one single device which must be constantly kept running 24/7: the DC to AC inverter. Even though inverters are cheaper and more reliable these days and it is not difficult to purchase a spare, for many other reasons my preference is to have dual wiring (240V AC and 24V DC) and to run the frequently used appliances (LED lights, fridge, fans) on 24V DC. As such, the inverter will only need to run intermittently for devices such as the washing machine, thus vastly prolonging the inverter's lifespan. Furthermore if you lose the function of the washing machine it is not the end of the world – a toilet plunger and bucket can work just as well (the main hassle being wringing out the clothes).
Supplemental charging after many overcast days can be devised according to your particular circumstances, whether by wind microturbine, pumped water storage with microhydro, or even by diesel generator while fossil fuels are still available.
The keys to the longevity of any system are reliability, durability, simple design (minimising the number of potential points of failure) and redundancy. These principles have been illustrated in both my plumbing and electrical layouts. If the tiny houses in your community are designed to utilise standardised components (whether they be evacuated solar hot water tubes or MPPT chargers or 24V DC devices etc), if you purchase numerous spare parts a priori and if you have the expertise within your group to perform regular maintenance and repairs (ideally the folks who built those tiny houses should live within your community), you will create a robust and resilient situation which will enable your comfortable lifestyles to be maintained for two or more decades after the collapse of centralised services. Furthermore in the post collapse situation, the salvage economy will become vitally important. The restoration or repurposing or cannibalisation for spare parts from old devices (whiteware, electronic goods etc) will enable those with a practical inventive streak to breathe new life into what we nowadays regard as discarded junk. For example, the electric motor of an old washing machine can be repurposed to become an electricity generator powered by stationary bicycle, enabling supplemental charging of your batteries while simultaneously providing you with healthy exercise.
GC Feb 2016
ADDENDUM: UPDATE ON HOT WATER PLUMBING
For thermosiphoning to work properly, it is important to purchase an indirect hot water cylinder with a large calibre internal heat exchange coil which has been purpose designed for this function. One example is the AGA cylinder from www.gasapplianceguide.co.uk Copper cylinders are not prone to electrolytic corrosion, hence there will be no need for a magnesium anode. Obviously if you are not prone to frost then the way to go is with a direct cylinder which makes things simpler and cheaper.
The simplest way to deal with excessive heating of the hot water, causing overflow, is according to this diagram:
The signal that overheating is occurring will be water spilling out of the external overflow pipe from the header tank, which will be visible from both within the house (through the end window) as well as from the outside if you are working in the field. The response to this will be to simply cover the evacuated solar tube array. Regular overheating of the water in the hot water tank will in fact be desirable, to kill off any prospect of harbouring Legionella.
Published on the Doomstead Diner on February 9, 2016
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Plumbing the Tiny House
Geoffrey Chia, February 2016
This continues the series of articles by which we hope to empower readers to exit the "killing fields of the future" (the cities), to help you achieve and maintain a comfortable offgrid lifestyle for at least a couple of decades after TSHTF (assuming you have purchased sufficient spare parts for maintenance and/or are creative in your repairs). For example, solar evacuated tubes invariably break, therefore it will be prudent to purchase many spares, in addition to those in your working solar thermal array.
In this article I outline my plumbing preferences for my tiny house which, to say the least, is a little unconventional compared with "standard" arrangements. The plumbing here is specifically configured for my tiny house design which I have described in a previous article: http://www.resilience.org/resource-detail/2544932-building-a-tiny-house
Preferences for the cold water system:
A steel rainwater storage tank within the lounge (under the seats) doubles up as a thermal mass tank which picks up passive solar heat in the daytime. This minimises the need to operate the wood stove at night. The water in this tank (eg 500 litres) may not last long depending on the rate of use, hence my preferred configuration is a permanent connection to an additional external rainwater tank with capacity of perhaps 1000 to 2000 litres.
In off-grid configuration, the 150 litre header tank is all-important feature and serves three main purposes: first and most important is that if a tap is accidentally left open, the greatest amount of water that can be lost is only 150 litres (even if a hot water tap is left open, the last 50 litres of water in the cylinder will not be lost because at the end there will be no pressure head left to empty the cylinder). If however the system is directly connected to a community shared large (eg 40,000 litres) water tank uphill, it will be possible to lose many thousands of litres. The second reason for a header tank is that the ritual of filling of this tank each morning, either by electric or manual pumping, will reinforce the value of fresh water and encourage daily limitation of water consumption (of course this is not true rationing because the header tank can always be refilled at any time, but being creatures of habit we will probably just fill it once a day or even on alternate days, thus limiting water consumption to <150 litres per day per tiny house). Thirdly, a header tank eliminates the need for a frequently operating electric water pump (triggered by the pressure drop detected by an electronic sensor whenever a tap is opened). It eliminates another layer of electronic complexity (even though a high volume electric pump is part of my configuration, it does not require any electronic sensor and also has a manual backup). Another purpose of this header tank is additional thermal mass.
This system includes the option of direct connection to town (reticulated water) supply at normal mains pressure. This high pressure port will also be suitable for permanent direct connection to a larger water tank situated uphill, although as stated before this is to be discouraged.
The diagrams are self explanatory
Preferences for the hot water system:
Contemporary conventional solar / hybrid hot water systems are highly complex and depend on sophisticated electronics. I initially describe my general preferences, then outline the workings of proven "standard" setups, then go through a process of deconstruction and simplification to pare things down to the bare bones system I personally prefer.
My general preferences:
I prefer solar heating of water with an evacuated tube system (the "heat pipe" type evacuated tubes, NOT the hollow core type) with no integrated gas or electrical backup. Evacuated tubes are more efficient in temperate climates in winter compared with flat panel arrays*. Best orientation is facing the equator (ie facing North if in the Southern hemisphere) and permanently angled around 15 degrees higher than your latitude eg if you are 40 degrees South, it should be angled around 55 degrees from horizontal, which is optimal for winter. Suboptimal angling for the summer sun is in fact desirable, to avoid overheating in summer.
If there are several overcast days, the wood stove (or LPG stove) can be fired up and hot water obtained from the backboiler tank or by heating a kettle. Adding the hot water to cold water in a bucket will create a comfortably tepid wash mixture. For me the expense and complexity to plumb a system which connects pipes from the woodstove backboiler (eg from the Salamander Hobbit system) to the hot water storage tank is not worthwhile.
Contemporary conventional domestic solar hot water systems use a microprocessor controller with electronic sensors. The "Heliatos" system http://www.heliatos.com/ obviates the need for microprocessor control of the pump. I have no pecuniary interest in Heliatos but mention them repeatedly because their components and configurations enable simplification of conventional complex solar systems (and easy retrofitting of non-solar to solar systems) while still working well, and I have had productive dealings with them previously. The key components are the "bottom feed connector" and a simple 12V DC electric pump + 10W photovoltaic panel. The standard Heliatos configuration assumes the solarthermal array is on the roof, ie above the level of the hot water cylinder, and the cylinder incorporates backup gas/electric heating. Typical cylinders operate at around mains water pressure. Whenever hot water is taken from the top of the cylinder, cold water under mains pressure replaces it at the base to keep the cylinder full, to enable ongoing sourcing of hot water from the top. The entire water mass in the cylinder is always kept hot because backup heating kicks in as needed, as determined by temperature sensors. Please note: all pipes containing hot water must obviously be heavily insulated, this is not shown in the diagrams for simplicity.
My modifications involve use of evacuated tubes rather than the Heliatos flat panels and placing the tube array on the ground rather than on the roof for ease of cleaning and maintenance (also easy to cover with a tarpaulin to shut down the system if it overheats or to protect against a hailstorm). Tubes are thus located at a lower level than the hot water cylinder. I also choose not to have backup gas/electric heating. The mode of operation is described on the diagram. Thermosiphoning during the day should be enabled, thus eliminating the need for an electric pump and PV panel.
My aim is to reduce complexity (resulting in only minor inconvenience) and thus ensure long term robust performance. This configuration is pretty much guaranteed to work, because there are already well proven "stand alone" outdoor evacuated tube systems which utilise passive convection currents, with the tank situated above the tubes. Such standalone outdoor systems are suitable for warmer climates such as Queensland but not ideal for cold climates such as New Zealand, where it is best to locate the hot water cylinder in a warmer indoor environment for greatest efficiency. I sought the opinion of the Heliatos consultant, Dr Abtahi (Phd) about my split system preference, who emailed me back that what I propose is not only workable, it is actually not uncommon. Thus I cannot claim any originality here and can be quite confident of its feasibility. His main caveats were that the pipes must be properly insulated and the array should be tilted so that the hotter end of the manifold sits higher, to kick start thermosiphoning in the morning.
It is always important to seek the advice of your local plumber, which I am also doing. We can expect problems to arise if the sizes of the tank and solar array are mismatched between each other and also with regard to the climate. For example of the tank is too big, solar array is too small and winter sun is too feeble, you can expect persistent poor heating performance. Conversely if the tank is too small, solar array is too big and summer sun is too strong, the system can boil away the water in the tank and cause the tubes to overheat. The good thing about "heat pipe" evacuated tubes is that one or more tubes can be removed from the array and the system will continue to function perfectly (obviously with less heating power). So you can reduce the array size in summer and increase its size in winter very easily. Alternatively simply cover one or more tubes if the day is too sunny.
If frost is a likely problem, a glycol solution must be run through the manifold and this circuit must be kept separate from the domestic water. Heliatos have an external heat exchanger which connects to the bottom feed connector, hence if retrofitting, there is no need to purchase a hot water cylinder with internal heat exchange tubes. The Heliatos external heat exchange system requires two pumps and a 20W solar PV panel in the usual "high panel" configuration (compared with the standard Heliatos arrangement which uses one pump and a 10W solar PV panel).
If establishing your system de novo, obtaining a cylinder with internal heat exchange tubes will be preferable and more efficient. As the internal heat exchange tubes will be much wider than the tiny tubes of the Heliatos external heat exchanger (thus posing less resistance to flow), there should be no need for any electrical pumps at all in the "low panel" configuration. This arrangement may turn out to be the simplest yet most robust configuration, which can suit all climates (even with freezing winters), as seen in the final diagram. Hence this is my preferred configuration. As in all things the proof of the pudding is in the eating and the end user must try their own system out for themselves and tweak things if necessary to make it work. There will be different specifications of different components purchased by different users in different climates, hence no two systems are likely to be identical and some customisation may be necessary.
Exclusive use of rainwater will avoid the problem of lime deposits from hard water.
CONCLUSION: This article outlines a variety of options. Different configurations will suit different people depending on whether they want roof mounted or ground mounted panels and what level of complexity they are happy with. Conventional systems are convenient (hot water is available at all times with backup heating which however requires complex electronics) but also have more potential points for failure. I do not mind some inconvenience (no hot water in tank after several heavily overcast days) but prefer an easily maintained, simple and robust system with greater longevity. Just remember to buy good quality components from the outset and obtain plenty of spare parts (eg extra evacuated tubes, magnesium anodes etc) and you should be able to enjoy using the same system for at least the next twenty years.
G. Chia Feb 2016
Boat based solar thermal arrays must by necessity be mounted flush on deck, which when stationary will be horizontal (or near horizontal), but due to boat movement will be constantly varying in angle. Evacuated tube systems are not feasible for boats because:
Irrespective of latitude, the tubes need to be angled at least 20 degrees from horizontal to allow convectional forces to operate within the tubes
Even though designed to cope with small hailstones, tubes are easily shattered (whereas a flat panel with polycarbonate cover will not break if a heavy shackle drops on it)
A boat based, horizontally mounted flat panel system will therefore require water to be circulated by electric pump: there is no option for passive thermosiphoning.
Published on the Doomstead Diner on January 29, 2016
Discuss this article at the Doomsteading Table inside the Diner
It's not Rocket Surgery: choosing an indoor mini wood stove
Geoffrey Chia, Jan/Feb 2016
As of 25 January 2016 at the time of commencement of writing this article, the cold spell affecting East Asia killed more than 65 people in the subtropical island of Taiwan. The temperature in Beijing dropped as low as minus 40 degrees C, however Northern China is used to dealing with heavy snow dumps and subzero temperatures in winter and hence coped better compared with Taiwan. The last time snow was seen in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, was more than a century ago. The fact that Taiwan is a relatively small subtropical island, which we would expect to be dominated by the moderating effect of the South China Sea, makes this rare event seemingly even more bizarre. That is, until you understand the physics of how coastal and island provinces on the leeward (downwind) side of continents can often be dominated by continental rather than maritime weather, which I mentioned in my previous article "Location, location, location", where I compared Vancouver Island with Nova Scotia.
It is no coincidence that a record breaking monumental snowstorm also affected the East coast of the USA, the leeward side of the North American continent, at the same time as the cold weather affected East Asia. In general, at those latitudes; the windward (Western) sides of the continents, which are more dominated by maritime influences, are less prone to extremes of heat and cold than the Eastern sides.
Climate scientists tell us the peculiar combination nowadays during Northern winters of high temperatures in the Arctic regions and low temperatures extending to low latitudes, is due to the disruption of the circumpolar jet stream as a consequence of climate change.
One issue I did not mention in my "Location" article was the beneficial warming effect of the Gulf Stream on North Western Europe. The demise of the Gulf Stream appears to be a foregone conclusion as climate change progresses, following which North Western Europe can expect even worse cold spells in winter, even as the rest of the world heats up.
My "Location" article focused on avoiding heatwaves and managing fresh water supply. It did not discuss coping with cold weather (which well prepared humans can survive better than heatwaves). In choosing our future location, it is far better to settle where there will be low risk of heatwaves (despite the occasional cold snaps), rather than to settle where there will be low risk of cold snaps (but have high risk of terrible summer heatwaves). Most locations in our future world will face the latter situation in due course.
This article will focus on one item which can keep you comfortable in cold weather, especially when faced with the inevitable fossil fuel shortages in the near future: the indoor wood heater/stove, with special attention to the secondary combustion biomass (SCBM) heater/stove. It is not a comprehensive article but will concentrate on models which can be used in a caravan or tiny house, my particular area of interest.
The other important role of this biomass heater/stove will of course be for cooking. It will become an essential appliance when we face future shortages of kerosene and LPG.
Before we proceed, it is vital to mention the first three principles in dealing with cold weather: insulation, insulation, insulation (just as the first three principles in managing electricity use are efficiency, efficiency, efficiency). The well insulated tiny house, warmed by two people and a dog, may not require any additional heating because of the small interior volume of air.
Furthermore, in my particular tiny house design http://www.resilience.org/resource-detail/2544932-building-a-tiny-house, I incorporated an indoor steel water tank (under the lounge seats) which will provide thermal mass superior to (and lighter than) concrete.
Good insulation, small interior volume and thermal mass (heated by daytime passive solar influx) alone may enable you to go without active heating for most of the year, depending on where you live.
On the other hand, for adequate ventilation and to avoid condensation, it is necessary to allow some fresh (cold) air in and stale (warm) air out of the tiny house. In the case of the hermetically sealed modern Scandinavian dwelling, this is achieved (with minimal temperature drop) by a heat recovery ventilation system. For a less airtight dwelling in a less cold climate, sufficient ventilation may occur through "natural" leaks in your house (eg air coming in via the gap under the front door and out via a poorly sealed upper window), which will of course cause a drop in internal temperature. If you are installing a wood stove in your tiny house for future cooking anyway, this stove can double up as your heater and there will be no need for an electrically powered heat recovery ventilator. In this article I use the terms biomass and wood interchangeably, because 99.9% of the time, most of us use wood for our (non fossil fuel) stoves.
My criteria for the ideal biomass stove / heater for a tiny house are as follows:
Must have exhaust flue / chimney – absolutely essential requirement
Minimum use of fuel
Small and light
Little need for constant tending
Ability to monitor fuel and flame
Able to source air intake from exterior
Other issues eg aesthetics
Criteria 2 and 3 can be summed up in one word: efficiency. The least efficient, most hazardous, most polluting and most wasteful heat source is an open fire. Next worst is the open brick fireplace. The standard cast-iron combustion box with flue is a good deal better but still woefully inefficient. Furthermore even a "small" cast-iron stove can easily weigh 150kg, which is quite unsuitable for a tiny house on wheels.
Even though the technology has been around for decades, we have failed to widely embrace the secondary combustion biomass (SCBM) stove, of which the "rocket stove" is the commonest design. Standard fires only burn the primary solid material of the biomass, releasing secondary combustible materials such as soot, hydrocarbon gases and carbon monoxide into the atmosphere, which can cause acute irritation of the airways and eyes, even poisoning or asphyxiation. If inhaled chronically over decades it can lead to emphysema and even lung cancer. These remain terrible problems in Third World countries. A stove designed to burn both primary biomass as well as the secondary emissions is far more efficient, causes far less pollution and is thus far healthier than traditional wood stoves. It needs far less fuel to do the same work (eg just a quarter of the wood normally used for a conventional stove), hence requires less back breaking physical effort chopping and carrying wood, hence also protects against deforestation. Additionally such a stove can reach much hotter temperatures. There have been great initiatives to introduce SCBM stoves (such as the InStove) for use in the developing world, if only for health reasons.
If you google "rocket stove", the vast majority you find will be solely for outdoor use and will lack exhaust flues. Even those with exhaust flues may not be certified for indoor use (the commercial forces of our fossil fuel economy have long suppressed this market). Hence most "permies" these days are pioneering this option without official sanction.
Development of the "rocket mass heater" actually preceded invention of the rocket stove. This mass heater is a different beast, in that the hot metal components are enveloped in big heavy slabs of cob (or similar earthen or concreted thermal mass) to retain the heat for slow and steady release even after the fire goes out. The cob can be shaped in the form a comfortable warm bench. If used indoors, this mass heater is only suitable for a large, fixed, ground based dwelling, not a tiny home on wheels. Furthermore many rocket mass heaters may not incorporate a stove in their design.
With regard to SCBM stoves with exhaust flues/chimneys (which may or may not have been officially approved for indoor use) my websearches revealed the following types:
|WEBSITE||http://www.instove.org/60-100-liter-cookstove||http://www.rocketheater.com/||http://www.bobcatrocketstove.com/ Unfortunately no longer in production|
|Size and weight||Probably too big for most boats/caravans||Probably too big for most boats/caravans||Small (perhaps too small) and light|
|Need for constant tending||
horizontal fuel port needs constant feeding
vertical fuel port, wood self feeds by gravity as it burns down
small horizontal firebox needs regular feeding
|Ease to monitor flame and fuel||Easy||Easy||Need to open door periodically|
|Ability to source external air intake||Maybe, but need to custom configure||No||?probably yes|
|Cost in US dollars||$850 for 60litre, $995 for 100litre||?$1500 (contact dealer)||
|Remarks||Mainly designed as a stove to cook for large numbers of people, cooking slots only fit custom sized pots||Mainly designed as a heater. Sides of secondary combustion chamber can get very hot & pose risk of burns||Add-on small water tank can provide thermal mass and hot water supply|
|Aesthetics||Utilitarian||Industrial||Odd looking, may appeal to some|
|WEBSITE||Silverfire Hunter Stove||Kimberley Stove/Heater|
|Size and weight||http://www.silverfire.us/hunter-chimney-gasifier-stove||https://www.unforgettablefirellc.com/|
|Need for constant tending||Small and light||Ideal size for boat/caravan|
|Ease to monitor flame and fuel||
"batch feed" wood vertically
|can burn slowly overnight without tending|
|Ability to source external air intake||Need to remove pot to view status of wood and flame||The only SCBM stove with viewing window|
|Cost in US dollars||No||Yes|
|Remarks||$220.00||$3750 – 3995|
|Aesthetics||When starting, large flames with smoke leap out of central combustion chamber. Pots and pans get coated with soot from primary combustion||By far the most expensive but also the best made|
|Looks like a biscuit tin||Classy|
The above are mere impressions obtained from web searches, not based on any practical experiences of mine. Practical reviews from the manufacturers and customers can be found from amazon.com or youtube. This article is intended to spark (pun intended) interest in this topic so that the reader can do their own research and make their own decisions. One issue I have not yet looked into is the maintenance required for each stove type. Every setup will require periodic cleaning of the chimney.
Based on size and availability, the only two SCBM contenders for use in a tiny house on wheels are the Silverfire Hunter and the Kimberley stoves. Although the Kimberley is far superior in every way it is also hugely more expensive, however you generally get what you pay for. It is false economy to buy a cheap stove if your house ends up burning down.
The Silverfire Hunter is described as a "toplift updraft" or TLUD gasifier. It generates bare flames and smoke out of the central cavity at startup (secondary combustion occurs later in a ring around this). This issue may be a dealbreaker for the indoor user. During cooking, the base of the pot/pan is in direct contact with the primary flame, causing soot deposition. An optional cast iron disc cover is available to minimise this, although it will also reduce heat transfer. One reviewer wrote that it needs frequent ash removal which requires it be disconnected from the flue, taken outdoors and turned upside down.
For those still keen on mini wood stoves of standard design, the following review websites are helpful:
As mentioned previously a small standard cast iron stove can easily weigh 150kg, however the tiniest models may weigh less than 25kg.
For tiny house purposes, two particular models seem especially suitable (mainly because I greatly value the ability to source external air intake):
Jotul 602: apparently more than a million of these have been made, hence one would expect all the bugs have been ironed out by now. H25.25” x W12.6” x D21.25” , costs around $900. Weighs 73kg, able to configure for external air intake. Apparently 75% efficient (?capable of some secondary combustion)
The Salamander Hobbit stove: http://salamanderstoves.com/the-hobbit-stove/
Size: 302mm wide, 272mm deep and 465mm high, the low emission version costs £525 pounds sterling.
Weighs 60kg, able to configure for external air intake. It is designed to enable some secondary combustion, although not as efficient as the purpose designed SCBM stoves.
As in all things, your choice will depend on how you weigh up the various advantages versus disadvantages, as well as your individual circumstances. Many amateurs have cobbled together home-made rocket stoves for outdoor use, however few sane people will hazard home-made stoves for indoor use.
G. Chia Jan/Feb 2016