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.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

How To Do

A friend loaned me this remarkable book, called How To Do, by L.W. Yaggy. It was published over 100 years ago in 1903. The book is full of practical information on how to do all kinds of things that might be useful in a World Without Oil.

It is full of surprising things -- surprising not just because I don't know how to do them, but because the thought of doing them would never have even occurred to me. For example, there is an entry on how to make a baseball. Make a baseball? But that would take a long time, and baseballs come from the store, right?

The writing style is also very entertaining. For example, from the entry on Furs -- Domestic Manufacture of:

"The skins of raccoons, minks, muskrats, rabbits, foxes, deer, cats, dogs, woodchucks and skunks are all valuable. Handsome robes may be made from the skins of the last two animals and the writer has seen fur coats made from the skins of woodchucks, well tanned, dyed and trimmed, which were elegant as well as comfortable, and no one but a connoisseur would be able to guess their origin."

Some of the differences between 1903 and today are striking. Consider this passage:

"Very handsome floor mats are made by tanning sheep pelts, and dyeing them some bright color, which is done with very little trouble, the art of dyeing is now so familiar to almost every household."

I can't imagine that many American households in 2007 are at all familiar with the art of dyeing.

There are entries on making your own paint, gunpowder, parchment, and perfume. Reading through this book made me feel inferior to the people of 1903. I'm not sure whether they would be impressed by my video gaming skills, or laugh at what a waste of time it is.

Maybe the future will look like the past. Maybe we will learn to make things again. As the book says:

". . . and who would not feel a greater satisfaction in wearing a nice article, from the fact that it was something of his own manufacture, a product of his own taste and genius?"

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Diesel-Electric Hybrid Army Vehicle

According to Popular Mechanics, the U.S. Army has a second-generation prototype off-road vehicle called "The Aggressor." It uses a diesel-electric hybrid power source.
A wider, 66-in. body design makes room for high-performance acceleration—as military vehicles go—with the second-gen Aggressor set to rev from 0-40 mph in four seconds and top out at 80 mph. But speed is not the main attraction here; stealth is. The Aggressor’s design provides battery-only operations, allowing it to switch into “silent mode” with a reduced thermal signature.
-- Popular Mechanics, May 22, 2007
The silent mode could help protect U.S. troops from some types of attacks, but saving fuel may be equally important. The same article says (emphasis added):
“We believe that the AMV program offers an innovative solution as a long-range reconnaissance vehicle that fills a technology gap for the U.S. Army in its national defense efforts while reducing its fuel logistic burden,” said Alan Niedzwieki, president and CEO of Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies, which the Army contracted for both versions of the Aggressor.
They didn't mention anything about protecting the environment, because I guess that would have sounded silly. But it does make me think about the bizarre prospect of "environmentally friendlier war." Will we one day see hydrogen-powered drone planes dropping bombs made from recycled materials? Soldiers wearing gear made from hemp, living in solar-powered bamboo barracks? It could happen eventually, if only to save on costs.

Update: Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada is constructing "North America's Largest solar photovoltaic power system" with 70,000 solar panels. Read the article.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Off Switch

(Photo by Andrew Huff - Creative Commons, retouched by ironmonkey)

Yesterday I turned off my heating/cooling system. This is a mild part of the year in Oregon, so in theory that should not be a major issue. But I have to tell you, of all the things I've done since the World Without Oil crisis began, psychologically this was the hardest. It felt like giving up, in a way.

Try it though -- it may not be as bad as you imagine. Yes, it is chilly in the morning. But a hot cup of tea or coffe takes care of that. By afternoon the temperature is reasonable. It made me realize that I spend considerable energy for a relatively small amount of comfort, for the short time between when I wake up and when I leave for work. Is it essential? No.

Hybrid Taxis, Biodiesel, Gas Tax

News roundup:

New York will replace all taxis with hybrid vehicles.

In Portland, OR, all diesel sold must be at least 5 percent biodiesel by Aug 15, and all gasoline must be at least 10 percent ethanol by Nov. 1. "More than 600 City of Portland vehicles currently use B99 — which is more than 99 percent biodiesel." Read more.

Maine is increasing their gas tax. But some say it still won't provide enough money to fund repair of roads and bridges.

Environmentally friendly skyscraper?

Monday, May 21, 2007

U.S. Could Stay In Iraq For "Decades"

According to an NPR article, the U.S. military is discussing "various scenarios," including keeping a military presence in Iraq for decades. From the article:

" . . . the Pentagon is considering maintaining a core group of forces in Iraq, possibly for decades.

[. . . ]

A series of military installations could be maintained around Iraq, with a total of total of 30,000 to 40,000 U.S. troops, for a long period of time — maybe a few decades. There are currently about 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

The bases would be located in various strategic locations, ones that served by air landing strips, for instance. The bases would be sealed and U.S. forces wouldn't be on patrols as they are now.

But maintaining a troop presence in Iraq would allow the U.S. military to continue training Iraqi forces. It would also help discourage other countries, like Iran and Turkey, from entering Iraq." --, May 21, 2007

Now with the energy crisis in full swing, the U.S. government seems more determined than ever to maintain a long-term military presence in Iraq, to assure that oil will keep flowing from the Middle East. I've mentioned the pro-Iraq-occupation demonstrations before, and they haven't stopped, but they still represent a minority of the population. General public opinion in the U.S. favors a withdrawal from Iraq within 6 months.

I think some people would rather have the National Guard keeping the peace here in the troubled parts of the U.S. than over in Iraq.

[Note: this is a World Without Oil post. The quoted news article is real, but the rest is a work of fiction.]

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Local Food Mission Accomplished

Tonight I fulfilled the WWO local food mission. This is a picture of me in my garden, next to the Swiss chard. As you can see, there is a lot of it, so I decided to pick some for dinner. Other things I'm growing in this part of the garden include onions, arugula, sorrel, lettuce, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes, chives, parsley, radishes, beets, rosemary, cardoon, peas, peppers, and figs from the fig tree in the background.

We combined the chard with carrots from the local Hillsdale Farmers' Market, cooked them and served them over brown rice with Sensei Sauce, which is made by a local company here in Portland. (I have grown carrots in previous years but this year I didn't plant any.)

For tonight's beverage, we had some wine from Domaine Serene. This is my favorite local Oregon winery. It is about 30 miles from my house. We went there yesterday for a wine tasting and brought back some wine. Of course, it would defeat the purpose of the WWO mission to drive 30 miles just to buy a single bottle of wine, but we bought plenty. The six people in our group together bought about 3 cases of wine.

In the background of this picture you can see part of my back deck, where I am also growing various plants including more vegetables and herbs. Back here I have blueberries, basil, tarragon, spearmint, sage, zucchini, spaghetti squash, cucumber, and this year I'm even trying to grow melons.

The Mental Green Zone

We've heard about Green Zones and Red Zones in the World Without Oil. Conditions vary by physical location. But I've also noticed a lot of differences between individuals in the same area, in the ways that they react to crisis.

Some people panic, or sink into depression, or become angry and violent. These are the mental red zones.

The mental yellow zones contain people who switch their brains into wishful-thinking mode. They convince themselves that changes are not necessary because everything will all be back to normal in a week or two. Others in this zone wander like zombies, confused by what's happening but unable to meaningfully respond. They wait for someone else to step in and fix things.

But people in the mental green zones are resilient, resourceful, and flexible. They are neither unrealistically optimistic, nor despondent. They never wish for a crisis, but when it comes they find ways to adapt. In the words of the Tao Te Ching:

They were careful
As someone crossing a frozen stream in winter.
Alert as if surrounded on all sides by an enemy.
Courteous as a guest.
Fluid as melting ice.
Whole as an uncarved block of wood.
Receptive as a valley.
Turbid as muddied water.

I read somewhere that young children lost in the woods are actually more likely to survive than most adults. They are not "sophisticated" enough to panic and do something crazy. They see their situation as kind of interesting. And they do simple, obvious things like finding a sheltered spot where they can lie down and rest.

I hope we can all find our mental green zones in the World Without Oil.

Changing Lights

Most of the light bulbs in my house were already compact flourescents, but there were a few places that I hadn't gotten around to changing because they were trickier. The problem areas were the bathrooms and the bedroom. The typical "spiral" style CF bulb wouldn't look good in the bathrooms because the bulbs there are exposed, and in the bedroom the lamp harps were too small, so the CF bulbs wouldn't fit. I decided to tackle those challenges today.

I found some rounded CF bulbs that work in the bathroom. Each bulb uses only 9 watts, so all 6 of the new bulbs combined will use less power than a single one of the old bulbs. These "soft white" bulbs put out a pleasant light and not the ugly blueish light that people associate with flourescents. I also changed the harps in the bedroom lamps and put in the spiral CF bulbs there.


The new bulbs


The before and after pictures reveal a slight difference in the appearance of the lights -- the new ones are slightly smaller -- but I am satisfied with the new look. The energy savings will be worth it.

[This is a World Without Oil post.]

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Green Alternative Energy Mission Accomplished

Today I went to the Greener Homes and Gardens Expo. I stopped by the PGE booth and signed up for their Renewable Future plan, which will offset 100 percent of my electricity usage with windpower from the Klondike II wind farm. (Note: the person in the photo above is the PGE representative, not me.) This was how I accomplished the green alternative energy mission.

While I was there I also scouted out information about greener ways to do home remodeling. This will be useful when we someday remodel the kitchen.

[This is a World Without Oil post.]

Driving Fewer Miles

(Photo by Somerslea - Creative Commons, retouched by ironmonkey)

From a USA Today article, May 17, 2007 (emphasis added):
The average American motorist is driving substantially fewer miles for the first time in 26 years because of high gas prices and demographic shifts, according to a USA TODAY analysis of federal highway data.

[. . .]

Factors contributing to the slowdown:

•Soaring gas prices. Seven of 10 Americans are combining trips and taking other steps to reduce driving, according to a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll May 4-6. Don Harrison, 32, of Indianapolis, no longer visits his relatives across town on the weekend; he saves gas by simply calling them.

•Expanded public transportation. More people took public transit last year than at any time in 49 years. "We're seeing suburban locations create new transit systems," says William Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association. "They're expanding into areas that never thought they needed transit because they could do everything by car."

This gives me hope that maybe people can quickly change their habits when it really matters, and they just haven't felt the need until now.

[Note: this is a World Without Oil post, but the article quoted is real.]

Friday, May 18, 2007

Wind Power

Check out this massive wind farm along the Oregon/Washington border. Until I started researching energy for WWO, I didn't know this existed. It is called the Stateline Wind Energy Center, and it generates up to 300 MW of power, enough for about 72,000 homes.

You can also enter the coordinates 46.0021416683, -118.737589258 into Google Earth to get a better look at this.

(Also try the song Windpower.)

P is for Paper

If you keep important information on your computer or PDA, maybe it's time to set up a paper-based system in a World Without Oil. For years I carried a Palm device with me and depended on it for many things. I love cool gadgets, and the Palm was a lot of fun. But I gradually realized some of the potential drawbacks: the batteries could run out, it could break if I dropped it, it could be stolen, or a software glitch could keep me from getting to the information just when I needed it most. So I decided to try something completely different.

For the last year and a half, I've been using a Moleskine notebook as my journal and information repository. I have tried various pens and the Pilot G-2 gel pen works best for me. I numbered the pages, and keep an index to the most important entries in the back. This makes it easier to find things once it starts to get full.

And if I need to make a "hyperlink" in one of my entries, I can write something like "see page 17." Yes, it's the awesome power and elegance of HWML (Hand Written Markup Language). Many things are much easier with HWML than they would be on the computer:
  • Dot your I's with hearts or smiley faces
  • Full page emoticons
  • Infinite font variations - draw the letters in any style you can imagine
  • Easily combine drawings and diagrams with your writing
  • Rotate text to any angle
  • Subtly express the emotions you were feeling through variations in your handwriting, with no extra conscious effort

I've found that I prefer this system and I would not go back. I like the fact that it never surprises me. I know exactly what it can do, and it works every time. No upgrades. No expiring software. No error messages. No hassle of keeping it charged up. If it falls out the window, it will survive. Check out Molskinerie for more inspiration.

Another option is the "Hipster PDA," a system based on index cards. D*I*Y Planner has a lot of templates for this that you can print out, or just use for ideas. I made a small calendar to paste in the front of my notebook. Paper can be more fun.

Welcome to our paper future.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Gas For (Gang) Members Only

One local gas station has stopped selling gas to the general public. They say they are now a "private gas club" for members only. If you are not on their list you can't buy gas. Anyone who asks to become a member is told that the waiting list is full. This station also has a group of new security guards there to prevent theft and vandalism.

I don't think gas stations are required to sell gas to everyone, and they are free to change their business plan if they want to. However, quite a few people in this gas club, and all of the new security guards (who do not wear uniforms) are known gang members. I think what really happened is that the gang hijacked this station and turned it into their own private reserve of fuel. They probably intimidated or bribed the owners into going along with the plan.

Legitimate or not, I wonder if these "private gas clubs" will be the wave of the future.

[Note: This is a World Without Oil post, and it is a work of fiction.]

NYPD On Segways

According to The New York Times, the NYPD bought 10 electric-powered Segways for its officers to ride.

Ten of the two-wheeled Segways are to be deployed today as patrol vehicles on pathways and boardwalks in parks, at beaches and at stadiums, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said at a news conference yesterday.

Twenty-five officers have completed training as Segway drivers, he said, enabling them to maneuver the devices safely for up to eight continuous hours.

“Their obvious advantages are visibility and mobility,” Mr. Kelly said. He was referring to the battery-charged agility of a Segway, which can roll up to 12.5 miles per hour, and to the imposing stature the devices tend to give officers, who are eight inches off the ground and ride standing up.

-- The New York Times, May 17, 2007

Mr. Kelly diplomatically avoided mentioning any connection to gas prices, but that must have been a factor too. Something about helmeted police officers riding Segways reminds me of Robocop, but I like the idea of using alternative vehicles for police and other government functions.

[Note: this is a World Without Oil post, but the article quoted is real.]

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Price? What Price?

Some gas stations have stopped showing prices on their signs. The price increases daily, and they don't want to bother changing the signs that often. Also, they are no longer really competing on price anyway. People who can afford gas are lucky to find a place that has it without a huge line. They won't drive across town to save a few cents a gallon.

[Note: this is a World Without Oil post, and it is a work of fiction.]

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Portland Police Turn To Two Wheels

I've noticed the Portland police using more bicycles and motorcycles, probably to conserve gas. Their budget must be taking a hit from the gas prices just like ours is.

Look at how empty the street is in the second picture. That street is not closed, there just are not many people driving around during off-hours any more.

Speaking of closed streets though, I've heard rumors that the police do plan to close some streets completely, and on others they will set up checkpoints and only allow government vehicles through. If that's true, I'm not sure what the goal of it would be, except maybe just another way to discourage people from driving so gas is available for emergencies. But it is still just a rumor at this point. Can anyone confirm it?

[Note: this is a World Without Oil post. This is a fictional entry based on a hypothetical scenario.]

A New Dish From The Garden

I made an effort today to eat a light lunch using vegetables from my own garden. First I made a large salad with four different kinds of lettuce, spinach, arugula, chives, and radishes. Then I stir-fried some bok choy in sesame oil with some ground ginger and cayenne pepper, and I used a little Soy Vay Wasabiyaki as a dipping sauce. I have never tried this combination before, I was just trying to think up something using ingredients I already had in the house and garden. But it was a great discovery, so I am definitely going to make that again.

Also, my new energy-efficient refrigerator arrived today. According to the Energy Star site, "ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerators require only about half as much energy as models manufactured before 1993." My old refrigerator was at least that old, so this should provide a good savings of electricity.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Fun Stuff

Here are some of the fun activities in a World Without Oil. For some of these, the equipment and supplies for them may be petroleum-based products, but you could stock up for a few years of fun, at least, and maybe by then replacements will be available. (Disclaimer: some of the activities suggested below are dangerous. Use common sense, wear protective gear when possible, and take lessons before trying the risky ones.)

My Top Ten

1. Martial arts. This gets my top recommendation. You can practice martial arts for free, any time, any place, with no equipment! And it can improve your health and reduce stress. (In the chaos of a World Without Oil, the self-defense aspect of martial arts might be useful, too -- but hopefully you will not need to use it.) Find out what is available in your area. Here's a guide to get you started.

2. Hacky sack. This is cheap, portable, fun to play solo or with a group, and hacky sacks can be made from sustainable materials.

3. Hiking, walking, and jogging.

4. Frisbee (including ultimate frisbee, frisbee golf, and freestyle). Flying discs are made from plastic, but they are inexpensive and can last for years. Stock up on a few.

5. Drawing (and other art using traditional materials). Check out Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain if you think you can't draw.

6. Skateboarding. The World Without Oil will be a skateboarder's paradise! Think of all those streets with no car traffic, and empty parking lots and parking structures that can be converted into skate parks.

7. Cycling and mountain biking, including BMX freestyle, trials, bicycle racing, etc.

8. Singing and music with acoustic instruments

9. Dance

10. Massage

More great options

11. Horseback riding.
12. Rock climbing. Most classic rock climbing routes are located far away from most people, but there are often opportunities for bouldering closer to home, or urban rock gyms.
13. Yoga
14. Rollerblading
15. Kite flying
16. Soccer
17. Baseball
18. Lacrosse
19. Rugby
20. Cricket
21. Football
22. Basketball
23. Volleyball
24. Badminton
25. Table Tennis
26. Tennis
27. Golf. Maintaining the courses may become a problem, because of the resources used for irrigating, fertilizing, and mowing. Maybe golf will change to favor a more natural style course. You could also try "urban golf" using those practice wiffle-ball golf balls (or other improvised balls) and targets that you create. And don't forget miniature golf.
28. Street Hockey
29. Parkour. These skills can also be useful in making an escape from a dangerous situation.
30. Bird watching
31. Astronomy. Fewer city lights will make the skies darker again and improve sky watching.
32. Pottery
33. Hang gliding
34. Paragliding
35. BASE jumping
36. Bungee jumping
37. Writing
38. Poetry
39. Flower arranging
40. Archery
41. Croquet
42. Darts
43. Foosball
44. Billiards
45. Horseshoes
46. Bocce
47. Wrestling
48. Sumo wrestling
49. Gymnastics
50. Fencing
51. Juggling
52. Jousting (Who knows, maybe it could make a comeback. I'd like to see that.)
53. Bowling, if you set the pins by hand
54. Road Bowling. Oh yeah! This could be the next big one. Read about it then watch the video.
55. Soap box derby
56. Rock skipping
57. Board games
58.Card games
59. Video games. The Xbox 360 on the giant screen TV may not be an option, but it may be possible to use devices that use relatively little power, like the Nintendo DS, and recharge them from solar panels.
60. Dog and cat shows.
61. Gardening
62. Knitting

If You Live Near Snow
63. Cross-country skiing
64. Downhill skiing and snowboarding, if you hike up the hill instead of using a ski lift. I have hiked up and snowboarded down some runs at Mt. Hood, and it was worth the effort to have it all to myself.
65. Snowshoeing
66. Dogsledding. If you haven't tried it, you probably don't realize how amazingly fun dogsledding is. I can't wait to get a chance to do this again.
67. Ice skating
68. Ice Hockey
69. Broomball
70. Curling

If You Live Near Water
71. Sailing
72. Windsurfing
73. Surfing
74. Bodysurfing
75. Bodyboarding
76. Skim-boarding
77. Canoeing
78. Kayaking
79. Whitewater rafting (getting there and back with the gear may be a challenge, though)
80. Fishing
81. Rowing
82. Swimming
83. Snorkeling
84. Free diving
85. Building sand castles

With Limited Oil

86. Motorcycling. Some motorcycles and scooters can get 60-100mpg. And motorcyling is extremely fun. You may switch to a motorcycle or scooter to save gas, and then discover that you really love it, and you wish you had switched years ago! Let's face it, many ways of saving energy are not super fun. Nobody is going to say, "Whee! I turned the thermostat down!" or "Awesome! I'm taking shorter showers! High five!" But saving gas by riding a motorcycle or scooter is a blast.

However, if you have not ridden before, do not ride a motorcycle without proper training. Take a course such as those offered by Team Oregon or something similar in your area.

87. Driving. Yes, driving. You may drive only on rare special occasions, and find that there is so little traffic that driving is the most fun it has ever been! With car traffic continually diminishing over time, every drive you take could be the best drive you've ever had.

I hope this list has given you some inspiration. If you can think of other options, please leave a comment with your suggestions.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Iraq Oil Workers Strike

The Los Angeles Times says, "the oil law that U.S. officials call vital to ending Iraq's civil war is in serious trouble among Iraqi lawmakers . . ." The same article goes on to say that "Some of the fiercest opposition has come from oil workers, who threatened to go on strike this week to protest the legislation."

An Oil Change International article says (emphasis added):

Iraq’s largest oil workers’ trade union will strike tomorrow, in protest at the controversial oil law currently being considered by the Iraqi parliament. The move threatens to stop all oil exports from Iraq.

The oil law proposes giving multinational companies the primary role in developing Iraq’s huge untapped oilfields, under contracts lasting up to 30 years. Oil production in Iraq, like in most of the Middle East, has been in the public sector since the 1970s.
This will be another serious blow to the world energy crisis. How long will this strike last? Will U.S. forces take some action to restore the flow of oil?

Increasing Energy Efficiency

On Saturday morning I went to the Living Green Expo at OMSI. One of the lecturers there made the point that reducing the overall "energy footprint" of the house should be the first step, before considering alternative energy sources. So I decided that my most sensible move would be to replace my 15-year-old refrigerator with a more energy efficient model. Most of my other appliances are newer and so they are more efficient already, and most of the light bulbs in my house are compact flourescents.

I spent the afternoon looking at refrigerators, and then I bought a new Energy Star rated, efficient fridge. It will be delivered on Tuesday.

(Oh, I almost forgot. Today I also bought locally grown food at the Hillsdale Farmers' Market.)

I Have Been To Our Future

I have been to our future. At least, I have been to some of it. What I mean is, I've been to parts of the world where people already live the way Americans will live. And the good news is, those places weren't horrible. They were pretty fun.

I lived in Japan for a year. Most people in Japan, even in big cities, do not have central heating or air conditioning. In the winter, many indoor spaces are barely warmer than the outdoors. Japanese people generally heat themselves instead of their entire homes. They drink hot tea or coffee, they take hot baths. They dress in warm clothes even indoors. They sit around special tables called kotatsu, which incorporate a blanket and a heating element. Most people dry their clothes on closelines, too, even in the city. No American-style dryers.

I won't pretend that I always enjoyed this aspect of Japan. There were times when it annoyed me, and I wished I was back home with my nice central heat and A/C, and warm clothes from the dryer. But it didn't kill me either. It wasn't that bad. You get used to it. And it uses a lot less energy.

I also visited a very small town in Costa Rica. Hot water was not available, and the power was out more often than it was on -- at least while I was there. But this didn't seem to bother anyone much. When a few Americans complained about the lack of hot water, the locals seemed to find this hilarious ("Hot water? Why would you need that?"). And I remember going to a restaurant while the power was out. The restaurant didn't close, because power outages happened often. They lit candles. For entertainment, one of the girls who worked there got up and sang a few songs, a capella. I liked that better than a stereo system anyway. Everyone was having fun. I don't think anyone complained.

My point is, those people in Japan and Costa Rica didn't think they were living in disaster areas. They weren't panicking. They were living life as usual. They were happy. We also will be happy eventually, once we adapt to a World Without Oil through an attitude adjustment.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Billions in oil "missing"

It looks like smugglers, possibly controlled by Shiite militias, may be siphoning some of Iraq's oil away to small refineries in China or the Caribbean, where they can get high prices for it on the black market. The New York Times reports:

Between 100,000 and 300,000 barrels a day of Iraq’s declared oil production over the past four years is unaccounted for and could have been siphoned off through corruption or smuggling, according to a draft American government report.


The report does not give a final conclusion on what happened to the missing fraction of the roughly two million barrels pumped by Iraq each day, but the findings are sure to reinforce longstanding suspicions that smugglers, insurgents and corrupt officials control significant parts of the country’s oil industry.

-- The New York Times, May 12, 2007. (Site requires registration)
What I wonder is, where are these small refineries, and how is their cooperation with the smugglers going undetected? Do they have the support of local governments?

[Note: this is a World Without Oil post, but quotes here are real.]

Reconsidering Iraq

[Note: this is a World Without Oil post. This post is a work of fiction based on a hypothetical scenario.]

I never expected to see this in a liberal town like Portland, where there have been large anti-war protests for years, but now there are growing demonstrations in favor of the occupation of Iraq. I've seen groups downtown carrying signs saying things like "Guard the oil, stay in Iraq!" and "Never surrender!" They argue that if the U.S. pulls out of Iraq, the oil fields will be even more vulnerable to terrorism, and oil supplies could be cut off as an economic attack against the U.S. I interviewed a demonstrator who only gave his first name: Mike.

Me: Were you in favor of the U.S. invasion of Iraq all along?

Mike: No, not at all, in fact two years ago I protested against the war.

Me: So what changed your mind?

Mike: Look at what's been happening this year. Oil prices up, blackouts, violence. And our military, in Iraq, we need them to stay there to guard the oil fields. Or things get worse, way worse.

Me: Some people would say you're being hypocritical. You were against the war, but as soon as oil prices inconvenience you personally, you're for it.

Mike: First of all, inconvenience? What? Look around, we're talking about our whole world breaking down! And yeah, I can see how people could think that, sure, but I don't think of it as hypocrisy, I think it's more like waking up to reality, getting a clue. Look, I was naive before. I didn't understand how much of our society depended on oil. This year has been a slap in the face. It's like a sinking ship, and oil is our life boat, and Iraq is where the oil is. We have to make sure the oil stays safe.

Me: But is that why we invaded? I thought . . .

Mike: Stop, I know what you're going to say, there were no WMD's, all that. Look, maybe we went there for the wrong reasons. Maybe so. I won't argue that. What I'm saying is, now we're there, and with the energy situation the way it is, we'd be insane to leave. Do you honestly think we'd be better off, at a time like this, if we handed over the oil fields to people chanting "Death to America"? Can you look me in the eye and tell me that? We'd be better off?

Me: So you're saying the invasion was a mistake, but so is leaving?

Mike: Uh, yeah.

Me: And so we have the right to stay in their country forever and take their oil?

Mike: Look, I'm not talking about stealing the oil. At least, I hope it doesn't come to that. I'm talking about protecting it from terrorists blowing it up, and making it so that they can't cut off our supplies even more as a way to destroy us.

Me: Thanks for talking with me.

Mike: Sure. Go to your web site, or whatever it is, and let people know, they have to wake up before it's too late.

[Image generated with the custom sign generator.]

Friday, May 11, 2007

What Will Happen To Hawaii?

What will happen to Hawaii? I mean, just look at it. It is really far from everything. Honolulu is 2595 miles from Portland, Oregon. New York is actually closer to Portland at only 2442 miles away! Most Americans get to and from Hawaii by jet, consuming huge amounts of ever more expensive jet fuel. In 2000, there were just under 7 million tourist arrivals.

But this year tourism from Japan is already down:
But JAL reported traffic to Hawaii in this year's Golden Week, which ran from April 28 to May 6, was 8.6 percent below last year. Higher room rates, fuel surcharges and departure taxes as well as difficulty getting air seats and hotel rooms appear to be holding back demand. -- Honolulu Star Bulletin, May 8, 2007

Now let's take a look back to what happened there when tourism dropped just after September 11, 2001. This is from The New York Times on September 29, 2001:

With tourists reluctant to fly and spend, Hawaii has become a forlorn and eerily quiet place. The famed beaches are mostly deserted. Most hotels are less than half full. Restaurants open late and close early, if they open at all. Taxis and tour buses are empty. Entertainers have canceled shows. About the only busy place, it seems, is the unemployment office, where the freshly furloughed wait in line up to four hours and the number of claims has tripled.

The mood has become so grave that the state's normally cautious governor, Benjamin J. Cayetano, has warned that ''Hawaii is facing its worst economic crisis ever'' and called an emergency session of the Legislature to borrow $1 billion to stimulate the economy.

-- The New York Times
It seems very likely that Hawaii will face that situation again as jet fuel prices rise dramatically, only this time the change could be permanent.

What will happen to Hawaii? Will it once again become a lonely, forgotten corner of the world? I haven't seen any World Without Oil reports coming from Hawaii. Is there anyone out there?

[Note: this is a World Without Oil post, but all the facts and articles quoted are real.]

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Concert at a Gas Station

I just heard from a coworker that BP opened a weird, futuristic gas station in LA. It incorporates solar panels on the roof, and rain water collection, in an attempt to be more environmentally conscious. More photos and info here.

Strangest of all, according to my coworker's brother who has been there recently, they now have an open-mic night with live music on Tuesdays. At a gas station!

As gas becomes more and more of a "luxury item," maybe gas stations are going to offer extra amenities to attract upscale customers. Maybe we'll see gas stations where you can buy gas and also shop for designer brand clothing and accessories. Think about how Starbucks turned a simple cup of coffee into a whole lifestyle/atmosphere branded destination and started selling music and promoting movies. The same thing may happen with gas.

[Note: this is a World Without Oil post, but to the best of my knowledge the information in this post is true.]

Our Lamps Are Gone Out

But the five foolish, having taken their lamps, did not take oil with them.
But the wise took oil in their vessels with the lamps.


And the foolish said unto the wise, give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
But the wise answered, saying, [Not so]; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.


[Note: this is a World Without Oil entry. Image created with the church sign generator.]

Monkey Without Oil

This is my World Without Oil blog. My main blog is Iron Monkey. I decided to keep a separate blog for WWO posts. WWO is a fictional scenario, and my writing here is fiction. However, my descriptions of my own efforts to increase energy efficiency, eat more locally grown food, etc. are all real unless stated otherwise. If I link to news stories, they are real unless stated otherwise.

I've been inspired to write more by reading fallingintosin's blog.