Responding to Collapse, Part 14: adapting to life without the grid

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Published on The Easiest Person to Fool on October 29, 2019

Late October Sunset over Lake Huron

Discuss this article at the Energy Table inside the Diner

I am still on Hiatus, not so much due to being under the weather as due to my new Gaming habit, playing the online, browser based game of Vikings: War of Clans.  For the Doomer and Collapse Prepper & Planner, it's the best game I have found to date which makes you think about your Resources, plan for Zombie Attacks and secure and build your Doomstead.  I have been engaged in a non-stop series of Battles and Competitions over the last couple of weeks as I learned the features of the Game, of which there are many.  When my addicition finally calms down, I'll get back to work writing about all the IRL DOOM currently facing us, most notably this week the EXTREME fire problem in Oz, where the fires have moved from the Bush to the Big Shity of Sydney in New South Wales.  Before we hear from Irv who is standing in again for me this week, here's one of the current Newz Reports.  This and the major danger day isn't until Tuesday! – RE



By Irv Mills


This is the last of 4 posts on coping with the decline and demise of the power grid that I promised in Part 11) of this Responding to Collapse series. Last time, with the help of Joe Clarkson, we looked at a typical off grid solar electric system. I would encourage anyone with sufficient financial resources to set up such a system. But even using the most durable equipment produced by BAU (business as usual), and with lots of spare parts in stock, such a system will eventually come to the point where no more use can be eked out of it using locally available "village" level technology and materials.

Before things come to that point, though, such a system can serve two very import uses:

1) allow us to use electrical power for things like lighting, refrigeration, pumping water, communication and entertainment, which will help reduce the initial shock of adapting to post grid life.

2) allow us to use what modern tools and power equipment we have on hand to facilitate the construction of low tech power systems that don't need things semiconductors or fossil fuels, which will be in short supply.

That second use is what I'll be talking about today.

The Context of Collapse

But first I'd like to review the context in which I believe all this will be happening—it has been a while since I've talked about that.

The majority of people in the "collapse sphere" here on the internet are expecting a hard, fast collapse sometime in the next few years. Many of them have been expecting it to happen next year for 15 or 20 years now and others have begun to chuckle at the long string of failed predictions. But my observation is that collapse started back in the 1970s when conventional oil production peaked in the continental United States. It has progressed since then and I expect it will continue, gradually and bumpily—unevenly (geographically), unsteadily (chronologically) and unequally (socially), until BAU can no longer provide us with the necessities of life.

One popular expectation among kollapsniks is that some trigger event will cause a financial crash and that will lead to a breakdown of supply chains that will leave almost everyone cold, hungry and in the dark. This sort of fast collapse makes for great stories with lots of conflict and drama, but in reality a planet is a big place. I can't imagine the degree of co-ordination it would take to make this happen fast and hard, all at once across the whole world. Especially when many of us will be working together to stop it from happening.

So yes, there will a financial crash or, most likely, several crashes over a period of years, but the damage will not be uniform across the whole system. And yes, in some areas, it will be serious enough that the supply chains supporting human life will start to fail. But not completely and not everywhere at once.

Initially governments will still have the wherewithal to mount relief efforts for the worst hit areas. Probably using the military to move fuel, water, food and medical supplies to affected areas, and to set up refugee camps for those who are forced to leave their homes. But as the economy crumbles it will have a weakening effect on governments and their resources will be stretched thin. Already we are seeing a tendency to blame people for whatever plight they find themselves in and to abandon them to their own devices, cutting back on expensive relief efforts. This will no doubt get worse, especially in right wing countries where the social contract is weak and the upper classes rule solely for their own benefit. That would include the USA, in my opinion.

Things will get pretty grim, especially in those camps. Indeed, I suspect that in areas where no help is forthcoming, the majority of people (maybe as many as 80 to 90 percent) aren't going to make it through. This is certainly nothing to cheer about, but I am afraid it is one of the harsh realities of collapse. Another unpleasant reality is that under such circumstances, there will be large numbers of desperate, hungry refugees walking out of the large population centres where food is no longer to be found.

Because collapse is happening unevenly, when you find yourself in difficult circumstances, you can usually find someplace else where things aren't so bad. I have been talking, throughout this series of posts, about doing just that—setting yourself up in a small remote town with local food and energy resources, far enough from large towns and cities so that the majority of refugees travelling on foot are unlikely to make it to your small town. That way, you'll be able to welcome those who do make it, rather than being swamped by them.

And I've been urging people to make their move while there is still time to build a network of acquaintances and friends who can help you cope with the gradual decline of BAU and adapt to its eventual demise. I am not suggesting that such places will be exempt from collapse, but rather that they have the local resources to adapt in ways that large population centres simply can't. A big part of that preparation will include being ready to switch over to subsistence farming when those supply chains finally let you down. And having sufficient food stored to see you through to your first harvest. All within walking distance of where you live.

That is really a subject for another day, but it does have a connection to the eventual demise of the power grid and our response to that demise. Bumpy collapse is hard on continent spanning structures like the grid and will be one of the causes of its demise, along with the faults built into capitalism. But a gradual bumpy collapse does give people a chance to wake up to what is going on.

Long before there is a massive die-off due to supply chain failure, there will be a period (perhaps it has already started) when things are going badly wrong in enough places that anyone who is paying attention will start to get pretty concerned. We saw this happen during and for the years before and after the Global Financial Crisis (approximately 2006 to 2012)—the idea of collapse gained quite a bit of credibility. But then things settled down and interest in collapse waned. I am now seeing interest starting to grow again and I expect this will continue. So finding people to work with on preparations may well become much easier than it is now.

During that period the resources of BAU will still be more or less available and those wise enough to do so will be able to set up some local structures which can step in to replace BAU when the need arises—community gardens and farms, food storage co-ops, energy co-ops and so forth.

I encourage you to pick a town with farmland, ground water and standing timber in good supply. It would also be useful if there are one or more good hydro power resources nearby. There is falling water in abundance here in southern Ontario. Many small towns were once mill towns and still have the remains of a dam and an abandoned mill or generating station which could be refurbished with much less effort than starting from scratch.

I am convinced that there is no need for collapse to take us all the way back to the stone age or even the middle ages. But I am also sure that material consumption and energy use must fall to a sustainable level that can be supported with local, renewable resources.

To stop a fall all the way back to the stone age, we will need to take advantage of some of the legacies of BAU.

BAU's Legacies

One hears a great deal about the negative legacies that BAU is leaving for future generations—climate change, resource depletion, environmental and social disruption—the list goes on. I don't disagree with any of that, but I'd like to point out that there will also be some positive legacies that many people who are thinking about collapse aren't taking into account.

  • The first of these, in my estimation, is the knowledge that mankind has accumulated up to this point, including the scientific method and the change in attitudes that came with the Enlightenment. Immersed as we are in that knowledge, it is hard to appreciate how difficult it was for people in the past to make the discoveries and developments they did, without knowing in advance what was even possible or how to accomplish it. We have an immense advantage over them, in that we know a great deal about the world around us and how things work.
  • Second, there are alive today many skilled and ingenious people, tradesmen and hobbyists, even engineers, who, after industrial civilization grinds to a halt, will be able to do a great deal with its remnants.
  • Thirdly there will be all those remnants, including:







    • durable equipment and tools that will continue working for years or decades after the factories of BAU have gone dark
    • large scale infrastructure such as roads, bridges, tunnels, dams, communications, power, water and sewage systems, factories, housing and other buildings
    • true, many of these will be left in pretty rough shape, but what can't be used as is will still have a great deal of value for the materials that can be salvaged from it
    • initially there will even be some fossil fuels left in local storage, plus materials and spare parts sitting on shelves ready for us to use

It is to be hoped that some of those skilled people will have set up off-grid power systems and things like tool libraries and workshops (maker spaces as they are called these days). We should encourage and support such efforts in every way we can, since they will be of great importance in facilitating the transition to long term, sustainable systems that can be operated, maintained and replaced when necessary with "village technology", local materials and local sources of energy.

Local energy sources

I think it's worth taking a look at what kinds of energy may be available locally and how can they be harnessed.

Fossil fuels

Fossil fuels will no longer be readily available except in the few areas where there are functional oil/gas wells or coal mines. Sure, thinking of climate change, it would be better to keep that carbon in the ground rather that returning more of it to the atmosphere. Still, I wouldn't discourage anyone from making use of such an energy source if it is close at hand, and you can get it out of the ground and convert it into usable forms. The amount of CO2 involved would be tiny compared to what's going into the atmosphere today.

Nuclear Energy

I live only a few miles from a nuclear plant, and I used to work in the switchyards there. The importance of a reliable tie to the grid was firmly impressed on me—without it, nuclear stations cannot operate safely. So nuclear plants will have to be shut down as the grid becomes unreliable. The employees of those plants, who live nearby, have a large incentive to see them shut down and mothballed safely. They will take this into their own hands, regardless of what company executives might want. And I am sure the employees will have the backing of the local community.

It is important to get that shutdown underway as quickly as possible while we still have the resources to do it. I expect spent fuel will be stored locally in dry flasks, which is considerably safer than leaving it in spent fuel ponds.

This leaves us with renewable energy sources—solar, wind, hydro, tidal, and biomas.

Solar Power

Converting solar energy into electricity takes some pretty high tech equipment. Photovoltaics (solar cells) will almost certainly be beyond our ability to produce locally. It is possible to use solar energy to create steam and drive turbines which power electrical generators. But this is really only slightly lower tech than semiconductor solar panels. And because solar energy is intermittent, we'd need some way of storing it, probably batteries. In the quantity needed, batteries are likely beyond village technology.

That leaves us to use heat from the sun directly for water or space heating, cooking, drying crops, or for process heat in cottage industry situations. And to find a way of doing this where the intermittency is not a problem. Glass is needed to make efficient solar collectors, and all but the simplest passive solar installations need electric motors and fans or pumps to move collected solar energy (hot air or water) to where you need it.

Wind Power

Wind power is also intermittent, and largely unpredictable as well, so either you need some way of storing the power or you need to use it in ways that can manage with an intermittent power source. Pumping water into storage containers at a higher level is one traditional example. Wind power has been used for grinding grain as well.

The towers, blades and gearing required as likely to be within the reach of village technology.

Hydro Power

Hydro power is slightly intermittent, but only on a seasonal basis and it is reasonably predictable. It can even be stored in head ponds to smooth out variations in load. It is doable with nineteenth century technology, and even simpler equipment if you use the mechanical power directly rather than generating electricity.

Tidal Power

There are a few location in the world where high tides can, with clever arrangements of dams, be used to drive water wheels or turbines. Tides are also intermittent, but quite predictable.


Where I live, this would consist mainly of firewood, which can also be converted into wood gas or charcoal. It is useful for space heating, water heating, process heat, and can be both produced and used with very simple equipment. Of all these energy sources, biomass is the easiest to harness at the individual and family level, without setting up more complex community projects.

Wood gas can fuel internal combustion engines and firewood can fuel steam engines, both of which can power electrical generators. But this is only practical if there is wood left after vital uses like cooking and heating have been taken care of.

It is also vital to keep in mind that biomass is only a renewable resource if we use it at a rate slower than the rate at which it grows. Fortunately, forestry is a well established science and it can guide us in which trees to cut, how many of them, and how many and what type of new trees to plant.


This is methane produced during anaerobic composting of manure and other organic materials. It can be useful in many ways, just like natural gas. But a lot of manure is needed to make useful quantities of biogas.

Muscle Power

For most of our history (and prehistory) energy mainly came from human or animal muscles. This has largely gone out of fashion in the industrial world, but I suspect that as collapse progresses, it will once again become the default where mechanical power is needed and nothing else is available.

Harnessing Local Energy Sources

There is a lot that can be done at the individual/family level to conserve energy, to make use of what's available locally, and to get by without electricity. But once you've decided to harness most of the energy sources above, a community effort will be required, especially if they are going to be used to generate electricity.

When talking about harnessing such energy resources, we must always consider whether the energy gathered will justify the energy and manhours used to build the equipment needed to gather it. Without the legacies I described above, I suspect the answer would more often than not be no, but with them, I think there is much that can be done. Remember that during the initial crisis of adapting to grid and supply chain break down in your area there will likely be some off-grid power systems to draw on.

At any rate, there is always the option of using these energy sources directly as heat or mechanical energy when we don't have electrical generating systems set up yet, or when they have failed beyond our capacity to repair. This also saves the inefficiencies involved in converting energy from one form to another, and the trouble of setting up distribution systems. Flour mills and saw mills are excellent examples.

Yes, at the start, the overpowering need will be for food, water and firewood, and a well organized community would divert available manpower to supplying those needs. But electrical equipment can actually make those tasks easier, replacing manhours with kilowatt hours, and doing some things, like lighting and refrigeration that no amount of manpower can do.

When the initial crisis has been overcome, there will be some spare manhours than can be spent on setting up a sustainable power system. I am terribly tempted to go into some specifics of what might be done, but it would have to get pretty technical and would make this post much longer than it should be.

Using Energy Wisely

In parts 11 and 12 of this series I included a list of important uses for electricity and alternatives to use during outages. But this time we're considering the permanent loss of the grid, and instead of coping temporarily with grid outages, we're talking about adapting to that permanent loss, either by generating our own power, by replacing it with other energy alternatives or practicing conservation—using less energy. We should be aware in advance that this will require some changes in the way we live.


Conservation is pretty simple here—we can do without lights at night, and set up workshops with windows to let in sunlight. But at higher latitudes, winter nights are long and much could be accomplished during them if we had artificial light.

Without electricity, you burn something to make light. Candle wax, kerosene, naphtha and propane are all based on fossil fuels and will not be available for long. Vegetable oil, animal fat, and alcohol will be locally available, but the source in each case is something that could also be used as food. If food is in short supply, lighting will have to suffer. This is one area where biogas could be quite useful.

My beloved mantle lamps will be hard to produce, as those mantles use salts of various elements that are not likely to be available locally to produce that bright white light.

If electricity is available, converting it to light is a bit of a challenge. We are in a sense spoiled by today's LED lights, which are highly efficient and long lasting. I've been reading recently that when they fail it is usually not the actual diode that fails, so I suspect ways will be found to refurbish them and keep them going for a long time. But the day will come when we have to go back to various sorts of arc lights and carbon filament incandescent bulbs.


Here is Southern Ontario there is no shortage of good ground water, so I suspect wells with hand or wind driven pumps will be the thing. Friends in Australia and Hawaii tell me about their large outdoor water storage tanks. This looked odd to me and at first I wondered why we don't use such things here, but then I realized that they would freeze solid in the winter. In cold countries indoor cisterns are more practical and can be filled using rainwater, or well water pumped when the wind is blowing.

Electrically driven pumps will no doubt be used where power is available—they save a lot of hand pumping and are easy to control.


There are many low tech ways of safely handling sewage. But we'll need to recover and use the plant nutrients and organic matter it contains, so I would think composting toilets will be very popular. I can recommend two books on the subject of composting human waste: The Humanure Handbook, by Joe Jenkins, and The Scoop on Poop, by Dan Chiras.


Food is going to stop arriving regularly at the local supermarkets. To me, it seems that the necessary response would be to switch over to using locally grown food and growing much of it yourself, and to have enough food stored to last you through to the next harvest. There is a lot to say about this subject, but since it's not directly connected to electricity, I leave it for another post.


Cooking is largely a matter of heating food, so we'll do it by burning biomass. Preferably in a nice indoor wood burning cookstove. I suspect the demand for those will go through the roof when it becomes more clear how things are going. Fortunately there are alternative that can be made by hand from local materials—mud/brick ovens, rocket stoves, etc. Google will lead you to all kinds of information on these.


Where winter is sufficiently cold, the obvious solution is to use ice, harvested from frozen bodies of water, and to set up a well insulated icehouse to store that ice through the summer.

Ammonia based refrigeration uses heat as its power input, and should be within the reach of village level technology.

The kind of refrigeration we are all used to uses some variation of freon as its working fluid and electric motors to pump that fluid. I expect that once existing refrigeration equipment has worn out, freon will be too big a challenge to make locally and we will abandon the technology.


For space heating woodstoves are the obvious solution. As with cookstoves, I think at some point there will be a huge demand for heating stoves. Getting set up to heat with wood before you are forced to do so would be a good idea. If electricity is available, fans can be used to move air around the house and heat it more evenly.

Heating your house with wood takes a lot more wood than cooking. It you don't own a wood lot, you should find someone reliable who specializes in cutting, splitting and delivering firewood.

If you do own a woodlot, you'll likely be doing that for yourself. At some point gasoline won't be available to power chainsaws and you'll have to fall back on more traditional methods. Here is a series of posts on this subject by Category 5, another Canadian kollapsnik and blogger.

C5 Gets Wood:



I covered this in some detail in part 12 of this series, here.


A small community which is generating its own electricity should be able to get its landline telephone system working again. Setting up a local broadcast radio station also sounds like a good project to foster community solidarity. And ham radio may be one of the few ways of finding out what is going on in the world. When modern solid state equipment wears out, vacuum tubes should be doable with village technology.


Fossil fuel powered vehicles will no doubt be used until supplies of those fuels run out. It would be good to ration those fuels and see that they get used for the most critical purposes for as long as possible. It may be possible to convert some internal combustion engines to using wood gas to extend their usefulness.

Bikes are actually pretty high tech, and will eventually wear out beyond local repair, especially those rubber tires.

Horses and other draught animals will become extremely valuable, and we should do what we can in advance to encourage and support horse breeders.

Water transportation, using lakes, rivers, canals and powered by sail or muscles will grow in importance.

But walking will probably be the default mode of transporation, especially within the local area. And most of us will try to avoid having to make long trips.

Cottage Industry

I'm adding a new category here, because without the factories that now make all the goods we use, we will have to return to making them for ourselves. With modern knowledge, tools, equipment and electrical power, there is a great deal than can be done using local and salvaged materials. Acquiring the skills needed is something all of us should be working at. Pick an area that interests you and learn everything you can about it.

I bake bread and know a fair bit about growing grain and milling it. I make cheese and I know how to milk a cow. I weave wicker baskets and harvest willow that grows locally. As well as being an electrician, I am fairly good at carpentry, plumbing and drywall. These skills and a great many others will be needed and can be learned with some effort, if necessary from books and the internet while it lasts, but ideal from people who already know them.

Many years ago I started working on a degree in electrical engineering, but soon dropped out and apprenticed as an electrician instead. So the electrical parts of what I've been talking about here seem fairly straight forward to me. But I've been thinking recently that a degree in chemical engineering would be damn handy, or at least the equivalent knowledge, with a focus on low tech, small scale applications.

In Conclusion

Back in Part 10 of this series I said, "It seems to me that supplies of electrical power, diesel fuel and money will be at the heart of many of the troubles that lie ahead, so I'll concentrate on those areas." I think we've finally reached the end of the discussion on electrical power. Next time I'll talk about diesel fuel and the supply chains that rely on it.

Tiny House Chronicles: Off Grid Electrics

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on July 22, 2016


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Tiny House offgrid electrics: further insights and modifications

ELECTRICAL 20uly2016

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).

LVcutoffThe 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:

  1. 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).

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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).

  4. 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.

Tiny House Electrics

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on February 20, 2016


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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).


Basic design:


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



  • 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




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:

4 ConventionalSystemUsingMicroprocessor&SensorsThe 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.
















Portable Electric Cooking Preps

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on January 17, 2016


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When discussing emergency preparedness for cooking, often ignored by preppers are electric cooking devices.  Usually you will find discussion of either Propane or Kerosene fired cooking gear used for camping as the main emergency cooking prep.  The reason they tend to be ignored is that one of the main scenarios that preppers are concerned with is a "grid down" emergency, where electricity is unavailable everywhere in your neighborhood.  In that case, electric cooking gear is pretty much worthless, although if you have a generator or a large battery system and inverter you can still use them.  Still, in that situation it is a pretty inefficient means of using your fuel.  You're better off just to siphon some of the gas and use that for a cooking fuel directly.

However, there are many other types of situations to prep for where the electric cooking gear is actually superior to the propane and kerosene fired gear.  The main one is personal economic collapse, where you lose your job and your McHovel gets foreclosed on and you move into your van to do Stealth Van living.  You still need a source of electricity of course to be able to use the apparatus, and with a powerful enough inverter most any cooking apparatus can be run while your car engine is running.  Again though, this is a relatively inefficient use of fuel overall.

'What you need to do is find sources of electricity you can access while parked.  The easiest and legal methods are to park in a campsite that has electric outlets, or to stay in a motel for a night, where as part of your fee you get all the electricity you want.  If you have friends in the neighborhood you are Van Dwelling who will let you plug into a garage outlet while you visit with them, you can charge up your auxiliary battery system this way,  A couple of hours pulling down 20 Amps or so @ 120V (2400W) to charge your Deep Cycle batteries will cost less than a dollar on their monthly electric bill, typically a kilowatt/hour costs around 15¢.  So 2 hours plugged in here runs around 80¢ or so maybe.

https://www.polartrec.com/files/members/cheri-hamilton/images/img1881.jpgAnother method that is "quasi-legal" here in Alaska is to park in places that have external outlets for block heaters.  Block heaters keep your engine warm on the sub-zero days and make starting up the engine much easier.  On a diesel, you can't live without them in sub-zero temps.  Many restaurants have these external plugs by the parking spots, and many motels do also.  However, if you aren't actually patronizing the restaurant or staying in the motel, then it's not really legal to be plugging in to their juice.  Also, the juice may only be on during the winter, so it's not going to work during the rest of the year if the establishment shuts down the outlets.

https://i.guim.co.uk/img/static/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2014/3/18/1395161639328/Power-cables-in-Rocinha-009.jpg?w=620&q=85&auto=format&sharp=10&s=5a4427ec6f69e3cb0a332c9e8fcf16d6The illegal method is to pirate electricity that runs to street lights in any community. In the 3rd World countries this is common in the slums. This is NOT RECOMMENDED!  Besides the legal problems you will run into if caught doing this, you better know your shit as far as wiring and splicing goes.  Quite EZ to electrocute yourself or start an electrical fire when you tap juice from a street light or straight off the electrical conduit serving a residential area.  DEFINITELY do not try to tap long range High Voltage lines!!!!!!!  Unless you are a fully licensed electrician with a ton of experience, you have a DEATH WISH if you fuck with long distance high voltage lines.

OK, with all that in mind, in ths article we're going to look at the FULLY LEGAL methods of Campsites with electric power and Motels.

First is the question of what apparatus you need/want?

The most basic and necessary is the single electric burner, featured at the top of the page here.  These burners come single or double, from around 750W draw to 1500W.  On just the single burner, you can heat your soups, steam your rice, stir fry your veggies in a Wok, fry bacon & eggs, etc.  In other words, there really is nothing else you absolutely NEED other than the single burner.  These burners are lightweight, small and CHEAP.  $15 will get you one at Walmart.

However, for more variety in cooking methods, there are some other portable electric cooking devices you might want to add to the prep arsenal, depending how much room in your Stealth Van you wish to allocate to this type of cooking apparatus.

http://www.homedepot.com/catalog/productImages/300/aa/aaf7adf0-e8f3-4a9f-baf2-fc1aae92b546_300.jpgThe first thing you probably want to go for is a double burner instead of a single burner.  This speeds up your cooking a lot and allows for more complex dishes to be prepared.  On one burner you can have your rice steaming, while on the other you are doing a stir-fry in your Wok for a Chinese-style dinner, or you can be heating some Oatmeal on one burner while your fry bacon & eggs on the other one for breakfast.  In both cases, you use up about 15 min worth of juice @ around 1000W, which doesn't draw down your batt set too much.

The next device you might want to add is an electric slow cooker.  These have the advantage of drawing very low power, a typical slow cooker draws about as much power as a 100W lightbulb on the low setting.  If you have some kind of Solar PV system, you may be able to run such a slow cooker when the sun is shining without drawing down your batt storage at all!  Of course, if you are in a motel room, no issues here at all, slow cook up your favorite stew or gumbo or chowder and then package in some tupperware and store in your cooler to eat during the week after short reheating over a kerosene stove or the like.  Or you can even eat it cold if you are a tough guy.  lol.

http://sites.ecovillage.org/sites/default/files/cooker.jpgOther possibilities for reheating while not connected to a power outlet include using a Solar Oven.  These can be constructed from a cardboard box, aluminum foil and saran wrap at the real basic level, but you'll do better with a more robust and well insulated arrangement.  If the sunlight is available on a given day for heating up your food, why use precious electricity stored in your Batt Set or propane or kerosene?  Use what is available for FREE first here, and conserve your other power/heat sources only for when the free sources are not available!  If you are traveling around in a Stealth Van in a neighborhood with a lot of trees, there' probably enough fallen deadwood around to cook or reheat over a wood fire.  Use that before you go to your stash of proane or kerosene.

http://www.gehousewares.com/products/169014%20rotisserie%20large_1098902701653.pngAfter the burners and the slow cooker, the next device you might want to add to your electric cooking emergency apparatus is a Toaster/Oven/Broiler.  these go from super basic to pretty complex, anywhere from $30 to $100 can be spent on one of these.  Some even have built in Rotisseries if you buy a chicken or leg of lamb, have access to juice and want to do your own Rotisserie instead of buy an already rotisseried chicken at the food superstore.  You'll save a bit of money this way as long as you're not paying for the cooking juice.  Generally speaking though, it's just easier to buy the chicken already rotisseried and not too much more expensive overall.  I find that generally 1 Rotisserie Chicken a week purchased at the food superstore provides all the animal protein I need in a week at a cost of around $6 pre-cooked on the hot rack.  I can buy a similar uncooked chicken for $4, but then I have to do the cooking, use the energy, do the cleanup etc.  Not much savings for the week to buy the raw chicken, not worth the trouble either in normal circumstances.  However, if you are getting your electricity as part of your motel bill and you have the time to do the rotisserie yourself, you'll save about $2/chicken you rotisserie this way.  You pay off the investment in the rotisserie oven after maybe 10 chickens the most.  So it's worth spending a little extra for this option.  How you use the chicken over the week is the key here in REAL SAVINGS, and I will be writing a new SNAP Card Gourmet article on the Incredible, Edible Chicken in the near future. 🙂

http://73j7e1utrow1c3hha1rfv18d.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2014/05/egg-sandwich_02_dougyoung-550x410.jpgBesides the chickens though, your Toaster/Oven/Broiler comes in handy for many other things, not the least of which is making Toast!  After a couple of days, whatever bread you are using is starting to go stale even if you keep it well wrapped up.  Toasting up the bread you use in your sandwiches makes them much more tasty!  You also can melt some cheese on the bread while toasting, great for making Bacon, Egg & Cheese on a Kaiser Roll breakfasts, and Cheeseburger Lunches & Dinners. You can Bake Lasagna in your toaster over too, so as long as you have enough juice to run it, you et a huge variety of possible foods to cook up you could not do with just the hot plates or slow cooker.

https://www.cuisinart.com/share/images/products/full/1291/ceg-980t.jpgThe final recommended device in the electric cooking arsenal is an Electric Grill.  I like my steaks, burgers etc cooked over an open heat source where the fat drips sown and then smokes up the meat some, giving it the classic BBQ flavor.  While ideally you want to do this over charcoal with perhaps some mesquite wood chips, in fact you can get most of the same flavor with a propane fired grill or an electric one.  Not the George Forman type of grill where the grill surface itself is heated, but one where the heating element is below the meat, heats up some glass rocks or a metal radiator and then the fat drips down onto that during the BBQing.  You don't want to use these things indoors though, since they produce too much SMOKE.  However, long as you have a source of electric power and can place the device outside, it's a great and EZ way to do a BBQ.

There are of course innumerable other specific devices such as electric steamers and electric skillets that are available, but the hot plate will do what they do as long as you have the right pots and pans.  For instance I have a Lodge Logic Cast Iron Skillet I can use over a campfire, but it will also drop right on top of either my 2 burner electric hotplate or my 2 burner propane stove.  Why do I need a separate electric skillet here?  I don't need a dedicated electric Wok or dedicated electric steamer either.  So the basic 4 devices are all you really need here, and total cost can be kept under $200 if you shop wisely for Low, Low Prices Every Day at Walmart.  LOL.

How do you use the Electric Cooking devices in the Campsite/Motel Van Dwelling Paradigm?


http://resources1.news.com.au/images/2009/03/29/1225697/711409-family.jpgNow that you have all your devices stashed in the Van ready for your Bugout when the Sheriff arrives to foreclose on your McMansion, how are you going to live and do your cooking, and how much is this going to cost you a month?  First off let's stipulate this is for the single person, or at most a couple.  If you have kids, the Van Dwelling paradigm becomes much less plausible, although to be sure there are plenty of examples of families living in their cars.

At the time you purchased the McMansion, you were a successful network engineer making $80K/year.  You had a $2000/mo mortgage, utility bills of $300/mo, insurance etc.  You were pretty good with your money, not buying a new car every year, and your 4 year old Mercedes is almost paid of.  You also have your prize Harley you rode on summer weekends, it's paid for.  Since you were also a Doomer prior to getting your pink slip, you ALSO have your Bugout Machine, a 10 year old Chevy passenger van and a 15' enclosed Utility trailer.


You're hopeful for a couple of months, sending out the resumes and meeting your bills out of your savings, but they are depleting quickly with your high monthly bills.  At the end of the 2nd month you still can't find any job at close to your old salary, but you have landed a part time low wage job as an Asst. Manager at Safeway.  You make $12/hr to start and get 20 hours/week for a $200/week paycheck after taxes and SS are taken out.  At the end of month before you completely deplete your savings you implement your Emergency Plan.

http://www.all-secure-self-storage.com/theme/allsecure/img/galleries/100_1156.JPGYou sell your Mercedes and after paying off the remaining debt on the car loan actually come out $2000 ahead.  You get $3000 for your Harley, less than the $5000 you bought it for but it was purchased for cash.  You have a yard sale and get rid of what you can of your furniture and old clothes and other junk, and raise a few hundred ths way as well.  The few things you want to keep go in a Storage Unit you contract for $50/mo.  For an extra $30/mo, you can park your utility trailer on the storage unit property also.  This is your new "rent" bill of $80/mo.

On the 1st of the month, you send in the Jingle Mail.  Since you were a Doomer before buying the McMansion, you made sure to get a non-recourse mortgage so as soon as you send in the Keys and the Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure, you are out from under all the debt there, even though the McMansion was underwater.  You also have eleiminated all your utility bills, home insurance etc.  You no longer have a car payment.


"I'm just happy to have a job"

How do you now budget your $200/week, $800/mo income?  $20/week is already gone to your storage unit rental, and you have a $40/week SNAP Card Gourmet  food budget, still have $160/week left here.  You get a gym membership for $60/mo, $15/week to shower daily and stay in shape, now down to $145 left.  Your smart phone with internet costs you $80/mo, $20/wk, now down to $105 week. Your insurance on the van costs $40/mo, $10/wk, now down to $95.

You now develop a circuit of sleeping spots around town not too far from your job at Safeway, keeping your gas costs down quite low, you drive no more than about 10 miles a day at most, usually much less.  Gas costs you $1/day, $10/week with some bonus driving on weekends.  Now down to $85.

For the most part just this small amount of driving each day will keep your deep cycle marine battery pretty well topped off to do typical reheating type cooking.  You can bring your slow cooker into work with you and plug it in to have a nice hot stew ready by the time you finish your 4 hour shift.  You can quickly fry up some bacon and eggs for breakfast on your hot plate.  If not connected to external power you only use your hot plate for maybe 15 minutes a day off the deep cycle marine battery.

Once a week you get either Camping spot with electricity or a motel room $20 for the camping spot or $50 for the motel room (Tom Burdett will leave the Light on for you at Motel 6).  You check in at 4PM after work and check out is noon the following day,  During this 20 hours you do laundry, you shower, you plug in your deep cycle marine battery to top it off for the week and you cook up a big batch of chili in the slow cooker and bake a lasagna in your toaster oven.  After stuffing yourself with the freshly cooked food, you take the rest  (most of it) and package into individual servings which go into your cooler with ice you get from the motel ice machine.  If you're a regular at the motel they'l probably be OK with you stopping in during the week to refresh your ice, but even if not worse case scenario you buy block ice for $2 once a week.  Winter when it is below freezing you won't need to buy ice at all, just leave a bottle under the van to freeze up and put that in the cooler.

RE-EwzYou can of course scarf up additional electricity on visits with friends as mentioned earlier, and you can even develop a portable battset/charger arrangement to charge up in places like internet coffee shops and laundromats.  I have 3 10AH SLA batteries wired in series for 36V which run my Ewz scooter.  Together with the 36V 2A charger, they fit inside a Briefcase (a HEAVY briefcase though! lol).  From almost dead to full charge takes about 5 hours, but rarely do I discharge that far down.  If I ever really had a need for it, I could disconnect the batteries, connect up one of the 12V batts to a 500W Inverter and run a hot plate long enough to fry an egg or something short like that.  However, between your daily driving and your weekly motel visits for charging and full scale cooking, you're unlikely to need such a supplement.

Does this mean you need to go ALL electric with your daily cooking while van dwelling?  Of course not, in fact most of the time when not connected to an external power source you'll probably use your propane or kerosene fired stove instead, or if out in a park that allows BBQing or even provides outdoor BBQs, you will throw in some charcoal and grill an nice juicy rib-eye for dinner instead.  Besides that, your workplace or a convenience store probably has a microwave you can use as well, providing another way for you to get some hot food each day without using your own electricity or fuel.

http://cdn.tegna-tv.com/-mm-/bf36b4c6941ee8531d0aa6cc129086fad95ded7c/r=x404&c=534x401/http/www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/29d215570eaa3c21f8299595dadea3fd20738899/c=95-0-1527-1077/local/-/media/2014/12/11/KXTV/KXTV/635538576530020263-shelter-church.jpgThe advantages to having portable electric cooking apparatus are many though.  You can use them in places that otherwise might not permit you to use a propane or kerosene stove, a public Storm Shelter for instance.  If you have to leave your McMansion due to a flood and go seek shelter at the local HS gymnasium, you'll probably have access inside the gym to a power outlet to run your hot plate.  Having  hot cup of soup to eat while the hurrican blows through town can make all the difference between being glum and depressed or feeling safe and warm and relatively happy to be alive.

Eventually when the grid goes down for good, your protable electric cooking devices will be all but useless, unless you have access to a mega large Solar PV array, but that day is probably still quite a ways off for the FSoA.  Temporary power outages and brownouts become more likely as time goes by, but a complete & permanent electrical grid collapse is ultimately a Mad Max scenario in places currently wired up and dependent on this power.  As long as there is some BAU going on, there will be electricity to be had somewhere.  For this period, portable electric cooking apparatus is a must-have prep.

Of course, the scenario I painted above does presuppose the former Network Engineer is able to find at least a part time job at a low wage for some monthly income in order not to be draining savings.  However, even if not, it's going to make what savings he does have last a whole lot longer.  He also won't even appear homeless at all if he is careful.  He'll be clean and presentable every day at work with his daily workout and shower at the gym before going in to work.  He'll be readily accessible to receive job interview phone calls and emails.  He'll be eating well on a budget he can afford, without having to buy expensve restaurant meals.  With luck after a few months or even a year of living this way, he will finally get a full time job again in IT, although probably not at the old wage and be able to afford a regular apartment again, smaller than the old McMansion but bigger and a bit more comfortable than the time spent living in the Van.

Having such an "off the cliff" economic plan to tide you over an extended period of unemployment can be the difference between being able to climb back out of the chasm, or falling completely off and plunging to the valley below in the final crash of your life.  It doesn't take a lot of money to create such a plan, for a single adult.  A good used van can be had on Craig's list for $3000, a trailer for another $1500.  Another $2000 in equipment you otherwise don't already have probably will fit it out OK to begin with.  It's an Insurance Plan you dont want to be without, if you can afford to put it together.

Coming Soon on Diner You Tube: Van Dweller Part 3









































Resilience Testing Week

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on January 3, 2016


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This week was notable on the Last Great Frontier for not 1, but 2 critical infrastructure failures.  Neither one lasted all that long, but both gave me the opportunity to see how prepped and ready I am for intermittent failures of the 3 basics you often take for granted, running water, central heating and electricity on demand.

http://i0.wp.com/savethewater.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/drought-6.jpgPrior to full on SHTF where this stuff goes off and never comes back on, there is likely to be a period where such outages become more frequent, and run for longer periods of time.  This is the way it is already in the 3rd World countries that have such ammenties in their larger cities, actually it's always been that way and never really got a whole lot better.  When I was living in Brazil back in the 60s, we had a power blackout at least once a month.  Nowadays in Sao Paolo, with water rationing the taps go dry either for a few hours each day or for a few days each week, so everyone still stuck living there has to adapt by storing water and conserving what is stored.

As crucial as water is in your preps, for me it was one of the last things I developed a full plan for.  While I was on my early prepping frenzy in 2008-9, I worked up a good 2 year food supply, but my water supply on hand was limited to about a dozen quart size water containers, which were old Cranberry Juice bottles I rinsed out and filled with tap water.  Far as just drinking and cooking goes, this probably would last a week, but if you add in stuff like flushing the toilet, washing dishes, taking showers etc you probably would use it up in a day or two the most.

http://www.pooresttourist.com/uploads/1/2/4/5/1245765/2884998_orig.jpgSo upon moving to my new digs, I developed a more comprehensive water plan.  I now have 3 large 20 gallon water containers, 2 1 Gallon Water containers for water transportation, 10 1 gallon containers of Distilled Water, along with the original dozen quart bottles.

2 of the 20 Gallon containers are for drinkable water, the 3rd is for "gray water" used for toilet flushing.  After doing a task like washing dishes or taking a Sponge Bath (no showers during water shortage time, even if you have a portable shower system!), you store the leftover water in your gray water container for later use again as toilet flushing water.  Also keep your toilet flushes to one/day if possible.  If several people are using the same toilet though, this may not be possible.

The other means I have for keeping the gray water container filled s a stream that runs nearby my digs. That is what the 2 1 gallon jugs are for.  I can take a trip over to the stream on the Ewz, fill the two jugs then return to the digs and dump this water into the gray water container to keep it topped off with plenty of toilet flushing water.  The only time this is problematic is if the creek is frozen solid, but it usually is not these days.  Of course, not everyone has a creek running nearby them, so not everyone can use this method.

If your water problem is just local to you, like your well ran dry but there is still running water nearby you like in convenience store bathrooms, that is what the quart containers are for.  You drop one or two in a backpack and when you hit a convenience store, you use the bathroom and fill them up with FREE water.  When you return home, you dump this water into your drinking water 20 gal containers and keep them topped off.  Similarly, you can do this at work if you still have a job, and your kids can bring one to school each day and fill from the school tap water.  If everyone brings home a quart of water each day, you should all stay well hydrated unless sweating heavily because it is hot, in which case you will need to double this possibly.

If the problem is systemic like in Sao Paolo, this is not going to last forever.  Eventually no convenience store will have running water, no school and no workplace.  Guess what?  Time to either move out of Sao Paolo or roll over and die!  It's no longer fit for human habitation.

So your Water Plan is not a solution to a permanent drought, and neither is the Electric Plan following a solution to permanent grid down scenarios.  The plans are just designed to get you through disruptions to normal infrastructure supply that lasts for a defined period of time.  How long that time is depends on how much of anything it is you store, but IMHO a minimum standard is 1 week.  1 week is about how long on average it will take to get all neighborhoods back on grid power and running water after a typical decent Snow or Ice Storm or a Flooding event.  Really bad ones, 2 weeks and stuff like a Hurricane or F5 Tornado passed through your town, it could be several months.  In my case, I estimate I can go 3 months completely off grid, no running water, utilizing gas from my cars and Bugout Machine for my generator after the first week or so.

This water plan is very inexpensive, less than $100 for the cost of the containers.  Now onto the Electric plan.

http://www.wnybatteries.com/images/ibs_HD24-DP.jpgThis was one of my earliest preps, but I have expanded on it as time goes by, adding solar PV panels as well as a gas powered generator.  Mainly however it is a storage plan for grid power for the occassions when you lose electricity for a few days.  The core of the plan requires only 3 things, all of which can fit on a shelf in the garage or a corner of a closet, Battery Storage capacity, an AC/DC trickle charger for the battery and an Inverter for converting stored juice back from DC/AC when the power goes out.  One of each can suffice for most critical purposes for a while but I recommend a bit larger system for this.  Here is how it played out today in my Grid Down Resilience Test for electricity.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41yf0CmxNTL._SX300_.jpgIn the case of my power outage, besides running the laptop and light for a while, the Deep Cycle Marine Battery also fully charged the laptop and the cell phone, so even after it fully discharged there would have been hours of time left on their independent batteries.  However, the DCMB was barely touched here on this, and I now think it would run at least 24-48 hours full time without a charge on just this drain.  It is now plugged back in on the trickle charger and collecting juice for the next outage.

With this knowledge, I can now recommend a Minimal System for short term electric outages.

3 DCMB @ $100 each
1 1000W Modified Sine Wave Inverter $100
1 500W Modified Sine Wave Inverter $75
6 Amp DC Automotive Battery Charger $50

Total Cost Basic System: $525

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51kphrsrCNL._SX300_.jpgThe 1000W inverter is dedicated to your Fridge.  Typical fridge draws 500-750 Watts, but not all the time, only when the compressor runs, and that depends on ambient temp in your digs.  One DCMB is dedicated to keeping the food cold as well during an outage.  You also don't need to use it for the first day or so long as you don't open the fridge or freezer too often.  Keep your freezer PACKED.  If it's not packed up with meat, fill the empty spaces with tupperware filled with frozen water.  Only fill the tupperware about 80% full before freezing, because the water expands on freezing.

The 500W inverter is sufficient for your laptop and a couple of lights, and will also keep you portable rechargeable electronics fully charged. Another DCMB is dedicated to this Inverter.  The 3rd DCMB is a backup for either of those if they fail or run out of juice.

By itself, this sytem will probably get you a week of time if you are careful about electricity usage.  Like dont leave your laptop on 24/7.  lol.

A simple Upgrade to this is to add a 2000W Generator and have say 10 gallons of gas in 2 5 gallon jugs.  Use this to recharge your DCMBs as they run down.  This probably brings you up to a month of resilience time with enough juice for the basics.  That is going to cover any outage other than true SHTF stuff.  If your neighborhood electric company cannot restore power inside a month, it is Mad Max time.

This addition to your electric resilience costs

2000 Watt Generator: $300
10 Gallons Gas: $25
2 5 Gallon Gas Containers: $40

Total Options Cost: $365

After that, you can invest in solar panels or RV Wind Turbines to get a little more trickle charge going in some locations depending on Sun & Wind resource.  Also remember if that if necessary, you can repurpose your SUV battery for additional storage.

So, IMHO, there is no reason the typical McMansion owner cannot Prep for power outages lasting upwards of a month.  the whole package comes in less than $1000, a one time cost which is CHEAP insurance.  It's also highly portable and can be taken on the road with you if you have to abandon your digs (wildfire, flooding, earthquake, volcanic eruption, war breaks out etc).

If you have extra FRNs, you might want to go with Li-I batts which will shrink and lighten the load in the SUV for the bugout scenario, as well as give more discharge cycles.  However, they are pricy, and will probably triple the Batt investment cost in this type of insurance.

After Water & Electricity, the final part of your Short Term Disruption Preparedness plan (besides the food of course, which every prepper starts with usually) is having enough HEAT in your place so you dont freeze and the pipes don't freeze during the disruption.  This is only an issue in the winter in places where the temps go below freezing, but that can be the case most anywhere these days except equatorial regions.

In most setups these days, if you lose your electricity you lose your heat also, even if the heat is NG or Diesel fired furnaces.  They have electronic controls and will shut down without electricity.  If there is no manual overide to this, you are without heat as well as electricity, even if you still have fuel.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51twT-QR71L._SY300_.jpgAs long as your digs are well insulated, lack of heat is probably not going to be a problem the first day.  In my case over a few hours the internal temps only dropped a couple of degrees from the 60F I keep the place at in the winter.  Not enough to even drop on a second sweatshirt.  Your primary preparation for heat disruption is having good winter gear to throw on as the temperatures drop, in layers as it gets colder.  Above freezing, there is no real need for heat at all,  good clothing.will cover you fine.  However, you do have your pipes to worry about, so once the internal temps drop below around 40, you're going to want a backup here also.  Best for this in terms of Energy Density and ability to run indoors without killing yourself from Carbon Monoxide poisoning instead of freezing are portable Kerosene Heaters, which have CO detectors on board and automatic shutoffs.

https://don1uexbbetbo.cloudfront.net/content/art/slideshow/wellsfargo_igludorf_lg1.jpgHow much kerosene you will need to have stored and how many of these heaters you will need for any given length of time depends entirely on how big the space is you are trying to keep above freezing, and how low those external temps actually go.  If you have a big place and the temps outside are -20 Below Zero, you would need a LOT of heaters and a lot of kerosene every day to keep the place above freezing!  So for good resilience at an affordable price, best NOT to live in a big McMansion.  Also better to live together with several people in a reasonably small space, since your combined body heat by itself does a lot to keep a small space warm.  This of course is the Igloo principle of the Inuit, Athabascans and other "Eskimo" tribes that live here in Alaska, although they hardly live that way anymore.  You put husband, wife, 2 kids and 6 dogs in an Igloo big enough to fit all that mammalian biomass, you will not need a fire inside the Igloo just about no matter how cold it gets outside.

However, you shouldn't have to go the Igloo route for a short disruption if you match your heat generation capability to the size of the space you need to keep above freezing.  This is an important point, because you don;t want to try to keep the place at the same kind of temp you would under "normal" circumstances with your backup heating gear.  You are just trying to keep yourself and the pipes in your digs from freezing, not making it so hot you can walk around comfortably in your BVDs.  lol.

To conclude here, all of these plans are SHORT TERM DISRUPTION  plans.  They will not help you in a permanent Grid Down, SHTF scenario longer than their designed lifespan, which at the very outside I think would be a full year.  Perhaps longer if there was still working money and fuel to buy with that money, but in such a long disruption that probably would not be the case.  The deal here is though that as this spin down proceeds, it's unlikely that your infrastructure will fail all together, all at once, for good.  Being able to survive through the intermitent problems while the society reforms is crucial to making it THROUGH the Zero Point to the Other Side.  You don't wanna be the guy that freezes to death in his digs after just 3 days of an Ice Storm power disruption, but you get stories of those folks all the time.

For the longer term when all of these things we take for granted now are gone for good?  Most of the population, including me, will die off.  I'm not suited to building mud huts with stone tools and living the full primitive anymore.  Only a few younger folks may be able to do that, and I wish them well in their efforts.  For most of us though, you take it one day at a time, and try to keep going just as long as you can.  Covering the basics for the short term disruptions can help you do that.









After the Collapse: Silence & Darkness

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Aired on Canadian Prepper You Tube on March 16, 2015


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Homeless Internet Admin Electronic Preps

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on October 25, 2015


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A couple of weeks ago I ran across a really fine article about how to negotiate and survive becoming Homeless, Homeless Survival : Practical Tips And Advice Derived From Personal Experience

In this article, the author details many good strategies for the Homeless person to continue onward looking like more or less a "normal" person who still has a home, although he didn't go over Homeless Cooking in the detail I have in some of my SNAP Card Gourmet articles.  He also covered maintaining Internet communications to an extent, using the Free Wi-Fi available in many places, but this was not detailed enough for me, because I am more of an Internet Junkie than most people.  So in this article I am going to detail all the hardware you need to not just get on the net, but to be able to Admin your websites, keep your hardware charged and operational, etc.

Internet-JunkieFirst thing for me is this is an ESSENTIAL, almost as important as my Food Preps!  I run or co-Admin about a dozen different Collapse Websites on the net now.  They are:

collapse.global Portal

Doomstead Diner Blog

Doomstead Diner Forum

Doomstead Diner Facebook

Doomstead Diner Twitter

Collapse Cafe You Tube

Collapse Cafe Soundcloud

Collapse Surveys

Doomstead Diner Legacy Blog

r/globalcollapse Reddit Sub

r/overshoot Reddit Sub

So I have a LOT of Internet responsibilities now to my fellow Kollapsniks TM!  It's obviously important to ME to run these sites (keeps me bizzy!), but it is important to the rest of the Diners too, and I don't want to let them down and not keep running these sites even if I become Homeless!  Which granted is not an immediate possibility since I still have money in the bank and the monetary system here in the FSoA is still working and there is a decent chance I will get my Bennies after becoming Disabled and a few Diners have offered me Shelter in the worst case scenario, but still I could become Homeless and without an official net connection and my own source of electric grid power for at least a period of time.  This could happen if for instance we had a major quake up here in the Mat Valley or if Mount Redoubt blows and drops a few inches of ashfall down which collapses the roof of my digs or there is a big wildfire in the neighborhood and I have to Bugout FAST!  Many Possbilities exist for my ability to Admin my websites to be compromised in some way!

Can I bring my Laptop and home electric security preps with me?  I have stuff like a generator, Deep Cycle Batteries, large solar panels, the WORKS here to survive a temporary loss of power in my location as long as the roof is still over my head and I can pay the rent.  However, either in a fast bugout situation or in the long term homeless situation, I can't be hauling these preps around with me all the time.  The Deep Cycle Lead-Acid Batteries are HEAVY!  The Yamaha Generator while probably the lightest and smallest in its class is ALSO pretty heavy.  So you can nix both of those for the Homeless person, although you probably could keep them in a Storage Unit.  No, what I need is a compact & lightweight kit for maintaining my websites in all but the most dire circumstances where the internet itself goes dark.  Then this whole bizness is OVAH and it is my time to Buy My Ticket to the Great Beyond TM.  When the Internet Goes Dark TM, so does RE.  No more Reason to Live.  LOL.

What my goal here in creating the Internet Admin Survival Package TM was  was to put together everything I need to maintain connection to the net and do my Admin tasks until the day arrives that the Internet Goes Dark TM.  Most of the items in my Kit I already had, but I just invested in another couple I deemed necessary to complete the kit this week.  I will detail what they are as I go through the kit items.


#1- Smart Phone/Tablet Computer

The CRITICAL item in your kit is your Smart Phone.  Your choice of phones is important here, and you also need BACKUP!  This was driven home to me during our Diner Convocation down in Texas in 2014.  On that occassion, I destroyed my original Galaxy Mega Smartphone by dropping it on the concrete parking lot of our Motel Hell estabishment in ButtFuck TX where we stayed for the course in building Monolithic Domes.  In order to resolve this unfortunate problem, I had to borrrow Eddie's Mercedes and drive to the nearest ATT Store (a couple of hours away) to purchase a NEW Galaxy Mega at the full price of around $650 at the time.  Upon returning home, I was able to get yet another one of these devices for $150 off the Insurance Plan for having your device lost, stolen or broken, and I also have an older Iphone 4 which still works in the kit as well.  So triple backup on this lynchpin item.  If one craps out, I simply shift the SIM card over to another one and it connects to my ATT account., back on the net to do my Admin tasks. 🙂

The main PROBLEM with smart phones is generally their SIZE, and the fact they do not sport a real Keyboard.  You need to be a real Thumb Jockey to be able to even write a Twitter message of 140 Characters, much less the 3000 word articles I usually will write (like this one!  lol.)  So your Smart Phone is no good for real Admin work without a KEYBOARD!  "Have Keyboard, Will Travel!" 🙂

#2- Keyboard & Mouse

Perhaps some people can get along without these devices, but for myself doing Admin tasks without them is ridiculously difficult.  Fortunately, Folding Bluetooth Keyboards and Bluetooth Mice are available for the Android OP system the Galaxy Mega runs on, and in fact they work with the Apple shit too, so in the worst case scenario BOTH of my Galaxy Megas crap out, I can still use my Folding Keyboard and Bluetooth Mouse with the old Iphone.  Still a ridiculously tiny screen to work on though, so I hope things don't get that bad.  lol.

#3 Electricity

None of the above preps work without some access to electricity to keep them all charged up and operating.  You probably do want your own means of keeping your Comunications Equipment charged up, so I did invest in a couple of new items this week for this purpose.  First was a Folding 6.5A 5V output solar PV Array I could fit in my Kit Sack.  Probably not too necessary in most circumstances on the Homeless paradigm, I'll probably be able to keep my devices charged by going to the Library, a Coffee Shop and so forth and plugging in to their Grid Power..  For this purpose I bought  20,000 Mah external Li-I Battery which I can use to recharge the cell phone and the various other devices in the kit.  In conjunction with the Solar PV panels, on a decently sunny day in about 4 hours I should be able to charge up this battery in about 4 hours, and that then will enable me to keep the Smart Phones and Cameras and Diode Lites all charged up.

#4 Lighting

Since the smart phones themselves are lit up, you don't absolutely need auxiliary lighting.  However, if you are in a Tent or some other temporary shelter and want to be able to see your keyboard, you are going to want some other lighting besides the Smartphone itself.  Besides that, the Diode Emergency Lighting often is set up so that not only can your Crank Charge the light itself, but you can ALSO use this to charge your Smart Phone! 🙂

I have 4 lights in the Emergency Kit bag.  2 are Crank Lights, and also can serve to charge up my Smart Phone.

Light 1-  A Crank Up emergency flashlight which also has AM/FM Radio and can charge my smart phone.

Light 2-  A Lantern style Crank Up to give me enough light to keyboard by and also charge the Smart Phone

Light 3- A POWERHOUSE 350 Lumen Flashlight which runs on 3 AAA Batteries, rechargeable or single use, whatever I can get hold of.  This little light by itself can light up your entire digs pointed at the ceiling.  350 Lumens is BRIGHT!  You do not need any more than this to light up a room anywhere.    Trust me on this and do not look directly into the light.  You will go BLIND in an instant.  LOL

Light 4- A 100 Lumen flashlight which stands on it's own tripod and can be used together with my Camera in low light conditions to do an Interview.  Also works on 3 AAA rechargeable or single use batteries.

Ancillary Items

I have a few items in the Kit not absolutely necessary for my Homeless Internet Admin work:

GPS Units:  Not necessary for most circumstances, but handy for Locating myself anywhere if I need help from another Diner.  I can issue out the Lat & Lon coordinates within 10 feet anywhere on earth for an emergency pickup point.                                 

A/C & D/C Transformers to Charge 5V USB Devices: Essential Items to keep your equipment charged up as long as there is some Grid Power available somewhere or soe car that still has juice in the battery.

Audio Headse/Mict and Speaker.  Not essential in most circumstances, but for myself doing a lot of Audio interviews and the fact I like to listen to old favorite music, its and addition I like having in the kit.

Camera & Table Top Tripod for doing Video and Pics:  I can record with my Smart Phones, but even the El Cheapo Digicam does a better job for this than the Smart Phones.  As a modern era Reporter, I need means to get good pics and video up on the net, and a smart phone just is not good enough for this task in general.  OK in a pinch, but you really want a decent camera available if possible.  I have still better cameras then the El Cheapo, but I need a whole other bag for them.

Cables:  You need to be able to hook everything up of course, so you will need some USB cables.  USB comes in a few sizes, so adapters for these sizes are handy to have as well.

Now, all of this stuff is extremely light and portable and fits in a Shoulder Bag or Backpack and it is sufficient to fulfill my Diner Admin responsibilities if I need to make a Fast Bugout.  However, is this all I have for the bugout situation?  Of  course not. 🙂

If I at least still have my SUV to bugout in and to live in as a Homeless Person I can carry with me a whole lot more than this.

The next level up of Electric Preps is contained in a brief case. It consists of:

#1- 5W 12V Solar Panel

This panel is different than the folding one which outputs at 5V for charging the portable devices, instead it outputs at 12V good for charging typical automotive batteries.  However, because it is so small and only outputs 5W, to charge up a full size auto battery would take several sunny days without draining the battery for the purpose of charging other devices.  of course, if you have money to buy gas and do some driving each day, you probably generate enough electricity this way even without the solar panels.  In most cases though it will keep the battery nicely topped of with juice if you are judicious about how much you drain your other devices.

#2 10 AH 12V Deep Cycle SLA Battery

This is one of the spare batteries I bought for my Ewz Electric Scooter. It runs on 3 of these wired in series for 36V, but you can split them up and just carry one for the typical 12V use.  It is relatively small compared to an automotive battery and designed for deep discharge/recharge cycles.  Automotive batteries are designed to give a lot of cranking amps all at once to turn over an engine, not to deep discharge regularly.  SLA stands for Sealed Lead Acid, so despite being fairly small and compact, these batteries weigh a fair amount.  I would rather have a 12V Li-I battery which are lighter and generally do more recharge cycles, but they aren't available up here at Batteries & Bulbs, and getting them shipped here is bear also, since they are considered a Hazmat for air shipping.  However, since I am not carrying around this briefcase all the time, the extra weight doesn't matter very much.  They are also about 5X the price and that is hard to justify.

#3 200 W Modified Sine Wave Inverter

Your inverter converts the 12V DC to 120V AC which powers most household appliances.  The 200 W Inverter won't run stuff like a Microwave, but it will run low power draw items like a lamp, a slow cooker and most importantly, a REAL laptop instead of the Smart Phone/Folding Keyboard/Bluetooth Mouse combination.  While that combo works pretty good, it's still not as good as a real laptop for writing and doing Admin tasks on the net.

Other 12V aficionados often warn me about the dangers of using modified sine wave inverters and recommend I spend the extra money for a true sine wave inverter.  Reasoning being that modified sine wave can damage some complex electronics that run on AC.  Thing is, I don't use an inverter for running any such equipment.  Lightbulbs and the slow cooker don't care what the sine wave configuration is, and the Laptop actually runs on DC, you have a transformer between the inverter and the laptop which converts the electricity back to DC at whatever voltage your laptop runs on, which is usually somewhere between 15V DC and 22V DC.  These transformers don't care what the sine wave looks like either.

In addition to the 200W Inverter, I have a tiny 75W cigarette lighter size inverter, a larger 500W unit you clip to the battery itself and a behemoth 1000W inverter capable of running a Microwave Oven if you have enough juice and big enough battery to drive it.  You want to use the smallest inverter which will drive whatever device you are running, since there is more power wasted the larger the inverter.  The big ones require a fan to run to keep cool, which wastes still more power and is something else that can break down.  The 75W unit is JUST enough to run a typical laptop computer and keep its own battery charged up.

In order to reduce power wastage still more, I recently bought a DC-DC Transformer which takes 12V DC and directly changes it to anywhere from 5V to 24V to run just about any laptop computer on the market.  It also comes with 12 different Plug Tips that will fit any laptop you happen to have on hand for your Admin work.  I'm not sure precisely how much waste you are saving here, but I estimate about 25% which is significant if you have low storage capacity for your juice and limited generating power.

#4 AC-DC 6V-12V Battery Charger

This device plugs into the wall and will charge up any 6V or 12V battery you can scavenge up, so as long as power periodically shows up in your wall outlet, you can keep your batteries charged this way and then have power available for the times the juice is NOT flowing from the local electric plant into your outlets.  In normal daily use, I keep it hooked to a large 12V Deep Cycle Marine Battery about 2X the size of a typical car battery.  This battery when topped off (as it always is) will run all my portable electronics for at least 2 weeks, probably a month.  If I run my laptop off of it, probably still get a week without any generation from the Solar Panels.  This battery is of course way too big and heavy to carry around or drop in a brief case, but in a bugout situation with the SUV easily fits in the storage area of the vehicle.

Finally, in addition to the stuff that fits in the brief case, I have a larger 120W Solar PV Panel which can strap on to the roof rack of the SUV.  This provides plenty of juice to run all the equipment as much as I normally do without significantly draining the battery storage each night when I run a couple of diode lights and the laptop too.  The overall key here is to be aware of how much power your equipment is drawing, and choose low power consumptive devices as much as you can.

As long as you are just talking communications equipment and lighting, you really do not need a whole heck of a lot of juice available.  It's only once you start to add in stuff like Refrigeration to your bugout package that you need significantly more generating power.  As long as you can still get gas for the vehicle though and can afford it, your car alternator will provide plenty of juice to keep all your portable electronic devices charged up even without the addition of Solar PV panels.

Now, in most cases for the near future, I expect Grid Power to remain available somewhere, even if I am Homeless and can't afford to pay my electric bill.  For instance, if I go to the local Internet Coffee Shop where I did many of my early Collapse Cafes, at every table along the wall there is an electric outlet where I would plug in my laptop so as not to be discharging the battery unnecessarily.  This conserves the battery lifetime for your laptop battery.  Don't run it off the battery unless you absolutely have to.  In normal use they will last about 2 years of discharge cycles, mine is 4 years old and still going strong, because I simply do not run the laptop off of it's battery.  It's plugged in just about all the time.

In a real Homeless or Bugout situation, I could do more than just keep the laptop charged up though.  I could for instance walk into the local laundromat with a bag of clothes for washing and the big ass deep cycle marine battery below it with the 12V DC charger on my folding luggage carrier with wheels, disguised in a bag.  I plug this into the wall while my laundry is in the washing machine and drier.  In a couple of hours, I have scarfed up enough free electricity (for me anyhow) to not only power my communications equipment, but in fact enough to run a 12V Heated Sleeping pad as well so that I can sleep in toasty warm comfort in my SUV even if the outside temperatures drop to 20 Below.  You combine such a heating pad with a good sleeping bag and have enough juice to run it, you won't freeze to death no matter how cold it gets.  I can also cook my food in the slow cooker and not have to burn propane cannisters.  I can of course go into numerous Convenience Stores and use their Microwave and electric power to heat up more of my food.  Hot food, a toasty place to sleep, the only other thing you really need is water, which you can collect in a bottle each day at the convenience store in the bathroom sink as well.

Back to the main issue of communications and Internet Admin responsibilities though, once Homeless or in a Bugout situation, obviously you have lost your own high speed, high bandwidth connection to the net over cable or DSL, whatever you have at home.  You certainly want to keep your own 4G connection to the net on your cell phone, but this is an additional expense of around $50-100/month, which you may not be able to afford over time once becoming Homeless.

If that is the case, you're going to mostly need to use the Free Wi-Fi available at many internet cafes, libraries and even Mickey Ds.  You won't have a 24/7 connection to the net this way, but you can still do most of your writing while offline, and then simply upload your stuff when you do drop into a location with free wi-fi.  You're also going to want your own Skype Number for possible jobs to call you where they can leave a message and you can then call them back and seem like a "normal" person, not a Homeless one.  You can buy enough minutes for a Skype Number for this purpose for around $10, which probably lasts you a year given you probably will not actually use it for talking too much.  Most talking with friends goes across Skype itself for free skype to skype account.  In addition, you can use Google Hangouts for conversation with friends rather than the skype phone line.  The only purpose for this phone number is to have a number to hand out to possible jobs or perhaps the occasional person you don't want to give your Skype ID to.

Not being connected 24/7 to Global Communications is not something most of us net junkies are used to anymore, but of course this was the norm before the Cell Phones became ubiquitous.  In da olden days once I left the McHovel with its land line telephone, I was disconnected and nobody could get in touch with me until I got back home and checked the "answering machine", the predecessor to Voice Mail and itself an invention which only came around maybe in my early teens or so.  Prior to that, if you weren't home when a call came in, you simply missed the call and no message about it.  The person trying to reach you just had to do it again at another time.

The Homeless situation without your own (fairly costly) regular cell phone number puts you back in that situation more or less, and to maintain the illusion that you are still a "normal" person and not a Homeless one, you want to maintain a cell phone number and account as long as you can.  Once you drop below the poverty line, many of the cell phone providers offer a "basic" service for around $10/month which will at least allow you to get phone calls 24/7 and will take voicemail.  You won't have an internet connection with that service, bit it is cheap and keeps a line open for you even if you can't scarf up some free Wi-Fi somewhere.  Advisable to keep such a connection as long as you can afford it.

Now, this may seem trivial and inconsequential to you if you are more worried about FEEDING yourself with veggies grown in your raised beds or hydroponics tank, but it's not for me.  Internet Communication is Priority #1 for me!  The only reason I eat anything to begin with is to have enough energy to keyboard out some more Doom Newz!  LOL.

Seriously though, I think most people, even Doomers don't like it much when there is a Power Outage for one reason or another and their cell phone and laptop run out of juice after a day or two.  There are safety issues involved here as well, in terms of calling for help if you are sick or your house is floating downstream in a flood.  So you want to keep these things running as long as you can, and the above are my best strategies for doing that at a semi-reasonable price.  You DO NOT need a $20,000 Off the Grid Solar PV setup for your Doomstead to do it.  It can mostly be done in 1 or 2 bags with the right selection of preps.

Our Electricity Problem: Getting the Diagnosis Correct

City Lights 2012 - Flat mapgc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Gail Tverberg

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Published on Our Finite World on October 14, 2015

City Lights 2012 - Flat map

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What is really wrong with our energy system, particularly as it relates to electricity and natural gas? Are there any mitigations available? I have been asked to give a talk at an Electricity/Natural Gas conference that includes both producers and industrial users of electricity and natural gas.

In this presentation, I suggest that the standard diagnosis of the problems facing the energy system is incomplete. While climate change may be a problem, there is another urgent problem that attendees at the conference should be aware of as well–affordability, and the severe near-term impact affordability can be expected to have on the system.

My written summary of this talk is fairly brief. I have not tried to repeat the information shown on the slides. This is a link to a copy of my presentation: Our Electricity Problem: Getting the Diagnosis Right

Slide 2





Slide 2

A finite world is one that is subject to limits. Its economy cannot grow forever for many reasons.

Slide 3





Slide 3

Let’s look at some examples (Slide 4) of how limits work in finite systems. Often there seems to be a change of direction.

Slide 4





Slide 4

The standard story that we hear says that energy prices can rise and rise, indefinitely. But as I look at the data, this doesn’t seem to be true in practice. At some point, there is a problem with affordability, because wages don’t rise as the price of energy products grows.

Slide 5





Slide 5

In many ways, the problems that overtake the economy are similar to ailments that beset a human being. A person can have multiple ailments, some of which grow in severity over the years. The catch, of course, is that if an early ailment becomes severe, it may kill the patient, eliminating the need to fix the later ailments.

The way I see the economy, there are many hurdles that have the potential to inflict severe damage on the economy. Slide 6 shows a few of them. Some examples of other issues include lack of fresh water and erosion of topsoil.

In my view, we are right now reaching an affordability crisis. One way it manifests itself is as high commodity prices that fall and thus become low commodity prices. Falling commodity prices are likely to cause debt-related problems because of all of the debt incurred in their production. We may find financial problems, much worse than those experienced in 2008, back again.

Slide 6





Slide 6

Many others have focused on climate change. In their view, we can extract pretty much all of the fossil fuels that are in the ground, because prices will rise higher and higher, allowing this to be done.

If, in fact, prices fall after a point, then there is a good chance that we must leave most of them in the ground because of affordability issues. If this is the case, the situation may be very different: we may lose fossil fuel production in not many years because of disruptions caused by low prices.

We often think of affordability in terms of what a gallon of oil costs or in terms of how much a kilowatt-hour of electricity sells for. While these costs are one part of the problem, a big part of the affordability problem relates to big-ticket items, as listed in Slide 7.  If customers cannot afford these big-ticket items, such as homes and cars, the economy loses both (a) the energy use that would be required to make these big-ticket items, and (b) the later energy use that these big items would require.

Slide 7





Slide 7

If we look at the data, we find that inflation-adjusted median income for families has been falling.

Slide 8





Slide 8

Part of this lower family income involves a smaller share of the population working.

Slide 9





Slide 9

When a person looks at the labor force growth split between men and women, there is a very different pattern. Men show a small downward trend over time; women increasingly joined the labor force, but this trend topped out in 1999, and became a decline since 2008.

Slide 10





Slide 10

Something we all are aware of:

Slide 11





Slide 11

Many fewer homes are now being built in the United States.

Slide 12





Slide 12

There has been a very different trend in auto purchases in the United States, Europe, and Japan compared to the rest of the world. In the developed areas, interest rates have been very low, and lenders have increasingly offered loans to subprime buyers. An increasing number of the loans are 7-year loans, and the loan to value ratio is often 125%. We seem to be creating a new subprime auto bubble. Based on our experience with subprime housing loans, this is not a sustainable pattern.

Slide 13





Slide 13

I am convinced that most economists have missed a basic principle regarding how economic growth takes place (Slide 14). I define efficiency in terms of what it takes in terms of human labor and resources to produce finished output, such as a barrel of oil or a kilowatt-hour of electricity. Are these finished goods becoming cheaper or more expensive in inflation-adjusted terms?

On Slide 18, note the change in the size of the output boxes, compared to the input boxes. Increased efficiency produces more output compared to the resources used; increased inefficiency produces less output compared to the resources used.

If an economy is becoming increasingly efficient, a given number of workers and a given amount of resources can produce more and more goods. This is good for economic growth. Growing inefficiency is a problem, because it quickly uses up both available worker-time and available resources. Many economists never seem to have gotten past the idea, “We pay each other’s wages.” Yes, we do, but if those wages are being used to encourage the use of increasingly inefficient processes, we go backwards in terms of economic growth.

Slide 14





Slide 14

If we look back historically, we can see a growing efficiency pattern with electricity, in the 1900 to 1998 period. As the price dropped, both consumers and businesses could afford more of it (illustrated with rising black “demand” curve). Part of the lower cost came from increased efficiency of electricity generation during this period.

Slide 15





Slide 15

If we look at the oil sector, since about 1999 we have had exactly the opposite pattern taking place. The cost of oil “exploration and production capital expenditures” has been rising at a rapid rate. This is an issue of diminishing returns. We have already extracted the easy-to-extract oil, and as a result, we need to move on to more difficult (and expensive) to extract oil. Thus we are becoming increasingly inefficient, in terms of the cost of producing the end product, oil.

Slide 16





Slide 16

As we move on to more expensive oil, the higher cost tends to squeeze budgets. The thing that is important is the fact that wages don’t rise sufficiently to cover the cost increase; in fact, the images I showed earlier seem to suggest that in the recent era of high prices, we have seen unusually slow growth in wages. The amount of wages is represented by the size of the circles in Figure 17.  The wage circles don’t grow.

Slide 17 shows that as workers need to spend more for oil, and for the things that oil is used to make, such as food, the discretionary portion of their budgets (“everything else”) is squeezed. This shift in discretionary spending is what tends to lead to recession. The same principle works if consumers suddenly find themselves with higher electricity bills–discretionary spending is again squeezed.

Slide 17





Slide 17

The problem that squeezes all commodities at the same time is falling discretionary income. The amount of debt that can be borrowed also tends to fall as discretionary income falls. The combination leads to falling affordability for expensive goods, like new autos and new homes.

The price patterns for commodities of many types move together, reflecting a combination of rising cost of oil (because of higher extraction costs) and falling ability of consumers to afford the high prices of these goods. I have not included food on Figure 18, but many food prices have recently fallen as well.

Of course, the costs for producers creating these commodities have not fallen proportionately, and many have huge amounts of outstanding debt. Repayment of debt becomes difficult, as prices remain low.

Slide 18





Slide 18

Back at Slide 14, I talked about increased efficiency leading to economic growth, and increased inefficiency causing economic contraction. Because our leaders have not looked at things this way, they have encouraged increased inefficiency in many areas, as I describe on Slide 19. To some extent, this increased inefficiency is required. For example, as population grows in areas with low water supplies, the need for desalination grows. Also, pollution problems increase as we use lower qualities of coal and oil.

Slide 19





Slide 19

What are the expected impacts on the electricity industry and on natural gas? Are there any workarounds?

Let’s look at a few implications of the problems we now see.

In my view, low oil and natural gas prices are likely to be a huge problem for the natural gas industry, leading to the bankruptcy of many natural gas suppliers.

We cannot expect natural gas supply to grow. In fact, we cannot expect a coal to natural gas transition because the natural gas price won’t rise high enough, for long enough.

Slide 21





Slide 21

If we look at the history of US natural gas prices (using Henry Hub data), we see that prices have tended to stay low, after the 2008 spike. This was a great disappointment to those who built new natural gas extraction capability. They expected prices to rise, to justify their new higher costs. In my view, the continued low natural gas prices to some extent already reflect affordability issues.

Slide 22





Slide 22

The Marcellus Shale was perhaps the most successful of the new natural gas production, but it seems to now be topping out because of low prices (Slide 23).

Many producers will have their lending terms reevaluated using September 30, 2015 data. This reevaluation is likely to lead to bankruptcy of some producers, and cutbacks of production of other producers.

Slide 23





Slide 23

Coal use has been declining, as shown in Slide 24. Coal has some of the same problems as natural gas, as I will explain on Slide 25.

Slide 24





Slide 24

The basic issue is that coal prices are too low for most producers. Even if a particular producer has low extraction costs, this benefit is not enough to keep producers from bankruptcy. The problem that occurs is that coal companies are locked into high cost structures because of patterns that continue to persist from when prices were high. Lease costs are high; taxes and royalties are high; often debt was entered into, assuming that revenue would remain high in the future. Now revenue is lower, and there is no way to fix the “hole” that results from low prices. Production stays high, because each producer must produce as much as possible, to try to avoid bankruptcy for as long as possible.

Slide 25





Slide 25

Coal is in a sense ahead of natural gas, in terms of bankruptcies, with big bankruptcies already starting.

With prices as low as they are, there is little chance for a new producer to come in, buy the production facilities at a low price, and restart operations. A big issue is ongoing costs such as royalty payments that cannot be eliminated. Another is debt availability to support the new operations.

Slide 26





Slide 26

Bankruptcies are likely to interrupt supply chains as well. Part of the problem may simply be the excessively high cost of credit, for those members of the supply chain with poor credit ratings. Once a supply chain breaks, replacements parts may not be available. Other services that a company contracts for with outside suppliers may disappear as well.

As I note on Slide 27, customers may have financial difficulties. Those who remain in business will tend to buy less, so demand is likely to be lower, rather than higher. Companies producing electricity should not be misled by the rosy forecasts of the EIA and IEA regarding future demand amounts.

Slide 27





Slide 27

Slide 28 shows that industrial consumption of energy products has been falling since the 1970s, as industrial production has moved overseas. Now the dollar is high relative to other currencies, encouraging more of this trend. On a per capita basis, residential energy consumption is down, and commercial energy consumption is level. It is hard to see that this mix will provide very much of an upward trend in natural gas and electricity consumption in the future. (Note: Slide 28 shows energy of all types combined, including both electricity and fuels burned directly. This approach is used because there has been a shift over time to the use of electricity. This method shows the overall trend in energy use better than, say, an electricity-only analysis.)

Slide 28





Slide 28

The major ways subsidies for wind and solar PV are available are through greater government debt or through higher costs passed on to customers. There are now getting to be pushbacks in both of these areas.

Slide 29





Slide 29

In Europe, the cost of intermittent electricity tends to be passed on to consumers. Dr. Euan Mearns put together the chart shown in Slide 30 comparing price of electricity with the per capita wind and solar PV generation installed for European countries. There is a striking correlation. Countries with more installed wind and solar PV tend to have higher electricity prices for the consumer.

Slide 30





Slide 30

Given the problem with commodity producers not being able to collect high enough prices for their products, and the large number of resulting bankruptcies, a person comes to the rather startling conclusion that the ideal structure for electricity providers in today’s economy is that of a vertically integrated utility. In other words, an electric utility should directly own its suppliers, as well as transmission lines and everything else needed to produce and distribute electricity.

Utilities have traditionally had the ability to price on a cost-plus basis. With vertical integration, the utility can use its pricing ability to keep prices for fuel producers from falling too low, and thus sidestep the problem of bankruptcies. To the extent that the required price for electricity keeps rising, it will tend to pressure discretionary spending. (See Slide 17.) But at least grid electricity will be among the last to “go” under this structure.

Slide 31





Slide 31

Black Hills Corporation lists the many electricity-generating facilities it owns (coal and natural gas), and the places it has arrangements to sell this electricity as a utility. The Black Hills Corporation indicates it has had 45 years of dividend increases. This increase in dividends is in stark contrast to the many coal and natural gas producers that are currently near bankruptcy, as a result of low coal and natural gas prices.

Slide 32





Slide 32

How does one resolve the conflict between industrial companies wanting to generate their own electricity (for a variety of reasons) and the need to have an electric grid for everyone else? It seems to me that we have to keep in mind that having an operating electric grid for everyone else is absolutely essential. Without the electric grid, gasoline stations would stop pumping gasoline and diesel. Transportation would stop. Electric elevators would stop. Treatment of fresh water and sewage would stop. Companies everywhere would lose their consumers. The economy would quickly come to a halt.

With our current affordability problems, we are in danger of losing the electric grid. That is why it is essential that those who opt out not be given too large a credit for providing some or nearly all of their own electricity. The credit given to industrial companies should reflect the savings to the system, no more.

Slide 33





Slide 33

One concern is the bankruptcy of peaker plants, if their use is significantly reduced by, for example, the use of solar PV. If these peaker plants continue to be needed for balancing purposes, this may be a problem. Another concern is the rising cost of grid transmission for those who continue to get their electricity from the grid.

Slide 34





Slide 34

To sum up, the story we read from most sources is so climate-change focused, a person wonders if there aren’t other issues that are important as well. Most observers have overlooked the importance of low commodity prices, and the impact that they can have on coal and natural gas producers’ ability to produce the fuels that are needed by electric utilities.

Too much faith is being placed in natural gas, as the fuel of the future. And too much faith is being placed on intermittent renewables, without fully understanding their costs and limitations.

I haven’t tried to address the many indirect problems arising from many bankruptcies. These may be severe.

Slide 35





Slide 35

The Dimming Bulb 2: Peak Electricity

City Lights 2012 - Flat mapgc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on October 18, 2015

City Lights 2012 - Flat mapComposite Night Image of the Earth taken by the NASA Suomi NPP Satellite in April-October 2012

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A few days ago, doing my usual Web Surfing for Collapse articles to link to on the Diner and our new r/globalcollapse Reddit sub, I ran into an article on the Greanville Post titled WHAT IS EUROPE. CONTINENT OR PENINSULA?

europe-map-of-europe-nightlights-satellite-woodleywonderworksThe article featured as its Header Pic a NASA image of Europe taken at night from Space.  The image is actually just a crop of the much larger composite night time map of the world assembled from data acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite from April through October 2012, which I reduced in size and heads this article.   The full size pic in all its glory can be accessed by hitting the link under the header photo to the NASA website.

What that article was meant to show was how Europe really isn't a "Continent", although it is defined as such in most of your Geography Textbooks, but really just a Peninsula of the much larger Eurasian land mass.  However, that is not what really struck me when I looked at the Header Pic, what struck me was the vast difference between the Brightness of the Eurozone versus the Darkness of the African continent below, at least the portion of it visible in that cropping.  Africa is the "Dark Continent" in more ways than one here.

During the middle of the 19th century, Africa was referred to as the "Dark Continent," because little was known about the mysterious land itself. The term "Dark Continent" was most likely used for the first time by United States explorer and journalist Henry Stanley.

Obviously, with that thin band of lights on the Northern end of Africa, it's pretty obvious they're burning a whole lot less energy there than is going on nightly on the European Peninsula.  Although most often conversation amongst Energy Kollapsniks TM revolves around the availability of Liquid Fossil Fuels for powering the transportation systems we use, in reality it is the Electricity that defines the culture and lifestyle of Homo Industrialis.  When you look at the whole Map of the Globe lit up like a Suburban McMansion at Christmas, you can actually track the progression of Industrialization; you can see why the countries that are in control of Industrial culture are who they are and why everybody else out there is not particularly happy these days.  I have discussed this aspect of Industrial Civilization and Electricity before in The Dimming Bulb, in this installment I want to look at it from the Historical and Geopolitical perspectives.

You can easily tell where the Industrial lifestyle began, and you can trace it's march around the Globe as well.  The Brightness of the lighting tells the whole story if you know just a little history, and it tells you a lot about where things are going in the future too.  Before we go Back to the Future though, let's do a little review of how this all got started.

Practical application of Electricity began in the mid 1800s, and by the late 1800s the frst central power stations came online in Jolly Old England and in the Northeast of the FSoA.

Central power stations and isolated systems

The first central station providing public power is believed to be one at Godalming, Surrey, U.K. autumn 1881. The system was proposed after the town failed to reach an agreement on the rate charged by the gas company, so the town council decided to use electricity. The system lit up arc lamps on the main streets and incandescent lamps on a few side streets with hydroelectric power. By 1882 between 8 and 10 households were connected, with a total of 57 lights. The system was not a commercial success and the town reverted to gas.[16]

The first large scale central distribution supply plant was opened at Holborn Viaduct in London in 1882[17] Equipped with 1000 incandescent lightbulbs that replaced the older gas lighting, the station lit up Holborn Circus including the offices of the General Post Office and the famous City Temple church. The supply was a direct current at 110V; due to power loss in the copper wires, this amounted to 100V for the customer.

Within weeks, a parliamentary committee recommended passage of the landmark 1882 Electric Lighting Act, which allowed the licensing of persons, companies or local authorities to supply electricity for any public or private purposes.

The first large scale central power station in America was Edison's Pearl Street Station in New York, which began operating in September, 1882. The station had six 200 horsepower Edison dynamos, each powered by a separate steam engine. It was located in a business and commercial district and supplied 110 volt direct current to 85 customers with 400 lamps. By 1884 Pearl Street was supplying 508 customers with 10,164 lamps.[18]

By the mid-1880s, other electric companies were establishing central power stations and distributing electricity, including Crompton & Co. and the Swan Electric Light Company in the UK, Thomson-Houston Electric Company and Westinghouse in the US and Siemens in Germany. By 1890 there were 1000 central stations in operation.[7] The 1902 census listed 3,620 central stations. By 1925 half of power was provided by central stations.[19]

City Lights 2012 - Flat map Lights UK April-October 2012

City Lights 2012 - Flat mapLights NE USA April-October 2012

The wiring spread outward from there, and India got wired up pretty well.

City Lights 2012 - Flat mapIndia Lights April-October 2012

South America a bit less wired.

south-america-space-nightLights South America April-October 2012

Africa barely got wired at all.

Africa_Space_NightLights Africa April-October 2012

So how come India got wired up but Africa did not?  Ask yourself who was running the show in India in the 1800s?  It was the main colony of the declining British Empire, the one the Sun Never Set On because they were running all those new Lightbulbs!  LOL.  The Brits were not at the time in charge of Africa, really nobody was far as Westerners were concerned, that's why it got called the Dark Continent, besides the fact it was populated by dark skinned natives.

As time went by into the early 1900s, a couple of other places got decently wired up, Japan & China.

City Lights 2012 - Flat mapLights China & Japan April-October 2012

In the mid to late 1800s, the Anglo-Amerikan Industrial Empire was in an Expansionary Phase, and the Gunboats of Cmdr. Matthew Perry "opened" Japan forcibly in the 1850s to join the expanding Industrial Empire, as I covered some time back in the Mr. Peabody Visits Japan article. Still in the Coal fired period at this time, the Gunboats weren't using Oil yet.  The Brits were bizzy trying to make China the same kind of colony that India was, but unfortunately had some Boxers willing to fight them on this.

By the end of the 19th century, the Western powers and Japan had forced China’s ruling Qing dynasty to accept wide foreign control over the country’s economic affairs. In the Opium Wars (1839-42, 1856-60), popular rebellions and the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), China had fought to resist the foreigners, but it lacked a modernized military and suffered millions of casualties.

The Chinese weren't happy Kowtowing to the Japanese, and the Japanese weren't happy Kowtowing to the Gaijin Imperialists either, so everybody got in a big ass fight over this eventually.  The fight was called WWII, which got ended with this:


The Nips were outclassed with Industrial Killing and their well wired Island was turned into an Industrial Factory for Carz and Electronic toys, starting with Transistor Radios moving through Walkmans up to the latest in Smartphones, though of course in recent years have had serious competition on this stuff from the other slaves on the Asian Continent from Korea to Thailand to China.

However, at this point in the post-WWII years the further Wiring of the World began to slow, if not come to a complete halt.  With the Victory over Japan and Germany, why was further electrification of Africa and South America not undertaken?  SA is a little more wired than Africa, but not by much.

south-america-space-nightLights South America April-October 2012

As with most places that have been wired up post WWII, it's mostly along the coastline not much going into the interior.  There are a few reasons for this.

First one is that by and large, most population centers and Big Shities lie along the coastlines.  Reasons for this?

1- It's easiest to do trade with many places via boats.  You can put a lot of cargo on a boat and move it around the world over the oceans without using a whole heck of a lot of energy to do it.  In fact in the Sailing Era, that energy was all Renewable.


Even in the modern Container Ship era utilizing Fossil Fuels, this is relatively low energy consumption.  The ships can run on "Bunker Fuel", which is basically unrefined Oil.


2- Coastline areas are usually pretty flat land condusive to large scale Agriculture.  The fresh water flows down from higher elevations to these neighborhoods, so you have a continuous source of water if you are at the mouth of a decent size river, long as nobody upstream is using it all or contaminating it.  New York Shity at the terminus of the Hudson River or London at the terminus of the Thames river are typical examples of this.



3- It's relatively EZ to get rid of all your WASTE if you are right on the coast.  The Sewage goes into the Big Sink of the Ocean.


Woolongong Sewage Treatment Plant in Oz

So the vast increase in global population since the Industrial Era began has occurred mostly at the coastlines, which of course is not Good Newz with Sea Level rising.  Just ask Miami.


For the most part, the Build Out phase stopped in the early 1970s at the latest, and the last 40 years has been all about continuing to bring in the necessary energy to all the places already built out to keep running them.  In some of the older industrial Big Shities like Detroit, that has already failed/collapsed.


So your next question is just how does all the energy flow INTO the places it still goes to?  This is a pipeline and transport question mainly, although there are many geopolitical conseqences of trying to take energy stores from one location and move them to another one.  Let's look at the current pipeline networks for Oil and NG in North Amerika and Eurotrashland.



As you can see the greatest density of pipeline networks is in the TX/LA/OK neighborhood, and then filtering up from there to the North East and Upper Midwest.  This of course because in the early days, all the BIG FINDS of EZ to extract low EROEI oil in the FSoA came in these locations, and then that oil needed transport to the Industrial centers of the Midwest and to the Northeast trading ports with Europe.

As the amount of oil that could be extracted at a cheap price inside FSoA borders began to decline, those same networks were used to ship around Oil accessed/stolen from other big repositories on earth, most notably Saudi Arabia of course.  The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) was built to be able to offload oil from VLCCs (Very Large Crude Carriers), more commonly referred to as Super Tankers.


A few more large pipelines were built as time went by to move the oil out of the ground to the places that were burning it, most notably the Alaska Pipeline:

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) includes the trans-Alaska crude-oil pipeline, 12 pump stations, several hundred miles of feeder pipelines, and the Valdez Marine Terminal. TAPS is one of the world's largest pipeline systems. It is commonly called the Alaska pipeline, trans-Alaska pipeline, or Alyeska pipeline, (or the pipeline as referred to in Alaska), but those terms technically apply only to the 800 miles (1,287 km) of the pipeline with the diameter of 48 inches (122 cm) that conveys oil from Prudhoe Bay, to Valdez, Alaska. The crude oil pipeline is privately owned by the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.

The pipeline was built between 1974 and 1977 after the 1973 oil crisis caused a sharp rise in oil prices in the United States. This rise made exploration of the Prudhoe Bay oil field economically feasible. Environmental, legal, and political debates followed the discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay in 1968, and the pipeline was built only after the oil crisis provoked the passage of legislation designed to remove legal challenges to the project.



As the Wiki article indicates, it only became economical to build this behemoth of a pipeline after the Arab Oil embargo of the 1970s drove up the price of Oil.  Lately there has been talk about building a natural gas (NG) pipeline out of there, either going across into Canada to join up with the current system of NG pipelines down there, or along the same route as the Oil pipeline down through Alaska, to be shipped out by liquifying the gas and dropping it onto specialized Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) ships, for sale then to the Japanese and Chinese slaves.

The problem with either of these pipelines being built is that the price you can get for NG doesn't justify the CapEx for building it.  You'll never even pay off building the pipeline, much less make a profit off of it at the current prices.  You would have to bet the price the consumer will pay for it will rise substantially, but how can that happen with fewer people working all the time at ever downward spiralling wages?  So both projects have stalled, although the Alaska Goobernator is still pushing for it because something is necessary to keep the economy running around here as the Oil in the Prudhoe Bay fields depletes and gets lower prices all the time.  He's got a huge hole in the state budget these days, and things are getting desperate down in Juneau.

Stalling also is the drive for further Oil exploration either in the Arctic Ocean or the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).  Shell Oil recently stopped their exploration there after sinking around $9B into that White Elephant, and this week Da Goobermint decided not to offer up any leases for the oil companies to even bid on.  Why not?  Because they will get the same result that the Brazilians got a couple of weeks ago when they offered up leases for sale in the supposed Giant Oil Reservoirs in Deep Water off their shores.  They got no bidders practically speaking.  Same as the NG pipeline for Alaska, with the price of Oil as low as it is, the CapEx involved in accessing and drilling up this Oil is huge, and you can't pay it off at the prices the consumers of the oil can afford to pay.  Although Environmentalists are gladdened by this decision and hope some Polar Bears will be saved, this decision has nothing to do with Environmental consciousness on the part of Da Goobermint or the Oil Companies.  It's strictly an economic decision.

Now let's move over to Europe, where you see a similar history and similar economic issues as far as continuing to move the Oil from under the ground where it still remains to the places that have been burning it since Oil replaced Coal as the main energy driver for their industrial economy.  First, let's look at the Pipeline Maps for Europe:



As you can see, similar to the build out of Oil Pipelines in North America from where the Oil was found down in TX and OK to where it was burned in places like Detroit and Cleveland in the early part of the 20th Century, pipelines were built to take Oil from where it was found in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and bring it to the Industrial Factories  where it was being burned, primarily in Britain and Germany in the early 20th Century.  While the Boxers were fighting in China, you had a similar battle going on in Europe over who would get to control the Oil coming from MENA, and the first big battle was fought for this, that was WWI.


The Brits won this war against the Krauts, with the assistance of their then still flush with oil former colony of the Amurkans.  They carved up MENA into a bunch of random countries from the old Ottoman Empire with the Sykes-Picot Agreement to insure the flow of energy would come their way after the war.

The Sykes–Picot Agreement, officially known as the Asia Minor Agreement, was a secret agreement between the governments of the United Kingdom and France,[1] with the assent of Russia, defining their proposed spheres of influence and control in the Middle East should the Triple Entente succeed in defeating the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The negotiation of the treaty occurred between November 1915 and March 1916.[2] The agreement was concluded on 16 May 1916.[3]

The agreement effectively divided the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire outside the Arabian peninsula into areas of future British and French control or influence.[4] An "international administration" was proposed for Palestine.[5] The terms were negotiated by the French diplomat François Georges-Picot and Briton Sir Mark Sykes. The Russian Tsarist government was a minor party to the Sykes–Picot agreement, and when, following the Russian Revolution of October 1917, the Bolsheviks exposed the agreement, "the British were embarrassed, the Arabs dismayed and the Turks delighted."[6]

As you can see here, even prior to WWII and the Holocaust, there was an "agreement" about Palestine, later to become Israel.  Essentially, Israel was designed to be the Military Base from which to maintain control over all of MENA Oil assets.  Endless Military Aid has been furnished to the Israelis since WWII as a means to maintain this control, and the warfare down there between the Israelis and all the Arab states which surround them has been virtually continuous since WWII.

Despite the ongoing wars down there through the time period, overall the Oil was successfully transported through the pipeline system to the factories in Northern Europe, and even the Krauts who lost both WWI and WWII actually did fine here, since the same banksters financed both sides in the battle and after the war was finished, refinanced rebuilding of all the factories in both Britain and Germany that had been destroyed in the war to begin with!  LOL.

Like North America with the building of the Alaska Pipeline, the Northern Europeans also got a fresh infusion of Juice with the discovery of North Sea Oil, and both Britain and Norway got a big bonus from this over the last 40 years, but this bonanza is starting to run thin now, and there are no new good sources of local Oil to be accessed at anything within a reasonable price range to justify the CapEx.  So the Western European Nations are getting desperate for Oil and NG, and their last, best hope for this is…the RUSKIES!

Mother Russia still has a decent supply of Oil left, not just in the Arctic Ocean but out there in the vast land mass of Siberia too!  What's the problem?  PIPELINES!  Getting the Oil from where it still is in Mother Russia to where the Eurotrash would like to burn it will take extensive construction of new pipelines, which in some cases are even longer than the fucking Alaska Pipeline!  Besides that, the Eurotrash are competing against the Chinese, who would like to have new pipelines for this treasure trove of still remaining Fossil Fuel Energy piped in THEIR direction.  Who if either will the Banksters finance for contstruction of said new pipelines?  Just like Alaska, they won't fund either one of them, because there is no Return on Investment (ROI).  in no place left on Earth is it possible to sell the energy at a price the consumer can afford to pay for it.

Knowing all of this, it is now possible to predict where the Lights will go off first and how the Powerdown off Industrial Civilization will proceed.

You have two Legacy Infrastructure Projects here, built out from the beginning of the 20th Century to move the energy around, the Electrical Grid and the Pipeline Network.  Both systems are decaying, and the ROI for either fixing and maintaining what has already been built or for building new ones simply is not there anymore.  It just costs too much to drag the energy out of the ground and move it over to places where fewer and fewer people all the time can afford to burn it.  The persistent GROWTH necessary to finance such a system has come to a halt now.  The population of Homo Sap across the whole planet has exceeded the capacity of the planet to support that population on an Environmental and Resource level, and so that population must and will contract.  The easily accessed Fossil Fuel Energy that allowed for the exponential growth of this population is now all gone, it exists now as CO2 up in the atmosphere.

The population of Homo Sap will begin its decline first in the Peripheral countries, better known as the "3rd World".  Similarly, the Lights will start going off first in these countries, and the Legacy Pipeline and Electrical Grid systems that deliver the Energy to the 1st World Nations will continue to function a while longer, but become ever more difficult to maintain and to continue to input new Energy to ever more impoverished consumers of the Energy, and they too will then begin to shut down one by one at first perhaps, but at some point the whole system will crash.  This may occur in tandem with or shortly after the crash of the monetary system controlling this distribution of Energy.

The Last Big Shities to still have Lights On from central grid power?  In all probability, Berlin,the City of London and New York Shity on Wall Street, the centers of the Finance that built the whole system to begin with.  When the Lights Go Out on Broadway, you can say that TEOTWAWKI has arrived.  It may take a little while yet, but you can watch the progress inward, you can see it happening in real time.  It's not a conjecture anymore, it's reality.

More Econ & Energy Blogs & Rants off the keyboard & microphone of the Rogue Economist, AKA Reverse Engineer

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Propper Prepping: What’s What With Watt?

Off the keyboard of Cognitive Dissonance

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Published on Two Ice Floes on February 25, 2015

Solar Panels 2 - Clean

Discuss this article at the Doomsteading Table inside the Diner

Regular readers may remember a humorous post from November of 2014 by Mrs. Cog titled ‘Amps Times Volts Equals Watts. In that article Mrs. Cog relates with a giggle her struggle to understand the basic fundamentals of electricity, something she had previously given no more thought to for her entire life than where is the nearest outlet or light switch. I think I enjoyed that piece more than any other article by Mrs. Cog to date. If you haven’t read it, please take a moment and do so before proceeding. This article picks up (sadly sans most of the humor) where that one left off.

I wrote an article some time back describing the process of physically and financially decoupling from the Matrix. In it I described how we were selling assets to eliminate as much debt as possible in order to reduce the need for cash flow. While we are grateful some of our assets contained capital gains, we were not delighted with the idea the tax man would remove a sizable portion of ‘our’ money for ‘its’ despotic redistribution. Unfortunately the process of withdrawing often involves becoming more entangled, or at least still feeding the beast in many unexpected ways, even if this is temporary in nature and leads to less involvement in the system and a more sustainable lifestyle.

Needless to say the tax man’s wrath was felt in 2014, making us reluctantly resigned but very unhappy campers. Unfortunately, in a financial system which rewards those who continue to double down, the escapee who walks away is heavily penalized. Still, we were looking to repurpose some of the cash into tangible working assets of the sustainable homestead nature. If doing so happened to provide a tax credit, thereby reducing the tax man’s cut from a pound of Rump Roast to a twelve ounce Porterhouse, then all the better for us.

While we had always planned to install a more extensive photovoltaic (solar) electric system at some point down the road when money and time allowed, several stars aligned at the same time to propel this project back from the future and into the recent past. When we purchased our homestead, the prior owner had already installed two small fifteen watt solar panels and a tiny charge controller to keep two six volt lead acid batteries charged. These batteries were used to power a winch to lift heavy logs into the outdoor wood stove boiler. I expected I would eventually expand upon that existing system and repurpose it for household use.

Late last year in October of 2014 Mrs. Cog and I were discussing ‘What ifs’, an exercise we often engage in to see where we stand in our progress towards creating a more sustainable living environment and how far we have to go. A well known critical vulnerability was the lack of an easily accessible alternative source of potable water if the electrical grid failed and we eventually ran out of propane and gasoline used to fuel our backup generators which power the submersible pump in our well. While we have a robust creek on the property, accessing it requires a 200+ foot vertical descent down an old logging road to bring water back up, perfectly acceptable during an emergency but not a viable long term solution for this old fart.

A solution (notice I did not say ‘the solution’) was to provide an alternative renewable power source for the well pump, returning our thoughts once again to photovoltaic. Traditional submersible well pumps draw a relatively large amount of electrical current, especially initially in what is termed the ‘surge current’. After measuring a draw of 55 amps for two tenths of a second at 240 volts before settling down to less than 10 amps, it quickly dawned on me my planned ‘small’ photovoltaic system wasn’t going to cut the mustard. Time to Zig instead of Zag.

A second water ‘solution’, one we implemented at the same time as the photovoltaic to provide an extremely low tech backup to the well’s submersible pump, was a mechanical pumping system integrated into our home’s pressurized potable water supply system which can also be powered by a DC motor energized by solar power. The entire mechanical pumping system is installed in the same well casing as the existing submersible pump, pipe and electrical power line. I will be presenting an article on that system at some point in the future. Obviously the Achilles Heel to both ‘solutions’ is the single water supply, a drilled well that can go always bad. We still have the creek as a backup, though I need to give that problem a great deal more thought.

As Mrs. Cog learned, amps times volts equals watts. Since most photovoltaic systems are described in terms such as a 3 Kilowatt (KW) system, meaning a solar array capable of producing a maximum of 3,000 watts of electricity while the sun shines its strongest (not to be confused with an ability to draw 3,000 watts from the system for a full 24 hours, a much higher hurdle to overcome) I needed to determine how much surge wattage was required to start the pump. My calculator indicated 13,200 watts of power was needed for an instant and around 2,400 watts for as long as the well pump was pumping. Gulp! The 2,400 watts were certainly doable for a ‘reasonable’ amount of money, but being able to ‘surge’ 13,200 watts, even for less than a second, was an entirely different matter.

While I have a great deal of experience working with AC (Alternating Current) residential electrical systems, having extensively rewired the homestead and installed my own Generac 17KW propane standby generator with an automatic transfer switch and 16 circuit electrical panel, DC (Direct Current) systems, particularly photovoltaic electrical systems, are a different animal with its own electrical code, cabling, electrical components and specifications. It was pretty clear plenty of research was in order, so I hit the Internet and dove right in.

Many websites selling photovoltaic systems and components often have sections of their website devoted to educating the consumer on the ins and outs of the genre. If there is one piece of advice I can offer, it is to visit several vendors’ sites and study all they have to offer. Then visit solar websites devoted to your photovoltaic education without trying to sell you something at the same time. As helpful as I found the vender websites to be while researching, there is an inherent conflict of interest which isn’t always readily apparent at the time you’re doing your due diligence. Case in point; rarely do they suggest components or brands they do not sell, which for me was a real stumbling block when I began to research alternative inverters and charge controllers.

Every situation and installation is unique, so buying a cookie cutter solar ‘kit’ (assuming you will be installing it yourself) may work just fine in your situation…….or it might not. Because I had already wired our homestead with a separate standby generator electrical panel plus the homestead essentially uses two 200 amp service panels and a hodgepodge of sub panels, my situation was very unique and would require a custom design and installation even if I wasn’t trying to power the well.

Solar Control Panel - Clean

Charge Controller, Inverter, Transfer Switch, DC Switchgear, AC Switchgear, Control Panel, Communications Box, Battery Bank Exhaust Fan, Grounding, Conduit and Wiring.

My goal was to build a photovoltaic system that would not tie directly into the electrical grid, but rather be ‘off grid’. This ruled out a ‘grid-tie’ system, a photovoltaic system which basically remains connected to the grid whereby if the solar panels cannot supply all your needs, you draw the rest from the grid. If your solar panels are producing more electricity than you presently need, essentially you sell any excess power back to the power company in real time. Unfortunately, if the grid goes down when it is dark you have no power unless you also have a battery backup. I wanted to be able to cut off the grid completely if needed or desired and be self sufficient by supplying my basic electrical needs. Anyone who thinks power company electricity bills will remain ‘low’ indefinitely is just being naive.

However, I wanted to be able to integrate the photovoltaic system into portions of my house electrical system and be able to switch back and forth between the solar panels and the grid or generator as needed. I wanted this flexibility because several days of cloudy weather means the solar panels are barely generating electricity. This condition will exhaust the battery bank in a few days and require a return to an alternative power source for those household circuits wired to solar. The ability to do so with just a flick of a switch was important if Mrs. Cog was also going to operate the system.

I also wanted to be able to add additional house electrical circuits to be energized by solar power as I expanded the system capacity at various points in the future. In addition I wanted to be able to charge the battery bank either by the solar panels, the electrical grid, the whole house standby generator or any reasonably sized portable generator. Finally I wanted the ability to expand the system by a factor of three or four and add a wind turbine or two at some point to take advantage of the near year round winds up here on the edge of the Blue Ridge Plateau. It was a tall order to fill and as previously stated money was limited.

Because this article series will delve into greater detail in later chapters I don’t wish to get lost in minutia for this piece. Suffice to say there is a large and growing selection of photovoltaic components on the market, a major improvement over just a few years ago when I last looked. But……if you buy just what you need now and you wish to expand the system in the future, you will waste a lot of money if you are forced to replace components later which have exceeded their capacity or capability. While going cheap may solve an immediate need or desire, after living with the system for a short time buyer’s remorse often sets in. There is nothing worse than dumping several thousands of dollars into a system only to realize you are stuck with something that doesn’t fit your needs or can be properly expanded.

This is why the very first thing to be done is to identify how big a system you wish to create and not how much you can afford. After you use an online calculator to find out how big of a system you want, (for example here is just one of many calculators found on the web) the shock of discovering the cost of your wants will quickly help you pare them down to basic needs. In order to truly comprehend the difference between your needs and your wants you must go through this exercise. It is a rare individual indeed who truly understands how much energy they use on a daily/weekly/monthly basis when all they see is the electric bill each month.

If you are serious about building a photovoltaic system I guarantee that after doing some research you will suddenly be looking for electricity usage labels on your TV’s, refrigerators, freezers, computers, monitors, toasters, blenders and so on. We tend to be much more aware of power usage when we are generating our own power. Suddenly compact florescent and LED lighting look much more attractive even with their high cost. Speaking of cost, for only $30 a ‘Kill A Watt’ Meter or similar device is real handy for measuring electricity use, either instantly or over time, of any plug in appliance, computer, light, radio, clock etc. It is well worth the expenditure just to know where you ‘waste’ electricity even if you never purchase a photovoltaic system. Google ‘electricity vampires’ for a quick education.

Mrs. Cog and I could not afford to purchase all that we wanted now, but we knew we would eventually do so. Designing the entire photovoltaic system to fit only what we could afford now would severely limit what we could do in the future. For example, if I eventually wanted to power half the entire house via photovoltaic year round (something I expect to eventually do) but could only afford a system that would power 10-15% of the house now, many of the components I purchase now might not be able to be expanded later unless I carefully planned to do so before purchasing. Planning ahead meant I would need to buy certain components which are bigger than what I need now, but are just right for later.

Unless you are buying very small solar panels (less than 100 watts each) your existing solar array can usually be expanded in the future, though you will likely need to rewire them into a different configuration. We began with ‘just’ four 265 watt solar panels in our solar panel array for a total of more than 1000 watts of production during maximum sun. But we also planned for significant expansion in the immediate future, so other intermediate components were sized (and priced) accordingly.

Your battery bank (a grouping of similar batteries) is another matter to carefully consider. A 12 volt DC battery bank, usually employed strictly with small systems, is very hard to expand into a 24 or 48 volt bank, especially if done much later and with dissimilar batteries and manufacturers, a no-no in any professional designer or installer’s book. You can create more than one battery bank, but this complicates matters significantly and doesn’t solve the problem of dissimilar battery bank voltages. Again, if you plan to expand in the near future this must be taken into consideration now.

We walked the middle ground and created a 24 volt battery bank using eight 6 volt flooded lead acid deep cycle batteries, with plans to add an additional four more of the exact same batteries within the year. A general rule of thumb is you will spend as much on your battery bank as you will on your solar panels. Take a look at these pre-configured battery banks with cables included, which are priced anywhere from $1,000 to $8,000. I have even seen preconfigured battery banks selling for more than $20,000.

Battery Bank - Clean

Our 24 Volt battery bank inside a deck box in the basement.

If you plan on expanding your battery bank, pay particular attention to the connecting cables. If you select battery cables initially which are too small for future expansion just to save some money now, you will regret it. I bit the bullet and went with the largest 4/0 gauge high quality battery and inverter cables upfront. Surprisingly this was a significant expense, amounting to well over $400 just for the battery cables. But I will never need to replace them with larger cables and with proper care and maintenance will last for the rest of our lifetime.

From my point of view the most important aspect of planning a flexible photovoltaic system is selecting the proper control, switching, charging and inverting equipment, the heart of the system if you will and located between the solar panels and the battery bank. Money properly spent here will not doom much of the system to obsolescence the first time you wish to expand.

Of primary importance is selecting equipment that can be easily expanded (‘stacked’ is a term often used) and which was designed to do so directly from the factory. Jury rigging dissimilar equipment together exponentially increases the chance of a system break down under stress, precisely when you need the system the most and are least able to repair or replace.

The downside to greatly increased component selection to choose from is the proliferation of cheap junk disguised as inexpensive alternatives. After pricing high quality pure sine wave DC to AC inverters (3 – 4KW) in the $2,000 – $3,000 plus range, the temptation is nearly irresistible to snap up an inferior alternative claiming the same specifications for less than half the price. Let the buyer beware, however, because not all electrical components are created equal.

While I have no desire to name names since I have no firsthand experience or knowledge, there are plenty of people out there who have been burned and are more than willing to share their experiences. Take the time when conducting your due diligence to be thorough in your investigation. This will require you to learn some of the electrical concepts and technical jargon of the industry. Do not be penny wise and pound foolish.

That said, there is a distinct bias in the upper reaches of the photovoltaic industry against ‘Chinese junk’ which is not always warranted. Several of the top name brands are supposedly American made, thereby inflaming the belief foreign manufactured components equates to poor quality. This is misleading since one cannot competently and fairly compare two components located on either side of the price spectrum. Quality electrical components are expensive. Lower quality is less expensive.

In addition, electrical and electronic devises originating from China are not all bad since many of the ‘American made’ components contain Chinese designed and manufactured parts within. Be careful when researching that you do not accept as ‘fact’ repeated declarations that are sometimes little more than opinion. Nor should you accept as gospel what is said in the ‘review’ sections on the vender websites.

Many sellers offer photovoltaic ‘kits’ for sale, both in different configurations and applications. While these are helpful when examined closely in order to see which components are being used where, the dirty little secret in the business is that often major components are missing from the ‘kits’. One site entices you with a low price only to discover no batteries or battery cables are included.

Often interconnecting cabling, disconnect and transfer switches or other code required components are missing from the low price. While I understand these areas depend upon the specific application, most people will not understand this is the case until well into the purchase process. To be fair kits rarely include solar panel mounting racks and hardware because of the wide variety of roof and pole mount systems. Keep this in mind when pricing a system. This site has the most complete kits I have found, but that doesn’t mean others website are not better.

Completed System - CleanControl panel with battery bank inside brown ‘deck box’.

All the vender websites encourage you to call their sales people with questions and to allow them to design a system for you. Just as long as you can resist the sales pressure I strongly urge you to do so if for no other reason than to examine what the sales ‘experts’ advise you to do in your particular situation. The true value gained here is to examine the customized systems offered between the venders as well as the differences. Be careful you are consistent with all of them when answering their questions, otherwise you will not be offered comparable systems.

This means you should do some research before calling so you at least know what you wish to power in your home and you have a modicum of understanding of the basic components and what they do. Don’t change specifications between phone calls to different venders. You can always repeat this process if you find the price is too high or less than you thought. The key is to compare similar ‘bids’ to see what is missing and what is included from offer to offer. This is a great source of information and a cheap education if conducted properly.

Something I find missing to some extent on the seller websites, and even to some degree on pure information sites, is the cost and technical challenge of connecting your midsized photovoltaic system to your house electrical system. Once again I suppose this is because of the tremendous variance in electrical systems in homes all across America, particularly if they were built more than 30 years ago. Still, much expense can float to the surface in just this area alone even if you have a modern home.

Unless you are installing a very small system (i.e.500 watts or less) which provides just one or two outlets with which you plug small items into, or you are dropping $30-40,000 into a whole house grid-tie or off grid system which makes the system tie-in relatively easy, trying to mesh a midsized photovoltaic system with an operating grid-powered home electrical system is no small matter and must be executed carefully and with much prior planning. This way be dragons if not carefully and competently navigated.

The only thing worse than ignorance is knowing just enough to get yourself into deep trouble, a condition I am quite familiar with since I am always hip deep in doo-doo. Just because you are familiar with some aspects of AC (standard house) wiring, maybe because you wired up an electrical sub-panel in the basement or changed out a circuit breaker or defective outlet, doesn’t mean you know the ins and outs of DC or how to interconnect DC and AC. The same holds true for professional electricians. While they must demonstrate a working knowledge of DC before being licensed by the state, in practice most residential electricians have very little experience with DC and particularly with DC-AC photovoltaic power systems.

If you do not wish to install this baby yourself I strongly urge you to hire someone who works in this field exclusively to do the work for you. Paying the local electrician for his on-the-job training is not the best solution and it still doesn’t mean the job will be up to code, an unpleasant situation you might only discover when it breaks or you try to sell your home and the buyer’s home inspector tells you the bad news.

Finally I offer a warning to the wise. While I am not trying to discourage you from doing it yourself, other than a small system designed to provide one or two built-in outlets with which to power a few plug-in items, anything hardwired into your house electrical system should not be attempted unless you know what you’re doing or are willing to learn. Just because it is Direct Current doesn’t mean it can’t, or won’t, kill you. My relatively small battery bank produces enough power to melt a crescent wrench if dropped across the battery terminals. This is quite a bit different from the tingle received when placing a 9 volt battery on your tongue. I threatened my daughter’s new boyfriend with electrical torture if he crossed the line with her, and I’m fully capable of backing up that threat. J

The point is basic; if you are not willing to educate yourself beyond the bare minimum you really shouldn’t be installing the equipment. Hurt ego aside, serious harm can come to you and your loved ones via an improperly installed and maintained photovoltaic system. Particularly with preconfigured ‘kits’, the assumption by the manufacturer and seller is that you know what you’re doing and you know what questions to ask. As mama always said, to assume anything can make an ass out of you and me.

Please check back regularly for additional chapters as I continue to write about the good, the bad and the ugly of our photovoltaic solar system. If you would like to read other articles about our homestead and the various projects we have completed over the last two years, please click here.

Conservation Commutation Plan

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on February 1, 2015


Discuss this article at the Energy Table inside the Diner

As my good friend Steve on Economic Undertow often points out, probably 90% of the energy problems we have right now come from the incredible WASTEFULNESS of so many people driving around individual Carz, often to little real purpose and certainly not generating any new “wealth”. just burning up old wealth in energy from increasingly depleted energy reservoirs around the world.

Clearly, as a society we need to STOP using so much Oil, and the biggest waster of that Oil is the current Car oriented paradigm, particularly in the FSoA which has been pursuing it the longest, but also in Europe and China now too.  It’s really ridiculous that every single commuter is riding in his or her individual car 20 or more miles to work every day from their Suburban McHovels, then leave the car parked all day in the lot or garage and drive another 20 or miles back to the McHovel after the workday is done.

As the population increases while the available SPACE on the planet does not, you end up getting some AMAZING traffic problems from this system.

NY Shity Traffic Jam


Beijing Traffic Jam



This of course makes the whole system even MORE inefficient, with MORE waste of energy as cars sit in interminably long traffic jams from NY Shity to London to Paris to Beijing and back again.

The SOLUTION many folks propose is more Public Transportation, back to the Railroads as it were. This is a favorite paradigm for Jim Kunstler, but he is not alone in this idea.  What’s wrong with it?

Well, if you grew up inside NY Shity riding the Subway, you know immediately what is wrong with it, it absolutely SUCKS waiting for trains, muscling yourself in on crowded train platforms to get a seat on the next arriving train, etc.  Besides that, the train almost NEVER goes EXACTLY where you need it to go, like the Parking Lot of Walmart does.  You drive to Walmart, you buy a Big Screen TV, you wheel it out to  your SUV in a Shopping Cart and then you drive it home.  Good luck with getting your Big Screen TV home if you ride the Subway to Best Buy!


So, it is waste, Waste, WASTE everywhere here on a daily basis, and in fact the entire infrastructure has been designed in such a way that you can’t STOP this, not on a Dime anyhow.  If you took out the Carz tomorrow with no decent alternative plan to substitute for them, just about every Bedroom Community in the FSoA would be totally FUCKED.  Really, they would be UNLIVABLE.  However, you cannot rebuild an entirely new infrastructure overnight to accommodate for this, so you have to start thinking about how to ADAPT the current infrastructure

https://grist.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/chevy-volt_02.jpgBesides utilizing Mass Transport and Light Rail, the other main substitute often proposed by Cornucopians are EVs, aka Electric Vehicles which usually means Electric Carz like the Chevy Volt or Toyota Prius.  These vehicles take the SAME idea that every single person can have their own Powerful Individual Car which can travel Continent Size Distances, and instead of putting in a Gas Tank, they drop in an INCREDIBLY expensive set of Li-I batteries to run the thing.

People who promote this never really deal with the fact that if EVERYONE was charging up this sort of vehicle off the grid to do the same sort of Happy Motoring they do now, the energy requirement necessary would collapse the grid!  There is not enough electric generation capacity to substitute for all the ICEs, in fact there really is not enough Electric Generation capacity in many places to handle what we have NOW in terms of demand.

So, you have a few issues here you need to solve simultaneously.  You need to reduce the total energy demand.  You need to keep the current suburban model functioning at least through a Transition Period.  Outright INSTANTANEOUS abandonment of the Suburban Model is IMPOSSIBLE without a Mad Max style dislocation.  You just cannot move so many people so fast with an infrastructure that took decades, even CENTURIES to build.

Believe it or not, there is means and method to meet these goals, not perfectly but at least enough to avoid the Mad Max outcome IMHO.  It’s not with Rail, though that is a part of it, and its not a large Mega-Infrastructure project either.  It’s an adaptation that works on a Cellular Level, is redundant and easily achieved.


The biggest issue you have in the daily commute if you do NOT use a car to get from PointA to Point B is the First and Last Mile.  AKA, if you are using some sort of Mass Transit, the distance from your McHovel to the Boarding Train Station, then the distance from the disembarkation point to your workplace, and vica-versa.

To resolve the First and Last Mile problem, you use the Scooters, which can be Electric or Gas Powered.  Gas powered ones get in the neighborhood of 80 MPG, so even there you have more than 70% savings usually.  Electrics, no gas at all, and renewable generation can charge them most of the time.  You drive your Scooter to a Pick Up location served by Independent Entrepreneurs who run 10 Passenger Vans with a Trailer capable of pulling 10 Scooters, Gas or Electric.

Electric-CommutersWhere there were before 10 individual SUVs all running on GAS, now there is only ONE Van running on renewable electricity.  Even if the scooters are running on Gas, they do only the first and last mile of the commute. Besides that, even if Gas powered, the scooters get 80 mpg while the SUV gets 30 at best.

Productivity is increased here, all the folks who used to be busy driving for an hour or more each way to work now sit for that hour in a comfortable Workstation in the Electric Van, answering emails and getting ready for morning Trading on the NYSE.  LOL.

There are now 1/10th of the Carz on the road than there were before, since 10 Pigmen were in the Electric Van instead of 10 each in their own Mercedes.  Parking your Scooter is easy anywhere in Manhattan also, even down on Wall Street!

Getting the Big Screen TV Home from Best Buy with a Scooter remains a problem with this meme.  However, Big Box Stores aren’t doing too well anyhow, so you just order the the Big Screen TV from Amazon.com or Alibaba and an electric truck deposits it in your driveway, or maybe a Drone will do it!

Overall, my estimation is that pursuing this paradigm would drop Oil consumption AT LEAST in half, maybe even 70%.  There would not be THAT much change in the industrial societies resultant from that.

Over time here, keeping all the Scooters charged or gassed up will become difficult.  However, in the INTERMEDIATE time, conservation of this sort can extend out the industrial lifestyle 20 or more years.

Of course, as of today, for most Amerikans not yet off the Economic Cliff, the Individual lifestyle of having boundless energy resource to waste remains the driving paradigm.  It doesn’t matter what Idea you present these days, be it High Speed Rail from the Chinese or Scooter Econmics from me.

Before any significant change can occur,  a lot more Shit has to Hit the Fan.

Meanwhile, before it all collapses, Prep up with Scooters and Bikes! 🙂


The Dimming Bulb

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on December 7, 2014

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While all eyes are focused right now on the Oil Price Collapse, with it’s numerous implications as far as the Energy Industry, Bankstering and Transportation Industries are concerned, in the background and not well reported on or chronicled statistically is the ever widening problem of Electrical Grid Blackouts & Brownouts.

Even more than liquid fuels for transportation, Electricity DEFINES the Modern Industrial Culture, and is considered an “Essential Service“.

Living without electricity in today’s technological world may be difficult to imagine. Yet the reality of living without computers, mobile phones and entertainment systems, and managing a transport system thrown into chaos by an absence of traffic lights, trains and subways, may become increasingly common, according to an academic study published today.

New research by Hugh Byrd, Professor of Architecture at the University of Lincoln, UK, and Steve Matthewman, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, reveals that today’s occasional blackouts are dress rehearsals for the future, when they will occur with greater frequency and increased severity.

According to the study, power cuts will become more regular around the globe as electrical supply becomes increasingly vulnerable and demand for technology continues to grow at an unprecedented rate.

Professor Byrd said: “Electricity fuels our existence. It powers water purification, waste, food, transportation and communication systems. Modern social life is impossible to imagine without it, and whereas cities of the past relied on man-power, today we are almost completely reliant on a series of interlocking technical systems. Our research therefore explores what happens when the power goes off, and explains why the security of fuel supply is such a pressing social problem.”

Electrical power has been defined as a ‘critical infrastructure’ by the International Risk Governance Council, in that it is a ‘large-scale human-built system that supplies continual services central to society’s functioning’. However, electricity supply is less robust than commonly supposed.

You simply cannot run any modern city without copious amounts of Electricity, most often provided by Coal Plants around the world, but with dependence also on all the forms of Fossil Fuel and Nuclear, as well as Hydro and Wind Power in selected locations.Every one of these forms of Power generations faces issues now, and the grid which distributes the power also is deteriorating and keeping it repaired and functional after every weather related problem from Tornadoes to Ice Storms and just plain old T-Storms costs every community more money they just do not have every day.

Going back to 1989 in Mr. Peabody’s WAYBAC Machine, Richard Duncan developed a metric of PER CAPITA Energy, which is much more important than precisely how much Oil is coming out of the ground at any given point in time, although despite the Hype on Fracking, Oil Production globally has been FLATLINED for near a decade now, and the Fracked stuff just keeps us treading water, at an enormous price.


In the intervening time between January of 2005 and January of 2014 though, the Total Global Population of Homo Sapiens has increased by roughly 1 Billion People with a current total population somewhat in excess of 7 Billion, for a roughly 15% Population increase over the time period:


So, just to stay EVEN in Per Capita Energy Consumption, over this time period Energy Extraction would have needed to increase also by 15%, but obviously it has not.  The amount of AVAILABLE per capita energy has been decreasing for quite some time, due mainly to Population Increase while the extraction rate for energy has remained more or less Flatlined for around a decade now.

At this point however, as credit becomes constricted to access energy in most places of the world (Ugo Bardi for instance noted that Italy has seen a 35% drop in Oil Consumption over the last decade), it’s not just Per Capita energy consumption that is on the downslide, but GROSS TOTAL CONSUMPTION as well.

You can see this in this chart from Doug Short, which shows a 10% drop in Gasoline consumption here in the FSoA over the last 6 years since the end of the Consumption Peak in 2008

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 11.57.00 AM

So, the Demand Destruction and decreasing consumption of Energy is pretty apparent by the numbers in the Liquid Fuels area, but what about in the even more critical area of Electricity, powering the Lights, the Sewage Treatment Plants, the Elevators and the Subway systems of the major cities that have exploded in population since the Age of Oil began?

Fortunately for us observers of Energy Resource Depletion & Dissipation, we have available the Suomi NPP Visible Infrared Radiometer Suite, which has made some marvelous images of the night time Earth, including the Black Marble Image.


Here’s the Flat Map of the Whole Globe, revealing clearly where industrialization has infected over the years:

Night Lights 2012 - Flat map

Remarkable how small a portion of the world really got Wired Up here before burning through the legacy of a few million years of fossil fuel collection

After doing a bit of Googling, I found these two images of North America, one from 2012, the other from 1995.


Now, these two images were captured with different equipment, but you can see unmistakeably how much the Great Plains area has diminished in overall lighting, with one notable exception, that VERY large and bright spot I circled in Yellow.  What do you suppose that is?

That folks is the Bakken Oil Fields around Williston, ND.  It’s partially increased electric lighting, but mostly NG Flaring.  Here’s a Closeup View:



You can see the opposite effect if you look in the Southeast, increasing brightness down there where a lot of development took place through the period.

With the Suomi Instrument now up, detailed analysis of changing amounts of “light pollution” have been undertaken, most notably around Europe in this report published in January of 2014 in the Journal Nature:

Contrasting trends in light pollution across Europe based on satellite observed night time lights

The analysis is very thorough, and generates some very interesting data

We assessed changes in artificial lighting in terms of the extent of the areas decreasing and increasing in brightness over the region. The method was validated by the successful attribution of regions of both increasing and decreasing intensity in a calibration area in South-West England to urban and industrial developments, confirming that the observed direction and timing of change is consistent with known changes in nighttime light intensity on the ground. We then extended the approach to map areas of increasing and decreasing brightness across Europe. While the brightness of nighttime light pollution across Europe is increasing overall, clear regional differences exist, with considerable regions experiencing apparent net dimming over the period.

Here is the area around Southwest England used for calibration purposes.  Blue areas are decreasing light intensity, Red areas increasing:

15-year changes in nighttime brightness in South-West England.

Highlighted regions: (a) Annual trend in brightness for areas associated with the china-clay (kaolin) industry, (blue line); total china clay production (black line). (b) Annual trend in brightness for the urban region of Torbay (blue); total power load on municipal street lighting in Torbay (black). (c) Annual trend in brightness for Wytch Farm onshore oil field (blue); total oil production from the field (black). Map generated using ESRI ArcMap 9.2.

For Europe as a whole, here’s the maps and analysis:

(a) Intercalibrated mean brightness for Europe 2005–2010. (b) 10-year change in brightness, calculated as the difference in mean values for the periods 2005–2010 and 1995–2000. Grey areas are saturated throughout the time period, so trends cannot be detected. (c) Proportions of the total land surface area for which artificial light was detected to increase (orange) and decrease (blue) by more than 3 DN units in constituent countries of Europe. *Data south of 65 degrees latitude only. Map generated using ESRI ArcMap 9.2.

Changes in European light pollution

In common with recent studies in Asia13, 16, 24, Europe has experienced a marked net increase in nighttime light pollution since satellite images first became available (Figure 2). Inferences about heavily urbanised areas must be treated with caution as the DMSP/OLS sensors saturate at high light levels; however, marked regional differences within the unsaturated rural and suburban areas exist. It has been previously noted that large areas of some countries of the former Soviet Union, such as Moldova and Ukraine, experienced a contraction in lighting following independence22; the effects of this change are still evident in this study over a more extended time period. Widespread decreases in brightness also occur in Hungary and Slovakia. Moreover, we find that several economically developed countries, including Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Northern Germany also show areas apparently experiencing detectable localised declines in brightness.

The changes here aren’t uniform, and while some are predictable based on the current economic situation, some others are counter-intuitive.  Here’s a Geographical breakdown of a few selected locations:

Selected areas of maps shown in Figure 2, showing contrasts in trends in detected nighttime light between different countries.

(a) Belgium shows decreases in nighttime brightness along the motorway network, while neighbouring regions of France have increased substantially in brightness. (b) Slovakia shows marked decreases in brightness, with the exception of Bratslava and towns in the west of the country. In contrast, neighbouring regions of Poland have become substantially brighter. Map generated using ESRI ArcMap 9.2.

As you might have expected if you follow collapse dynamics, countries formerly in the orbit of the Former Soviet Union (FSU), which did not glom onto the Western economy after the fall like Slovakia see a marked Dimming of the Bulbs, whereas countries like Poland got Brighter Bulbs in the aftermath of that collapse.  Southern European Nations which saw a lot of investment over the time period got brighter, whereas aging industrial countries like Belgium and the Netherlands have grown dimmer.

Moving around the globe to the East, you can see the close relationship between power consumption and GDP by looking at the graph of Power Output versus GDP for the period from 1998 through 2012:


What can we expect moving forward here into the future?

Well, far as China is concerned, those numbers are going to continue to slide, and in all probability you are going to see the Bulbs go Dimmer in China over the next couple of years.  Even more than China, India is likely to see total lumens decreasing rapidly as time passes.

Unlike the numbers dished out by the Chinese Politburo or Da Fed and the BLS here which can be easily massaged to make it appear as though there is “Growth” where there is no real growth, the image data generated from the Suomi Satellite is harder to disguise, though of course not impossible either since both NASA and NOAA are Goobermint agencies.  At the moment however, there are probably too many scientists with access to the real time data streams to falsify the imagery, and too few people who recognize what is going on for it to matter on a political level if the Globe clearly shows a progressive and increasing Dimming effect.

If you are aware of these things though, this provides one of the BEST METRICS around to observe the collapse of Industrial Civilization.  At the moment I am unable to locate a way to access regular updated satellite imagery on this for the typical web surfer, however I am hopeful that my good friend Ugo Bardi, Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Firenza may have better luck through the university system.

 photo city_black_out_500.jpgBesides watching and cateloging as cities like Detroit and Hoboken grow dimmer, another fascinating Bright Spot to watch over the next year is that Bonfire going on in the Bakken right now, which one of my friends in the industry who flies in there regularly says is simply amazing to see from the air.  With an already 40% decrease in Drilling permits being applied for as the price of Oil drops here, it seems likely that this particular Bright Light will be a lot Dimmer next year, and dimmer still the year after that.

How LONG will it take for the Planet to go COMPLETELY Dark at night?  Probably a relatively long time, but at the same time there will probably be occassions where large regions go dark simultaneously and other occassions where the overall lumens decrease rapidly in a given location as many of the lights are extinguished.  A simple example would be a struggling municipality cutting off half its Streetlights in order to save on the Electric Bill.  Or a Suburb with a lot of foreclosures having a greater number of Dark McMansions.

1995-2012-lightsThe Comparison Photo I put up of North America 1998 vs 2012 probably gives the best indication of how the loss of electric power will go, first disappearing from Low Population Zones and gradually spreading toward the densely populated areas.  It looks as though California is getting close to being Sunffed Out going West from Bakken, and moving Eastward the Mississipi River Population Zone will see more Dimming.  This correlates well with the ongoing Geopolitical problems in places like Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, and of course rust belt cities like Detroit and Gary, Indiana.

In the Final Countdown, probably only a few Major Metros of First World cities like NY Shity, London, Berlin etc will still have so many lights on they resemble Diodes on a circuit board.  How LONG will this process take though?  Absolute Light Intensity Dimming  in North America over the last 15 years is discernable, but it hasn’t totally stopped BAU in the FSoA.  If the regression is a linear function, in another 15 years things would be worse, but not altogether different.

Thing is, this is probably not a linear function, as suggested by Ugo Bardi’s Seneca Cliff.


Once the dropoff begins, it tends to accelerate with many positive feedback loops involved.  So in all likelihood we will see acceleration of this phenomenon around the globe over the next 15 years, and a significant portion of the currently Lit Up portions of the Black Marble will have gone dark by then.

Here in the FSoA, probably the most significant one to watch over the next couple of years is the Hoover Dam.  As of Novemeber 2014, the water level is at 1083 feet.  Here’s the last few years of records for Lake Mead:

2007  1129.55  1129.35  1125.79  1120.69  1115.89  1113.50  1111.58  1111.84  1111.06  1110.95  1111.22  1114.81
2008  1116.46  1116.93  1115.65  1110.61  1107.05  1104.98  1104.42  1105.13  1105.76  1107.94  1107.33  1110.97
2009  1111.78  1111.43  1107.40  1101.26  1096.92  1095.26  1094.20  1093.73  1093.68  1093.26  1093.52  1096.30
2010  1100.02  1103.21  1100.66  1098.00  1094.30  1089.30  1086.97  1086.91  1083.81  1082.36  1081.94  1086.30
2011  1091.73  1095.78  1096.39  1095.76  1097.90  1102.38  1107.07  1113.45  1116.04  1121.00  1125.82  1132.83
2012  1134.18  1133.06  1129.41  1123.93  1119.38  1115.84  1115.92  1116.56  1115.16  1116.50  1117.24  1120.36
2013  1122.32  1122.14  1118.59  1112.91  1108.36  1105.98  1105.92  1106.13  1106.92  1104.04  1106.36  1106.73
2014  1108.75  1107.94  1101.71  1094.55  1087.46  1082.66  1080.60  1081.55  1081.33  1082.79  1083.57

Hoover reaches the “Dead Pool” level at 950 feet, still 130 feet away, but relief from the drought affecting the Colorado River watershed is nowhere in sight at the moment.

“The level of Lake Mead is supposed to drop to an elevation of 1081.75 over the next few days, which is the lowest elevation it’s ever been since the lake was filled when Hoover Dam was built,” said Rose Davis, Bureau of Reclamation.

Lake Mead is not only the primary water source for Las Vegas, but it’s also how Hoover Dam produces power. Simply put, the lower the lake, the less electricity.

“Our concern is the ability to generate power. We’ve seen a 23 percent reduction in our capacity to generate power since the lake continues to drop,” Davis said.

The hydroelectric facility is taking steps so its current capacity of 1592 megawatts won’t go down anymore.

“We’ve been proactive over the last five years in putting in new equipment that operates more efficiently at low lake levels,” Davis said.

Three wide head turbines have been installed, and two more are on the way in the next couple years. It’s hoped they will arrive before Lake Mead gets to catastrophic levels that could bring the dam to screeching halt.

“What we call the dead pool, which is the elevation of Lake Mead where Hoover Dam cannot generate any power is about 950 feet,” Davis said.

Even without complete shutdown at Hoover, a 23% Reduction in power output is already hugely significant.  Referencing back to the close connection between GDP and Electric Power however, such a large reduction in Power Output means a similarly large reduction in GDP for the neighborhoods served by Hoover, which are vast going from Vegas to Phoenix to Los Angeles.  To replace that power they have to BUY fossil fuel power off the grid, every Kilowatt Hour Hoover does not produce is more money out of the ever more insolvent coffers of everyone living in this neighborhood.

However, until Hoover shuts down completely, these issues mostly are not recognized, neither by the typical J6P nor the MSM reporting on it and not even by most Economistas.  They don’t tie the ever decreasing Standard of Living to the Falling Water Level in Lake Mead.  These are disparate phenomena to them.  In fact your Standard of Living is ALL about how much Power you consume, and the higher the power consumption, the higher your ‘Standard of Living”, at least by the common metrics of the Industrial Era such as GDP.  The less access you have to energy, either Electricity or Gasoline to power your car, the lower your Standard of Living will be, eventually achieving 3rd World levels where the vast majority of the population has access to neither one.

How fast this will actually spin down still remains an open question, but now we do have Metrics by which to observe it, and to document that in fact there IS a Collapse in Progress, which most of the population remains in Denial about.  The end result is quite clear, it is the End of Industrial Civilization, and this is the FINAL COUNTDOWN.

Prior Collapse Cafes of Interest

The Great Moving Adventure

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on October 19, 2014


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Note: If you are not a fan of LONG personal stories of Life in the Age of Doom, you should probably skip reading this article.

For a variety of reasons, in the last week I moved out of the domicile I have been living in basically since moving up here to the Last Great Frontier nearly a Decade ago now.  What follows is a Diary/Chronicle of this Moving Adventure, published over the last couple of weeks inside the Diner Forum.

Once I determined to move, I pondered on several possibilities, including moving in full time to my Bugout Machine, pictured above.  However, the problems with living full time in one of these contraptions are LEGION, even in temperate climates, so this concept has always been a “Last Resort” idea for me, and as nasty as things look these days with Ebola and a Crashing Stock Market and Oil Prices, at least up here we are nowhere NEAR the “Last Resort” scenario…YET!

Figuring out just where to move to and what the parameters are for decent resilience had me pondering for a few weeks before I made the move, and then finding the right place also took some time, and a certain amount of LUCK as well.  It all came together very well in the end, but the process has had a few glitches along the way also.  Ths particular story does have a HAPPY ENDING, so if you ARE a fan of personal stories, microwave some popcorn, crack open a Beer and ENJOY!  At least with this one you won’t leave thoroughly depressed and hopeless. 🙂


Moving Week!

I’ll probably be a little scarce this week as I am moving out of the cabin over to new digs closer to work.

http://besurvival.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/food-storage.jpgI’ve been packing up preps the last couple of hours and taking a break here for a few minutes.  It’s amazing how many cans of beans you can store in a few kitchen cabinets!  The containers I bought weigh a ton, so I hired professional movers to do all the heavy lifting next week between locations.

The new place is a whole lot more resilient and SAFE, with security cameras and an overall better location.  It’s actually its own little community and it sits right on a stream so water supply is good.  It’s a good location for riding out minor disruptions in supply chains, power outtages etc.  I’m looking at it as a SUN  :icon_sunny: community in the making!

Hopefully, Ebola won’t make it up here and Alaska can work on becoming locally self sufficient in food, which should be doable between the already existing farms, the local fishing and then adding in more hydroponics and aquaculture.

Once I am in place, I look forward to doing my first Commute to work on the EWz if the weather cooperates.  It’s not ridiculously cold yet, but it has been pretty wet and rainy, and I’m not that desperate at the moment that I will ride a scooter in cold rain.  LOL.

I may not have time to do cross posting articles so hopefully Surly will pick up the slack with that until I get settled in and back to the routine.

OK, break over, back to Prep Packing!  :icon_sunny:

Re: Moving Week!

More Packing tonight, and I’m just about done with the Kitchen and taking another break.

Tonight’s first project was the Junk Drawer.  I think just about everyone has one of these, all sorts of stuff gets thrown in them, batteries, keys, pens, screws, adapters, small tools, scissors etc etc etc.  Also in mine are a lot of old ID Cards, my first CDL Permit is in there, IDs from college and Grad Skule, numerous pay stubs etc, so it’s another one of those nostalgia trips when you clear it out.

There’s also a lot of stuff you wonder why you kept it and shoved it in the drawer.  Badges from various conferences I attended for instance.  I am such a pack rat that I can’t throw these things out which don’t even have that much nostalgia value.  I figure I forked over $300-500 for the conference, I should keep SOMETHING from it.  LOL.  In this case though, I finally pulled the plug on those and trashed them.

Another thing which is astounding me as I pack up is just how much STUFF you can accumulate over a decade which becomes baggage you need to drag around with you when you make a move. When I came up here, I had my 5 Bags/Containers from my trucking years,which contained everything I needed to live the Nomadic Lifestyle.

A Decade Later after living in one location, at the moment I have over a dozen large containers already filled with stuff, another dozen Bags and Suitcases also filled with STUFF, and another Dozen or so Cardboard Moving Boxes full of STUFF!  This is not including additional clothing and Bedding Materials which I am not Boxing or putting in suitcases, just gonna shove them in 30 Gallon Trash Bags!  then I am also not including DOZENS of still original packaged Prep Items in their own boxes with stuff from Sleeping Bags to Tents to Propane Cooking stoves to Ammo etc etc etc.

All this crap is contained inside around 800 square feet of space!  It’s hard for me to imagine how much STUFF someone who lives in the same McHovel for 20 years or more might accumulate!  I remember when my sister went back to NY to help my mom pack up the McMansion, I think it took her something like 2 weeks to sort through it all, decide what to keep and what to ditch as mom was moving to a much smaller apartment in Springfield for the Retirement Years.

http://blog.gopenske.com/wp-content/uploads/Penske-car-carrier1.jpgOne of the main things ditched was some fabulous hand carved Jacaranda wood furniture from Brasil, which was shipped back from there to NY once the Mcmansion was bought.  Part of the search for the right place to live involved finding a NY McMansion with rooms big enough to fit these oversized pieces of furniture.  The issues with moving furniture bugged me so much when I started going nomadic that eventually I ditched all of the stuff I bought while I was married and just bought old stuff wherever I moved to and then got rid of it when I moved again.  This was way cheaper then renting a big Penske or Uhaul or Ryder to be able to move everything, which I did twice before finally dumping it all.

The other pain in the ass is the vehicles.  In those days I only had one, so I rented a trailer for the Car and towed it behind the Ryder.  Now I got 3 here to move in Alaska, which I will do with a friend who will shuttle me back and forth between locations to pick up each one and drive it over to the new place.  It’s not far, but it will still take a good 2 hours to get this done.

Realizing how non-portable I am now bothers me a LOT.  In the process of moving in to the new Digs, I am going to sort through all the preps and figure out just what I can really fit into the Bugout Machine, and have an “Abandon as necessary” bunch of STUFF, and a much smaller “Keeper” bunch of STUFF.  This is going to be a very difficult decision making process.

OK, that’s the Moving Update for tonight.  My movers are supposed to be here at 8AM tomorrow and I still have a lot of packing to do tonight.  Tomorrow night, I should be reporting in from the new RE Digs.  :icon_sunny:

Moving Week Notes 3

OK, got the Bathroom Medicine Cabinet and Under the Sink hodgepodge of chemicals for cleaning, Rubber Gloves, Sponges and extra soap, razor etc DONE.  3 more Cardboard Shipping Boxes.

Also got the Bedroom mostly done, emptying the closet and getting all the clothes into 30 gallon trash bags for EZ hauling out.  Way quicker just to throw the stuff in trash bags than fold it all up and get it into suitcases, which are mostly filled with other stuff now anyhow.

All that is left is the Linen Closet which has mostly preps in it, and the Front Entry closet with all my Winter Gear and a decent amount of preps as well.  I am kind of out of gas now and will probably leave these two closets for the Pros to Pack Up in the morning.  Also need to unload the Fridge and Freezer tomorrow, I will do that while the Moving Beef is carting the Boxes and Bags and Containers into their truck.  They are due at 8AM and its 1:30 AM now here, and I wanna get up an hour before they arrive to take my last shower here and get the last of the Bathroom stuff packed away.

A few notes of merit here in this session.

First one is a Note of Sadness.

In clearing out the bedroom closet, I turned up an Unopened letter my mom sent to me, dated from 2010.  In it she mentioned being worried about me, she had not heard from me in weeks.  I was not always so good with checking in with Mom over the years, and now that she is gone it saddens me that I was so negligent so often.  I did make the important dates though, I was down there for her 80th Birthday in 2009, and again in 2012 I think it was shortly before she died.  Boy, I sure do miss her.  :'(

Next a note of Curiousity.

http://www.lrccoins.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/JunkSilver.jpgOne of my habits is to empty Change out of my pocket onto a small dresser I have in the closet when I have some, which is not THAT often since like most folks these days I use a Debit card most of the time for purchases instead of Cash, but it is often enough that I do tend to accumulate some change each week.  This can grow to a decent size pile over a decade!  LOL.  So after sorting and clearing various other things piled on top of this dresser, I swept all this change into a Glad Container, it’s now full of Pennies, Nickels, Dimes & Quarters.  I haven’t looked through them to see if any are old enough to actually have some Silver in them of any quantity, but I do wonder if this “Junk Coinage” will hold any value if/when the Paper Fiat of the Dollar collapses?

Coinage from the Mint is NOT debt money, its the only stuff that isn’t now really.  However, the Intrinsic Value of these coins is pretty low, just the fact they are made of some metal as opposed to paper IMHO does not make 10 Dimes or 4 Quarters any more worthfull than a Paper Dollar, and I wonder if they will hold any more worth than the paper dollars in the event of a Dollar Crash?

Diner thoughts on this question are welcome.

The process of moving is very cathartic in many ways, you clear out old baggage and it renews your life in many ways.  I am really looking forward to the move to the new Digs, and it will be quite different to once again be in Apartment style housing with many other people around.  I really like the layout of this place, its just about ideal for a SUN  :icon_sunny: Community.  Not that I think it is possible to organize this until TSHTF more seriously, but I will sow some seeds and see if they Grow there.  Plenty of property to set up Grow Domes, plenty of Water, good security overall.

Life is a Great Adventure, and each time I make one of these changes I feel Renewed.  I have been so blessed in being able to make my way through the world in this way, and hopefully my health holds up a while longer for yet another Life Experiment.  :icon_sunny:


Moving Week Notes 4: Mr. Lightbulb Conservationist!

http://arch1design.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/fluorescent-light-bulbs1.jpgWhen I moved in here, the owner had 3 “designer” Incandescent Bulbs in the Bathroom, then another 2 regular lighbulbs in the recessed sockets in the ceiling in the living room.

I immediately unscrewed all 3 of the designer bulbs and stored them below the bathroom sink, where they have been esconced for the last decade.  I also unscrewed the two regular bulbs in the living room and stored them.  I replaced these 5 bulbs at that time with the screw in Flourescent Bulbs that have much longer life span and consume much less power.

I don’t use them very much, and have never replaced them in the last decade.  They still are working fine.  I unscrewed all these bulbs, and replaced the original Incandescants that were here before I arrived.  They also still work.  I took the flourescent bulbs and put them back into the Original Packaging for transport, which I also kept for the last decade.  They will travel with me to the new digs for lighting there.

Bottom line, in a DECADE, I still have yet to use up the lifespan of 5 Lightbulbs!  I have not bought a new lightbulb in 10 years!

Of course, I have added some rechargeable diode lights which I use often rather than turning on the regular lights, since I do not really need much lighting beyond what it takes to illuminate the keyboard on the laptop.

My guess is that as long as I have access to some electricity, my current set of lights will last the rest of my lifetime.  The diode lights take very little power, the flourescents only a bit more, I can run all of them off my PV panels and a Car battery, so I am not worried about lighting as the collapse progresses at the moment.  The only other major is the power for Refrigeration, but in winter that is not an issue up here at all.  In summer, if I can’t refrigerate for some reason, I’ll just either consume it or salt and dry the frozen fish and game.  All the rest of the stored food does not need refrigeration.

Only other electricity needs are for the Laptop and Cell Phone which are negligible, and the EWz if I am using it for regular transport.

Electrical Grid issues are no longer much worry for me.  If I cannot get enough electrical power for the piddling amount I use each day, the state of the society would be so bad that I would have much bigger problems to worry about.

Moving Week Notes 5: IN THE NEW DIGS!

After an adventure filled 24 hours, I am now completely transferred over to the New Digs with all the Preps and Vehicles save 1, the Bugout Machine.  More on that catastrophe in a bit.

First off, I got no sleep last night, I ended up staying up all night to keep packing as well as taking periodic breaks to post on the Diner.  I was wrecked when the Moving Beef arrived, but it was good that I got as much done as I did, because if they had had to do it it would have taken much longer, even though they were faster with packing up what was left than I was.

As it was, they got the cabin emptied out in around 2 hours, helped me clean a little before leaving, then got all the stuff in the ND in about an hour.  I am really glad I hired people and didn’t take the offers of some friends to do it with their pickup trucks, many boxes were big and heavy, and the dude who moved them was a gorilla who loaded his dolly up 7′ high and still did a shit load of trips.  It never would have got done so fast and well with friends, and I would have felt too indebted to them.  Total cost, $412.50.  A bargain.

So now I am really exhausted, but I do call up my friend who volunteered to shuttle me to the cabin to pick up the Bugout Machine and the SUV.  We drive over to the cabin and I decide to take the Bugout Machine on the first trip.  It looks low on gas and I think about stopping, but we were under time constraint and I want to have enough time to do the second run and be DONE.

Unfortunately, about 2 miles from the ND, the BM runs OUTTA GAS.  So my friend now goes to buy a gas can and gas while I wait by the side of the road in the BM.  Another friend sees me tooling around and stops to help.  We wait for Friend 1 to get back with the gas.  Unfortunately, the first place she goes for gas, a Tesoro about a mile up the road is under reconstruction, all the pumps are closed.  She heads to another station a few miles down the road, this one not under contstruction but again NO GAS, all pumps closed.  Think this has anything to do with the crashing Oil Prices????  So now she heads for the highway about another 3 miles, and this time finds Open Pumps and fills the gas can.  Finally returns half hour later and has to bolt to go pick up her kids from skule.

So now me and Friend 2 go to pour the gas into the Bugout machine, and it promptly comes spilling out from under the BM!  I go under to look, and sure enough there is a hole punctured in the gas line!

This is my own stupidity at work.  A while back if you recall both my other vehicles were siphoned, and one had the gas line cut which was a costly fixup.  I never checked under the BM to see if that was cut.  Unlike the SUV, the cut hose was not sitting on the ground under the vehicle to be spied from standing up.  It was just punctured.

So now we try to fix it temporarily with Duct Tape just to make the 2-3 miles to the ND, but this doesn’t work because it is crappy duct tape and the glue won’t hold well enough.  Gorrilla Tape might have worked.  However, Friend 2 is now out of time also, so Final Solution, TOW TRUCK!

First towing company I call has no available trucks for pulling big vehicles, they are booked solid for the day.  They give me the number of a second company, and these guys do have a truck available, but he is 45min-1hr away.  So I cool my heels for another hour waiting for him, after which it takes another half hour or so to get hooked and drag it up the road to the Biz Parking Lot of Friend 2, where it is sitting right now.  The TT driver was nice, he could have charged me for 2 hours, but he only charged me for 1 @ $125.  KaChing!

I’m hoping we can fix this one without my having to bring it in to a shop, because that will be at least another $500 bill.  The only positive out of this bizness is that I found out about the problem so I can fix it up and have the BM ready for action if/when TSHTF, which is looking sooner by the minute as the price of Crude drops like a stone here.

After this while hanging out, Friend 3 drops in and she is heading in the direction of the Cabin, so I hitch a ride with her to go pick up the SUV.  Fortunately nobody has cut the gas line on that AGAIN, and I drive back to the ND with it, where I am now with the two cars and all the preps.  Of course, the place is just full of boxes, containers and 30 gallon trash bags at the moment, its not too livable yet.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI did take the EWz out of the Mazda and drove it into the ND, plugged it in and it is showing Full Charge, despite not having been run for over a week.  If the weather is good tomorrow, I will ride it to work for the first time!

A few notes on the ND before I sign off.  I just noticed the Oven/Stove is GAS, not ELECTRIC!  I haven’t had a Gas stove in any place I lived since the McMansion mom got in the divorce.  Gas is MUCH better for cooking on, your hardware reacts much quicker to changing heat and you can see visually how big the flame is as you adjust.  This is another plus here, though to be honest I don’t do much cooking for myself anymore.

The Bathroom is also Handicap Accessible!  Great as I sink further into decrepitude!  ::)

The one issue is that Smoking is not permitted in the apartments.  This is probably good for me, but it’s a pain in the ass.  At least though I have the Porch in the back to go out for a smoke though in reasonable privacy.  I’m going to see if I can’t cobble together some means to set up an Outdoor Desk there with some heating so I can work on the Diner out there even in winter.  :icon_mrgreen:

OK, gotta do some unpacking so I can get some much needed sleep tonight.  I’m wiped!

Moving Week notes 6

Thanks for the Good Wishes Diners!  More below after I respond to AG, Surly and GO.

Kids checking out RE’s new smoking lounge!  :icon_mrgreen:

:emthup: :emthup:

Actual construction shot of new smoking lounge.

Actually, I have a space beyond the porch which is level and perfect for building an Igloo, which if/when we get some Snow I may try and find some time to try building this winter!  Would make a fun project and great Article for the Diner!

A bit easier is setting up a Dome Tent right on the porch.  I think it is just a tiny bit too small for my 10′ x 13′ Tent, so I may buy a 9′ X 9′ to drop in there, then equip it with  Desk, Chair, Electric Space Heater and Electric Blanket.  The porch has an outside Electric Outlet so this will be very EZ to do!  Probably don’t even need the electric blanket, I think a 1500 Watt ceramic heater would make a 9X9 tent practically into a Sauna even in pretty cold weather.  An interesting experiment there too.


In clearing out the bedroom closet, I turned up an Unopened letter my mom sent to me, dated from 2010.  In it she mentioned being worried about me, she had not heard from me in weeks.  I was not always so good with checking in with Mom over the years, and now that she is gone it saddens me that I was so negligent so often.  I did make the important dates though, I was down there for her 80th Birthday in 2009, and again in 2012 I think it was shortly before she died.  Boy, I sure do miss her.  :'(

I feel the same about my mom. When you are fortunate enough to have a mom that loved you, nobody can replace her. Good luck in your new pad.  :emthup: :icon_sunny:

Thanks for the thought there AG on Moms.  No substitute for a Mom who loves you and is always there for you when you need her.

Anyhow, I got my bed set up and tried to get some sleep, but even though I am exhausted I couldn’t really fall completely into dreamland, so after resting my eyes for a couple of hours here I am back at the Laptop.

Before getting online though, I did a bit more unpacking.  I got all the frozen and vacuum sealed meat and fish into the new Freezer, which is bigger than the old one and nicer set up Vertical, so everything in there is much more organized now.

Given there is still room, you might think I would now go and buy more Ribeyes to squeeze in there.  No, my major Food Prepping days are over, I have plenty for emergency situations which might last a few months  and after that if we don’t get some kind of local Food Economy running I’ll eventually be history no matter what, so more food would just be delaying the inevitable.

Besides that, I’m less than a 1/4 mile from one of the largest Food Distributors up here, 3 Bears.  The amount of meat and fish they have in their freezers is astonishing, and its hard for me to believe that the local population up here really consumes all this stuff that rapidly.  I mean, how many people buy Cornish Game Hens and cook them up for Dinner in the Mat Valley?

Anyhow, in most situations I think as a Doom Professional I’ll be more aware of when the distribution chain is beginning to fail, and can simply mosey over there them and buy a Final Stock Up of Food Preps.  So I kind of think of 3 Bears now as my Personal Food Storage Warehouse:icon_sunny:

After that, IMPORTANT I found the Trash Bag with the TOILET PAPER in it, so I can now utilize the Commode and wipe my ass too!  Fortunate, because shortly thereafter I got to take my first dump in the New Digs.  LOL.  I’m sure you would like to hear all the details, but it would make this post too long. LOL.

I don’t have a Shower Curtain yet though, as I had the Moving Beef toss the old one which had some mold on the bottom and was pretty decrepit.  I’ll try to get over to Wally World tomorrow for a new one.

I also unloaded one of the bags with Winter Gear to get that stored in the front closet.  I finally took this opportunity to match up a couple of gloves I couldn’t find one of until the whole closet got cleared out, so now all the pairs are complete.  I have a LOT of gloves, in a lot of weights in insulation value, from thin deerskin driving gloves to full blown Red Fox Fur Mittens that go up to your elbow and are meant for mushers.  I may actually use them at some point on the EWz over the winter.  Also have a huge array of Hats, face masks etc.  No problem keeping my head insulated if the heat goes out.

Otherwise, the move is basically complete although it’s going to take me several days of unpacking and reorganizing to get the place into a semi-normal looking living arrangement.  I’m not going to do All Nighters to reverse the deconstruction of the Cabin, I can take my time with this.  It is however just PERFECT for me in size and all the features, and I feel safer now with people around who all will be in the same boat here when the monetary system goes tits up.

The main remaining issue is the Bugout Machine, which I will hopefully get fixed up over the next few days.  Not sure about keeping it around here though, there is not that much spare parking so other residents might get annoyed.  I may have to drop it in a storage lot, which I would not like because I want it immediately available in emergencies, but if necessary I’ll do that.  I could get to it within a few minutes anyhow even parked offsite.  First though, gotta get it fixed up.

I may have a couple of more updates, but mostly the Moving Adventure is done and now to get started on riding the EWz to work, and building SUN   :icon_sunny: awareness in my Neighbors.

Moving Week Notes 7

Every day I love the New Digs more!  I can’t believe how perfectly this place suits me and is laid out.

My Ground Floor Unit is sandwiched between two other units and a unit above me.  So I figure all these folks probably have their heat on, let me turn off mine and see what happens.  I turned the heat off yesterday.  Guess what?

Today, the temp inside the unit is still a toasty 66F, despite outside temps of around 35F.  It makes ZERO difference if I have my heat on or off, the temp in this unit stays the same as the rest of the ones that surround it. My gas bill should be negligible.

The fact I have to go outside to Smoke has already cut my Cancerette Consumption by HALF!  This is both good for my Health and will save a LOT of money given they are going a $10/pack up here these days.

Part of that saved money though will get used up in buying space in a Storage Facility for the Bugout Machine.  There is no way I can keep it parked here.  Tonight all the Guest spots were full up.  On the upside to that, this will give me another offsite Secure Facility for storage of stuff in a Gated Storage Center with Security Cameras, so I won’t have to worry about the BM getting Siphoned and hoses cut.  I think I can get a spot for it for around $50/month or less.

On the upside to that story, I had a plumber friend who is very mechanically proficient go under and look at it, and he can fix it no problem I just gotta go buy the hose at either Auto Zone or Home Depot and some hose clamps and a bottle of Rum and he’ll fix that up tomorrow.  :icon_sunny: Friends are your most Valuable Asset.

I didn’t have much time today to do unpacking, but I did get over to Wally World to buy a few more storage containers, and I will start the process of sorting preps that are in some other Drawer style containers that I don’t use and free them up for stuff I actually do use.  Organizing is going to take quite a while, especially since this weekend is booked with a clinic so I won’t have any time to really devote to it until the following week.  I might get an hour or two each night done the most, but I have to get back to Diner Bizness since the ACTION is going down now.

So far my neighbors on both sides and above are very Quiet, and the “Street” with the buildings also Quiet.  It reminds me a lot of a street of Brownstones in NYC when I was a kid, except it is plopped down in the middle of nowhere in the Mat Valley.  LOL.  We actually sit right next door to a small private Airstrip, so if you have a private plane that can land on a dirt runway, you can drop in for a visit easily.  LOL.

All in all, short of getting a Sunstead going with some of the other Diners, this is the ideal location and setup for me, and I will be here until I Buy My Ticket to the Great Beyond or get shipped off to GITMO.  :icon_sunny:

Moving Week Notes 8

The Adventure that Never Ends! LOL.

Got up this morning to go looking for the right size Downspout Hose to fit the Bugout Machine so I can once again fill it with GAS, while still available at the pump.

Began first with Lowes, the only fuel approved hoses they had were way too narrow guage, and it would be rather dicey to use a non-fuel approved hose, so I kept looking.  Off to Auto Zone.  They also had no hoses in the right Inner Diameter, and recommended I go over to NAPA.  Same story at NAPA, and they recommend i go over to Alaska Rubber, a local joint that just deals with lots of hoses and other rubber items for the local industry.  I was getting tired of running around, so I had them call first to make sure these folks actually HAD the right hose size.  ::)

Alaska Rubber does have the right diameter fuel approved hoses, so I buy 2 so I will have a spare, cut to the correct length by the Parts Man at the desk.  I picked up the right size Hose Clamps at Lowes, and call my Plumber friend to meet me, in what he figures will be a snappy 1-2-3 install.  No such luck.

The hose is so stiff you can’t bend it to fit between the two metal pipe ends to get it on.  We figure when the original one was installed it went on BEFORE they dropped the body exterior over the chassis.  So today was a Failure in getting it installed.  I think I have come up with an idea that will work though, so I will run it by the Plumber tomorrow.

I did find a Storage facility for it once we do get it fixed, $40/month not too bad, and only about 3 miles from the New Digs.  So hopefully within another couple of days that particular moving headache will be resolved.

On getting home tonight, I spent about 2 hours to start getting unpacked and reorganized properly here.  Getting the Bathroom more organized and finding all the stuff that was in the medicine Cabinet and under the sink was the goal, mostly accomplished.  To do it I had to empty a two tier container arrangement to use for storing the various cleaning products, since this bathroom has no built in under the sink cabinet.  That took some sorting time.  It’s definitely going to take a few weeks before I am completely organized.

One MAJOR CHANGE as far as Internet Access goes, I think I am going to get the Cable hooked up here so I have Unlimited Bandwidth and can stop worrying about watching videos and uploading big stuff to the Diner and hooking up to Google+ Hangouts and Skype.  I’ll also be able to run more regular Collapse Cafes right from DOOM CENTRAL here, with the New Digs being the Official Media Studio and Broadcast Center of the Diner:icon_sunny:  However, this may take a little while as I have a whole lot of tasks to do just in getting organized.

The downside of all this personal action is that I have had ZERO time to write anything but these Diary Updates, so I haven’t been able to cover the major action taking place both on the Ebola End and the Market & Oil Price Collapse end.  Fortunately, our Cross Posters are doing a fine job covering this ongoing Clusterfuck, so there is plenty of material to Dine on nightly here still.

OK, time to go surfing and see what the latest Doom is for tomorrow!

Moving Week Notes 9

Successful Day in the GREAT MOVING ADVENTURE!  :icon_sunny:

I got in to work at Noon today, and shortly after walking through the door my Plumber friend walked in and announced the Bugout machine was FIXED!  ;D

He picked up a more Flexible Hose and fit it in, as well as replacing another hose further up the line the Siphoners had cut as well.  I added the 5 gallons of Gas from the Can, and after a bit of pumping and engine cranking, it finally turned over and ran fine.  The line was pretty bone dry so I was concerned this would be a problem getting it reprimed, but did not turn out to be major issue.

I ran out of time to get it over to the Storage Facility, that will have to wait until Monday as this weekend is booked with other tasks.

In Celebration, I went over to 3 Bears tonight after work and added the New Prep I have been coveting, a Yamaha AP 2000 iq Inverter/generator.

Price at 3 Bears was $705, and online it seems to retail at between $785 and $885, plus I would have shipping costs, so this was a real bargain.  They only had the one, so I was worried the last 2 days since I first saw it another Alaska Doom Prepper would snap it up before me.

Unboxing it tonight, it seems to be a very well constructed device, and it gets high marks for being Quiet and Portable.  A bit heavy at 50 lbs full with gas and oil to be really “portable” other than carrying it a few yards from a vehicle to a campsite, but way better and more compact than the Generac units on wheels.  They had 3 of those available also for $892, putting out a much more powerful max 9000W AND Tri-Fuel ready so you can run it on Gas, NG or Propane, but this is just way more than I need for my purposes.

In unpacking here, I have set up my “Battery Corner” for Power Outtage Readiness, which has a couple of my more powerful Rechargable Diode Lights plugged in all the time, the original BattSet from the EWz plugged in all the time, and a 12V Lawn Tractor Battery which I periodically top off each week with one of my Car Battery chargers.  This corner will also have my Ni-Cad and Li-I AA and AAA battery chargers with a selection of those also charged and ready for keeping various other devices running in a power outtage situation.  Also in this corner is a 500W 12V Stanley inverter which also can plug into a cigarette lighter outlet on a car and put out 100W that way.  To get 500W out of it, you have to clamp directly to the battery.  I’ll use that in conjunction with the Lawn Tractor battery in most power outtage situations that last up to a day or two.

The nice thing about the Yamaha is it also has a DC out which puts out 12V 8A directly which you can use to charge a 12V car or lawn tractor type battery.  So if the power outtage lasted more than a couple of days, rather than using the Generator to directly power lights, laptop etc, I would simply use it to recharge the Lawn Tractor battery periodically.  If I wanted to have more available power than the 2000W Peak the Yamaha will do, what I would do here is to get a couple of large Marine Deep Cycle Batteries and then hook them to a 3000W Inverter, but I don’t need that much power all at once.  2000W is sufficient even to run the full fridge/freezer, so I can periodically use it to bring down the temp in that, and long as I don’t open the doors but once a day to take out what I will use that day, I should be able to keep all the meat and fish frozen for a week or more, long as I have at least say 5 gallons of gas in a can available.  Then of course I could siphon gas out of my OWN vehicles as well, since I would not be driving them in such a situation.  So as long as they both are topped off, that is about 40 Gallons of available gas there.  The further supply of gas is in the tank of the Bugout Machine which is a couple of miles down the road in the storage facility (or it will be on Monday anyhow), I can drive there on the EWz once a week and siphon out of that tank 5 gallons or so for each week.  That tank holds I think around 40 gallons by itself.  So if all tanks and Gas Cans are topped off when Disaster Strikes, I have around 100 Gallons available, @ 5 gallons/week usage that would get me around 5 months.  Both locations are pretty secure with Cameras and Fencing, so unless there is total breakdown of Law and Order, figure I probably can make it 3 months.  If things are not semi back to normal in 3 months, then there will be so many other problems that it is unlikely I will be worried much about charging up my batteries.  LOL.

Another way to get More Juice would be to buy a second one of these units and hook them together in Parallel.  They have kits for doing this.  The other way to improve their resilience is to make them “Tri-Fuel” compatible, so they will run on Gasoline, NG and Propane.  The kits sell for around $120.  Not sure yet if I will invest in one or not.  Probably makes sense to do it, since I have a lot of stored Propane in both Liter Camping Bottles and 5 Gallon Barbecue Propane Tanks, PLUS there is an NG line into the New Digs, which is why I have a Gas Stove here.  :icon_sunny:  Not buying this yet though, need to ponder on it some more.

So, as a result of the move to the ND, my Resilience is already up substantially here.

1- Overall SAFER and better living arrangement in a potential SUN  :icon_sunny: Community

2- Ability to use the EWz for local Commuting to Work and Grocery

3- Second Offsite Secure Storage Location for additional Preps and Bugout Machine, but not so far I can’t get to it in 15 minutes or so on the EWz.

4- Forced Inventory and Reorganization of Preps to actually have them READY, rather than cluttering up the cabin in boxes

5- Close location to a major Food/Prep Warehouse (3 Bears)

Short of an “Official” SUN  :icon_sunny: Community, I consider this the BEST possible arrangement right now.  There are between 100-200 units in this complex, in a relatively low population zone that is also nearby local farms.  In a SHTF scanario, everyone in the community would be in the same boat.  I would DEFINITELY share my Preps and throw them all in to a Community Pool, which would gain me Status in the community.  This is much more important than actually having the food to eat myself, because as mentioned, if you cannot get your community to PULL TOGETHER, you are a goner no matter what, it is only a matter of time, and trying to keep your preps to yourself is just asking for a Home Invasion by Zombies.  Total Community Numbers are sufficient to create a Neighborhood Watch Squad working in Shifts.

All that is left to do now is to finish Organizing up the new Doom Central Location with upgraded Communications as a MultiMedia Internet Studio and making the place comfortable and livable otherwise.  It’s a great example of an AFFORDABLE method of getting ready for collapse without spending big money on building a community from scratch.  I will continue to report on the development as time goes by, but for now, this is the last update on the Great Moving Adventure.

…and that’s all the Doom, This Time until Next Time, here on the Doomstead Diner.  :icon_mrgreen:


Off the keyboard of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on September 20, 2014

Discuss this article at the Doomsteading Table inside the Diner

Here on the Diner, we often discuss Ultimate Apocalyptic Scenarios, where basically all of Industrial Civilization goes to Hell in a Handbasket all at once, nothing works and Mad Max ensues forthwith.


While this is certainly one possibility, the more likely possibility at least here in the FSoA is that we will go through a period of time where the services and systems we take for granted do not entirely DISAPPEAR all at once, but rather become Intermittent and Unpredictable in their delivery.

You could file this post under the idea of John Michael Greer's "Slow Catabolic Collapse" or Jim Kunstler's "Long Emergency".  In reality I don't think it fits in either category, because if there is such a period, IMHO it won't last all that long in geologic or even generational terms, maybe 20-30 years the most, and that is quite rapid on historical timelines.  However, in terms of what is left of my OWN Lifespan, it pretty much covers it completely.  Unlikely I last more than 20 more years under any circumstances, and completely out of the question I will make another 30.

So personally all I really have to concern myself with is to how to negotiate the next 20-30 years, and what systems and methods I will need to do that effectively, if it is possible to do so.

http://img.rt.com/files/news/21/a6/a0/00/16.si.jpgOn a slightly longer timescale, this is like the difference between someone who has ZERO preps when Katrina Hits or there is an Ice Storm or Tornado which takes out most of the power lines to a neighborhood, and another guy down the street who is well prepped with some backup systems to keep him going a week or two while systems get repaired and brought back online.

The main things you need obviously are Food & Potable water in sufficient quantity to last through the disruption period.  FEMA these days makes recommendations everyone has at least 72 hours worth of the necessities, while acknowledging that in some situations it could take weeks or months before "normalcy" is reestablished after a Disaster.  Personally, I think you need a Month Long Plan ready as we move down the Collapse Highway here, any disaster which Da Goobermint cannot bring back to semi-normalcy after a month requires a whole different sort of planning.

A One Month Plan on the Food & Water level is not that hard to gin up, a few sacks of dried Rice & Beans and Beef jerky will cover the Food end easily, and keeping water in 30 old 2 Liter Soft Drink or Juice containers covers the water.  If you have some decent warning, you can also fill up the Bathtub with water, and keep it drinkable with a few drops of Chlorine Bleach.

What is a bit more difficult on the 1 Month timeline is cooking and heating fuel and electricity, enough for Lighting and Refrigeration.  This is what really screws people in these medium length disasters.

http://zenstoves.net/Canister/Coleman_Propane_Gas_Cartridge.jpgOn the Cooking end, this is pretty EZ, Coleman Propane Cannisters last about 3 days, so you only need about 10 of them to go for a month of cooking on a camp stove.  Better still and more economical are 5 Gallon Propane Cannisters, 2 or 3 of those and on a cooking level you are good for MONTHS.  You can also buy adapters to refill the smaller camping cannisters or hook them directly to camp stoves.

Far as Heating goes, unless you are in a really cold part of the country in Winter, you shouldn't need much if you have good Clothing available and Layer Up.  Not a bad idea though to have a portable Kerosene heater around and a few gallons of Kerosene, or a Wood or Pellet stove if you are in an area where there is enough of this stuff around to burn as needed for heat.

So, most of this type of Prepping is not hard and not expensive either.  Since I do it myself (in fact on a longer timescale than one month), I can make a good estimate that about a $500 investment is sufficient to cover all of this for 1 month, for one person.

Where it gets a bit more expensive and difficult is in the area of Electric power, which while you can live without it makes like much more uncomfortable overall.  Thus the title of this post, Batteries-R-Us, which examines how to use various types of batteries synergistically to keep enough electric power in your location to make do for a month while the Linemen from the County restring the wires from the latest Tornado Hit.

http://i.walmartimages.com/i/p/00/04/13/33/27/0004133327035_500X500.jpgYour Lowest Level on the Battery Chain are the Disposable Single Use batteries in the AA and AAA varieties.  You should have a couple of packages of each of those, even if you have the rechargeable versions also.  Why?  Because the way they are made now, they have really LONG shelf lives, up to 10 years.  The larger the package you buy them in, the cheaper by the battery, and they are good for all your Diode Flashlights good for hundreds of hours of use with no recharging systems necessary.  If you are on a Budget and can't afford various methods to recharge, having a good supply of disposables can at least give you necessary lighting for a month or so.

The next step up is rechargeable batteries in the same AA/AAA category to power portable diode lights and useful also for additional power supply for your cell phone communications and FRS or CB Radio/Walkie-Talkies.  If you at least get intermittent power as would be the case for economically driven brownouts and rolling blackouts, you can recharge these batteries on grid power whenever it comes on.

http://www.emtcompany.com/style/images/products/33e67b3ccad319d4bb4c8fbd9c667729.jpgIdeally though, you want your own means to recharge them, as well as larger storage batteries which most people have at least one of, their Car battery.  The car also has its own built in charger for this battery, the alternator, so long as you have a tankful of gas or access to gas, you can keep this battery charged up just by running the car.  Not too efficient though.

You can use this 12V battery directly to charge smaller batteries in the 1.5V range by wiring 8 of the smaller ones together in series for a 12V total, but easier is to use an inverter  and then plug the small battery chargers into that.  The Inverter with the Car Battery will allow you to run some bigger power draw items like a Laptop computer also.

http://r1.coleman.com/ProductImages/Full/5644-710_500.jpgAt this point you can think about keeping some refrigeration going by using a 12V Thermoelectric Cooler.  However, using one will draw down 1 12V car battery fairly rapidly, so you either need regular means to recharge that battery and or more of them.  Using the car engine as mentioned is very inefficient, so you want a small Generator at this point to run periodically as necessary to keep your larger 12V Battery bank fully charged.

http://www.conroegolfcars.net/bat1/8.jpgIf you do go for more 12V power storage than just the Car Battery, you want to get Deep Cycle batteries designed for long charge and discharge cycles.  These are the kind of batteries that run stuff like electric Golf Carts, Rascal electric wheel chairs and electric Bikes and Scooters.  I have an Electric Scooter which operates on 3 of them, and I have a total of 6 of them (a spare pack as well as the original pack).  My RV also has a Large Deep Cycle battery as well as the regular starter battery.

If you have portable electric tools like Drills and Circular Saws, these also come with batteries that will take a substantial charge, and work in voltages varying fromas low as 3V right up to around 18V.  The easiest to work with are the 12V ones, but you can wire together the lower voltage ones in series to get to 12V, or step down higher voltage batteries to 12V with a transformer.

If you are at this stage of prepping for electric outages, you can pretty well handle a 1 month long lack of grid electricity as long as you have some full gas tanks on your vehicles and extra gas in 5 gallon canisters.

http://www.thesunworks.com/0b718940.jpgTo step off the fossil fuel requirements, you will need Solar Photovoltaic panels and/or Wind Turbines, which to run a full McMansion is pretty expensive, but to just keep your portable batteries charged up not so expensive.  A couple of 120W panels is probably enough for most purposes for the 1 month scenario.  You should cook and eat your perishable foods requiring refrigeration first, so after the first week or so of outage you have no foods requiring refrigeration to keep around.  Unless of course it is winter and the ambient temperatures are cold enough to keep such foods in coolers outside without refrigeration.

For a good 1 month long Electric Backup System, between all the batteries, the solar PV cells, the inverter, small generator etc, you can do this for around $2000 or so.  It will be sufficient also to pump up water from your well if you are on well water.

Once there are general power outages across the grid that last longer than 1 month, the general problems of social breakdown will render much of this useless unless you are in a remote community.  However, at least for most of the FSoA, such long power outages don't seem likely except in a few places, like for instance Las Vegas if the water level in Lake Mead and Lake Powell falls below the level necessary to keep the Hoover Dam turbines operational.

What does seem more likely are periodic shortages, and conservation of electric power by brownouts and rolling blackouts.  For a given town, by cutting off parts of the town for 4 hour periods the load can be reduced and fewer power generation plants need to be online.  When this arrives, you will know Collapse has arrived in your neighborhood too.


Gas Siphoning & Energy Theft

Off the keyboard of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on July 27, 2014



ANTI-DOLLAR II Coming Soon to a Laptop Near You!

Discuss this article at the Energy Table inside the Diner

RE-BM-Camp3In what is likely to become an increasingly more prevalent problem, twice in the last week I had Gas siphoned out of my Spare Carz while I was not around.  The main reason I know about it is because in one case the siphoners left the Gas Cap off and under the rear wheel on the passenger side, so I didn’t see it before rolling over it and busting it.

Second case worse, besides Siphoning, the Perps also went under the car and cut one of the hoses (or maybe more).  The hose was on the ground under the car, I spied it when I got home.  Since I don’t know if this was the only Vandalism, I did not drive the car.  Don’t know if maybe brake lines were cut too.  Had it towed over to the shop for a checkup and repair.  $80 just for the tow.  Don’t know what the repair bill will be yet.  My ATT Road Service Plan doesn’t cover Vandalism.

http://www.blogcdn.com/www.autoblog.com/media/2008/06/lockinggascap.jpgFortunately the Tioga Bugout Machine which has the largest Gas Tank at around 50 gallons wasn’t hit so far.  I have a locking gas cap on that one.  I went to Auto Zone and bought Locking Gas Caps for the other two vehicles also now.  Main issue with locking gas caps is they are very easily defeated, all you need is a portable electric drill.  You drill into the cap and this prevents it from free spinning while the drill bit is embedded in the cap.  I figured this out when I lost the keys to a locking gas cap a while back.  Fortunately, most siphoners haven’t figured that out yet, and they just move on to a car without a locking gas cap.

I am considering now getting Security Cameras, but this is another expense and also pretty easily defeated if the siphoner wears a hoodie and duct tapes over his license plate, if the license plate even gets in the picture.

Large Scale Siphoning stories at Gas Stations are also starting to appear.

Thieves In South Florida Siphoning Fuel From Gas Stations

Organized crime groups in South Florida are reportedly siphoning gasoline and diesel fuel from stations in broad daylight.

John Peach, vice president of operations for Victory Petroleum, says that thieves park on top of underground storage tanks at gas stations and remove false bottoms from their large vehicles, usually SUV or minivans, and lower a hose into the tank, stealing thousands of dollars of gas within minutes.

Peach joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to talk about this growing trend in Florida.

John Peach, vice president of operations for Victory Petroleum.




South Florida is dealing with an unusual crime wave: Thieves stealing gasoline and diesel fuel from gas stations in broad daylight. The thieves are using a siphoning and then storing the fuel in the back of their car.

Joining us now is John Peach, Vice President of Operations for Victory Petroleum, which owns and operates almost 200 gas stations in and around Miami/Dade County. John, thanks for being with us.

JOHN PEACH: Thank you, Jeremy.

HOBSON: Well, how exactly does this scheme work?

PEACH: Sure. So these people, who operate in organized crime, essentially identify properties that they target as places where they can steal fuel from. They pull up above our tank field. It’s usually a two to three-man operation involving at least two cars. And they compromise the lock on our tank field, which were the underground storage tanks sit. And they…

HOBSON: This is right on top of the parking lot where you would pull in to get your gas.

PEACH: Yes, sir. Correct. While the person who is in the car that actually performs a siphoning is going about the act of siphoning, they usually have one to two people inside of the convenient store who keep an eye on our employees and our control systems, to make sure that nothing identifies that the crime is going on. In the car, which has a false floorboard, removes the floorboard; they break the lock that sits on top of the underground storage tank.

And they drop a siphon pump down into either the diesel or the gasoline tank, which is hooked up to a motor on the car battery. And they turn on the motor and they can take anywhere from – we’ve seen 70 up to 600 gallons in about 10 minutes.

HOBSON: Ten minutes and no one notices.

PEACH: We do notice. We’ve had instances where our employees have noticed that this was going on. Again, we do have control points in place that identify when things like this happen. We have security systems, cameras. We have alarms that monitor the tank levels with the product underground, so that if product is leaving the tanks – in a manner other than going out of pump, the hose into somebody’s car – an alarm would go off.

And obviously our employees just have general awareness or they’re looking outside to see what’s going on. But, again, these people are operating in organized crime so it’s tough to have your employees stop this. It’s really a job for the local police department to do.

HOBSON: And then they take this gas or this diesel, and they try to resell it on the black market. What is the black market for gas and diesel? How do you even do that?

PEACH: Sure. So what they do is after they steal the product from a retail gas property, like the ones that my company owns and operates, they transport it to wherever it is that they resell it. I would be speculating if I told you that I knew where they resold it. It’s our assumption that they sell it for under market value, because if they were selling this at retail this market wouldn’t exist.

HOBSON: How much are you losing over all? And how much can they make on this?

PEACH: We’re losing tens of thousands of dollars. And other companies in the industry down here in South Florida, Central Florida, and I would speculate but probably other parts of the country are also losing as much money.

HOBSON: And do you have any sense of how much they can make reselling it?

PEACH: I don’t but it’s my guess that it’s a thriving business. We have seen an uptick in this type of organized crime, as the price of the commodity has risen. Probably starting back in October or November, we had a measurable increase of this kind of crime. Obviously we represent a cross sample of the larger industry down here in South Florida, but our sample size is pretty appropriate in the sense that we are in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Naples, which represents most of South Florida.

And we’ve had properties that have been siphoned all over our geography. Also interesting to point out here that this used to be exclusive to diesel and, in recent months, we have actually had our first incidents of people siphoning gasoline from us.

HOBSON: Well, and I want to ask you about that because you say that having gasoline sitting in the back of a car is actually more dangerous than with diesel, right?

PEACH: Yes, sir. Gasoline is more explosive, that’s correct.

HOBSON: And what would it take to cause an explosion? It’s not just like driving around with a tank of gas in your car in the fuel tank. This is much more likely to be ignited by even a small spark, right?

PEACH: Yes, a couple of things to point out here. So the gas station environment, the retail gas environment, is a pretty well-controlled and secured; what I would refer to as a closed loop environment. So a truck brings product from a port, a rack, a terminal and then drops it in an underground storage tank. And then when they drop product into the underground storage tank, they recover the vapors that are sitting underground where the product used to be.

So in a perfect environment this is a closed loop circuit. When somebody introduces the act of siphoning into this environment without equipment – like a gasoline tanker or a truck – to recapture vapor, right there is where the problem begins. These people are operating siphon motors that we assume operate off a battery of their car. And we are also operating under the assumption that they don’t ground their vehicle properly. So this environment creates static electricity concerns, not to mention just general concerns of motors operating over 5,000, 8,000, 10,000 gallons of gasoline or diesel, very concerning.

In addition to that, we think about the gas tank or diesel tank on your automobile or my automobile, it’s logically placed. There was a reason that the automobile manufacturer put it where they put it on the car, to make sure that in the event of an automobile accident, the least problems could develop. And these people have, you know, 70 to 600 gallons of gasoline or diesel basically sitting in a very unsecured and illogically placed drum in the back of their car. So a common automobile accident would be very dangerous.

HOBSON: Do you think you’ll be able to catch all the people who are doing this?

PEACH: People get caught from time to time. If you look in the news and do a Google search, for instance, you’ll see that this kind of organized crime has existed for a while. From time to time these people do get caught. Sometimes they get caught just in routine traffic stops. Other times local law enforcement agencies see a case through.

But again, our concern in this is, it’s really three-fold. The act of siphoning, it’s dangerous, it’s dangerous to our customers. The act of transporting non-secured fuel on our city streets, it’s dangerous. You think about your friends, your family possibly getting in an automobile accident with one of these siphoning vans.

And then reselling fuel, you know, fuel is obviously a regulated industry, and you think about what they might be doing with the fuel before they turn around and resell it into automobiles. Again, those vehicles driving our city streets is concerning.

HOBSON: Now gas prices are going up a little bit right now, but they’ve held relatively steady for some times. Do you think this is just about the fact that gas is more expensive?

PEACH: No, I don’t necessarily think it’s just about the fact that gas and/or diesel has gotten more expensive. I think that these criminals have gotten more brazen over time with their success in procuring product from properties like ours in this manner. It used to be exclusive to nighttime and properties off the city grid. Now they’re doing it during daytime at properties that are deep in the city grid and highly visible, and I think with their success has come a more thriving market to turn around and resell this product.

HOBSON: That’s John Peach, vice president of operations for Victory Petroleum in South Florida. It operates almost 200 gas stations in and around Miami Dade. John, thanks so much.

PEACH: My pleasure. Thank you, Jeremy.

Now, while I think “Organized Crime” has some part in this, really it doesn’t take much organization, 3 or 4 guys can do it with hardware purchased at Home Depot.  Say you and 4 buddies in a Cul de Sac in some McMansion development each spend $100/wk in gas.  At $4/gal, that is 25 gallons each which is pretty typical between commuting and tooling around the neighborhood doing errands.  If you have a big enough tank and can scarf up 1000 Gallons in 10 minutes, pulling off one of these stunts every couple of months keeps all your tanks full up for FREE! You save $5000/year after tax income this way!

http://consumermediallc.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/sideofminivan.jpg?w=652&h=432Now, one would think the Gas stations could have a better security system.  There could be some kind of Sensor that detects when a siphon hose goes down in the tank.  This would then automatically phone the local Gestapo to come speeding to the scene of the crime.

That might work if there are tons of free cops cruising the neighborhood, but most communities don’t have so many cops and this is pretty low priority on the crime list.  For a gas station out in a rural area, the chances the cops would make it to the scene before the perps have left with the gas is small.

This phenomena among many others is likely to make gas harder and harder to come by.  Smaller stations getting ripped off will have to shut down.  Prices will have to rise to offset the “shrinkage” as it is known in the retail biz when merchandise is shoplifted.

Far as EVs go, the problem is even worse with them, as there are miles of unmonitored electrical transmission cables where with the right setup, you could tap into the power supply and recharge your EV for free.  For tiny EVs like my EWz, I already mentioned how EZ it would be to go into a laundromat or coffee shop and plug in the batteries for a recharge. Also, here in Alaska because of the Cold in Winter, many places have outdoor electric outlets for you to plug in the Block Heater for your car.  If you are driving an EV, you could ALSO plug the car battery in too for a recharge while you eat dinner.  To stop this, every plug would need a Meter on it and a Switch controlled from inside the restaraunt, a huge expense there.

Even outside the EV issue, theft of Energy from the Electrical Grid is SOP for many countries in the 3rd World, from Brasil to India, just for basic power to run household appliances.




The issue is, if you make it basically a REQUIREMENT to buy energy, but a significant portion of the population is too POOR to buy the energy, THEFT will ensue.

Why is it a REQUIREMENT to buy Energy?  Well, first of there are LAWS which mandate it.  Here in Alaska for instance, your domicile MUST have Hot and Cold running water and Electricity if you have any kids.  If you are an adult living by yourself out in the Bush, you can live in a cabin with an outhouse, but soon as you procreate, if your domicile does not have these “necessities” of Industrial Living, Child Protective Services can remove your kidz and send them to the Foster Care system.

In about every Big Shity, if you don’t maintain the Gas Bill, Electric Bill, Water Bill etc to your McMansion, the local “authorities” can and will drop in to CONDEMN the property.  One of the Diners, WHD had this situation ongoing for a while before he finally fortunately got re-employed and was able to start paying these Bills again.

Beyond the energy to run your McMansion, why is it a near MANDATE that you buy energy for travel?

To get to & fro work if you are fortunate enough to still have a JOB, because of the way the infrastructure of the society was built out, in most places you MUST have a car to traverse the distance between work and home.  Even inside the few Big Shities with a decent Public Transportation system, you have to pay the Bus Fares and Subway Fares, in NYC these days now up to $2.50 a trip.  When I was riding these rails regularly in the 70s, the price was 25-35 CENTS. My parents generation rode the Subways for a NICKEL, but in the Great Depression, even that was too much for many to afford.

http://www.futuristspeaker.com/wp-content/uploads/US-Prison-Population.jpgIn every aspect of the society, from the domicile in which you live to the travel you do every day, consumption of energy is mandated, if not legally than by social pressure.  Anyone living without these “necessities” is a FAILURE, homeless people living in Tents don’t get much respect in the society, in fact probably less than people in PRISON, where once in you get 3 Hots & A Cot.  In this case the energy bills for the Prison paid for out of taxation, or further debt issuance in reality.

Today, the FSoA has more people in PRISON than any other country in the world.  Why are so many in there?  Basically because the Industrial Economy does not pay enough people a living wage to afford the energy cost of this lifestyle.  In the end, they turn to a life of “crime”, selling drugs or siphoning gas, prostitution, whatever it takes to get by.

http://www.tildee.com/uploads/1-12-2011/011A3F63-8E7C-4B05-B2E9-7E48AFF1C228.jpgLike the old Workhouses of the British Empire in the Charles Dickens years, Prisons here have become the final stop for the portion of the population that can’t get on the Gravy Train for one reason or another.  Maybe its poor education, maybe there are few opportunities where they live, maybe they are just stupid, but whatever the reason here the “solution” of dropping them in prison is pretty stupid itself.  It costs around $35K to keep anybody in prison.  If you just handed most of these folks $25K, they probably could get by without resorting to crime, but then why would anyone work a Menial Job paying $25K?  Not to mention, a lot of Prison Guards would go Unemployed here, and a lot of Private Companies running Prisons would go outta biz!

People who successfully negotiated the Industrial paradigm, got a “good” job paying a high income by and large do not grasp or understand that the number of said jobs are far less than the size of the population, and so always with this sort of economy 50% or more of the population can barely meet the bills, and that is when the paradigm is working and there is copious energy to waste.  when it gets to the point where the cost of GETTING to work to earn a Minimum Wage that is less than the cost of fuel to get to work, it no longer makes economic sense to GO to work. This situation is already in full swing in places like Greece & Spain, but already even apparent here on the Last Great Frontier, where there still is a little Fossil Fuel energy left to extract, and a low population too.

As the price of Energy rises, it becomes much more profitable and worthwhile to do Energy theft.  At low prices it is not worth the risk, but at high prices the risk is more worth taking.  Generally speaking, if the theft is below $500, it’s a misdemeanor.  From Kentucky:

Under a new law which went into effect on June 25, 2009, the dollar amount for felony offenses has been increased.

A class D felony now requires theft , extortion or damage to property of a minimum of $500, A class C felony now requires $10,000.

The worst you get for Class C Felony of this type is probably Probation.  Its not violent crime, not drug related crime, it doesn’t get a prison sentence usually, if you have a decent lawyer anyhow.  Also, unless you actually are doing this on the big scale, it’s a misdemeanor.  Keep your amount down below 125 gallons or so, even if the cops catch you, it’s not a big crime.  That is easily enough gas to run your SUV for a month.

For now, hopefully the Locking Gas Caps will be enough to deter the local siphoners from hitting my spare carz as Gas Station while I am not around.  However, if this is ALREADY occuring up here where things aren’t really too bad overall, they are bound to be a lot worse in more depressed areas of the country, and will get worse here over time.

I expect to see a great deal of Energy Theft going on as things progress in this spin down, at both the low consumer level of Gas Siphoners, and at the Nation State level of Militaries commandeering Oil Fields in various nations at war.  Joe Biden’s son already appears to be trying such Profiteering in Novorossiya.

This goes on until there is nothing left to steal, and the infrastructure for distribution breaks down on the Grand Scale.

On the local scale, don’t be surprised if you exit Walmart tomorrow and find your Gas Tank emptied.


Reaching Limits to Growth: What Should our Response Be?

Off the keyboard of Gail Tverberg

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Published on Our Finite World on February 17, 2014


Discuss this article at the SUN Table inside the Diner

Oil limits seem to be pushing us toward a permanent downturn, including a crash in credit availability, loss of jobs, and even possible government collapse. In this process, we are likely to lose access to both fossil fuels and grid electricity. Supply chains will likely need to be very short, because of the lack of credit. This will lead to a need for the use of local materials.

The time-period is not entirely clear. Some countries, such as Greece and Syria, will be seeing these effects quite soon. Other countries may not see the full effects for perhaps ten or twenty years. What should our response be?

It seems to me that there are many different answers, depending on who we are and what our goals are. The various options are not mutually exclusive.

Option 1. Make the most of the time we have available.

If there are things that are important to you, do them now. If you have been meaning to reconnect ties with family members or old friends, now is the time to do it. If there are things you would like to accomplish that require today’s transportation and services, do them now. If you want to support local charities, now would be a good time to do it.

Appreciate what you have now. We have been privileged to live in a society where transportation is readily available and where most of us can live in homes that are comfortably heated and cooled. At the same time, we can still enjoy many of the benefits of nature—clear skies and plants and animals around us. Life expectancies in the past were generally 35 years or less. Most of us have already lived longer than we could have expected to live in the past.

Develop stronger relationships with family and community.  This is likely to be a difficult transition. It is likely to be helpful to have as many allies as possible in transition. It may be helpful to move closer to other family members. Another approach is to form or join community groups, such as a church group or a group interested in common goals. The ties a person can form are likely to be helpful regardless of what path lies ahead.

Option 2. Prepare at least a little for the future

Learn to bounce back from downturns.  When I was an editor at The Oil Drum, I was editor for a letter from a man who grew up in Kenya and returned there practically every year. He told that the people in Kenya were very happy, even though they had little material goods and mortality was high.  One thing he mentioned was that if things went wrong—the death of a child for example—people were able to mourn for a day, and then move on. They also rejoiced in things we take for granted, such as being able to obtain enough food for the current day.

Do what you can to improve your health. In the United States, we have been used to a combination of practices that lead to overweight: (1) much too large food portions, (2) much processed food including much sugar and (3) lack of exercise. If we can change our eating and exercise practices, it is likely that we can improve our health. If healthcare goes downhill, fixing our personal health somewhat protects us.

Learn what you can about first aid. Injuries are likely to be more of an issue, as we work outside more.

We will need some specialists as well. As long as we eat grains, we will need dentists. As long as babies are born, we will need helpers of some type–doctors or midwives.

If circumstances permit, plant a garden and fruit or nut trees. Eventually, all food production will need to be local. Getting from our current industrialized agricultural model to a model with local food production with little (if any) fossil fuel inputs is likely to be a difficult transition. One approach is to learn what local plants, animals, and insects are edible. Another is to attempt to grow your own. Doing the latter will generally require considerable learning about what plants grow in your area, approaches to building and maintaining soil fertility, methods of preventing erosion, and a variety of related topics.

Find alternative water supplies. We currently are dependent on a water supply chain that can be broken in a variety of ways—drought, loss of electricity, storm damage, or pollution problems. If the long-term water supply seems questionable, it may be helpful to move to another location, sooner rather than later. Alternatively, we can figure out how to bridge a gap in water supplies, such as through access to a creek or lake. For the very short-term, a water barrel of stored water might be helpful.

Figure out alternative cooking arrangements. We humans are dependent on cooking for purifying water, for allowing us to eat a wider variety of food, and for allowing us to obtain greater nutrition from the food we eat, without chewing literally half of the day. We now depend primarily on electricity or natural gas for cooking. Determine what alternative cooking arrangements can be made in your area, in the event current cooking arrangements become unavailable. An example might be an outdoor fireplace with locally gathered sticks for fuel, perhaps supplemented by a solar cooker with reflective sides.

Store up a little food to bridge a temporary supply interruption. We have troubles today with wind storms and snow storms. There are any number of other types of interruptions that could happen if businesses encounter credit problems that lead to supply chain interruptions. It doesn’t hurt to be prepared.

Option 3. Figure out what options might work for a few years for taking care of yourself and your family 

We have a lot of goods made with fossil fuels that probably will work for a while, but likely won’t be available for the long term. Examples include solar PV, batteries, power saws, electric pumps, electric fences, bicycles, light bulbs, and many other devices that we take for granted today. Of course, as soon as any part breaks and can’t be replaced, we are likely to be “up a creek, without a paddle.”

I expect that quite a few of the permaculture solutions and organic gardening solutions are temporary solutions. They work for now, but whether they will work for the long term is less clear. We are not going to be able to make and transport organic sprays for fruit for very long and irrigation systems will need to be very simple to be resilient. Plastic wears out and even metal tools will be hard to replace.

Purchasing land for agriculture can perhaps be a partial solution for some individuals, with sufficient skills and tools. Ideally, a person will want to be part of a larger group of people using a larger piece of land, rather than a smaller group, using a smaller piece of land, because of the problem that occurs if one worker gets sick or injured. It may be helpful to have multiple non-contiguous pieces of land, to help even out impacts of bad weather and pests. Ideally, the land should be large enough so that part of the land can remain fallow, or be used for feeding animals, and can be rotated with crop-producing land.

Security is likely be a problem, especially if a single home is distant from other homes. Ideally, a family will be part of a larger group in order to provide security.

Other issues include inability to pay taxes and the government taking over property. Because of the many issues involved, any solution is, at best, temporary. Unfortunately, that may be the best we can do. As parts of the system fail, a local group may be able to support fewer people. Then the group will need to deal with how to handle this situation–everyone starve, or kick out a few members from the group, or attack another group, with the hope of obtaining control of their resources.

Option 4. Work on trying to solve the long-term problem.

There are many studies of how pre-industrial societies operated without fossil fuels and without electricity. For example, Jared Diamond gives his view of how some very early societies functioned in The World Until Yesterday. The Merchant of Prato by Iris Origo documents the life of one particular 14th century merchant, based on old letters and other documents.

Through studies of how past societies behaved, it might be possible for today’s people to develop a civilization that could be operated using only renewable resources of the types used in pre-industrial times, such as wood, water wheels, and sail boats. Such groups would probably not be able to use much metal or concrete because of the problem with deforestation when wood is used for energy-intensive operations. (Today’s so-called “renewables,” such as hydro-electric, wind turbines and solar PV require fossil fuels for manufacture and upkeep, so likely will not be available for very long.)  Heating of homes will need to be very limited as well, to prevent deforestation.

As a practical matter, the groups best equipped to make such a change are ones that have recently been hunter-gatherers and still have some memory of how they operated in the past. Perhaps some former hunter-gatherers could give instruction to others in sort of a reverse Peace Corps operation.

We do know some approaches that have been used in the past. Dogs have been used to help with herding animals, for hunting, and for warmth. Animals of various types have been used for transportation and for plowing. The downside is that animals require the use of a lot of land to produce the food needed for them to eat.

Traditional societies have used the giving of gifts and the requirement of reciprocal gift giving to increase the strength of relationships and as a substitute for our money-based financial system. With such an approach, a person gains status not by what he has, but by what he gives away.

Storytelling has been a way of passing on knowledge and entertainment for generations. Songs, games, and simple musical instruments are also part of many traditions. These are approaches that can be used in the future as well.

Option 5. Take steps toward getting population in line with likely long-term energy availability.

The world is now overfilled with people and with the many animals that people raise for food or as pets. Without fossil fuels and network electricity, we probably will not be able to feed more than a fraction of the current population of humans and domesticated animals.

Some steps we might take:

Keep family sizes small. Encourage one-child families. When a family pet dies, don’t replace it (or replace it with a smaller animal).

Eat much less meat. This could be started even now.

Option 6. Rearrange personal finances.

Paper investments are, in general, not going to be worth much, regardless of how we rearrange them, if resource availability drops greatly. Ultimately, paper investments allow us to buy goods available in the marketplace. But if there isn’t much to buy in the marketplace, they are likely to be much less helpful than we assume. Precious metals have the same difficulty–they can’t buy what is not available.

Purchasing land is theoretically better, but even land can be taken away from us by taxes or by appropriation. There is also a possibility that we may need to move, if conditions change, regardless of what property ownership conditions seem to be.

We need to learn to take each day as it comes. If we find that our bank accounts aren’t there, or that only a small fraction of the money can be withdrawn, or that the money is in the bank doesn’t buy much of anything, we need somehow to figure out a way around the situation. Very likely everyone else will be in the same boat. This is a major reason for working on substitute access to food and water supplies.

Option 7. Put more emphasis on relationships. 

Studies show that relationships are what bring happiness—not the accumulation of goods. Starting to work now on developing additional strong relationships would seem to be a worthwhile goal. In traditional societies, extended family relationships were very important.

Religions can teach us how we treat our neighbors and thus about relationships. A version of the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have then do unto you) is found in several major religions. Many readers of this blog have given up on religions as hopelessly out of date, instead choosing such “wisdom” as, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” In fact, this latter wisdom is clearly nonsense. We can expect our fossil-fuel based “toys” to lose their usefulness before our very eyes in the not too distant future. Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen are not gods, even if we are told that they are all-powerful.

Another aspect of keeping good relationships is finding ways to mend broken relationships. One such approach is forgiveness. Another is through reconciliation procedures aimed at returning broken relationships to wholeness. Such procedures are common in small societies, according to Diamond (2012).

Option 8. Find ways to deal with the stresses of a likely downturn ahead.

As much as we would like to take one day at a time, oftentimes it is easy to worry, even though this does no good.

Even though we think we know that outcome of our current difficulties, we really do not. The universe has many physical laws. Ultimately, the source of all of these physical laws is not clear–is there a Supreme Being behind them? The story of natural selection is in many ways a miracle. The story of human existence represents more miracles—learning to control fire; learning to control our environment through agriculture; learning to modify our environment further through the use of fossil fuels. In my own personal life, I see a pattern of circumstances working together in ways I could never have expected.

We are not the first to go through hard times. Because of my background, I find myself comforted by many Biblical passages. I am sure other religions have other passages that are also helpful.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for though art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. .  . Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. . . (Psalm 23: 4, 6)

. . . in all things God works for the good of those who love him . . . (Romans 8:28)

For me personally, more things have worked together for good than I would ever have dreamed possible. I will not rule out the possibility of this happening again in the future, regardless of what the external circumstances may look like.

Option 9. For those who are concerned about Climate Change

In my view, the changes we are encountering will bring a quick end to the use of fossil fuels. Thus, the concern that future fossil fuel use will cause rapid climate change is over-blown. If individuals would like to personally reduce their own fossil fuel use, I would suggest the following:

  • Stop eating meat now, especially that raised in our current industrial system.
  • Get rid of pets that are not providing support functions, such as hunting for food.
  • Spend less of your wages. With more of the money left in the bank or in paper investments, this money will lose value and thus will reduce spending on fossil fuel-based goods and services. (While theoretically this money could be lent out and reinvested, lack of credit availability will put an end to this practice.)
  • Use a bicycle for transport instead of a car, when possible. Or walk.
  • Purchase a more fuel efficient car, if you need to replace a current vehicle.
  • Turn down the heat in your home or apartment. Don’t use air conditioning.

I would suggest quitting your job as well, but if you quit your job, the job is likely to go to someone else, resulting in the same fossil fuel use for someone else.  Even stopping a business you own will not necessarily work, if another business will expand and take its place. If the business that ramps up is in a part of the world that uses coal as its primary fuel, stopping your local business may lead to an increase in world carbon dioxide emissions.


Turning Electricity Into Food

Off the keyboard of Ugo Bardi

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Published on Cassandra’s Legacy on November 7, 2013


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Our paper published in the “Journal of Cleaner Production” where we discuss the possibility of using renewable electric energy to power all the phases of the agricultural process. For a copy of this paper, send a message to ugo.bardi(whirlywhirl)unifi.it.

You know that when energy in agriculture is discussed, the paradigm is energy production in the form of biofuels. But the idea of biofuels manufactured from agricultural products is monumentally wrong. Modern food production depends nearly completely on fossil fuels: agriculture is a consumer of energy, not a producer.

The problem is that gradual depletion is making fossil fuels more and more expensive. And higher prices of fuels immediately generate higher food prices.  It has been happening and it is a big problem especially for the poor people of the world (graph below from FAO data)

So, how are we going to do? We need energy for agriculture, there is no doubt about that. To obtain this energy we could go back to human work and pack animals, as in the past. It is the concept of the “50 million farmers” (in the US alone) proposed by Richard Heinberg. But the work of the farmer of old was anything but pleasant and not even very efficient. Pre-industrial agriculture produced only a modest surplus at the expense of the suffering of a large number of people. There is no doubt that the coming of modern, mechanized agriculture was seen everywhere as a great advance in freeing people from the slavery of the heavy manual work of farming. (Image below (1971) courtesy of Stefan Landsberger)

So, can we eliminate fossil fuels in agriculture without having to go back to the back-breaking practices of the past? Myself and some colleagues started asking this question already some years ago and that led us to study the idea of using renewable energy (NOT intended as biofuels) to power agricultural machinery. We noted that modern renewable technologies (mainly wind and solar) produce electricity as output and that transforming electric power into fuels is expensive and inefficient. So, the idea we developed was to use directly electricity to power agriculture.

The result was the “Ramses project” that led us to develop a prototype agricultural vehicle that wasn’t just a tractor, but a multipurpose vehicle for a variety of tasks, including energy storage (in the foto below, from left to right, Toufic El Asmar, Paolo Pasquini, and Ugo Bardi).

The Ramses vehicle was a success as a prototype, and it has been used in various farm activity for a few years, first in Lebanon and now in Italy. It taught us several things; one is that, making the appropriate calculations, today, electric mechanization in agriculture is still marginally more expensive than conventional, fossil fuel based, engines. Because of this marginally higher costs, farmers still use conventional engines and the Ramses is still just a prototype.

But things are gradually changing and, eventually, because of both depletion oan climate change, we will have to “wean” agriculture away from fossil fuels. This idea led us to a more comprehensive examination of the agricultural process. If the Ramses demonstrated that we can use electric power for many tasks that require mechanical energy, it is also true that agriculture needs much more: it needs fertilizers, pesticides, transportation, refrigeration, and more. Can we perform all those tasks using the electric energy produced by renewable sources?

That is what our recent paper on the “Journal of Cleaner Production” discusses (authors U. Bardi. T. El Asmar and A. Lavacchi, vol. 19, pp. 2034-2048 – 203). It is an extended examination on how energy is used in agriculture and how, in the future, we could obtain this energy from renewable sources, moving away from fossil fuels while at the same time maintaining the high productivity of modern agriculture.

The results? As you can imagine, it will not be an easy task; but it is not an impossible one, either. As modern renewables (wind and solar) increase in efficiency and come at lower costs, it is perfectly possible to think of integrating them with the agricultural process, first reducing and then fully eliminating the need of locally using fossil fuels.

Then, of course, agricultural production is not just based on the local use of fossil fuels: fertilizers, for instance, are produced on large industrial plants. These plants can be powered by renewable energy and it turns out that, for instance, there exist known methods for using electricity to generate ammonia as fertilizer without the need of using methane or hydrogen as feedstock. Even so, even abundant energy can’t solve all problems, for instance the gradual depletion of mineral phosphate resources. For that, only the careful management of what we have can maintain the availability of the necessary phosphate based fertilizers

So, the end result of our study is that modern renewable energy can be a tremendous help to agriculture, but not for the wasteful and unsustainable agriculture of today. It is possible to turn electricity into food and we don’t need to go back to the back-breaking practices of old. But we need to imagine and build an agriculture that doesn’t destroy the resources it uses.


Off the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

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Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on September 16, 2013

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No, the title of this post doesn’t refer to my recent lack of posting on this blog – the best I can plead in this regard is that I have been very busy driving around Europe collecting my scattered belongings from previous lives – no, in fact it refers to the Channel 4 docu-drama of the same name which aired recently.

I sat down to watch it on my laptop with a mug of hot coffee and an hour and a half later I was traumatised enough to start composing this blog post on the same device. Let me explain. Blackout deals with the ‘fictional’ scenario of an electricity blackout hitting the UK. We are not really told what caused it other than it was a cyber attack by a person/organisation/state with a grudge. It’s shot in the kind of Dogme panicky first-person Blair Witch Project perspective, and apt to give you nightmares because every scenario that is depicted is eerily plausible. The acted parts are intertwined with real footage, mostly filmed during the mass riots that broke out in London and across the country two years ago. You might almost say it is prescient, but we’ll have to wait and see with that.

We get to follow the misfortunes of several people caught up in the ensuing chaos, including a twenty something brother and sister involved in a traffic accident, a mother and her young daughter who try to make an emergency dash to Sheffield and end up being at the mercy of a tagged offender (untrackable now the system has run out of power), a couple of freeloading hooligans on a rampage of shoplifting, theft and arson, and a young middle-class family in London, the father of whom just happens to be a wannabe survivalist who has a video blog which he uploads to YouTube much to his wife’s annoyance.

The story starts with life as it is today. Everyone is shopping and travelling and social media posturing and is completely wrapped up in their own world. When the blackout strikes, there is an initial mood of hilarity – a great excuse for a party. The survivalist character is in his element, and his wife films him firing up his emergency generator and filling water bottles from the radiator system. “You look happy,” she says, to which he replies “I am.”

Alas, his happiness isn’t to last. On day two of the blackout, the smells of his preparedness barbeque attract unwanted attention from some dodgy young Asian men who invite themselves round and start asking questions about how they are coping. One of the children gives away the fact that the family owns a generator. Things get worse from then on.

Up north somewhere, the two hell raisers start their vodka-fuelled trail of destruction as they try to get back home, stealing cars and eventually causing a huge accident with a fuel tanker. By day three anarchy has started to engulf the cities, with wide scale rioting and pitched battles with the police. David Cameron (yes, it’s very realistic, even he’s in it as himself) launches an emergency plan and fuel is trucked into key strategic locations – most of which seem to be central government offices. The hospitals are overwhelmed and losing power having got through not just the emergency backup generator, but the backup backup generator, and have now run out of fuel. The ICU equipment, which is battery powered as a last backup, slowly goes flat and the docs and nurses have to make split decisions over who to save and who to abandon. It doesn’t help that people are pouring in through the doors with carbon monoxide poisoning and burns (house fires rage out of control from people using candles).

By what must be day five or six, total despair reigns. People are either trapped in the cities, or else can’t get into them due to police roadblocks. Nobody can contact one another and the only sound from ‘the authorities’ is an Orwellian sounding radio message read out by a pleasant-sounding woman saying “We apologise for any inconvenience and are trying to restore order as soon as we can” – while the masses starve, loot and generally freak out.

It’s not all doom and gloom. There are some genuinely warming moments where people look out for one another. I won’t give any more away than I have done already. But the real message of this film is as simple as it is scary. The message is that the security of our modern lives is a flimsy facade and that behind it lies a rotting haunted house full of demons that the bright lights of the 21st century keeps at bay. With the flick of a switch all of the things we take for granted are gone. In a moment a middle class family can be transformed into a besieged group fighting for their very survival in their own home. Cars cease to function, money is useless, and those who took the precaution of filling up their petrol tanks can expect to get robbed for their efforts. People get sick, families erupt into firefights of blame, there are no communications, no food and no drinking water. People descend, rapidly.

This is how the programme describes itself:

Feature-length ‘What-If’ drama exploring the effects of a devastating cyber-attack on Britain’s national electricity grid.
Based on expert advice and meticulous research, Blackout combines real user-generated footage, alongside fictional scenes, CCTV archive and news reports to build a terrifyingly realistic account of Britain being plunged into darkness.

The film plots the days following a nationwide power cut, as experienced by a cast of ordinary characters struggling to feed and protect themselves and their families. These eyewitness accounts reveal the disastrous impact of a prolonged blackout on hospitals, law and order, transport, and our food and water supplies.
The programme casts members of the public from user-generated footage, weaving real-life archive with scripted drama to tell the story of how Britain could descend into chaos and anarchy without power.

I dunno, what’s with all the expert advice? It’s almost as if somebody wants us to consider that the fictional scenario depicted could be a distinct possibility. Did I say could be a possibility? Bear in mind that 50% of the film is actual footage of the country erupting in violence two years ago – and the trigger for that outburst is still being debated with much head-scratching. And I like to remind people here that the UK energy regulator has been forecasting semi-controlled power outages beginning in 2015/16 for at least two years now. Jeepers, I even came up with my own fictionalised account of how it could happen several years ago. The only factor the film missed out was what happens to the nuclear stations in the absence of an electricity grid to keep them stable.

A friend of mine was doing a long-haul road trip through Germany and Denmark with me last week and he was telling me about living in New York during the ‘great blackout’ of 2003. “The first night was fun, with everyone having impromptu parties,” he said. “But when the second night came and there was still no power then a sense of dread began to descend. Suddenly it wasn’t fun any more.” Quite.

I’m not one to get off on doomer porn but I do have a worrying intuition about how some people will behave if there is ever a serious interruption to the nation’s electricity supply . My gut instinct is that there would be widespread anarchy in some of our larger cities for a while, although I doubt this would last once all the (now useless) plasma televisions have been looted and the rioters run out of energy due to lack of food. And the supposedly lawless inner city areas are not lawless at all and there are any number of community elders to give their wayward youths a clip round the ear (or, in some cases, a dose of Sharia law). Once the initial surge of looting, chaos and pitched battles with the police/army has burned itself out an order of sorts will be restored, especially if the power comes on again.

I can only wonder about how the situation would be outside the large cities. Sure, there is likely to be some trouble, but there is only so much looting and arson you can get away with if everyone in the town knows who you are and where you live. Food might be a larger problem. And medical care.
Any such episode will be one of the ‘thunks’ on the downward steps of our peak energy curve, and the psychological impact of it will be long lasting. In its wake we can expect the authorities to consolidate their power, and for various political miscreants to appear out of the woodwork with ‘solutions’ to ensure that such a catastrophe doesn’t happen again. Normality will be restored, until the next time.

And a catastrophe such as a prolonged power outage would get people scared enough to agree meekly to a whole raft of measures imposed by the government to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen again. We’ve gotta keep those lights on! It’s not hard, for example, to imagine people protesting against fracking being branded ‘traitors’ and arrested. First they came for the anti frackers, then they came for the anti nukes …

Interesting times.


On a side note, I had an interesting time driving around Spain during August. I would briefly like to report that Spain is in a weird and eerie state of limbo. The south of Spain, from appearances, has never had it so good. Business is booming in the village where I used to live and everywhere is now immaculate and clean. New shops are opening up, even if there aren’t that many customers. My former neighbour’s daughter, a newly university-qualified teacher, has now been unemployed for three years and breezily says she doesn’t ever expect to find a job in this life. She’s not bothered by this, although her father grumpily confided that it would have been better if she had learned to pick olives, like him. He’s doing great now the price of food has gone up, he says.

However, on the way back up north I found myself driving around the massive new periphery motorway that encircles Madrid. Madrid is now engulfed by huge yards the size of multiple football fields where one can pick up rusting construction equipment on the cheap. Imagine hundreds of bulldozers, diggers, cement trucks and the like all parked in long neat rows with scarcely a human in sight. I saw them in the daylight on the journey south – along with several horizon filling ‘urbanizations’ of roads laid out in the arid earth with streetlights, ragged developers’ flags and not much else.

Okay, so it was about midnight on the way back up north, but it is a bit eerie to not see another car for over twenty minutes on a brand new highway surrounding a major first world capital city. It was a toll motorway, but all the barriers were open. I later read that the volume of traffic is now so low on the new toll routes that they lose money if they have to pay people to man the toll booths. They might simply close them.
Further north still my GPS satnav led me to a petrol station in the middle of nowhere. Almost out of fuel at 2am I discovered the station, like so many roads, had a large sign on it saying ‘cerrado’. It looked permanent. I sighed and pulled in – I had almost run out of fuel and didn’t fancy doing so in the dark. I got out and lay on the weed-broken tarmac in my sleeping bag and watched shooting stars until I fell asleep. At about 4am I was awoken by the sounds of a pack of wild dogs which seemed to be coming ever closer. I shivered and got back in the car.

I made it to Santander on the north coast and spent most of a day there waiting for the Plymouth ferry. 99% of the vehicle traffic was British holiday makers with big SUVs and shiny new caravans with names like Ambassador and Elite. We had to wait in a large concrete compound under the hot sun, and a huge cinema-sized screen was placed at the front with Sky news on. It was a continuous loop of news all day – Let’s Bomb Syria and Michael Douglas splits from Wife – both given equal billing.
I escaped the compound and explored Santander on foot. I liked it, but it was like a city gasping for air. Every third or fourth shop seemed to be shutting down. Many of the remainders were ‘We Buy Gold’ shops, or tacky Chinese junk pop-ups. Later on we sailed away from it in the dark and it disappeared into the night on the horizon and that was that. Cocktails were served in the bar and a lousy cabaret singer from Newcastle came on and tried to be all Shirley Bassey. That’s it, my Spanish adventure over.


Off the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on July 9, 2013

Blackout Britain

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“Does Andy Murray winning Wimbledon mean that we are headed for the economic good times again?” asked pretty much every news outlet in Britain yesterday. We were even treated to an ebullient Jon Snow on Channel 4 News prancing around on London’s Primrose Hill in the summer evening sun asking bemused onlookers whether their consumer confidence had improved over the last 48 hours (to their credit they all looked baffled by the question, perhaps suggesting that those who live in the media-land bubble should get out more).
But the headlines keep coming thick and fast. Here in Britain we are told that a house price boom is on the way. But if that’s the case then who’s buying? It certainly isn’t the kind of people for which owning a house would be rather useful, say, young people starting up a family. Instead, demand seems to be driven by the increasingly ubiquitous buy-to-let landlords, keen to make a killing out of a desperate situation. Some of these ‘ordinary people’ have amassed hundreds – even thousands – of properties, which they let out to those unable to afford their own. One recently boasted that he ‘earned’ £35,000 a week, meaning he could go on and buy a few hundred more properties and become even wealthier.
Presumably some algorithm somewhere has decided that I might be a good BTL landlord as I keep receiving emails from companies wanting to make me rich. But given that so many people are now being forced into usually sub-standard accommodation, presided over by a rentier class indifferent to their plight I find myself wondering when the day will come when landlord killing becomes a fashionable sport again. Britain might be running out of money, but there are still plenty of lampposts and miles of rope.
Although, whenever I express sentiments like the one above I am inevitably accused of being gloomy, or depressive or, worst of all, boring. I have to say, it’s hardly a barrel of laughs pointing out repeatedly the emperor’s lack of clothing, and sometimes I’m tempted to just stop typing this stuff and get with the programme. You know, perhaps economics can be sentiment based – perhaps scientists will come up with that wonder fuel after all, and maybe those climate scientists who say it’s one minute to midnight really are just after a new research grant. Comforting thoughts indeed.
But then the fundamentals come screaming back at you and you can’t tie your tongue. Schadenfreude is a horrible word, and not just because it’s difficult to say (or spell). What makes it even worse is the fact that you can raise your voice as loud as you can, and even when you are proved repeatedly right, most people won’t accept the truth of what’s in front of their noses. That seemingly apparent truth is that the age of limits is upon us, not that you’d know it from the media and all the assorted ‘experts’ who are wheeled out of their ivory cubicles to pontificate on topics concerning the future.
We are apparently in an economic recovery. The US jobs market is booming, and Chinese people now all own at least one BMW.
Never mind the ‘fundamentals’, such as the velocity and supply of money – that is money in the ‘real’ economy away from QE. Here’s a chart put up by The Automatic Earth:
In this case it is looking at the US and that supposed ‘boom’ that they are having over there. Yes, there’s a boom going on alright as the chart shows – a boom in government credit creation that is being transferred more or less directly into the coffers of the biggest investment banks for them to sit on and do nothing with. This is money that current and future generations of Americans now owe the government. And the velocity of money – that is, the speed at which it travels around the economy from one hand to the next – is also experiencing a massive boom – if you turn the chart upside down.
But, hey, back in Britain again we will all soon be sitting in driverless cars designed by Google (never mind that the government is running out of money to fix the potholes in the roads). And the next big boom area is the fusion of biotech and robotics where ‘the line between human and robot will become blurred’. And by genetically engineering crops and handing over their ‘patents’ to corporations we ‘will cure world hunger’. Obama has vowed to ‘light up Africa’s darkness’ by electrifying the continent. Ten billion people on planet Earth is ‘not a problem’.
I don’t know about you but this maelstrom of voices is starting to make me dizzy. Perhaps I should just tune off and live in a cave, as an increasing number of people seem to be doing.
But what is really confounding is the sheer amount of misinformation out there that somehow possesses the almost magical ability to coalesce into ‘fact’. Perhaps it’s just a result of our over-complex society and will go away in due course. Thus, we are told that fracking gas in Britain will give us enough energy for 100 years. Fact. No argument. No dissent permitted.
Mention the very real limits which make this pipe dream unachievable and you are inevitably accused of being overly negative. But I can now see quite clearly how events are shaping up in Britain and how we will go down screaming and battling one another as the dead weight of entropy pulls us beneath the waves. The problem is, we are literally running out of the kind of energy flows we need to make a modern industrial economy tick over. North Sea oil and gas is dropping like a rock, wind and solar are frankly useless for anything other than small scale applications, nuclear is a giant sickly radioactive white elephant that is running out of current buns, and any other energy source that you care to think of is so riddled with problems that it beggars belief that people buy into it.
But, hey, seaweed will save the world, according to the Guardian.
But as the needle on Britain’s fuel gauge hovers ever closer to the orange area I wonder what the reaction from the population at large will be when the lights literally do go out – as we were warned would happen by 2015 by no less than the energy regulator Ofgem a couple of weeks ago. Will people say ‘Oh well, it was nice having fossil powered energy while it lasted but now I’ll just trade in my Ford Fiesta for a donkey, get a job as a day labourer on a farm and tell the kids that they’ll have an even harder time of it than me.” Or will they scream blue murder at the politicians and energy companies, march en masse through the streets and elect a wide-eyed militant loony who promises to ‘restore Britain’s glory’?
Predictably, the news about the increased risk of blackouts in 2015 was met with a barrage of denial by politicians and industrialists. “The lights will not be going out,” was the peeved response. There was a subtext to that response, of course, and the subtext was ‘Unless we let them go out by not fracking the life out of the country, letting the French and Chinese build a new generation of nuclear power station and opening up some of the coal mines that Maggie shut down because they were so hard to get the coal out of. Indeed all we have to do is try harder to keep the lights on – if we all join hands, scrunch up our eyes and shout at the top of our voices:
The lights are going to stay on! 
The lights are going to stay on!
We refuse to recognise the legitimacy of the laws of thermodynamics!
We are too clever to sit in the dark! 
Our way of life is not negotiable!
That should do the trick.

Olduvai Revisited

Off the keyboard of RE

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Back in the 1990s, Richard Duncan proposed the “Olduvai Theory”, which put a timeline on the lifespan of Industrialized civilization based on available per capita energy.  It is built on the work of M. King Hubbert, who first projected out when we would reach “Peak Oil” production based on depletion rates versus new discoveries.  As we move along the timeline here, both theories are proving themselves to be very accurate in their projections.

When we get into Peak Oil discussions and projections, most often the focus is around Gas Prices, Carz, the Transportation system and Happy Motoring.  These questions are very important of course, because the Mobility of this civilization is one of its most defining characteristics.  Prior to the existence of Carz and Airplanez, just about everyone on earth in Ag Societies spent their entire lives inside a few square miles of territory, unless they were conscripted up into an Army to go out and try and expand the borders of their territory.  The H-Gs travelled around a bit wider area than that, but not by all that much until they got use of Horses.

While it is becoming apparent from decreasing Car Salez in Eurotrashland that ever fewer people will have access to this transport mechanism, an even more devastating consequence of the Olduvai theory which hits right at home where you live is no longer on the far horizon, but just over the next Ridge.  That is the loss of Electricity in the Industrialized areas that have built Grids over the last Century or so.

Richard Duncan’s Per Capita energy graph identified 2012 as the year that the Blackouts would begin, and this has proved true in spades over the course of this year.  There were the two major Blackouts in India which affected over 300M people, and then in the last month Blackouts affecting large swaths of both Brasil and Argentina.  Add to that of couse also the Blackouts resultant from Frankenstorm Sandy here in the FSofA, and it should be fairly obvious that system wide on a Global level the Eletrical Grid is quite fragile and beginning to collapse.

The MSM is being mighty quiet about it, but the Blackouts are spreading rapidly. Argentina just got hit, and Brasil got hit a couple of weeks ago. I only checked on this after catching a mention in the comments on Economic Undertow.

2012 is EXACTLY the year Richard Duncan predicted the Blackouts would begin in the Olduvai Theory.


Buenos Aires hit by major blackout
November 8, 2012 – 14:47 AMT

PanARMENIAN.Net – Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, was hit by a major blackout that left more than a million homes without power and caused rush hour traffic jams.

Electricity also went off at the Congress building and presidential palace.

Power was back on in most districts by late Wednesday, Nov 7 evening. The electricity company said two high voltage lines had failed, amid record demand for energy after three days of high temperatures.

The blackout knocked out traffic lights and badly disrupted the metro system as people were heading home after work.

Electricity company Edesur said two high voltage cables had stopped working. Edesur spokeswoman Alejandra Martinez said that although the exact cause was not yet known, recent heavy demand had put a strain on the grid.

Buenos Aires has been sweltering for the past three days with temperatures of 33C.

Brazil Hit By New Blackout
October 26, 2012

SÃO PAULO—A blackout left millions in Brazil’s northeast without electricity for more than four hours Friday, the latest in a series of power failures that have raised questions about the pace of infrastructure investments as the country readies to host major international sporting events.

A short-circuit at a transmission line knocked out power to states in Brazil’s northeast, one of the poorest yet fastest-growing regions in the country. The transmission-line failure also led to a sharp drop in the energy supplied to Brazil’s north, according to the government operator of the national transmission network. Energy was restored to 70% of normal levels four hours later, officials said.

The blackout, at least the fourth in the past two months, comes as the government is trying to push down energy prices to boost growth and foster infrastructure investment to prepare for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games.

“The sequence of occurrences that we had, in terms of probability, is practically impossible, but it happened,” said Marcio Zimmermann, interim Mines and Energy Minister, during a news conference in Brasília. He discarded the possibility of sabotage and said his ministry is carrying out a full investigation as to the causes.

Mr. Zimmermann praised Brazil’s system as “among the best in the world,” and said the network has been receiving “continuous investment.”

Taesa, the company that operates the transmission system that failed Friday, said electric storms near the transmission lines may have led to a short-circuit. A failure of the primary safety system at a substation forced secondary systems to shut down the network in a larger area, Taesa Chief Executive Jose Ragone Filho said during the news conference in Brasília.

According to government energy-research corporation EPE, Brazil needs to invest more than 8.5 billion Brazilian reais ($4.2 billion) through 2015 to expand the country’s transmission capacity.

The Brazilian government has been reducing the rates of return for distribution and transmission companies during its power-price revision cycles, leading many in the industry to cry foul. Last month, the government also said it would automatically renew generation and transmission licenses, but only in exchange for companies drastically cutting prices.

With the lower returns—and a low expected level of reimbursement for unamortized investments carried out by the companies—many industry analysts recommended that transmission companies return their licenses rather than hold on to those transmission lines and risk operating at a loss.

“The government has a vision that everything is fine, but there is a lack of investment,” a São Paulo-based electric-industry analyst said. “Prices for transmission and distribution are falling and so there isn’t much motivation for companies to invest beyond the minimum necessary.”

Hermes Chipp, president of the national transmission network, ONS, said Friday’s blackout wasn’t due to a lack of investment.

“It wasn’t due to age or lack of maintenance, as this is new equipment. There was a fire,” Mr. Chipp said in a televised interview. “We’re taking corrective and preventive measures in order to minimize these occurrences.”

Among the planned measures is strengthening Brazil’s backup systems so that a failure at one transmission line won’t knock out power for an entire region, Mr. Chipp said.

The country needs to strengthen its electric grid to avoid problems at the sporting events. At the start of this month, a soccer match between Argentina and Brazil was canceled after a power failure at the Argentine stadium, reigniting worries that something similar could happen in Brazil in 2014.

With apparent hopes of avoiding such an embarrassment, Brazil on Thursday raised the permitted debt limit for state-controlled utilities in the 12 states that will host a World Cup game.

You can of course blame Mother Nature for the Frankenstorm Sandy Blackout, but at the same time every time they get a major storm up on the East Coast these days they have Blackouts, then spend a few days/weeks and DOLLARS to restring the wiring and get everything powered up again.  So where does the MONEY come from to keep fixing up the system every time it breaks down?  Answer, DEBT of course.  So it has been true ever since the first Electrical Grid ever got put up by Thomas Alva Edison in Buffalo, NY back at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Every little community anywhere in the world that wanted to get Wired Up for electricity has had to take on Debt to do that.  Nobody ever put up an Electric Grid and power station using Savings from selling Olives and Feta Cheese, for instance.  Who is eligible to take out such Massive Loans to build such things?  Generally speaking only entire Nation-States or very large Multi-National Corporations have the “Creditworthiness” to take out $Billion$ loans to get such infrastructure up.

So for about the last 80 years, Credit has been issued fast and furious to both Nation-States and Multi-Nationals to build the infrastructure, on the theory it eventuallycanpay for itself through increased Productivity, but it never does that.  It does increase productivity some,but not to the degree that it increases Waste.

MOST of the use of Electricity is completely non-productive.  It produces nothing to cool an Office Building with HVAC, it just brings the temperature downinside to livable conditions for that workday. You can’t”save”anyof the Light illuminating your apartment, it is just useful to see while it is on so can increase the length of your workday,  but again most of it is going to waste.

Electricity gets further wasted in simply processing the Waste that electricity produces!  Sewage Treatment plants gobble up huge amounts of power, and every time a power grid goes down, the Drinking Water supply becomes compromised.

As we reach the end of the Age of Oil, the Credit necessary to keep rebuilding these grids when they periodically collapse is being triaged off, with the least credit worthy Nation-States like Greece and Argentina getting hit first here.  We haven’t heard yet about a major Greek Blackout, but one suspects the main reason for that is Greeks are having the Power turned off in their homes as they cannot pay their electric bills anymore, along with the mortgage.  Over in Spain, McMansion Dwellers are commiting Suicide as the Gestapo show up to evict them from their Debt Underwater dwellings.

In places like Brazil, Argentina and India, a HUGE portion of the people CONSUMING the electricity aren’t on the Billing Cycle for the electric company at all, they PIRATE the power.  This is what makes such places more succeptible to massive Power Crashes from overload on hot days.

Here in the FSofA, sytem wide long term Electric Power outtages still seem to be a few years off.  First off, as a Nation-State with the Big Ass Military, the FSofA is considered somewhat Credit Worthy on the international markets, and second the FSofA can extend credit to ITSELF for some indeterminate time period also.  Probably for about as long as the BAM can STEAL Oil from the MENA countries currently engulfed in various Civil Wars.

Despite the fact Ringfenced Economies like the FSofA, China and Germany may keep their Lights On longer than peripheral economies like Greece, Argentina and Brazil, the Knock-On effects of decreasing Electric availability in the “Developing” Nations impact the GDP of all of these “productive” countries.  What they Produce in the main are many Toys that require Electricity to function, and you can’t sell more of thsoe Toys to people who don’t have electricity functioning in their homes and workplaces.  Whether you produce large HVAC systems to sell to Bizness and Real Estate Developers or sell Iphones and LCD Big Screen TVs to Konsumers, the market for both is shrinking.  The debt you took on to build the Factories to make these products on the assumption you could sell them to an ever increasing population of people who could afford to buy them  is rapidly becoming unserviceable debt. As the sales of these toys drop, the Tax Revenue drops for these countries, and they also will no longer be able to service their debts either.

Ever decreasing numbers of available Jobs in all these economies leads to more Unemployment,followed by more Political Instability. Eventually, as is the case already in Spain and Greece, NO Political or Economic compromise can work, in real terms the Energy required to run the systems is not there for everyone to waste.  For one groupof people to maintain access, another group has to be triaged off.

On the grand scale, eventually all the Big Power Plants serving large areas will go offline,and for a while the Uber Rich will keep Lights On in Walled Enclaves with some local power generation methods,but this too will fail in the long run, ot the least of the reasons being said walled communities will be Invaded by Hordes of Lights OFF people smashing all their Light Bulbs.

How LONG will this all take until it is LIGHTS OUT everywhere?  Well, Richard Duncan’s curve has a pretty steep slope to it, so somewhere between 2030 and 2050 seems like a good bet to make on this one.

In the meantime for the Individual, reducing your dependence on steady electric power is a good idea.  There is likely to be a fairly protracted period of “brownouts” before  it is Lights Off for GOOD.  Some Battery Backups utilizing Automotive Lead Acid Batteries and AC Power Inverters is pretty reasonable to invest in for a few hundred dollars.  Add in a couple of Solar PV panels and RV Wind Turbines, for a bit more you can probably keep your Laptop running while the grid is down.

Longer term, begin to come to grips with the fact Lights at the Flick of a Switch and Refrigerators keeping Marie Callendar Frozen Meals is not likely to last much longer, and keep more Dried and Canned Foods around then Refigerated ones.  You won’t lose as much when the power goes down for a week or two.  For those of us in the 1st world, we may keep the lights on another 20 years, and I am not likely to last longer than that, if that.  For those of you younger folks in better health with expectations to live past this period, put on your Rewilding Thinking Cap now.  You’re gonna need it.


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Quote from: JRM on Today at 02:08:17 PMNaming hurricanes after people, such as Katrina, has been a bit off-putting for me, too. I realize calling hurricanes N-49-6 isn't all that exciting, though.  But--luckily--Covid-1...

You may have been a child prodigy, Boy Genius, but your superior intellect has obviously slid very far down from its high perch.

Quote from: JRM on Today at 02:02:46 PMQuote from: Surly1 on Today at 02:00:25 PMQuote from: JRM on Today at 10:34:20 AMPlease be nice to women named Karen!...

White Women Demand ‘Karen’ Be Labeled a Racial Slur[img]https://i1.wp.com/takomatorch.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/202...

Naming hurricanes after people, such as Katrina, has been a bit off-putting for me, too. I realize calling hurricanes N-49-6 isn't all that exciting, though.  But--luckily--Covid-19 wasn't called Joseph or Samantha.

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