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The Dimming Bulb 2: Peak Electricity

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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

Discuss this article at the Energy Table inside the Diner

LAST CHANCE TO TAKE THE ENERGY SURVEY BEFORE THE COUNT!

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:

https://awesometalks.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/ng30.jpg

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.

http://www.portmellon.net/uploads/1/0/0/7/10078822/5846457_orig.jpg

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.

http://www.transinfo.am/img/services/big/1392130262-7142.jpeg

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.

http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/kits/estuaries/media/est01c_600.jpg

http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/14/78514-004-9E98EDAD.jpg

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.

https://www.sydneywater.com.au/Publications/Reports/AnnualReport/2007/images/WollongongSTP_above.jpg

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.

http://www.rsmas.miami.edu/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/miami-flooding.jpg

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.

http://opencityprojects.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/7499108236_7fd417857d_c.jpg

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.

http://www.refinerlink.com/userfiles/RL%20MAD%20Pipeline%20Map.jpg

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-YDdCkW9AqmY/UT31FYeVCDI/AAAAAAAABdc/1239kdVouUc/s1600/pipeline+accidents+final+animation1-2.gif


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.

http://wwwsp.dotd.la.gov/Inside_LaDOTD/Divisions/Multimodal/LOOP/Loop%20Images/clove.gifhttp://wwwsp.dotd.la.gov/Inside_LaDOTD/Divisions/Multimodal/LOOP/Loop%20Images/loop.gif

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.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/36/Trans_alaska_international.jpg

http://assets.enuygun.com/media/lib/750x525/uploads/image/2880.jpeg

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:

http://static1.squarespace.com/static/546f7732e4b095d2722abd0f/t/5499bde8e4b0439c6133934f/1419361773962/?format=750w

http://www.mappery.com/maps/Proposed-European-Crude-Oil-Pipelines-Map.mediumthumb.gif

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.

http://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/n3mzmahboqu4lhmtgqkp.jpg

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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Batteries-R-Us

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.

http://monetaryrealism.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/mad_max2.png

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.

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