Peak Oil Making more mainstream news (via Sustainablog)
5/30/2005 09:14:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Interesting articles to check out, and more evidence that word is getting around.

My thanks to Jeff, for linking to my essay as well.

A side note, check out the sustainablog "Blogging around the clock" for charity on July 11th.

On July 11th, sustainablog will be two years old. While I didn't make a big deal of the first anniversary, this year I want to celebrate. So, from 9 am (CST) on July 11th to 9 am July 12th, I'll be "Blogging 'Round the Clock." That's right -- a 24-hour blogathon. There's a method to my madness, though (and, yes, I realize this sounds like madness) -- sustainablog will be raising funds for St. Louis' premiere site for all things sustainable, the Missouri Botanical Gardens' Earthways Center.
Memorial Day Weekend
5/30/2005 09:08:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

Went camping in the Adirondacks this weekend, is there a more beautiful place on earth? Posted by Hello


For Marcia...


Camp
New Topic: Is what I want REALLY going to make me happy?
5/27/2005 10:47:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
My 'significant other' (I am no longer going to call her the missus) came across this great article in a book that she had bought called The Best American Nonrequired Reading. It discusses research done by a scientist named Daniel Gilbert, who compared peoples expected responses to purchases, life changing events, and comparing big single setbacks with chronic ones.

In a nutshell: the work found that we are never happy as long as we think we are with the purchase of a new car, nor are we as sad for as long about the lost of someone close to us. We constantly are striving to get the next big thing, only to be shortly 'accostumed to it.' We think that we know what is going to make us happy, but in truth we deceive ourselves how happy it would really make us.

It is worth a read. Having been written in 2003, there has been many posts dedicated to the subject, but since I recently came across it, I figured that it was worth another look.

Thoughts anyone?


What the city version of me might sound like...
5/26/2005 07:42:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
I found this great NYC blog entry, dealing with alot of the same issues that I have been preaching about dealing with.

Having left Manhattan 1 year and 4 months ago, (no not to run for the hills...) I am glad that someone is blogging and talking to their friends about peak oil down there.

Check out some of her other entries too...

Damn, I miss the city sometimes.
5/25/2005 07:54:00 AM | Author: baloghblog

Thank you Oil Drum for the nod. I appreciate the traffic. Posted by Hello
Thanks for all your responses to my essay...
5/25/2005 07:29:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
I will post some of your other great ideas soon.

For now a few links:

composting

square foot gardening


CNY recycling

canning veggies

rain water collection

gasoline conservation
I am telling you we know what to do with our shit around here.
5/25/2005 07:23:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
More power to you. Literally... from your neighborhood cows.

From the Syracuse Post Standard.

It is a whiff of hope for farmers and their neighbors.

Cayuga County dairy farmers Ted O'Hara and Doug Young are pursuing the brass ring of industrial-scale, dairy farming - a dependable technology to manage manure.

Teaming up with Global Common, LLC, a Long Island energy development company that plans to use Danish technology and venture capital funding, the two farmers are proposing a $15 million anaerobic digester system would all but eliminate manure odor.

[snip]

And it would produce enough electricity - 4 megawatts - to power 4,000 homes, roughly half the homes in the city of Auburn, a Global Common official said.

Instead of using manure only, the digester would process a "cocktail" of manure and used food oils, things like cooking oil, cheese whey or fish oil.

Instead of storing manure in an open lagoon for weeks or months, or shipping it via truck, the project would pipe manure underground a total of five miles, between Young's Spruce Haven Dairy in Fleming, and those farms in between, to the digesting plant on O'Hara's dairy farm in Aurelius.

Preparation for the Future (Thoughts for 30-somethings)
5/22/2005 02:39:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

Well, I have been digesting The Long Emergency, by James Howard Kunstler. It is a bleak vision of the future of America, with declining oil supplies. I, like the author, would not live to see many of the changes that he describes in his idea of the future, but I do believe that there are many things that people in our generation could do to prepare to face any eventual hardship. I will lay out what I plan to do personally to get myself, my finances, my family and my home more self sustaining, and ready for whatever may come our way.I, and others my age have grown up in a time of plenty. Most of us are used to an abundant opportunity of education and employment, compared to any time in our nations history. Born after Vietnam, witnessing the end of the cold war, seeing decisive victories in the first Gulf War, no causalities in the Bosnian conflict, we have seen little in the way of war growing up. (No disrespect for those who have lost their lives fighting for our country during our developmental years.) Our battles were fought in our imagination with sticks and toy guns, or against aliens on video games. The Dow Jones Industrials were at 703.69 on Jan 1st 1975, and as I type the Dow closed at 10,471.91 this past Friday. This is a 1,448% gain in my lifetime. Energy prices, unemployment and interest rates fell. Home ownership, investment in the stock market and personal wealth increased.

Luckily, our generation can still remember a time without cable TV, with rotary phones, playing outdoors and biking through the neighborhood without a care in the world. Computers entered the home in our youth but were items of mystery and functionality vs. items of necessity. We had sketchpads to fill with our art; we had endless sheets of loose-leaf paper to write our stories on. We read books. We read more books, until the words on the pages turned into beautiful and profound worlds in our minds. We listened to the Top 40 countdown on our new AM/FM Walkman silently in the backseat, while our parents enjoyed a moment of silence in the front seat. (Or, sometimes we’d sing loudly and badly, as if everyone should be hearing the song we were experiencing larger than life between those two orange foam pad earphones.) It was a wondrous time to grow up. I seldom take the time to think about it now, in the hectic grown up world that we live in now. But we do have that time somewhere back in our memory, I fear for the generation of kids who do not.

We would be foolish to believe that the time of plenty could go on indefinitely. Ignoring history would be irrational, as written in the words of George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” There were times of need just prior to us entering the world and seemingly every 25 years before that. Those who lived through the Great Depression, the First and Second World Wars are passing away. Lost with them are the ideas of frugality, self-sufficiency and savings. Shoes, socks, clothing, appliances, and electronic equipment were to be repaired when damaged or broken, not replaced. Our economy is becoming solely dependent on the extension of credit and the purchasing of items made mostly far far away. We produce less and less real goods, in this “service” economy. We depend more and more on others to perform tasks and the creation of goods for us. I’d love to see a chart of the number of women who could knit or use a sewing machine as a percent of the population, and equally so, how many men could tune up their cars engine, or perform basic carpentry. I am sure you’d see a steep decline in the past 30 years or so.

After reading The Long Emergency, I am still not convinced that Peak Oil will happen in the next year or two, or that our economy is a dead man walking, but I do realize the possibility that I could be very wrong about that. I see the decline of cheap oil as a tremendous burden that at this stage our country will not be able to stomach. 5-10 years from now we could be looking at a very different financial and societal picture. Already $2.20/gal gasoline is starting to look “cheap.” It happened in a blink of an eye, that we went above $2/gal gas, with little fanfare in the press, other than, “boy Wolf, gas sure is getting expensive isn’t it? Yes, Judy, we’ll have more after the break. Will gas prices keep going up? Geez I sure hope not, heh heh…” Our government uses increasing gas prices as a way to promote an energy policy that will give tax cuts to the big oil companies, during a time where they are reaping record profits from us. Like I said, we are not prepared as a government or as individuals for this.

So I have been thinking, what should I be doing about it? The first is to educate my friends and family about this short-term possibility, I guess. I figure those who I care about the most should have the information available. And, shit, I don’t want to be the only one worrying about this happening! I digress though… I came up with some ideas that we will be working on in our home, and figured that along with the bad news, I would share some of the “bright ideas” that I have. Most are not novel; most are not difficult or expensive. All are things that we can start thinking about now.

The main ideas that my preparation for the future revolve around are:

Conservation
Home Improvements and Increased Energy Efficiency
Gardening/Food Production and Storage
Reducing Waste
Financial Preparation
Improving Health and Well Being
And Modestly “Filling the Cupboards”

Conservation:

My idea of conservation is more a self-centered approach to conserving energy. Not for the greater good, although its effects would no-doubt help the national consumption of energy. This idea of this conservation is to reduce energy use bills, and allow us to save even greater amounts of money when energy prices increase.

- Return to working locally, vs. in the adjacent county. I drive hundreds of wasted miles a month to visit my clients in the neighboring county instead of the Syracuse area. I would save gallons of gas and conserve hours of my time working locally.
- Carpooling. We decided that we would start to car pool when gas hit $2.50/gallon, but we are considering starting to carpool on a limited basis to conserve gas.
- Put TV/Stereo/Computer on power strips, and turn to off position when not in use. This saves up to 12% of your electricity portion of your utility bill. All of those great electronic devices that we have suck up power to sit in “standby” mode.
- Turn things off when not in use. Sounds simple, but how many times do you find that you’ve left the light on, or computer on overnight. Can’t you just hear your dad “reminding you gently” to turn off the light when you were done in room.
- Replace bulbs with fluorescent compact bulbs when blown. Buy those in bulk to save money. They last longer, and use much less energy.
- Circulate cool air from basement to upstairs during summer months vs. running central air conditioner.

Home Improvements/Increased Energy Efficiency:

Related to the idea of energy conservation, we plan on making some energy efficient upgrades to our home.

- Install energy efficient windows. Our 1956 home has the original windows, single pane with a storm window. You can feel the cold air come down off of them like a waterfall in the winter. Replacement windows will quickly pay for themselves in the cold Syracuse winters. (And cool spring for that matter!)
- Replace any appliances with energy efficient Energy Star appliances, when they reach the end of their useful lifetime.
- Update insulation. NYS offers a Home Performance Evaluation that can help determine ways to make your home more energy efficient. We plan on doing this in 2006.
- Wood burning stove insert for fireplace, capturing the heat that travels straight up the chimney.

I initially looked into solar and wind energy production, but given the weather in upstate NY, the solar panels didn’t seem to be a prudent purchase, and although reducing energy costs, would take decades to recoup the cost. Perhaps in your neck of the woods, this could be an option. As far as wind goes, we sure have plenty here, but given our small plot of land, and the aesthetics of the home and the neighborhood, it doesn’t seem feasible. Perhaps when the mills get more compact, (as they apparently are) I will re-consider it. Again this might be something that works for you.

Gardening/Food Production and Storage:

I have always loved to have a garden. My Dad instilled that in me in a young age, as he planted his small garden in the backyard. I find it meditative and very rewarding to tend a garden and harvest my efforts. Others may find it annoying to weed, and fruitless when the cost of vegetables is many times less at the local grocery store. In the future, there may not be an endless supply of grapes from Chile, apples from Australia, and salad from California. Home grown food, without its pesticides, manufactured oil based fertilizers, and who knows what else sprayed or spliced into them to make them travel better, not only tastes better, but is better for you. Here are some of my ideas to increase food production on my meager yard, as Kunstler predicts that food production locally will be the focus on much of our lives.

- Increase size of my garden plot. Cutting back the maple branches overhanging our lawn to let the sun shine in. Also to use raised beds to control the soil that is used for growing and to limit the weeding.
- Plant fruit trees. I personally love apples and cherries, and know that they do well in our climate, so those are what I am looking to purchase and plant. For you flower lovers, they also bloom brilliantly in the spring.
- Plant raspberry bushes. Don’t know much about the care and growing of these plants yet, but I know they grow wildly in the woods around me, so must do well in central NY.
- Plant grape vines. My grandfather used to make Hungarian Fruit wines that were delicious (and then distill those into a mean moonshine.) I would love to be able to make my own wine, so I plan on planting a few grape vines to begin maturing, while I take the time to learn how to make homemade wine.
- Plant herbs, garlic and onions. We buy these all the time, so it makes sense to have them self propagating at home.
- Learn the old school ways of making Italian tomato sauce. (I am Hungarian, so I refuse to call it “gravy.”) My wife’s Gram and Dad can pass the secrets of making and canning the sauce to us, to be able to enjoy it all winter long.
- Learn how to dry and store herbs.
- Learn how to make jams and jelly from my Gram.
- Learn how to can/jar food, make pickles, how to keep a root cellar.
- Create a functioning compost pile; get a pitchfork to turn. Then we’ll have a great source of nutrients for our plants and garden.
- Replace gutters, and create rainwater collection.

Reducing Waste:

The nice little old lady across the street only puts out a Wegman’s sized grocery bag out to the curb on garbage day. We seem to put out 5 times that amount. This costs us indirectly in increased municipal costs and taxes, more gas is consumed trucking it to the landfill. Not to mention filling up our landfills more quickly.

- Comply with all recycling rules, and use as much as possible.
- Increase re-use of items. Substituting plastic containers for sandwich bags when packing a lunch. Save food containers for re-use in food storage, or other uses including starting seedlings, storage of supplies, etc.
- Increase use of compost to all materials that are appropriate.
- Garbage only containing non-recyclable paper and plastics, fat/meat, dirt/dust, etc.

Financial Preparation:

I think that the area of finances is the area that 30-somethings can affect most to improve their future preparedness. The level of unsecured debt that we carry can make it seem like it will be impossible to pay off. Student Loans make up the bulk of my debt, followed by credit cards. The “secured” debt that we carry could also become an issue, if the value of our homes and the cars that we drive depreciate, so it too shouldn’t be overlooked. We have begun an adventure into paying down first our unsecured debt, and then we’ll consider extra payments to the house. We have begun to add to our balanced retirement accounts after neglecting them with our move last year. Another area of financial stability we have begun to consider, is the saving of hard assets and tangible goods, along with a small stash of cash. Didn’t you ever notice how your grandparents always seemed to have some cash stashed away in the house? That’s because one day their parents went to the bank and there wasn’t any money to take out. They never forgot that, and never fully trusted the ATM card. I think that it would be prudent to take a page out of their book, especially in this debit card/no cash in the pocket area. Some blogs out there subscribe to having gold and silver coin on hand. I don’t think that we are at that point personally, but if you have all of your other financial ducks in a row, then maybe that would be right for you. I’ll stick to paying off the Visa, and Uncle Sam’s student loans.

- We read Suze Orman’s book, Young Fabulous and Broke, and got some good tips from that. There are a million and one financial advice books out there, find the one that is right for you.
- We have a debt reduction plan that is as basic as this: We have a set amount of money that we put towards our debt each month. Currently that money is completely dedicated to our credit cards. When the credit card is paid off, we will take that money, as well as the payment we’d been making and apply it to our next target, a small student loan. After that is paid off, we will take the sum of the original credit card payment, the money allocated to debt and the student loan monthly payment amount and will apply that to the missus’ car, along with it’s payment. Each month the amount dedicated to paying off debt will remain the same and manageable, but will be applied to a progressively decreasing number of outstanding debts.
- Increased percentage saved towards retirement. Ours is currently at 10%, but we hope to increase it with a Roth IRA to a total nearing 15% of income. I am not for any changes to social security, but you have to realize that you need to take care of #1 in an uncertain retirement future, and have no one but yourself to blame if you had the opportunity to save and haven’t.


Improving Health and Well Being:

Self explanatory. Improve health, physical strength, and well being. Cut down on TV and Computer time (yes, blogs too…) Increase intake of fresh veggies and fruits that are in season and local. Walk to the grocery store or corner store for food. Read more. Don’t stop learning. Just because we are out of college doesn’t mean that we should sit back and rest on what we’ve learned so far. We should be striving to learn more, and better ourselves. Remember, our kids will expect us to know everything!

Wilco - Wishful Thinking
Fill up your mind with all it can knowDon't forget that your body will let it all goFill up your mind with all it can knowWhat would we be without wishful thinking?


Modestly “Filling the Cupboards”:

Filing this under the “things you never knew before”, Kunstler tells us that the Mormons as part of their faith are required to keep one years worth of supplies on hand in their house. I don’t plan on going that far, and I like the author am not a “survivalist”. But when you think about things that you’d want to make sure that you’d always have, doesn’t toilet paper come to your mind? I plan on slowly stocking the pantry with some non-perishables, which I should have anyways. The other items on the short list are:

Ball jars and Mason jars, PB&J, Soup, canned fruit and veggies, bottled water, velvetta, cereal, oatmeal, soap, shampoo, paper towels, razors, batteries, flashlights, firewood, pack of butane lighters/matches, second sleeping bag, mess kit, and extra propane tank for the grill and small tanks for the camping lantern and stove.

I am sure that there are other things that should be on there, and many different things on other people’s lists, but just some food for thought.


Final thoughts: These thoughts are my response to a thought-provoking book, and the current geo-political state of affairs. I think that learning to conserve and to be more self-sufficient is something that I should be striving for anyways. I know that I’ll think twice about the next time I throw something out. I will try to glean as much information from our grandparents and elders as possible. I’ll learn how to make wine, and jar freshly made sauce.

Sometimes as you try to get you act together, don't forget to sit back and smell the roses... meaning, don't take for granted all of the great conveniences we have today. I still love driving my car with my windows down and the music on, ripping down the open highway. When I think about a time I may not be able to do that anymore, I appreciate it even more…

You are not alone...
5/17/2005 11:08:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Still putting my thoughts and ideas together re the long emergency. Found this blog entry out there and it gave me some hope. The more people thinking about it the better. We have to start thinking more about our community.

[an aside thought: I know that I could name a handfull of senators and Washington figures, but I don't think that I could name any members on the town board.]

JoFo the MoFo

technorati tags:

5/16/2005 06:58:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

Peas and carrots... Now tomatoes, potatoes and cukes too. Posted by Hello
Sorry I've been away, have been reading "The Long Emergency"
5/16/2005 06:45:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
I've been reading up and doing some more research regarding the coming oil shortages, now expected to start rearing it's ugly head in Sept of this year.

Link to Book

Kunstler's weblog: Clusterfuck Nation

Will post my thoughts soon.

Steve
Green Gondolas coming to Syracuse?
5/04/2005 07:35:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Two Environmentally friendly projects in Syracuse announce in one week. The poop burning zoo seems like a sure thing, I am not so certain regarding the future of the Gondola project, but it is nice to hear some "outside of the box thinking" coming out of Syracuse.

Perhaps this and the proposed Destiny USA Research and Development Park will help make central new york into a leader in green building and transportation, and a model for other small cities.

More on these projects later.
I'm back... Cool Story about the Syracuse Zoo
5/03/2005 05:55:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
This story was linked to on the Drudge Report, and talks about the interesting method that the Rosamond Gifford Zoo is planning to power itself.

Wow, Syracuse is leading the pack on a new technology and the environment? I am impressed.

Another reason that I am proud to be living in the Cuse is this story from our paper.