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Since I became unemployed on Jan 10, 2012 I have had no interviews and no prospects because employers in the Denver Metro area just don’t hire older people, I’m over 50. Due to the lack of money I rely 100% on free WiFi hotspots. I hope to start posting again on a fairly regular basis.

Thanks

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I use to love Mother Earth News in the past but this recent edition leaves me wondering if they haven’t sold out. I won’t be kind so if you like the magazine avert you eyes and visit someone else on the Internet.

I picked up a recent copy of Mother Earth News Wiser Living Series devoted to “Green Cars.” Every car in this edition gives false hope, is nothing more than “Green Washing”, and is pure junk. Here is why I say this:

  1. Everything about the car is dependent on petroleum from lubricants, seats, carpeting, dashboard, wire insulation, hoses, belts, lenses in the lights, bumpers, dials, steering wheel, electronics, filters, fan(s),  inside door panels, handles, knobs, buttons, and parts not named. This is at least half of every car, even an electric one and no one is working on replacing all that plastic with something better that is not petroleum.
  2. Flex fuel or alternative fueled vehicles are a joke. If we would have had them in the late 1970s or even early 1980s it would have been different. Now we can’t even grow enough food to feed the world with increasing droughts, lack of water, land degradation, over use of chemicals, salting of the land. Need I give an example – Australia which is now known as the canary in the coal mine because all these conditions exist right now in Australians which can no longer feed itself.
    One more thing: We will never be able to grow  our way out of any liquid fuel crisis without committing suicide and bringing about our own extinction. (I dare anyone to try fuzzy math on this one.)
  3. Algae the magical bio-fuel. It takes more water, energy and to feed it than it gives back. Sure there are some interesting solutions like using sewage to feed the algae but that still leaves the huge energy input and water needs (even sewage needs to be diluted and if it has too many industrial chemicals it can’t be used). Then there is all the petroleum that is still used from the lubricants, plastic in which the algae is grown, tubing and things not mentioned. Algae has some of the worst returns among all the renewable fuels, less than 1. This would includes growing it in the lab then transferring it to production, and finally turning it into biodiesel. Not a money maker, a money sink hole. [http://environmentalresearchweb.org/blog/2011/01/the-eroi-of-algae-biofuels.html]
  4. In many articles I have come across authors want to state how much in bio-fuels we could produce.  Well hold onto you seats because you will be surprised by this: 25 to at most 50%. Yeah, that’s right. Even the most optimistic which have us converting all unused farm land, and then some, claiming we could produce only half of our liquid fuel needs. Get ready to say goodbye to the automobile as we can’t produce enough for you, the very rich and industry too. All of you poor schleps will have to walk or find another way around. It will be the final coffin nail for family farms too.

Mother Earth News provides no real solutions for use to use rather it pushes only the “keep things as they are status quo.” Mother Earth News I am really disappointed in you. You used to be so progressive and forward thinking.

I’ve now been saying for the last two years at least that we need to stop hanging onto the current shit and find other, better solutions.  Here are some of my suggestions:

  1. Improve public transit that gets rid of the bus and puts in its place PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) systems within city limits that ties into light rail and finally a comprehensive rail system – all of it electric.
  2. A heavy comprehensive Food not Bombs-Raised beds-Permaculture-Food not Lawns-Victory Gardens education to grow more food right outside the door where people live. Even apartment dwellers can grow food. And HOA’s who are against such things they can just … (you fill in the blank).  Growing food where it is eaten reduces our energy needs from huge factory farms and the thousands of miles our dinner travels to get to our table. Convert streets to green spaces growing free food for anyone and everyone,  and much more.
  3. Decentralize everything, especially energy (electricity & methane) production. Have every home, apartment building, business make their own renewable energy with excess fed into the grid where a central office mainly run by computers control the flow. Excess electricity can easily be stored as compressed air (which is better than batteries) and in other ways to meet spike in demand or overnight.
    A full across the board decentralization of everything is needed because it is the centralization of everything that has put us in the mess we are in.
  4. Here’s a big one, we have to drop all our current ideas of how things are to be done and create whole new ones. This includes getting rid of all economic, profiteering, money or wealth making ideas. That’s right. We have to drop all of that, and more. Things can no longer be done for the sake of making money but rather we have to do things for the sake of survival and something better than war, killing, slavery and the like. Profiteering has to come to an end. We have to get rid of the notion that the only driving force to get things done is for the sake of making money. We have to create a new currency, one based on human and planetary needs. If you have any doubts that this can be done just look at how cooperatives work, why people volunteer, and the new exchange or barter taking place in both Greece and Detroit after their crisis. People just rolling up their sleeves getting things done because they have to be done not for money.
  5. Finally the only thing that will allow us to create a truly Sustainable lifestyle is to get rid of “Planned Obsolescence.” That’s right, we have to create things that last virtually forever, can be repaired over-and-over again, or can be broken down in such a way that it can be reused – even at the molecular level. We have to follow Mother Nature’s way of doing things and create “zero” waste. It will mean the final coffin nail in economic thinking and any notion of making a profit or business as usual. We will have to rethink what it means to work, live, and play. Why not have a 20 hour work week, lots more time with our family and friends, and never have to worry about being able to feed, house, cloth ourselves, or anything else for that matter. Once profit motive is gone everything is possible because nothing will be unaffordable or “too expensive.”

These are just some ideas floating around. All I have done is put them down here for you to see. I make no claims that they are all my own, I just take what I learn and find relationships. I hope it has been of help to you.

 

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When I was laid off at the beginning of the decline in 2008 I began to hear things and started to further investigate the monetary system, economics, the banking system which lead me down the garden path toward Peak Oil.  I lived through the 1970s and the oil shortages where we spent a long time at a gas station for just a few gallons of gasoline or saw signs that they had run out.  Peak Oil doesn’t mean the same thing as what happened in the 70s but it means we will eventually see it on a permanent basis as prices only go ever higher heading to the day we run out. A day will come when we will see no more cars, gasoline or the lifestyle we have come so accustomed to with cheap fossil fuel energy.

Just a few years ago I began to question what will happen to the disabled community.  I’ve read a lot of books and articles on Peak Oil and no one even touches on this subject.  I emailed some people and I am still waiting to hear back.  A few seem to just throw their arms in the air with a comment like, I don’t know.

This took me on a long search and mind exercise taking me down some very dark alleyways and hidden places.  It seems we would rather forget about the disabled.  Many countries have places where the disabled live, hidden away from the rest of society.  The idea is that they can be better taken care of by people who have the necessary training.  It’s just a way for a society to put the disabled out of sight to not deal with them on a daily basis.

OK, back on track.  How will the disabled be cared for and live in a world without cheap energy.  I get the distinct feeling they won’t.  A time will come where they will not just be out of sight, out of mind, but rather completely forgotten and left behind altogether.  The disabled include the blind or low vision, mentally disabled, learning disabled, hearing disabled, physical disabled, and speech or language disabled.  There may be others but these are the main ones I came across most often.

The blind and hearing disabled could adapt to a future without an abundance of cheap energy.  Adaptation would require learning to grow their own food, fiber and fuel which is not beyond their abilities.  If a non-disabled person were to begin teaching blind and hearing disabled they could become independent from fossil fuels like anyone else without a disability.  It is the rest of the disabled community that worries me.

People with mental and psychiatric, physical, learning, speech or language disabilities that will have the hardest time and possibly they may never adapt.  How will these people care for themselves?  Who will care for them?  A whole new community will have to develop that not only cares for them but in addition grows food, fuel and fiber providing the basics.   What about people who take medications?  After supplies run out they will just have to go without since medications are made from fossil fuels.  Going beyond the disabled community to mention an example we have people who rely on medications to not reject organ transplants.  What will happen when they run out?  Die after their organs are rejected or will they just live with pain for the rest of their lives?

Because we have made ourselves so absolutely and completely reliant on petroleum we have put ourselves into a trap. Even if the wealthy create stock piles for themselves it won’t matter.  They have expiration dates.  Sure it can be safe to take them afterwards but a time will come when  medication will no longer be any good.  Then what?

I honestly don’t have an answer here.  I wrote this article to make people aware there are a lot of people who will be forgotten as we run out of cheap energy.  They may even be pushed aside altogether.  The only way I can see some of the people with a disability surviving is in a caring community that is willing to give of themselves to care for people who can not care for themselves.   I’m not looking for any comments, I just want people to think about the forgotten.

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The one thing discussed somewhat on the sidelines is how do we even out our demand for electricity in such a way that we never notice increases or decline in need for electricity.  Also how do we do it without wasting any of it.  Energy Storage.

This idea is not new.  Water pumped uphill into a holding pond of some type has been used for decades, but never on any scale to accommodate large cities.  We all know about batteries as a way to store electricity  There are also capacitors and maybe people have heard of flywheels use to do the same.   These types of storage have limitations and would never meet our demand in the future.  Batteries wear out from the begin losing storage capacity.  Capacitors could never be scaled to handle whole cities, besides their application would be much better in cars and buses to temporarily hold the energy from braking which can be rapidly used to start moving the vehicle agian.   Flywheels need to be  continuously spinning because bringing them up to speed wastes energy which means you only part of the stored energy back out.

In the future we need to be much smarter and use what is off the shelf that would allow a home, business, or whole cities to store enough energy with little degradation while stored and yet be rapidly available when needed.  In my research the only form of storage that can meet scalability and on-demand needs is compressed air.

CAES as it is known – Compressed Air Energy Storage.  Many times it is discussed in terms of large underground caverns holding a huge amount of compressed air.  All well and good but it is not scalable and how to make sure a cavern is sealed to hold the compressed air.  The answer lies in what we already have available, tanks.

We use storage tanks now for a number of gases.  There are small propane tanks, to larger ones used in welding and even larger tanks holding Liquid Natural Gas.  They are so many types and sizes making it easy to tailor storage for any particular need, from a home, office building to a whole city.

At this time we can go through any city in the U.S. and find empty warehouses.  They can be outfitted with tanks that are computer controlled to store compressed air when there is more electricity available than is needed and instantly drive a turbine to produce electricity on demand.  These setups can even be designed to an average home.

There is one issue besides storage that would need to be dealt with, heat.  When air is rapidly compressed or put under high pressure then heat is created.  In one design it talked about a heat exchanger that would capture the heat and hold onto it until the air is released when the heat would be used to expand the air.  It didn’t go into much detail but it would eliminate the need for an external source of energy to pull heat out and then create heat to expand the air again as some have proposed.

I’ve had this idea for decades and it is only in recent years anyone has actually agreed it was possible.   Here is what I originally envisioned for a home.  This would not supply a home for days on end but it would be a way to meet a demand for a few hours or maybe even a day.

In the cellar, or a small shed, would hold storage tanks.  They would have computer controlled valves to direct the air into the tanks or toward the turbine.  When the house produced more than enough energy for itself with excess it would drive a compressor that would recharge the tanks.  Once  full the excess electricity would be sent to the grid.  When the home needs electricity, like at night, the compressed air would drive a turbine would meet the demand.

Some advantages I see right away are that tanks don’t develop a memory like batteries so their storage capacity would never diminish.   Air is plentiful, renewable, plants create it for us, and it is free.  Compressed air would never reduce air as a resource – its the same in storage as it outside storage.  Also, as I have said earlier, the whole thing is can be scaled to any size at any time as needed with off the shelf items available right now.  The cost of such a system could actually be much less when compared to the life of batteries and the need to replace them every so often.  What’s also nice about this idea is that everything, just about, is fully recyclable, unlike batteries where only part of them are recyclable and the rest goes to the landfill.

I am not saying this is the end all answer to our needs in the future.  We can still use pumped water as a way to store electricity and hydrogen in a limited way could too (with hydrogen you have too much of a loss in energy).  We could like they are currently doing in Germany build Biogas plants on farms to accept both crop residue and poop to make methane which is stored until demand for electricity goes up and then a generator is turned on within seconds to meet the demand.

Compressed air the way I envision is can meet demand at an instant, anywhere.  Tanks could even be transported to where they are needed.  Windmills could be dedicated to compressing air rather than producing electricity to help meet demand when it is there.

An article I read more than a decade ago talked about how at one time (maybe a hundred years ago) compressed air was also sold to homes to run various devices.  There is certainly no reason why it couldn’t again.  There is absolutely no reason why everything has to run on electricity, the blender could just as well use compressed air.

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Aren’t all greenhouses ‘Solar?’  Technically yes, but they are not Passive Solar with the aim to store as much of that heat from the daytime to be used to offset heating costs at night.

If you’re not planning on depending on the grid where will you get your energy from?  The Sun, hamsters in wheels, and slaves riding bicycles.  Just kidding, but I think some people just don’t understand how simple it is to produce your own energy. Here’s the real answer: The Sun for heat and electricity, Wind for mechanical and electricity, Methane which can be stored for later use, then come the chicken and rabbits (no not in wheels) which give off heat as supplement, composting gives off heat, and heat pumps can help cool in the summer storing the heat deep under the greenhouse and withdraw it in winter. I think that covers it and no small animals in wheels or slaves needed.

Can you really grow enough food?  If Growing Power can in Wisconsin can we can too.

Will this actually be profitable enough to stay in business?  Yes. By not have to pay for energy there goes a major cost. Actually any excess energy can be sold for an additional income.

What follows may not be a proper EROEI (simple said – energy return on input)

Various sections:

  • Food:  unprocessed
  • Fiber:  plant, rabbit fir (combed out)
  • Energy:  electricity, methane, briquettes
  • Fertilizer:  liquid, compost

Food:  vegetables, fruits, honey, eggs, fish, chicken, rabbit
Fiber:  raw (combed or spun only)
products: gloves, mittens, socks, hats, scarves, vests, sweaters, shirts, sandals
Energy: electricity to grid, methane sold compressed in tanks, briquettes
Fertilizer: liquid – worm tea & from methane digester, solid – compost, mixed materials, poop, worm compost

Materials Input: egg shells, food waste, plants, nut shells, sawdust, cardboard, paper, leaves, branches, brewery waste, coffee grounds, poop, plastic bags, used cloths, wood pallets
(these are gathered from patrons who bring these items into the greenhouse to lower they purchase cost or are collected by employees)

How each input is used:

  • egg shells: ground and mixed into solid compost
  • food waste: methane digester, compost, compressed into briquettes
  • nut shells: ground and mixed with compost, briquettes
  • sawdust: composted, briquettes
  • cardboard: briquettes, sheet mulching
  • paper: briquettes
  • leaves: composted, briquettes
  • branches: mixed into compost
  • brewery waste: composted, methane digester
  • coffee ground: composted, briquettes
  • plastic bags: sandals(, woven into other products)
  • used cloths: mended it can, taken apart to make new cloths or sandals
  • wood pallets: compost bins, made into sawdust, create raised beds, other needed items (chair)

Methods for keeping the greenhouse on a more even temperature:

  • Deep underground heat pump to store summer heat and provide extra heat at night or winter
  • Compost
    • Jean Pain: mix wood chips, sawdust, branches, leaves and shredded paper – to help it get started inoculate with methane digester liquid (no inner tanks)
      – a cage or some method needs to be devised to make it easier, without the need to coil or uncoil long pipes by hand – could it be continuous feed?
    • traditional pile made of mixed materials that are turned from outside edge into center of compost area before it is removed and used to insulate the Jean Pain pile
  • Solar heat, Electric heating (backup), Methane, Oil from seed
  • Chickens and Rabbits each give off heat, as do people 

Even when I do explain things people seem to be stuck in their traditional ways of doing things.  I’m beginning to think I am too advanced for most people. Not sure though.

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I’ve had some things on my mind lately and one of them is that people have a really hard time trusting other people going through life fearful of each other.  We aren’t necessarily taught to trust but to always look out for someone ready to take advantage of us.  Even the best intentioned people don’t trust and always hold reservation. This co-op project hits people at the core of this fear because to have a worker owned cooperative people need to trust one another and they need to be open, honest with one another and that may just hit the nerve people can’t stand to have touched. Too painful. Too uncomfortable.

In a worker owned cooperative you are asked to, 1) give your money to buy into the business in order to have a full say in the way it works. You have to trust everyone to hold onto your money. 2) to get raises, promoted or for anything to happen you have to let people see who you really are because if they don’t trust you then you get none of these things. 3) in a cooperative where there is consensus people have to speak up, speak honestly without emotion, like anger, and be heard and that much open honesty can be a scary thing for many people.

Everything about a cooperative is also new to people who their whole lives been told or have had a job where they were told what to do, when to do it by, and then wait, wait, wait for critique, some kind of reward or even a word that can take months, or a year, before the review by which time much is of it often distorted and you don’t end up looking as good as you really are or told how valuable you have been.  We are often critiques negatively hardly if ever hearing anything positive.

That’s what is different about a cooperative where people talk, talk all the time with one another, giving constant feedback, praise and even give assistance to do better in a world where we are taught we have to do it all on our own. Stand on your own two feet. On your own merit. We are judged by uncaring, heartless, distant people.  A cooperative goes against the whole notion of doing things for one self, ‘what’s in it for me’ outlook. That is taken away and replaced with, what’s good for all of us. Is what I am doing going to benefit all of us? How? And, there’s no quarterly returns.

That’s why I keep plugging away hoping someone (in Denver area) other than myself gets it and decides to join me in creating something better.

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If you haven’t heard about Peak Oil you must not be keeping up or been living under a rock. We are running out. How fast is hard to say because all the data in the last couple of decades has been based on historical information or been lies by the oil industry itself and our U.S. government. Shell admitted to lying and even scaled back what it said it had paying some heavy fines for those lies. As for other big oil companies, they pass the buck to someone else claiming if there is any discrepancy it’s the other companies fault.

So, how long do we really have, pulling the curtain aside – decades at most. It’s not ‘when will we run out of oil’ but rather how long before there is so little the price becomes unaffordable. I am fifty this year and before I am seventy I will see real problems arise from the lack of access to oil and cheap energy. So, if you’re wanting to do something about that you had better act starting today and I’ll make my usual recommendations later on in this article.

Yes! There is a Peak in Natural Gas too. Peal Oil happened in 2008. Peak Natural Gas occurred between 2007 / 2008, really about the same time. That is why Cheney had secret energy meetings while in office and Haliburton has been busy fracking the nation to get at whatever is left in Natural Gas – it’s a last ditch effort to hide the truth.

We are on the downward slope for both oil and natural gas and running out very quickly. What can you do?

  1. Use public transit as much as possible. If where you  live you can buy a month pass then park you car, reduce the insurance on it as it’s a part-time vehicle and walk more too. If you are unlucky enough to live where public transit doesn’t exist or is very poor, move to where there is better public transit.
  2. Insulate your home. Add triple or quadruple window panes. Add a way to exchange heat with fresh incoming air to lose much less energy (it’s part of a typical Passivhaus design). Every two years increase the insulation until you are at PassivHaus design standards.
  3. Make as much use of Passive Solar gain as possible.
  4. Add Solar Photovoltaic panels to your home.
  5. Replace all the appliances in your home to use as little energy as possible.
  6. Do laundry only once a week by being more creative and not so wasteful. There is not need to do so many loads of laundry each week.
  7. Cut energy use in your home by shutting things off, putting things on timers or motion detectors.
  8. Replace all your lighting with energy efficient bulbs.
  9. Turn off you TV, permanently. You waste time and a lot of energy watching TV that only numbs your mind and adds nothing of value to your life. If you have trouble with this one, get counseling you are addicted and need to get over it!
  10. Look to Europe for energy saving devices and electronics. They are way ahead of the U.S.
  11. Every so often check online for news on what European’s are doing and on the price of energy while your bill stays level because you are prepared.
  12. Learn to grow your own food. If you don’t learn how to do this one forget doing anything else because it will all be for not. You will be warm, have electricity but no food or worse, you will have to stand in line for a meager morsel.
  13. There is no need to get a certificate in permaculture, just learn to grow organically and add some of the permaculture ideas, like a food forest or huglekultur (contoured mounds).
  14. For heat backup you can add a masonry stove on which you can also cook food. Learn to eat more raw food, it require no cooking therefore less energy.

It is very important to learn how to live with less, half of what you are currently using is wasted anyway. By cutting the waste you can still be comfortable, warm and have all the electricity you need if you don’t waste what you have.

In the Passive Solar Greenhouse Project I am looking to create uses as little energy as possible and quite possibly it will generate all the energy that is needed onsite to grow organic food as affordably. By making use of current technology right off the shelf the greenhouse could be self-sustaining with respect to energy right from the start. The additional up-front cost would pay for itself very quickly and the whole project could pay it’s own way by not using energy most greenhouses waste because they follow the old design model of too much glass and too little insulation. Many traditional greenhouses leak heat or cooling which causes them to run units to help regulate their temperature far more often than a greenhouse with a better design, like a passive solar greenhouse.

I hate to sound alarmist and I hope that my research is not correct but if I am correct then it is much better to be prepared than not prepared. We are running out of cheap energy that is a fact. It is just not exactly known how fast because it’s all become such a big secret. Besides what could it hurt for you to actually have a house that produces more energy than it uses selling the extra for an additional income. You will save by not using energy you are currently wasting which allows you to sell all the extra for a profit. Can that be so bad?

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