Tuesday, 19 June 2007


Peak Oil: The link will provide a better and more detailed explanation, but to summarise - Peak oil is the point at which world crude oil extraction reaches it's maximum rate, and then starts to decline due to increasing difficulty in extracting and processing the remaining oil. The demand for oil will continue to increase, but the supply will be less and less able to meet demand. As the gap between the quantity of oil required and the quantity available widens, the price of oil will increase - simple economics. The price of oil impacts on everything, not just the cost of petrol at the pump. Plastics, chemical fertilisers, energy, anything transported by road, air or sea, all will be affected by the rising price of oil. So where does this lead? Economic recession? Depression? Where do we go from here?

We were just a fairly average little family, trying to do our bit for the environment. Tried to be "green" when we could do so without it being too inconvienient or expensive. Sorted waste for the council's recycling collections. Composted at home. Used washable then biodegradable nappies. Tried to reduce the toxic load in household cleaning products and toilitaries. Did a little gardening...

Himself got a job near home and has so much more energy in the evenings, no longer having to do a 1 hour each way motorway commute day-in day-out. As Small became a toddler and the spring arrived, we started spending more time in the garden. We started to pay more attention to our plants and trees. Himself started looking into organic solutions to pest control. This lead to subjects like companion planting and permaculture. In the space of a couple of weeks while researching permaculture he came across a documentary about peak oil. Everyone is aware to some degree that fossil fuels are finite, and I think some people are aware that this is a fairly immanent problem and even that "something ought to be done about it" in a nebulous kind of a way. But we felt we needed to act now!

So we started thinking, if this is going to happen, how would we live after Peak Oil? If prices rose and jobs could not be depended upon, what could we do to look after our little family? This lead us to re-examine ideas of self sufficiency: we had thought about "the good life" some years previously, but shelved our ideas since it felt like we would be giving ourselves additional stress and complications in return for some fanciful daydream about keeping chickens and the like. Now we feel that it is no longer a choice, or an alternative, but the only reasonable way forward. Small is two years old. If Peak Oil impacts on the economy in five years, or ten years, or fifteen years, we will still be responsible for him, and for his future. Burying our heads in the sand is not an option. We must evolve to meet what we know is coming.

So we have begun considering the steps we would need to take to become more-or-less self-sufficient and to live in a culture with little / very expensive oil. There are many changes we need to make to our day-to-day routine and skills to learn. Some of these we can enact where we are currently living. Others will need to wait until we are able to sell our suburban terraced house and buy land in the countryside. Changes we are already implementing will in some cases also help reduce our expenses, helping us to clear debts and prepare for the move.

What we have started with: Reducing electricity consumption by being more vigilant about switching off where it is not necessary and not using standby mode on appliances. Also we just discovered this site which helps you make consumer choices which reduce consumption. We have changed our gas and electrical supplier to reduce our costs. While we debated switching to green tarriffs as ethical consumers, in the end we went for the cheaper option. The money we save will go towards getting us closer to our goal, which includes using home grown renewable electricity production, thus getting us off the grid entirely. We see it as a necessary trade off.

We will keep updating as we go on. Hopefully this blog will serve as more than a record of our progress, it will also encourage those who read it looking for encouragement, inform those looking for information, and amuse those who want to be amused.

No comments: