If you cut your energy use to reduce your climate impact you are also helping to reduce the consequences of peak oil and gas decline. It’s a pity more climate change campaigns don’t talk about this more.
Unfortunately, it does not work the other way round. Some of the solutions that could help with peak oil are very bad for climate change. For example, oil from tar sands means more carbon dioxide than ordinary oil, much more. As our gas runs out, coal-fired power stations have been brought out of retirement. More coal means more carbon dioxide. Nuclear power does not help either. See: Nuclear Energy - Depletion Scotland viewpoint
Two good reasons for cutting carbon emissions seems better than one. It is easier to persuade people and governments to take action on peak oil because action on peak oil can have direct personal benefits. For example, cutting your car use will save you money as peak oil will make petrol much more expensive.
Permaculture is a design based approach to creating sustainable ways of living. Permaculture tends to be focused on future food production when we will have less energy for tractors and fertilizer.
The UK Permaculture Association - all you need to know about living with less energy is here or linked from here
See also: Permaculture Information Web
A permaculture design course will help you to understand what a low energy lifestyle means for real. There is considerable variation in the style and quality of permaculture teaching. Ask tutors for evidence of knowledge, training and experience. High quality courses are advertised on these sites:
A wealth of permaculture books is available at through the The Green Shopping Catalogue
In Britain we like to get our food from meat and annual crops like wheat. Modern ways of farming beef cows and growing wheat need lots of energy and they are bad for the soil. It would be better to avoid ploughing by growing edible perennials (why? read Ploughman's Folly by Edward H. Faulkner or do a permaculture course!). In Scotland few people know what perennial plants will produce good crops in our sometimes cold, windy and wet climate. Much work needs to be done to find out more. Many useful perennial crops won’t grow in Scotland. Many will, and they are worth investigating. A lot of work has already been done on finding permaculture crops for England. The project is called Plants for a Future.
Sounds crazier than ever in a world of 24 hour Tesco and green beans fresh from Kenya. In Cuba, Romania and Russia growing your own food was an essential part of life when their oil based economies fell to bits.
You don’t need a garden to grow some food. Start now by growing some leeks in a bucket, potatoes in a pile of old tyres, or planting pine nut trees on local waste ground. Pine species to try are Pinus Koraiensis and Pinus Cembra Sibirica (This is really another plug for permaculture, see above for much more on this).
There are a myriad of gardening books out there but ‘Encyclopedia Of Organic Gardening’ (ISBN 0751333816 ) by Garden Organic (formerly HDRA) is a great place to start.
Cheap mass-market car travel is what we will miss first when oil gets scarce. Get used to travelling by bike now before the next fuel panic. Living in a world built for cars but without the endless cheap fuel will make life difficult. A bike will make it easier and more fun. The more you ride the easier it gets, so start now. Exercise will keep you healthier when it matters more. You’ll need some skills that may be unfamiliar like fixing the inevitable punctures. Cycling should be fun, if it isn’t get some advice and encouragement or do a course on riding in traffic or bike maintenance.
Some new bikes are very low quality, you get what you pay for. Ask for these features on your bike:
Links to people with good bikes:
Pashley - Classic design bikes, tricycles and work bikes
Bikefix - Mail order for bikes and accessories
Highpath Engineering - Specialist in bike alterations for recovering able-bodied riders and riders with special needs
There will come a time when making bicycles is too expensive due to the energy needs of making stuff out of metal and rubber. Until then bikes have a role equal to or better than all the other renewable energy gizmos like wind generators. Better to hoard a few spares in case - see Hoarding below.
The author has a Brompton folding cycle that can be carried on a bus or easily on a train. It makes bus travel useful in rural areas. A folded Bromton can be carried on any UK train without a booking. They are quite expencive but should last for many years. Birdy bikes made by Reise and Müller are much better to ride, and lighter to carry but they are even more expensive, use weird tyre sizes and aluminium frames. Aluminium frames are hard to fix. Other small folding bikes are much cheaper but many are not small enough to go between bus seats. See: www.bromptonbicycle.co.uk. (‘bus travel in rural areas’ could be a summary for a post oil world).
Link for Birdy bike
First-ScotRail (Timetables and Maps) won an award for making it easier to carry a few more full size bikes on trains. Bikes go free on Scotrail and SPT services, and you don’t need to book. (In 1986 all trains had proper guard’s vans and would carry any amount of bikes and even motorbikes, that’s progress for you.) Watch for the train ‘trolls’ of GNER and Virgin services though, they will insist on proper paperwork despite a huge empty guard’s van, but with a booking its still free to take a bike to London or Inverness and GNER will even take heavy trailers if you ask nicely. Its always worth asking if you get stuck somewhere with your bike, and no reservation.
The bike station in Edinburgh provides cheap bikes with a warranty, and training in essentials like traffic skills and fixing your bike. They also wrote a guide to setting up similar operations in your town.
Do a Google search for ‘bicycle or bike recycling project or cycle training’ in your area. There are Bike Station projects in Oxford, Haslemere, Fallin, Leicester, Stafford, etc.
A bike trailer can allow you to carry something or somebody that you can’t carry on a bike. When you don’t have a car to fall back on a trailer can carry the load. Have a look at:
Tricycles are a lost art in Scotland. They used to be essential for district nurses and handymen. Tricycles work better on ice, and they stay the right way up when left on their own. You can go as slow as you want on a trike so fit super-low gears and haul a barrel of beer or your toddler-twins up the local hills to the delight of onlookers. If you have balance or other mobility problems a trike could be the answer. Don’t buy a small wheel trike like a Pashley Picador unless you plan on going very slowly for less than a half mile. Get one with 26” wheels or bigger. Find good trikes at:
Finally we’re in Scotland where frost happens. Snow happens too. Be prepared. Using snow tyres with metal ice studs you can cycle all year round: SnowBikers
Winter Riding Tips: Winter Cycling
Think about how you would live with less oil and electricity than you used yesterday. Then how you would live without oil or mains power for a day, a week and a month.
Would you miss your car first or the supermarket that you get to in your car?
If your work, shops, school and friends are all 20 miles away in opposite directions then you are vulnerable to fuel panics. On the other hand if your remote house has 10 acres of productive garden and off-the-grid hydro-electricity then it might be better to stay put.
Things to do to reduce your vulnerability to price and supply shocks:
Here’s one that was built earlier, a super-insulated block of flats in Edinburgh, some for rent, some to buy: Canmore Housing Association - Slateford Green
There are grants available from the government to reduce fuel use, have a look at: Low Carbon Buildings Programme
Don’t wait for power cuts or empty supermarket shelves. There is plenty of everything right now (April 2007), and its cheap, so go out and buy some useful stuff and stash it away. Its better than investments like Enron shares, Equitable Life endowments or Farepak savings. Compare what your stash cost to the money you fork out for the insurance bill for your house, contents and car, it will look cheap in comparison. You can sell your stash, use it yourself later or give it away to needy neighbours later. We have already had fuel queues. Everyone can benefit from your stash when oil-driven supply chains fail. It doesn’t have to be much to be useful. And turn it over i.e. use old stuff and buy new as time goes by.
Here’s a few ideas of things that could be useful:
Bicycles and spares for bikes like tyres, brake parts, and chains.
Note: Storing more than two gallons of petrol at your house requires enormous safety precautions and can result in the police evacuating your street while men with special suits and a surly demeanour clear up your mess. Diesel is a totally different story. Diesel can be stored like heating oil. If you really must have a car get a diesel vehicle and a tank with a bund (catch pit) to collect accidental leaks. Use an off-the-shelf heating oil tank placed to fill a car by gravity, and use genuine fuel hose and fittings. Diesel will attack and destroy garden hose and plastic plumbing fittings. Absolute cleanliness is essential, dirt and water in fuel can cause thousands of pounds worth of damage to your car. An extra fuel filter and large capacity water trap on your vehicle or tank outlet could be a wise precaution. Diesel is toxic and can cause serious skin disease on contact. Fill your diesel tank in Autumn when fuel prices have tended to be lower (in the years 2000 to 2006). There are plenty of suppliers of properly taxed fuel for diesel engine’d road vehicles (DERV) in the yellow pages. Ask suppliers for ‘bulk DERV’. For domestic oil storage, i.e. on premises used wholly or mainly as a private dwelling, the oil storage regulations only apply to containers with a storage capacity of more than 3500 litres in England, or 2500 litres in Scotland. Building Regulations will apply for new or altered domestic tanks, see: Net Regs - Oil storage regulations. Alternatively buy a high quality pedal cycle and take your car to bits for easy recycling. Bicycles can be powered by cake, which is nice but doesn’t keep well or potatoes which you can grow in your garden or in a stack of the tyres you removed from your car.
Write to your MP, MSP, local councillor, top management where you work, energy academics, farmers, transport operators, newspapers and television. Let them know that you are aware of peak oil. Ask what they are doing about it. Ask why they talk about climate change but ignore peak oil. Ask why we are spending billions building more roads, airports and suburban housing when we don’t have enough cheap oil to run them. Apparently ‘terrorists’ are multiplying daily, so ask why we are building dependence on Middle East oil. Ask them if we trust Russia and President Putin to be an honest and reliable supplier of critical energy supplies. Tell them that if climate change is not enough of a reason to reduce oil demand then oil shortage will reduce demand for them.
Its got to happen sometime, so why wait. Use public transport instead. The more people who use public transport the better it will get. The more people who use it the easier it is for government to support public transport. When cheap petrol is history there will be some buses and trains to fall back on, but only if folk support them now. You can spend your time on the bus reading your new peak oil book collection.
Research your local bus times and plan a journey on Traveline ("The UK's No 1 website for impartial information on planning your journey, by bus, coach or train... or any combination of the three!")
The Deutsche Bahn-UK website is good for planning rail journeys all over Europe (including UK)
Top rail tips: Split return journeys in the UK can be much cheaper, e.g. get a return to Preston and a return to Aberystwyth as separate purchases. Singles are often cheaper than returns. Advance fares can be half the price of a ticket on the day, a bit of planning can pay dividends. Beware - ticket sellers are not obliged to tell you if they know there is a cheaper ticket option than the one you asked for.
The man who can smile in the face of adversity probably doesn’t know what’s going on. Most people are completely unaware of peak oil. Many people are mystified why petrol prices are rising, why our troops are out-staying their usefulness in Iraq and why the Dollar is falling. Peak oil has a part in all these issues.
Try not to scare people but let them know that the days of cheap and plentiful oil are drawing to a close. There are no magic solutions. We are all involved in a contest for limited supplies. Either by price or by force of arms the contest for the remaining oil is under way.
Be careful not to cause panic, and try not to sound like you’ve lost your marbles. Let others ask the questions but be ready with peak oil answers. Try to talk calmly, but with confidence, and stick to the stuff you understand.
If you have any questions about all or any of this send an e-mail to: info<AT>depletion-scotland.org.uk
Solutions are really about cooperation, here are some people who are starting to prepare whole towns in the UK: Transition Towns
Rob Hopkins studied for a PhD in coping with Peak Oil, and does more than most to promote solutions. His site is : Transition Culture
Useful notes on preparation for peak oil at the EnergyResources2 Yahoo group. Includes a 100-things-to-do-to-prepare, and presenation resources. You will need a yahoo ID to access these files.
The energy savings trust has some helpful advise.
The Oil Depletion Protocol, how to avoid global oil wars and shortages.
For problems or comments regarding this web contact info<AT>depletion-scotland.org.uk