Monday, March 3, 2008


I recently bought the video game Frontlines: Fuel of War. This game takes place in a future world where a coalition led by the U.S. is fighting against China and Russia for control of the energy resources of the Caspian Basin. The game even uses phrases like "Peak Oil" and "The Long Emergency."

Though the game is pretty fun, at times I had an awful, butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling while playing it because of the possibility that this could really be our future.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ending Thoughts (OOG)

I learned from talking to people about Peak Oil that the whole Y2K thing hurt our society in a way I wouldn't have imagined. Y2K disaster scenarios were over-hyped and then not much happened, and it conditioned people to think that any scary prediction is probably just another false alarm. Oddly, society might actually have been better off in the long run if Y2K had either never been talked about, or if it had caused widespread, severe problems, because then people might take Peak Oil more seriously.

Looking back at World Without Oil, I think it is the most amazing, best multiplayer "game" I have experienced. Usually gaming takes time away from accomplishing useful things in real life, but WWO taught me a lot, lowered my electric bill, and got me focused on doing things that matter to me.

Reading list:

Cross-training Without Oil

This weekend I went bicycling and skateboarding, and worked in the garden. Yesterday I carpooled part of the way to work and skateboarded the rest of the way. Today I took the bus to work, carpooled home, then mowed the lawn with a manual push mower, worked in the garden some more, and turned the compost pile. There's plenty of exercise to be had in a world without oil.

I forget where I heard this, but someone said that Americans are people who pay others to do their yard work so they have free time to drive to the gym and work out. It's kind of true, but maybe not for much longer.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Simple, Lazy Gardening

Pachinko asked for gardening tips. There are plenty of books and web sites out there about gardening. This post is for you if you think it all sounds like too much work, or you think you don't have the magic "green thumb." You can grow vegetables with very little effort. There are only 3 principles, and the first is the most important.

1. Discover what grows easily in the areas you have

Here's what not to do: "Hmm, I think I'd like a Japanese eggplant. That would be cool. And I'd like to plant it right over there, by the big tree. Oh look, it died. I guess gardening sucks. I don't have a green thumb."

Don't decide what you want and where you want it. You're probably wrong -- I've been wrong, too, many times. Let the plants decide where they want to grow. Buy a whole bunch of seeds for many different vegetables (seeds are cheap), and plant them all over the place. Plant the same thing in many locations, and many things in the same location. Find out what grows the best. Work with nature, not against it.

Your yard is probably made up of many different "microclimates." A plant that grows great in one spot might not survive 50 feet away. Don't bother trying to guess what will work, just try lots of things and observe. Keep notes so you don't repeat the same mistakes next year.

You'll probably find that some edible vegetables are almost like weeds, and rather than struggling to keep them alive, you have to find ways to prevent them from taking over your whole yard. That's great! Those are the ones you want!

2. Get good soil

Most residential yards have pretty bad soil. Either build raised beds and put good soil in them, or put good soil into containers. Other options are typically more work.

3. Water

Use common sense. If it looks too dried out, water it. The only thing that might surprise you is how quickly things can dry out on hot summer days. You may have to water daily during hot times of the year, especially with small containers. Watering shouldn't take much effort, just a few minutes a day.

(There is more to gardening than this, of course, hence the thousands of gardening books. But this is all you need to know to get started.)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Bike Friday Tikit

I recently ordered a Bike Friday Tikit. This is a folding bicycle that can be folded in about 5 seconds - watch the video! Folded, it is small enough to fit in the back seat of a car. You can also take it with you on a bus or train, so it is great for "mixed-mode" trips. Mine has not arrived yet, but I'm really looking forward to it.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Future of Racing

I rode my motorcycle out to Portland International Raceway to watch the future of racing in a World Without Oil. Electrathon America held electric vehicle races and OHPV had human-powered vehicle races. I was surprised at how fast these things could go. The PIR track is about 1.9 miles, and the electric vehicles lapped it pretty quickly. One observer said they were averaging over 50 miles per hour.

"Electrathon is a national competition for lightweight, high efficiency electric vehicles. Power is limited to 67 lbs. of production lead acid batteries, which amounts to a little more than one horsepower over the hour. The rules are simple enough to allow a wide variety of creative designs, and although it's open to everyone, most of the competitors are school teams because the sport offers an affordable test of imagination, skill, discipline and teamwork. And, striving to foster an ethic of efficiency, it promotes the development of alternative energy transportation in compelling style." [link]

It was a strange feeling to be at a racetrack watching a race where everything is so silent. I'm used to having to wear earplugs if I'm close to the track, but that was not necessary here, in fact people's conversations practically drowned out the noise from the passing vehicles.

The human-powered vehicles also went surprisingly fast. Most were variations on recumbent bicycles or trikes. There were tandems, too, and one bike that used both foot pedals and a hand crank system at the same time.

I also watched the human-powered vehicles compete in a 1/8 mile drag race. It was a fun day at the track, and the quiet atmosphere and lack of exhaust fumes made it more pleasant than traditional gas-powered racing.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Arson with a Twist

[Note: the following is a World Without Oil post, and it is a work of fiction. The links are to real articles, but they are taken out of context and given a fictional interpretation.]

Though in general the Portland area has been a relatively good place to live lately, we have also seen a rash of a few dozen mysterious arsons, involving vehicles and homes. Because most of the cars involved were large SUVs, people assumed that the crimes were the work of "eco-terrorists" who wanted to make an example of drivers who wasted resources. The same logic seemed to explain the burning of large suburban "McMansions."

But now investigations have shown that some of the arsons were the work of the owners themselves. They desperately wanted to sell their SUVs and buy more fuel-efficient cars, but found there were no longer any interested buyers for 13mpg vehicles. So they devised an alternate plan: burn the SUV, then use the insurance money to buy a smaller car. Given the current tensions throughout the country, the crime could be blamed on unknown eco-terrorists.

The house fires had a similar motivation. Huge houses in the suburbs, expensive to heat and a long drive from urban centers, became nearly impossible to sell. Some of these homeowners were also hit by shocking increases to their mortgage payments (due to ARMs) at the same time they were forced to pay much higher prices at the gas pump. They turned to arson and insurance fraud to escape financial disaster, but now face jail time.