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Peak Oil Preparedness
at the end of the world, will you feel fine?
theheretic
peakoil_prep
theheretic
I'm a bit peeved. But I'm distracting myself with scooters.

As a friend pointed out, the basic American commuter car is the Toyota Camry. Its Front Wheel Drive, automatic transmission. Has 4 doors to haul the family around and gets around 30 mpg for commuting. Its not fast or flashy, but simple and reliable for what we actually need a car to do.

What I look for in a motorcycle is the same principles, just on two wheels. Simple, reliable, gets the job done. The primary arguments against motorcycles are safety and weather protection. Here in the PRK, we only get around 30 rainy days a year. Even our winters are mostly dry days. This isn't true for all states, but for the PRK and the western states its true enough of the time that a motorcycle or scooter is a valid form of transportation. If its not raining, go for it. Most of the people I've asked at work want a Vespa, until they found out how much they cost. The basic appeal is automatic transmission, slow so essentially safe, can park like a bicycle, and most think to ride with minimal safety gear since they're slow as bicycles without the exertion. They should probably still wear some safety gear, but don't need as much as a fast machine, its true.

The underestimated safety concern that's overlooked is the wheels on a scooter. They're small. This means bumps are worse. The roads in California (PRK) are riddled with seams, manhole covers, pavement patches, and potholes. Those are bumps and slippery places. Overwatering also adds slick spots on pavement. On 4 wheels that's no big deal but on two, losing traction on ONE wheel means you go down. Ouch. Anyway, small wheels also means small vertical wheel travel. On very smooth roads its no problem. On PRK roads, those bumps go straight into the rider, disrupting their balance and can topple the scooter or the rider right into traffic. Bad thing. The solution to rough roads is the Underbone, which is a scooter engine in a light motorcycle frame, still automatic transmission, and bigger wheels with longer vertical wheel travel so potholes are no big deal. There are already motorcycles like this, such as the 250cc Dual sport bikes with 10-11 inches of vertical wheel travel. A good option, but you have to change gears manually, and that automatic transmission is a big part of a scooters appeal. Twist the throttle and go, ya know? Easy to learn to ride, because of that. So what's really needed at this point, from a consumers point of view, and for safety, is that 250cc bike with an automatic transmission, maybe fewer gears so it never gets above 45 mph, and a friendlier look, such as the front shield to keep the mud of the boots, or a gentler vintage color scheme instead of eye-watering plastics. Something like that, for a price someone with bad credit can buy out of hand, maybe $2K. Like a Chinese scooter that works for more than a month. The Honda Elite is $3K, which is about $1K too much for a bare bones scooter using 100 year old technology. The Vespa is $2K worth of pure profit, particularly considering they're manufactured in Thailand. Nice looking, but over priced. If an American company imported the parts kits and assembled them here, how much would they cost? I wonder. I sense a business opportunity, and jobs.

If I knew of a good automatic tranny for a 250cc fuel injected engine in a scooter with bigger wheels and enough wheel travel to deal with bumps, we'd have the equivalent of the Camry, and get 75 mpg. Wouldn't that solve the oil import problem? We make 5.5 mbpd domestically. We use most fuel for personal transport, which in vehicles means the other 14 mbpd at 22 mpg. Scooters would really fix most of the problem, and we'd be able to solve our trade deficit almost immediately. This bears further consideration.

Oh, and they do make 3-wheeled versions in other countries for people afraid of falling over. Side car hacks and tricycle hacks. They're cheap too. They even make sidecars for scooters, the bigger ones. Not impossible at all.
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darksumomo
peakoil_prep
darksumomo
On July 30th, I posted the following to Crazy Eddie's Motie News as Oak Park Woman plants vegetable garden; city objects.
What did I tell you?
If you're interested in sustainability on the local and personal levels, your biggest obstacles will be homeowners associations, zoning boards, and city councils. Those people will be wedded to business as usual long after it becomes apparent to early adopters that BAU just isn't working any more. Watch those local governing entities hang onto the past like adherents of a cargo cult.
Case in point.



To sum up the situation, the Bass family of Oak Park lost their lawn when the sewer line running under their front yard was replaced. Instead of replacing it with a lawn, they replaced it with a vegetable garden. Their neighbors complained to the city and the city has cited them with a criminal violation of city ordinances. The Basses and the city have a court date on July 26th. Mrs. Bass has started a blog, OakParkHateVeggies on Wordpress, to record her experience.

ETA:  Mrs. Bass posted a more complete summary after I wrote (and she read) the above.  Please read it.

I'm not surprised this controversy is taking place in Oak Park. When it comes to enforcing BAU norms of middle-class respectability as a way of maintaining property values, Oak Park does not play. Oak Park is so afraid of catching what they think Detroit has, which is blight, that they restrict what property owners can do more than neighboring cities and enforce their will with a vengeance. Put your trash cans out too early or leave them out too long and the police will ticket you. Let your grass grow too high and the city will mow your lawn for you and then bill you. You can only hold two yard sales per year and you have to inform the city in advance. If you want to drink wine while dining in the city, you're out of luck; there are no restaurants with liquor licences. The list goes on and on.

Of course, the people who live there and like it make a point of saying that the police will arrive before you hang up your call to 911, but all the above is the flip side of what the locals praise as "great city services." I hope their property values and middle-class sensibilities are worth it.

Personal aside: When my wife and I were looking for places to live in Oakland County, my co-workers who lived in Oak Park tried to convince me to move there. Unfortunately, when my wife and I looked at houses in the city, we were less than impressed. We got a very conformist, unfriendly, and not-at-all fun vibe from the place, so we decided to look in Ferndale and Royal Oak, which were more to our liking--not that those towns are immune from sustainability-related issues involving zoning. Ferndale has chickens and Royal Oak has Kroger. I'd rather have those controversies, thank you very much.
Since then, the controversy has gone viral.Collapse )

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Current Location: Detroit where the weak are killed and eaten
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theheretic
peakoil_prep
theheretic
One of the linking classes between Geology and Geography and Civil Engineering and Sociology is Land Use. How land is used. Traditionally and practically, cities are built for the express purpose of exploiting either resources or geography or both. By resources I mean food, timber, minerals (mining). By Geography I mean a good place to harbor ships (San Francisco Bay), natural crossroads such as river mouths (New Oreleans) or joinings (St. Louis). There has to be a natural advantage to be in a place or people won't be there long enough to settle down. And once conditions change, such as the resource is gone, they abandon the site and go somewhere smarter. Thus Ghost Towns (ruins), which decay based on the natural environment's erosion rate. There are centuries old ruins in New Mexico where rainfall is measured as less than 10 inches annually. Some are left long enough that new people claim them and reinhabit based on whether the local water supply becomes stable again or not. The Fremont tribe in the SE of Utah, a sky worshipping cult/sect of native americans lived on high cliffs and spines, leaving behind some really strange homes  the size of your dinner table perched way up cliffs, and larders stored at 8000 feet. Just getting the day's water was a 2000 foot descent, and that was with a clay pot to carry it. A very extreme lifestyle for a stone age culture. People can talk themselves into some pretty strange choices. Like owning a boat on a trailer you use twice a year during the summer but requires monthly payments and storage space the rest of the year. Land uses can be just as absurd. What sense does Las Vegas make once cheap air travel goes away? The whole reason it could exist is the airport made it mere hours away from any American city. Take away those planes and its days by rail, hardly worth the trouble when local indian gaming casinos are never more than an hour away. In context, Las Vegas will die, like any other ghost town that lost its purpose. Reno, a similar construction to service Northern California, is already retracting from its Gambling income into a huge truck stop and rail yard, a shipping hub on the Western edge of the Great Basin desert before the ascent into the Sierras and Cascades to its north. That's its future. Places with good weather and water supplies end up the retirement communities for all those aging baby boomers. They'd hoped to retire but the Dot.com bubbles destroyed their wealth and further bubbles they threw their money at were equally vaporous when push came to shove. They're working well past their comfort zones.

Then there's Greece. As a country its got terrible soil so its agriculture isn't much to speak of. Its primary income is European tourism, which due to the economic collapse has fallen to nothing. Greece is bankrupt, the EU is forcing "austerity measures" on it, meaning the end of any social benefits like free/cheap universities, medical care etc, and Greece is looking to become as poor as Soviet-Era Bulgaria. The college students are rioting. The elders are hunkering down for what they're sure will be decades of hard times, 1930's style poverty. The Irish are facing the same level of austerity but their response, being stoics instead of hot-blooded Mediterraneans, was to have a second pint at the public house before toddling home. No riots in Ireland. They've had decades of lousy economy and they don't get their hopes up. The rest of the EU will end up in similar straits, compelled to pay for someone's bad economic choices or suffering the consequences of making them in the first place. Germany SHOULD PAY because it was their criminal bankers who offered the bad loans in the first place, then demanded their nation pay for it, and pressured, though bribes, Merkel's govt to force the rest of the EU to pay for the bail outs, avoiding responsibility right up the line. Finland and the other Scandinavian nations with intact economic policies should seriously quit the EU just to avoid paying for other's mistakes. It wouldn't be hard. Issue your own currencies and dump the Euro. Should be a fast switch back to local rule. 

It is the land use of Greece and Ireland and everybody else which offers and limits opportunities for the residents. When I watch the hilarious excesses of Top Gear, I am very much aware that those ridiculously expensive but beautiful machines that cost more than houses exist only because of the largesse of the North Sea Brent Crude, which is running out. The Norwegian Cradle-to-Grave socialist medical system was likewise paid for with oil money. Take away that money and what have they got? Land use. Norway has fishing, timber, and hydroelectric to smelt aluminum. Britain has agriculture, fishing, and music to export. Their machinists are good too, so assume mechanical engineering and production even if their costs are very high. Greece has some fishing, no real agriculture to speak of, not known for anything but tourism. They're going to suffer and probably have a lot of coups and civil wars. When you really think about it, there just aren't that many jobs that are needed. Washing each other's laundry, as the joke goes, is a non-valid economic plan.

When I look around me here in California, I see a future of bicycling (and bicycle tourism), a lower population, agriculture (still mechanized, just more expensive to pay for it), and sweat. I expect we'll start climbing back into higher comfort with more solar panels, and I expect the internet will survive here, though it might not be quite so frivolous since it costs money energy to run servers. Energy is more valuable than money. Bernanke showed us he can just type zero's into a computer and "create" money. Shows us how worthless it really is. I expect that the Wall Street stock market will eventually become little more than an Old Boys Club with just as little relevance to the real world as the companies themselves are disconnected from their shares. Money today is madness. We're going to have to move beyond that, just to survive with any level of dignity. The New Normal, that's what we're drifting towards.

Buy a bicycle. Fix it up. Fine tune its comfort, figure out all you need to know, make it an extension of your body so its operation is instinctive. I did this years ago. Its a huge comfort to have that as backup, just in case. Unlike the panic mongers, I expect we'll see an overall decline in violent crime as time passes, more resignation about things, a more philosophical approach. I think we're more like the Irish than the Greeks. We'll shrug and have a second beer, then toddle home.
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theheretic
peakoil_prep
theheretic
This weekend I visited my Dad for Father's Day. It required a 3 hour drive on the various interstates of California. The Altamont Pass section of 580 is terrible. The right (slow) lane was barely manageable with 4 wheels, and would kill someone on 2. I have to say, seeing that, that I can't recommend motorcycles on today's roads at speeds above 40 mph, and probably not great much slower either. I suspect most motorcycles take the alternative route on a 2-lane road through Altamont itself, what used to be a town and is now just a few houses and sheds near the entrance to the big dump for Alameda County.

Other roads were better. I-5 through Sacramento has sections which were recently repaired and much safer than usual. I can't help but wonder just what percentage of the state income is spent on road repair, and whether that will have to increase in the future? It probably will, up to a point. The interstates, so long as there is fuel for trucks and rich people's cars, will need to be maintained, and smoother roads allow narrower tires to use them, thus lighter vehicles. Of course, they'll have to stop grooving the pavement at some point, but that's for the future.

It was also 100'F yesterday, which is pretty miserable on a motorcycle, so I'm told. I saw many bikes on the road on Sunday, most of their riders in insufficient safety gear, mostly just helmets and teeshirts. Fun and cooler, but not safe. If I wasn't driving my very grownup sedan I'd probably get one of those tiny hot-hatches and race around with the A/C on. Costs about double what a bike does, doesn't get their MPG either, but is a lot more convenient and harder to steal. Someday, when fuel is massively expensive, I'll have the bike. By then it'll be the best way to get around without pedalling or smelling stinky armpits on the train. Until then, like you, I'll manage with my car.

Current Music: JazzRadio.com

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theheretic
peakoil_prep
theheretic
We live in a reactive culture. It doesn't plan ahead. It writes letters to the editor after disaster has hit, demanding "there outta be a law" and "something must be done". Then our leaders throw money at it until the problem goes away or everybody who could complain is either counting it or dead.

Previously I've stated that trade tariffs would get us on the path of recovery by forcing domestic manufacturing, resulting in something like full employment. It would also trigger sustainable domestic food supplies in every nation. This is a pretty big deal and followed by construction of electric railroads and streetcars to enable the movement of people to their jobs, would end the need for oil imports. Sadly, this doesn't really serve the PTB (Powers That Be). They want their billions invested in globalist corporations to remain largely tax free and able to bludgeon and bribe the world into doing their bidding. Killing off those evil corporations and replacing them with something local (domestic) that can be properly taxed and held accountable for their actions is yet another battle that must be fought. Of course, these PTBs will keep bribing to make sure that never happens.

It is entirely possible we'll just see gasoline prices keep rising, with no rationing ever. Its possible that high speeds on the roads will stay high, or go higher. Its possible that high speed rail projects never really happen, their money funnelled into billionaire's bank accounts and their millionaire toadies. It is possible that taxes on the common man will keep rising, that the wars in the middle east remain the excuse for western involvement and expenses, whose benefits go to China and India. It is possible that this slide into involuntary conservation will continue for years. Maybe decades. We might not see a big event, merely lots of tiny personal ones: a tank of gas that costs more than a weeks groceries is nearly there now.

We could do something about it all, but we won't. We don't have the support of the general public. We're tin foil hat brigade as far as the common man is concerned. They believe the lies from the Saudis because the govt tells them to. They have no reason to learn otherwise. I feel glad just seeing them buy tiny fuel efficient cars when they trade in their old SUV. That's a victory, and about as much as we can hope for. Economics is the best guide. We keep watching the people around us deny deny deny that fossil fuels run out. Its their comfort zone. We can't prove them wrong because they hate us when they find out. Kill the messenger.

I don't wanna die for telling people the truth. So I keep my mouth shut and shake my head. But its lonely, knowing the truth these idiots ignore.
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theheretic
peakoil_prep
theheretic
I think that the hardest part of peak oil is that once you know about it, you talk yourself into preparing for it. That probably sounds ironic coming from me, especially considering this community is all about the preparation. But here's the thing: if you solve the problem for yourself and not for everyone else, everyone else will just have a motive to take it from you. Imagine you've got an electric car. You've got the panels for it, and its a huge loan for the $100K it cost is offset by the guarantee that it will allow you to get to work and keep your job to pay for it. Sounds great right? Welllll, not so much. See your local police department decides to get a court order to force you to "rent" it to them so they can respond to emergency calls. They use it for years, keeping the community slightly safer, but you don't have the car anymore and you've lost your job because of it. If not for the "rent" you'd be destitute and its barely enough to keep food on the table and keep up your mortgage, every other goal in your life is cut off, except for having lots of time to stew over it. Repeat with just about any useful oil-avoiding solution prep you can invest in. The only solutions worth having are the ones nobody else wants, or can't be taken away. And if you think fixing up a ranch can't be taken, may I remind you of what happened to the Native Americans? The county supervisors can jack up the taxes on your place and seize it for unpaid taxes. Or they can claim its for the public good. Either way, its not yours anymore. Don't bother complaining, either. They might just jail you, or put you in the ground.

So, what's your strategy for dealing with the kinds of men who seize things for the public good, because its in the community's best interest? And they might not be lying or greedy, either. They might have good intentions. The survivalists say they're heading for the hills because of these kinds of men at all levels of government. That's a strategy. Maybe not that well thought out, but it's a strategy. Most of them are suburbanites with no farming experience who think its easy and for idiots and will give them lots of spare time. Remember Farm Aid? Never get into an industry that needs benefit concerts just to keep going. Know why kids of farmers often do not become farmers? Because farming is an 18-20 hour a day job, and pays between nothing and $30K/yr, depending on what you raise and how successful you are. I know farmers who make it big, but they're very specialized, conservative, and fortunate. They always remember that it's a business. Survivalists have a half-formed idea of doing what the hippies tried to do, mostly failing, in the 1970's by going back to nature and trying to make subsistence farming work. Its not impossible to do it, but there's an awful lot of knowledge required, and decades of experience and luck as well. Most of these suburbanites lack this, and so they fail. They pay a lot of "fool tax". They eventually go bankrupt and lose the farm. Then they either suicide or go back to the suburbs, humiliated. If this sounds like fun to you, well, maybe you should just stick to sports programs and not worry about peak oil.

For the rest of us, we get to deal with the tricky aspect. I recommend following the jobs. Be flexible about what you're willing to do for a living. You'd be surprised about what jobs give you different kinds of satisfaction. The job you do today probably won't be the job you'll do in a couple years time. Things are changing a lot, and a new President will likely be the one to sign Trade Tariffs into law. A current tariff is the reason that we don't have cheap Brazilian Ethanol in our fuel tanks. This also protects the bio-ethanol industry, but causes higher food prices since corn is going to that instead of feed for livestock or rendered into High Fructose Corn Syrup put into many foods. Unhealthy foods, but used for them just the same. This is why every food costs more.

If you happen to live in the boonies and own a farm already, this is a very good time to learn solutions to problems and stock up on spare parts. Get involved in your community so they will value you and remember you in a favorable way when it comes time to decide which of their neighbors get attacked and sacrificed to the Blood God picked to "involuntarily donate" their stuff to the community, for the Greater Good. You want to be helped, not exploited and run off or killed. Communities are like that, especially when stressed. I happen to think that the suburbs will only be stressed until they get electric train service tracks built to their local industrial parks so jobs can be had for the locals. This is so KEY to survival. Keep your people working, not more than they can handle but enough to give them pride and pay for stuff they want for satisfaction in life. If you don't have the jobs, you'll end up with trouble. Oakland still has many of the old machineshops and foundries associated with the war industry, though most of the folk who worked in them have long since retired. The lack of hands-on jobs for residents has resulted in a high crime rate and drug abuse rate there. Give them jobs they like, working with their hands (and that's satisfying at so many levels) and the community won't feel so hopeless anymore. If they want an industry for those parts they'd be making, it is worth noting that Harley Davidson buys its parts from China and "assembles" them here in the USA, but not all models. This is part of the reason they're unreliable and expensive. Imagine a competing new motorcycle or car company (or both) was founded in Oakland, and built with pride for a good price that isn't all about making stockholders rich or pricing themselves out of the market, like Harley did. There's also a huge need for streetcars, as there's currently only 13 people employed at the single company in the USA that builds them. That's a big ticket item soon to be under high demand and its an easily exploited business opportunity which would be hard to fail at. Its low-hanging fruit. Detroit could likewise be manufacturing these with all those available unemployed former auto-workers. Auto assembly is another job that looks like it could be satisfying for any person who likes working with their hands. Eventually many cities will end up needing to make or maintain their own streetcars, and will require dozens of them, complete with operators (another job) working on shifts. And the more people working in the factories earning wages, the more support services needed for those workers, including lunch counters.

What sort of jobs do you get in the countryside? Field hand. Picker. Mechanic. All sorts of farm jobs requiring a strong back, tolerance for heat, cold, sunburn, dehydration, and self defense. They have their many challenges and degrees of satisfaction too. Most of those jobs are poorly paid. You make your choices, you deal with the consequences. See why I think life will be better in the suburbs?
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theheretic
peakoil_prep
theheretic
There's two kinds of mechanic. There's the kind that swaps parts and charges a fixed price, usually very high, while fumbling through determining the cause of the problem. And there's the actual technician who wants to know what part is the precise problem and only swaps that one, charging for his time and the specific part alone. No fumbling with a real mechanic. He solves mysteries. He remembers what a particular sound means. But there's something very important behind his efforts.

You fix the precise part because your labor is less valuable than the part you replace. When America was rich, parts were cheap so labor was expensive, thus swapping the part without paying much attention to what was precisely wrong got the job done. Trouble is, we'll soon be a nation isolated from the world by trade tariffs (I still consider them the inevitable consequence of the derivatives bubble, namely Default) so those imported car parts? Not going to be affordable or available anymore. We'll be paying through the nose. We'll insist on proper repairs, and wages are falling across the board. Our economy is shrinking.

If you enjoy the benefits of mechanical devices, like lawnmowers, cars, blenders, be prepared to pay for their repair instead of just swapping them for "new". New was something of a luxury. We got to enjoy that, but it's silly in the long term. Buy the one that makes sense the first time. And keep using it for that purpose. If it stops being useful, sell it on to someone who needs it. Or retask it to a better purpose. Lots of things made of plastic can have those housings and such replaced with sheet metal to last far longer. Heavier, yes, but will last forever.

I expect most of us are going to eventually find ourselves becoming amateur mechanics to save money. It just can't be helped. Its that or go without.
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theheretic
peakoil_prep
theheretic
Some of you may have seen the recent report in the news that there's a shortage of cars thanks to the crap economy and the tsunami in Japan. After carefully reviewing the costs of a new tiny car, a scooter, and then balancing that against working closer to home for less money and keeping my existing car, I opted for the latter. It seems many people are doing the same with their SUVs (I have a sedan) rather than jumping into a new car. The upside is no big car payment to make in uncertain employment times. The downside is repair costs can sometimes be as much as a car payment, though less frequent. The other downside is rare parts either cost more or just aren't available. Thus the need for domestically produced replacement parts. I ran into this problem when I realize the inferior mfc brakes for my car were only working a year at most before the thin rotors warped. Spend around the same amount for off-brand performance brakes, install myself, and voila, never need to replace them. Particularly since this could end up the last car I ever own, barring accidents.

At some point its just cheaper to keep the old stuff going if you bought enough quality in the first place. That's why there are so many old Mercedes and BMWs on the road. And VW's, too. Top Gear took one across Africa, said it was the best and most reliable car for Africa, and they were shocked by the discovery. I'm not. VW bugs are light weight and air cooled and geared for lower speeds than 55 mph. On African roads they're a good choice. Anyway, car parts are tricky for old vehicles. A replacement might be found in a junkyard. Or found by someone else who'll overcharge quite a bit for something which may already be worn out. If you want it to work, you might be better off taking it to a welder and machinist to refurbish. It will cost plenty, and might not be to spec unless you pay more and have someone who knows their Rockwell Hardness doing the heat treating, but that's as close as you'll get to good as new with a key part. The alternatives to refurbishing critical parts or replacing with off brand is more esoteric but likely to be the wave of the future.

Imagine a library of parts specification. Now, imagine paying a fee to a CNC machining shop to make that part from a big chunk of steel or aluminum and having them send it along to a heat treatment shop afterwards so it matches factory spec and that both guarantee it "good as factory" with actual numbers to back that up. You've got the replacement part. A piston or valve train or cam, and your car will run again. Voila! We don't have to fall as far as the Cubans did and end up with Yank Tanks welded together with coat hangers and bumpers tied on with baling wire. Another new technology has arrived which is even more elite than CNC milling machines. Its Rapid Prototyping with metals, and I don't mean powder. Its supposed to be solid, and have strength. Powder metal is neat stuff, but its often quite weak, hard on the surface only. You have many things in your house and car that use this stuff. Door handles and non-weight bearing parts, for example. This would be better. Its solid, should wear properly, and be lighter than the original, which means less fuel required and more bang for your buck. As all our cars are going to get lighter as time passes, to reduce fuel requirements and improve conservation, we'll eventually be talking ourselves into small improvements. After all, the car you own now might still be the car you own in 15 years. If that is a terrible thought, remember that you might only drive it once a week to the grocery store or farmer's market. You might be riding electric trains or a scooter the rest of the time.
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darksumomo
peakoil_prep
darksumomo
Suburbia: What a Concept By ALLISON ARIEFF
There is no more iconic suburb than Levittown, the postwar planned community built by the developer William Levitt in the late 1940s, so it is understandable that in launching Open House, a collaborative project to imagine a “future suburbia,” the Dutch design collective Droog in collaboration with Diller Scofidio + Renfro architects would make it the focus of their inquiry.
"Future Suburbia"--now, that looks promising, especially if it can solve the issues facing a car-centered way of living during a time when being car-centered is likely to be more of a liability than an asset. It would be nice if the designers came up with something that actually solved some of the real problems with suburban living during a time of resource shortage and economic contraction that was more uplifting than Kunstler's dismal vision of them being "the slums of the future" with "two or more families living in a McMansion" and "crops growing where the front lawn used to be." Unfortunately, they didn't.
But in approaching a real place as a perfect blank canvas on which to execute distinctly urban interventions, the Open House project conveniently excused itself from substantively engaging with the real issues facing suburbia’s future. Which is a pity. Because it would have been interesting to see what they’d come up with if they had.
What a wasted opportunity!
[T]he suburban existence is as exotic to them as say, Dubai, the site of Droog Lab’s first project where, says co-founder Renny Ramakers, they’d made a deliberate decision not to explore it as “a spending society — people felt we weren’t being critical enough; they couldn’t understand why. In this project I don’t want to be critical, I want to look for inspiration because in every part of the world, people are creating their own society, their own community.” But that’s not really valid. Can we discuss the future of suburbia (or the future of anything, really) without being critical? Without talking about developing accessible transit or increasing walkability (and community) through mixed-use development, for example? This alas, is not uncommon. Addressing suburban ills requires massive change to systems, to finance, to transportation and infrastructure, and perhaps most challenging, to a culture deeply wedded to suburbia as emblematic of the American Dream.
Ms. Arieff shows that she has a good eye for the real problems of suburbia. In fact, her list of problems, including her observation that the U.S. has become wedded to sururbia as the American Dream, makes her seem as if she's watched Collapse ) Above originally posted to Crazy Eddie's Motie News.

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Current Location: Detroit
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theheretic
peakoil_prep
theheretic
A decent scooter from Honda: the PCX. 110 MPG, automatic transmission, storage space, and a reasonable price and wheel size so it would actually work on American roads. A friend and I think that a scooter with the same basic ease of use as a Toyota Camry is the likely future on 5.5 mpbd of oil. Its also $3400 rather than the $6-7K that a Vespa is. And its safer on US roads.
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theheretic
peakoil_prep
theheretic
I go on and on about scooters and motorcycles. Really, the folks who have these are the ones who will keep their preferred jobs. The rest will either carpool to what they can reach, while that lasts (and probably not that long: carpooling is time consuming and irritating), take mass transit if it exists, or bike to any job they can get to and live with the misery of working well below their level and happiness. That's going to be what kills America most. No more dream jobs except in dreams.

At present a new motor scooter of the most basic and reliable design is the Italian Vespa. Unfortunately, that scooter is $5000. For $4000 you can get this: the Honda CBR250R. Its a basic starter motorcycle which is Honda's answer to the Kawasaki Ninja 250, which is immensely popular because it gets 70 mpg and goes 100 mph if you push it. Both are cheaper than the Vespa and safer because they have more suspension travel so can take bigger bumps. It is worth noting that the Honda has ABS brakes available for another $500, which really helps avoid crashes in panic stops. Might be worth it. Its going to take around 18-36 months to build streetcar lines thanks to our system of govt, which means if you don't have 3 years of savings you're going to have to experience working close to your home for yourself, better or worse. For folks who ran for the hills this is the real nightmare. After their few months of food runs out and they kill all the wild game a few weeks into the fuel rationing mess, they'll end up trudging down the mountain starving and begging for handouts or drink the Koolaid and burn down the ranch. That's what usually happens in cult situations when it all falls apart. The motorcycle? Its rational. True, the Yaris, if you can still get one after the Tsunami destroyed all the parts plants (stupid JIT), will get you 35-40 mpg, and with a carpool passenger gets you a combined ration, or a fuel economy of multiples (80 mpg) if you are willing to deal with the pick-up and drop off times. This works so long as the roads are worth going over with that car. For the next year, they should be okay. After that, iffy.

One of the better bits of why I like this above Honda is unlike the Ninja it has fuel injection. That means press the starter button, hop on, ride away. No waiting 5-8 minutes while the engine warms up and you have to fiddle with the choke. None of that. Just start and go. THAT is worth paying for. Fuel injection is all kinds of time saved. Your car is fuel injected. You don't have to wait 5 minutes while it warms up before you can drive off. That's how it used to be, btw. "Automatic choke" was a big deal when it came out. Before my time, but I've seen cars with a choke adjuster on the dashboard. I can't think that would be fun or entertaining. So fuel injection? Yes, thanks very much. And if you are willing to wait that 5-8 minutes every time you start up, and your neighbors won't mind the noise of you starting and revving for 5-8 minutes (don't count on it), then a bike with a choke will save you around $1000. There are bikes to be had with chokes for cheap. Used Ninja 250's with 12K miles are around $1200-2500. Still gets 70 mpg. Might need tires, an oil change, but it will still get you to your chosen job when its not raining. And here in the PRK, it doesn't rain for 5 months straight. That's a LOT of fuel savings. Carpool the wet part of the year with a friend who owns a Yaris. It can work. Get your coworkers interested in this. Why? Because if they're not there, you probably won't have a job either. It takes many people for a business to function. Its either that, or wear many hats and work lots of OT to get the job done when they're at home staring at their stupid cars with empty fuel tanks. Stupid SUV culture. Idiots.

Oh, and wear all your gear, all the time. That's not impossible, or even that expensive. Jacket, helmet, gloves, sturdy boots with padded/armored ankles are the primary stuff. Full face helmet recommended, since chin guards protect from rocks and bees (bees bad, like Invader Zim).
Yes, bees are bad. Real gear is a matter of 5 minutes to put on before heading out. This is why the choke hasn't been that big a deal here in the USA. It is worth noting by experienced Scooter riders that they recommend all that gear too. Riding in plain clothes, like you see in those post-war period Italian romance dramas? Those are movies. Great way to get really hurt. So really, the big tradeoffs of a 2-wheeled vehicle are safety vs fuel economy, happy job vs local job, and time. If your time isn't important at all, then you don't need to eat and you've got bigger problems.

The bicycle? That's a local job vehicle. No fuel required, no special clothes, no ongoing costs, really. But it means the local job. With our fed-govt doing such a good job of destroying its relevance through quantitative easing (hyperinflation) towards the inevitable bankruptcy, I can only say that we must make our own plans and deal with things accordingly.
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How about a frivolous post?

I've found this: the ultimate oil waster that exists in Oz, in Lego form...  Lego Power Miners Lavatraz




What else do Lego (other toys?) do that helps our children truly appreciate the grift and grab society we live in, and even better - are made from oil? 
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theheretic
peakoil_prep
theheretic
As you know, this community is all about the preparations for the end of oil. Since oil is currently in the greater stages of ending, caused by lots of people noticing and getting upset (democracy in the Middle East? Are you nuts? Oh, wait, that's actually happening.) We've talked about the ways to make your money last, mainly through fuel conservation, cooking your own food to cut back on restaurant expenses, new careers with a future post-oil, and the need for electrified rail. Still not happening, but its the right answer. That said, there is probably going to be a period with an abrupt and sudden shortage of gasoline, a temporary but annoying one, that causes the USA public to admit there's a problem and actually vote to fund both solutions and short term (several years) mitigation. Thanks to the Peak Oil problem being well stretched out like this, this means the "riots and gun fights Mad Max stuff" is highly unlikely. Instead we'll get angry letters to the editor, calls, emails, and faxes (who faxes anymore?) to their state and national representatives to "do something!". Do something.

Meanwhile if you want to get to work, and the power is still on, you either hope the mass transit is working, you can get on it despite triple the number of other people crammed aboard with the same idea, or you can bicycle to work, or sleep in a hotel near work if you're particularly far away from home. Some of my coworkers even brought up tents on the company lawn. No really, they weren't kidding. Another suggested buying a camper-trailer and parking it in the extensive paved parking lot. I'm tempted to write up a mitigation plan at work for gasoline shortages for our "Green Committee" so when it happens, they've already got things prepped. I should probably join the committee just to inject some workable realism there. Does the place you work have a plan to deal with rationing? Or will they just close their doors, handing out pink slips and shrugs citing "Force Majeur"?

I am talking to my coworkers one by one, asking them if they'll buy a bicycle. I converted a mountain bike to a "commuter" by swapping out the knobby tires for smooth ones, replaced my inner tubes with puncture sealing ones, and coated them with talcum powder so the tubes wouldn't be torn open by friction or shifting of the tire on the rim. This is one of those tricks bike mechanics know. Use it. My bike frame has no suspension, so it is simple and cheap and there's no special (expensive) maintenance to do for it. I clean the chain and relube it with silicone lubricant, commonly used for window frames because it doesn't attract dust like grease or oil do, meaning the chain will last 10 times longer. A bike like mine, currently unpopular in the used markets because all the cool kids want single speeds and very expensive racing 16-20 speed carbon fiber bikes, sells used for around $40. The one you buy might be stolen, but don't inquire too closely. The important thing is that it's cheap because you will probably have to replace it every year or two (or 4 months) due to theft. Expensive bikes are for racing or fun times, not for parking while you work or run errands. A cheap bike rack, if you need it, or basket, from Wald.com is a good idea. I put a rear fender on my bike so any puddles I run through won't throw spray up my back and ruin my work clothes. I recommend that. Modern fenders are light weight. Don't get detachable unless you're really sure you won't use them often because they fall off when you hit a bump. Or someone will just plain steal them when you're parked. Imagine going to the movies and finding your bike has been stripped when you get out. If you choose not to imagine you may not have to for long. Ahem. Btw, a "conservative" is a liberal that's been mugged once. A friend of mine who'd been very blase about the crime in Oakland got his car busted into mere weeks before he's planning to move out of the place, after years of living there. Cost of car window replacement? $740+tax. Cost of item stolen: $140. Response by police department? Budget cuts mean they don't care anymore. He's going to be moving here soon. Lower crime reduces cost of living. Shorter commute leaves more time in day for personal things, less money wasted on commuting back to hellhole Oakland. I'm encouraging him to buy a bicycle for him and his new wife. Something used, cheap, and practical. It makes sense. Bicycles don't need any gasoline or special licenses to operate. They're just bicycles. Wear a helmet, tie up your pant legs so they don't get caught in the chain, check the tire pressure. Accessorize if you really want to, but if your commute is short why bother? I'm sure we'll find a happy medium eventually. Once you're moving weight on the bike isn't felt much, though I recommend a light self-twisting cable lock rather than the heavy U-lock for casual errands. You might buy a couple U-locks if your work is overtly public and your boss won't let you park inside in a back space. Bosses can be surprisingly flexible about this, btw. They generally admire cyclists and will accommodate you. As for storing the bike, if you've got a balcony like I do, I chain it up and cover with a tarp. Brown, not blue. Grey would work. Non-eyesore colors so a casual thief won't look twice. Besides, cheap bike in the first place. Thieves are looking for stuff they can sell for drugs. Cheap bulky stuff? Not so much. Wider tires on a mountain bike also run on lower pressure and spread it over a larger surface area so punctures are far reduced. So far I have not had a puncture on a commute. Those guys with the ultra thin tires and the carbon fiber wheels? Every ride. This is simple math. I give up 1-2 mph on my speed but I'm also not spending 10 minutes changing a flat like they are. Duh! Learn the value of being a cheapskate with your time.

So assume you've got a bike, you've tuned it up, there's some OPEC nonsense and there's no fuel at the gas station today. Your car is out of gas, or someone drilled a hole in the tank and stole it all, then lit it on fire. Hey, that's happened in San Jose, no kidding. It's 20 miles away. Don't expect sense from meth junkies who steal gasoline to buy drugs. So you're down to your emergency bike. Check the tires, put on your helmet, check you've got blinking red tail lights so drivers will notice you, a headlight if you have to ride home in the dark, and the bike lock and its key. You're almost ready to go.

Verify your route. That's the other big secret of bicycling. You make about the same speed regardless of surface so side streets, residential ones, are often preferred because you're much less likely to be run over by some speeding idiot texting on the main road when you're on the parallel side street. Oh, and NEVER WEAR HEADPHONES WHILE BICYCLING. That's suicide. Modern cars are VERY quiet and can sneak up on you. You swerve to avoid a pothole and you might get flattened under that car you didn't hear coming up behind you. A radio with a speaker? Fine. Motorists will notice you better and you're not blocking off your hearing that way. Just be rational.

Anyway, bicycles can use many surfaces: sidewalks, turn lanes, wrong way down one way streets, pedestrian over and underpasses, bike and jogging trails, even gravel access roads. All places cars can't go. You will find that you can drastically shorten your commute this way. Google maps is your friend. Scout it out, do a test run on a day off so you have some idea how long it will take. Most highways have frontage roads running along them so you can bike on those too. The true problem are times where passes remove those frontage roads and force long detours. Its not enough that the pass is a lot of work to climb, no, there's no road over the top but the freeway. In those cases its time to either move or find a closer job. I'm reasonably certain that we'll have no-gas (temporarily) before we all vote to enforce "emergency" temporary fuel rationing (which will never end) and allow people the choice to carpool by sharing rations or find other means (scooters, motorcycles, electric cars, mass transit, unemployment) to deal with getting to work. Someday you'll have a scooter, you hope. No more pedalling. Sure, you'll get used to pedalling and its good for your cardiovascular system, an excellent workout, builds stamina, shrinks off your fat. Makes you all sexy. Its good for you. But the scooter is less work.

Pity that scooters cost around $5K. You can get a decent motorcycle that can go 100 mph and get 55 mpg on the highways for $5K. They're also safer than scooters and slightly harder to steal. This is one of those times govt should be stepping in and demanding the Big 3 build them cheap for the American market, sell them for $2K or even $1500, and offer a rebate of one per person per year, with a reset provided there's a stolen vehicle police report. I suspect people could justify that. If they're common enough and cheap enough they stop being worth stealing. Its going to be tough stepping down from the SUV, but its such a pompous waste for nearly every user. A tiny car will get 40 mpg and carry your whole family anyway. More cramped, yes, but still carry them. If you sell both the cars in your family, will they get enough money as trade ins to allow you to own a small car and still pay it off before the gasoline runs out? Dunno. But the bicycles are cheap and they're your backup vehicles. So buy one already. Get it tuned up and outfitted. Do a test ride to work. Figure out the finicky details. So you have the confidence to deal with the likely inevitable shortages looming. We might luck out and get electric streetcars and passenger rail up and running BEFORE it runs out, but that's a gamble with unfavorable odds. Just spend the money on the bicycles and prep in a sane way. Take some pictures, show them around at work. Show up to work at least once with a bicycle. Others will make the connection.
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theheretic
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theheretic
Was watching this video after reading the attached article about all the stuff BMW motorcycles is making standard gear for their model lineup. The stuff sounds good, but its all expensive and reducing the number of models while boosting the prices is an easy way to make a buck. The problem here is that BMW's cost more than a Toyota Yaris or Ford Fiesta, the basic tiny car with awesome good MPG (40 mpg). Watching the non-ABS motorcycle trying to flip over on hard braking is NOT encouraging me to ride a bike. Its a great reason to avoid them, really. That the rider keeps intentionally yanking the wheel sideways the same way every time to force the bike into a spin is hardly believable. Particularly since in the real world, roads have very uneven pavement, and grip increases after about an hour of rain and stays increased until the surface completely dries and cars drive over it dripping oil and diesel fuel to make it slippery again. We're grown ups here. We know this. BMW will increase its sales, but the real price of a motorcycle for a commuter is: less than the next most efficient cheap tiny car. That means that a bike must cost about half what a Yaris does. A Yaris, new, is around $13K, call it $15K with taxes etc. Its got 4 wheels, ABS, all the goodies 40 mpg fuel economy, a small efficient engine, and manual gear shift. It keeps the rain off, is fuel injected, and will carry two people comfortably, and groceries in the back. A reasonably good deal, really. Its also too heavy to pick up and sling in the back of a pickup truck to steal. And you can wear regular clothes in one, take your date out in a skirt, no problem. So half that price, $7500, is the upper reasonable limit for a proper motorcycle. Anything over that is not a serious commuter because it costs too much. The BMW bikes above cost as much as the Yaris, sometimes more. And they're quite heavy so their fuel economy is only a bit better, certainly not double that of the Yaris. Half again, maybe, if you're light on the acceleration. Compare that with the various bikes running from $3K-$7.5K and you see all sorts of possibilities. The various Suzukis, the Yamahas, a few Hondas (though most are quite overpriced), Triumph just barely qualifies, the new Enfield engine, the various Kawasaki motorcycles including the Ninjas, which oddly enough do pretty well on dirt. If there were an american motorcycle company (not Harley, they're Chinese assembled in the USA), we'd need a few basic models: a 150cc Underbone/Enduro model with automatic transmission to replace the Vespa scooter which is so overpriced it's half a Yaris, a 350cc twin based on the generic Japanese Bike (fuel injected, EMP hardened circuits, with a optional Kick starter), and a ultrasmall Suzuki/Subaru equivalent AWD with aluminum transfer cases instead of cast iron so its light enough to matter and gets its fuel economy up to 35 mpg instead of the usual Subaru 24 mpg. This is what the American Car Makers need to be producing for the general public to get them the means to get to work, no matter how small our fuel supply becomes. Its very important to afford the means to keep moving while the electric rail gets built. Fail that, we'll end up like Cuba, starving, miserable, and killing off our best and brightest thanks to grumblings reaching the Secret Police. These engines need to be replaceable with Diesel someday, and be E100 compatible NOW. This is a great opportunity. The cheaper they are to buy, the sooner people will adapt and the more units sold. Replacement parts and manuals at the local auto parts store, videos on how to fix things on YouTube, its not so difficult. Regular bicycle repairs are already like that. Since the above products don't yet exist, we'll be riding bicycles before we can buy a scooter-equivalent, and eventually upgrade to a 350cc motorcycle. With nobody on the roads but bikes, the environment is a lot safer, and when all the truck traffic goes to rail because its a cheaper method to haul stuff, well, the roads might be fixed up for longer... except for the weeds growing in the cracks.

This video is quite useful for understanding road decay, about 4:48 minutes in. There's a longer section on this somewhere, hope to find it later. Basically, without cars passing by, weeds take over roads very quickly. I've seen a road vanish in less than 3 years here in the PRK. Unpaved roads go in about 1 and a half years, particularly if there's Manzanita nearby. Scotch Broom and Kudzu will also do the job quite well, leaving little evidence the road was even there. In the real world of Country Living, bulldozers are necessary to keep roads clear and passable, and gravel must be spread and smoothed at least twice a year or the road will wash out, go away. Vehicles must be able to safely traverse these kinds of real-world roads or having a vehicle will be meaningless. I suppose it's possible we'll invent some kind of artificial pavement which is less pervious to seeds sprouting but nature really doesn't work that way. I think the biggest shock of living in the boonies was learning just how quickly nature recovers from Man's Little Ambitions, like road building, fences, dams. These are temporary and hard to maintain. Ergo, Railroads are that much better. You know we've finally admitted our place in the world when there's a railroad through every town, and our buildings are stone again. At least we'll have good beer.

Oh, and Buy a Bicycle!
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theheretic
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My coworkers are getting grumpy about the price of gasoline. Its $4.27/gal. here in the SF Bay Area. You can buy it for about 10 cents less at the cheap stations, which I do, but the average station is around $4.27/gal. And oil is only $109.66/bbl. It was $147 back in 2007 when the price maxed out with $4.50/gal gasoline. It is much more expensive now. We'll have $4.50/gal gasoline when the oil is only $125/bbl, maybe a bit less. Some of my coworkers claim they'll quit their jobs, but that's just them being irrational, mostly from irritation at the conveniences they've had to give up in order to afford their commutes. I have coworkers who spend $600-700/month on fuel just for work commute. And that is at the current price. Thanks to our shifts being really crappy times they can't even take public transit. Some are grumbling, most are looking for new jobs, all of them are unhappy. This TOO is a big part of the Post-Peak Oil world.

When I read blogs from survivalists either adapting to the countryside or planning to move there before or during the Big Disaster Event of Clarity, where they can bunker in a log cabin and lots of provisions, I remind them, though they don't listen, that Peak Oil will outlast their stored food and their ammunition isn't really that useful since using it in self defense will still result in arrest. I am not getting much in the way of posting access at my usual site because my views have diverged from the host. I think its partially that he's so invested in the Bunker, while I'm convinced this is the Dreaded Multi-Generational Scenario (DMGS). DMGS means you can't provision long enough, so you can't really disengage from the general population. Thus the bunker is a losing survival strategy. Since he's already invested heavily in that, it would mean admitting he's goofed. Instead of guns and concertina wire, the better strategy is scooters/motorcycles, broader skillsets, and jobs with short commutes if possible, and living in towns with existing rail access so they'll easily convert to electric rail rather than end up Ghost Towning out of existence. Rail won't necessarily save a town. Towns exist for reasons of geography or exploitable resources, often both. Once the resource is gone, if the geography isn't favorable the town dies once the rich nostalgists die off. You end up with graveyards and foundations, usually. I've visited many in the Western states and they're usually like that. Sometimes a few houses are still occupied so it just looks like a run down neighborhood in the middle of nowhere. If you can't get a real job, and can't ship a product in or out to value-add to it, you're just going to starve in the boonies, alone, unwanted, and still taxed despite this. Kunstler likes to claim that all suburbs will die, but he's an idiot because he doesn't understand that ALL towns are places that used to be something else, retasked a building into something useful today, and got past the old way. This is the real meaning of character (of a town). Quirky bits of repurposed stuff that's found use in the new context rather than what they were designed for. Kunstler can't imagine it, so therefore he's full of dire predictions and death and dismay. Talk about pathetic. Everybody dies, Bill! Even you!

The rest of us are far more sane about things. We'll get our chickens, buy our groceries, pay our taxes, and keep going to work, whatever jobs those end up being. I'd like to see us moving forward faster to resolve our peak oil problems with electric rail, but that's really waiting on cheap solar and that's going to wait for the population to suffer transportation shutdown before it will care about spending lots of money on solar panels to power the rail system. We do things AFTER the disaster hits, not before. No amount of whining about preparedness (by people like me) will change the general population into proactive non-idiots. This is just their way. Oh well.

Buy a bicycle!
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My husband and I talk often about what a future peak oil world could look like, how the community might be linked together, and what sorts of genuine threats might exist.

He's a pessimist, and thinks we're headed for a Mad Max world of guns, lawlessness and thievery.  I'm an optimist who believes we're likely to pull together into small community groups (for context we live in country Australia) that watch each others' backs and share / trade our resources.

And then in the last month, when lambs hit a high price here for the first time in years... sheep rustlers struck, taking about $60,000 worth of sheep from a local paddock in a single night.

Ayup.  I think there's more realism in my husband's views at times than mine. To take those sheep you'd have to know they were there, have a truck, sheep dogs, help and you'd have to know they were 18mth old lambs and worth taking.  Probably a local.

So much for community protecting it's own.

With diesel hitting $1.60/L here in Oz people have started stealing from farms (which usually have large storage trucks or tanks on them) - there was always some diesel stealing, but it's up a notch now.  And it's only going to get worse...

This is in a small community area with only 1,000 people living in the district, with farmers who have grown up and lived here their whole lives, and where a person who moves here is 'new' for 20yrs.  We're just an agricultural district, not a tourism precinct or a regional shopping town or anything... just farms and a small town of retirees. 
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Link here

Finally someone has thought beyond the electric car, beyond the car that requires batteries that are full of very rare metals/minerals and unsustainable into the future. A car that will be servicable in a future world without oil, and potentially without electricity even.

I'm at a loss to understand why we keep flogging the same horses - electric and dual-fuel cars are not getting more achievable, they are still expensive environmentally, financially and resource gluttons... It's good to see someone do something very different.  

I'm tempted to buy and import one (into Australia) as a test vehicle/promotional toy/whatever clause I can get it in under... 
 
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theheretic
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theheretic
I baked whole wheat bread last weekend. It was not hard, though next time I'll use a bit more bread flour. Helps it form gluten necessary for the texture to come out right. Home made bread is WAY MORE NUTRITIOUS than store bought, btw. There's more wheat in it. It's denser. A slice of home made is worth 3 of store bread.

Did some research on Vespa scooters. They're the best known, being a new frame for the Cushman scooter air dropped all over Europe during the war (WW2). The Vespa (Wasp) is a model of the Piaggio company scooter. Originally intended to be very cheap transportation, just slightly more expensive than a bicycle, far less than a car. They're meant to go slow so can be ridden with minimal safety gear and no more serious in crashes than those on a bicycle. Turns out that's not really the case, but many states limited them to 30 mph max speed and an open faced helmet was considered enough for most riders. They also allowed people to ride them without special permits, legal to park on the sidewalk like a bike (so free parking), and while they can't pull a hill with only 49cc's, they're great in flat land and gentle slopes. They have an automatic transmission as well so twist the throttle to go, squeeze the brake to stop. Very simple operation. After doing much research I've found most people here in California recommend 150-300cc's rather than flatlander 50cc engines. We have hills here. And scooters only really work on FLAT SMOOTH ROADS. Throw in a pot hole and scooter goes down. They only have a couple inches of suspension travel. That's it. A bump more than a couple inches means the whole bike shakes and that shake can mean spilling its unsecured rider onto the pavement, possibly right in front of a car that's not paying nearly enough attention and following a bit too closely. So scooters are not really that safe. The biggest problem with the Vespa is they cost as much as a motorcycle. They're cute. Would love to have one. But paying a $2500 premium for something made in Thailand with plastic body panels? Not so much.

There are competitors to the Vespa. Taiwan makes scooters sold in the USA as the Buddy Scooter, which has the same problems, but a more affordable price than the Vespa. Still not great. And not made in the USA. Considering the first scooters came from here, its a bit galling we don't make them anymore. They cost a few hundred to make. The rest is pure profit. How much gasoline can you buy for $3500? Quite a bit. Without rationing, why bother? It doesn't help that they're small and light enough to steal by a couple not particularly strong men with a pickup truck.

For comparison we have various smaller displacement motorcycles. You have to park these on the street, but the larger wheels will deal with bumps far better. My research into motorcycles indicates that the ideal displacement is 400cc, as it will reach 100 mph and still get good MPG, in the 65 MPG range. A Prius won't do that. At this point, this displacement is largely under-represented in modern motorcycles. There's really only one bike this size, and its made for offroad, the Suzuki DRZ-400. They make a supermoto version (street tires, lowered) but its way too expensive for a commuter. If you look back into the 1970's and 80's you can find 400cc bikes from Honda and Suzuki, which are popular conversions into Cafe Racers, sadly illegal in California now due to a muffler law that just passed and is driving all the motorcycle chopper shops out of the state, just like that. Additionally, the 70's and 80's bikes are less than reliable, electrically. Not ideal for a commuter. Again, we need modern bike manufacturers. A pity the big 3 car companies aren't interested. All that market share waiting for a reliable affordable machine with a way to get service and parts, unlike the Chinese companies can deliver. Funny how there's already a chain of dealerships. Don't know if they'd still want to sell with so much lower markup.
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theheretic
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theheretic
Here's a tiny car coming soon to a Fiat-Chrysler dealership near you, the FIAT 500. I just watched "Roman Holiday" with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn last weekend and 1953 Rome is filled with these kinds of tiny cars, and Vespa scooters too. People CAN live with tiny cars. They're making them in Mexico for the American market. Around half of my coworkers have some variation of tiny car these days. Most are not yet carpooling in them, but most of those with big SUVs are. Gasoline prices passed $4.00/gal at the cheap station on the corner here in the Bay Area suburbs. Probably not long now till you see something similar where you live.

Its terrible, you know, that Black Swan Events keep happening regardless that the big impending doom stuff that progress along their own pathways. Its not the end of the world, though learning to do without things like bananas, coffee, chocolate, and cheap consumer electronics are just as traumatic, in their way, and doing without SUVs and cheap gasoline. I found Buffy the Vampire Slayer to actually be a great philosophical coping mechanism for this and takes a huge load off my mind about it all. This is a great multigenerational disaster, after all. We can't hide from this. We have to adjust OURSELVES to deal with it. If you haven't bought an acoustic musical instrument, give it some consideration. I bought a Viola (like a fiddle, but in tune) a couple years ago for the day the power has On-ages instead of Out-ages. If it makes you feel better, almost any rock or soul tune can be played as bluegrass on acoustic instruments with very little effort. They're all descended from bluegrass, which is descended from Gaelic folk tunes and Welsh (Gaelic) spirituals. Just make sure what you buy doesn't require electric power to work. That's going to be our big adjustment, after we lose our fuel. So exciting!

The spring is somewhat colder than in recent years, here in California. Not unheard of, seeing as I have memories of California springs going back 36+ years. Rain storms, unseasonable cold with snow on the hills, that wasn't unheard of. Weathermen like to tweak the statistics as much as possible so today's weather seems strange and exotic. Pity they underestimated the paranoia that generates over the long term. While I'm inclined to think that the population is somewhat more panicky than they were before the Japan quake, they're settling down again. A year ago I was pondering investing in Yen-based money markets because the Yen went from 110 (weak) to 81 (strong). Then the earthquake hit and then the tsunami, and then the reactors melted down all Chernobyl-y and we've got radioisotopes coming down in the spring rains here in California. Joy. And me without a sensitive enough geiger counter to pick them up. I've got a dosimeter with an alarm, but its only going to pick up clouds of the stuff, not trace. And its sensitive to static electricity and temperature changes so goes off with false alarms all the time. Not very useful at all. All things being equal, still gotta go to work, still gotta pay the rent, still gotta eat. The head for the hills crowd is heading into the path of the radioactivity, which is higher up north, closer to the jet stream which is bringing over the isotopes from Japan. With any luck they'll eventually get the piles cooled down and most of the danger will be over. We just have to keep going about our daily business. Ironic, to say the least.

I wonder if we'll still be able to get Yaris hatchbacks in the USA now that Toyota Japan is halfway closed down thanks to the damages? Will the Honda Fit still come over? I expect we'll be learning all sorts of things about JIT and how globalism makes everything so much easier to cripple, and how regional disasters become global economic problems. I suppose it remains possible that rationing, one which I've based most of my predictions, will not happen. It would take a much more severe economic collapse to make that possible, and a far more stable transition for the Arab OPEC states to modernization than is likely. Even Egypt had serious supply disruptions to the nations it sells its natural gas (Israel, Gaza, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon) used for heating and electrical power generation. That destabilization has led to renewed violence and political upheaval in those countries.

So, tiny cars... unless we suddenly get fuel shortages.
Bicycles if we do. Scooters when we finally get industries to make them domestically. And excuses from the snobs too proud to ride a scooter to work. You wanna starve? This ain't Europe.
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theheretic
peakoil_prep
theheretic
We're going to end up eating a LOT of eggs in the near future, once the Arab states opt for production cuts to drive up the price of oil to pay for all those First World things the ordinary Arab wants. Can't blame them for that. Its just we have to pay more for our oil so they can finally get them. At this point, screwing over the world economy just isn't as important to them as getting things like hospitals, roads, clean water, and electrical power worth a damn. Oh, and jobs worth having. Can you blame them for wanting what we have? No. Not at all.

For us it is the end of the commuter economy. Its the end of the car with the operatic sound system and climate control. Its the end of casual motoring and full employment. We're sliding out of First World here in America and slipping back into Third. You may not want to see it yet, but it is happening. 1970's here we come!

For food, I think we're going to find ourselves wanting to know everything about chickens. Both meat birds and layers. We'll probably have a lot of layers so we can get the eggs for primary protein, and a few meat birds so we can eat one a month for proper meat once in a while. This is how they do things in Indonesia, btw. They used to be an oil exporting nation and about 7 years ago stopped exporting and suffered the Land Export Model consequences. That was the end of the Asian Miracle, btw. All those slogans and it still went PFFT! Eggs and farmers market veggies. Buy and grow, as best you can. Use every scrap of veggies you can use. Soup is going to be one of your basic foods. Frittatas from the eggs too. Bunnies love many kinds of vegetable scraps, just don't feed them anything from the broccoli-cabbage family as they can't fart so gas will actually kill them. Upside of bunnies, if you're growing them for meat, is they're silent so you can have them in an apartment without anyone complaining. If you clean them every 4 days and keep vinegar on hand it also stops the stink. And their pellets and urine make plants grow, so that's a soil enhancer right there. Chickens, on the other hand, while they produce decent fertilizer as well as bunnies do, start making noise at first light. And they stink. You don't even need a rooster, the hens coo before dawn. Its pretty loud. Better in the suburbs and countryside, not good in the city or an apartment, at least not until everyone is doing it at which point nobody is going to make a fuss. If you're unsure what to name your meat animal, Menchi is a good name.

Pretty soon there's going to be very few "night jobs". We'll all be working Day shift, if we have work. Its easier to manage the fuel resources if we're not a 24-7 society. You can conserve a lot more energy by having universal downtimes, with a few exceptions like entertainment (movies, bars, sporting events) and eateries. Even now, restaurants are still adjusting their prices, pay, and expectations just to stay open. As wages fall and unemployment continues its unsteady rise to what will probably work out to 16-20 hour 2-3 day weeks for everyone who can still work, America will come to resemble Jamaica, or worse: Haiti. The importance of understanding basic courtesy is going to be critical because stresses on people living in poverty for the first time will make violence a real possibility. So is kindness and compassion. Maybe that sounds Ironic coming from me. Learning what questions not to ask, and teaching folks how to live on less without accusing ignorance or admitting poverty might turn out to be a very important skill for all of us who want to survive this with our sanity intact.

Losing our Middle Class is going to kill a lot of people who just can't adjust. Example? Imagine you're a rich baby boomer who was counting on selling your house when you retired, living on the huge sum in some idealized retirement community vacation resort town, and eating steak every night for 30 years till you die of heart failure. Then your 401K tanks in the Dot.com crash, your house value tanks in the housing bubble, and your mortgage is worth more than your house. Imagine that. Then your company downsizes because the widgets you made just aren't worth much anymore without people rich enough to pay for them. So you take your early retirement settlement for far less than you'd hoped, sell the house, pay off the small difference with your settlement, and move to some crappy place you can afford to live on your social security pension, which isn't much. You get bored, you try to find something to do, and eat a lot more tuna helper and hamburger than steak till you die of food poisoning or a stroke, feeling quite betrayed by the collapse of your country. If it makes you feel better, this is how people felt during the Great Depression in the 1930's. It could be better of course. If these hypothetical retirees managed to do a bit better they'll end up hiding in gated retirement communities, increasingly expensive and better guarded to keep out the burglars, home invaders, junkies, and probably looters and relatives seeking funds to survive or improve their lot in life by taking it from someone else. Inside, rich people will pretend everything is still okay. That the outside world is someone else's problem, that it won't come here, inside the gates and safety. They'll import fancy entertainers, and charge for it. They'll import luxury food, and charge for it. They'll offer events for the residents, and charge for it. They'll keep raising fees for everything, and charge for it. Pretty soon the rich will be out of money and find themselves evicted for failure to pay fees, dues, and get charged for it. Then they'll be running to us to shelter them from their stupidity and get shoved into a home for the degenerate destitute, squabbling idiots they so clearly were all their lives. Yes, I'm somewhat judgemental towards the Baby Boomers. If it makes you feel better my own generation are nearly as bad. The later generations are worse though. Growing up with nuclear war and the poverty of the 70's and 80's and half the 90's probably helped ground us. Later generations just don't get it, and everything is a shock, and they don't seem to adapt well to poverty after a life of privilege, consumerism, and materialism.

What's the solution? Let them be. They'll either adjust or kill themselves denying reality, but at least there will be good paying jobs minding their yards and guarding their compounds. Don't hate the people lucky enough to serve work there. They're trying to survive too. Why not profit from ignorance? Its no different from a fast food job, right? The rest of us will be raising chickens or trading for eggs from people who have the time, space, and foresight to go into business doing it. Eggs are good protein. You'll need it to stay healthy and have some reason for hope.

For those who care, the best book on Chickens is Storey's Guide To Raising Chickens, ISBN 978-1-58017-325-4. People who know chickens and actually care about efficient results recommend this book. And its thorough. A hardcopy won't be down with the power going out. And that's a topic for another post.
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