This era in history may be remembered as the "Peak Age", a brief time when nearly all materials used to power and create our society reach the maximum extraction and production potential. Past this point, all of these resources become increasingly difficult to extract until they are no longer economically viable resources to be using. There are hundreds of examples of resources, currently embedded in our industrial society, which have reached their peak in the 50 years surrounding 2010, but the one which will most impact our society is petroleum.
The goal of living for 100 days without oil is to understand the extent of our dependance on oil in American society today. Specifically, how it will affect my life, as a 25 year-oil living in Minneapolis, MN. By using myself as a metric I can take a close and conscious look at where oil dependance occurs in all aspects of our daily lives : How we transport ourselves from one place to another, what we eat, how much waste we create, how water is cleaned and transported, where oil is used as; an energy resource, in conventional medicine and for hygiene and how oil affects how we entertain ourselves and communicate with others. By demonstrating how someone would be forced to live without using any oil resources, outlining both what the sacrifices will be as well as the benefits, we can can identify the many systems which will have to be re-designed in a world without cheap oil, and explore a new way of living in which we live in an energy balance.
(At the bottom of this page is a link to my version of a flow diagram of 'Where Petroleum Exists in Our Daily Lives' (using information from the Energy Information Administration-Annual Energy Review 2008 fig 5.0 Petroleum flow) click and zoom to enlarge)
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
DAY 99_SUMMARY: HEATING + COOLING
Heating costs proved to be by-far the largest energy user in my house. Although my house has natural gas-heated radiators, by converting Therms to kWh, I could compare the energy used for space heating to the energy used for all other electric uses. Space heating requires an average of 704 kWh/week, whereas my fridge uses 3.8 (previously 11.6) kWh/week and I use about 1.6 kWh/week (previously 12.6) for all lights. Water heating came in as the second highest energy user at 11.2 kWh to heat only 15 gallons per day (41.5 kWh/week before the project).
This presents a big challenge because unlike many of the other electrical uses which can be minimized or even eliminated, space heating in a climate like Minneapolis is a necessity. When I discovered what a huge energy user space heating is, (and that it couldn't possibly fit in my 3 kWh/day budget) I couldn't help feeling like all of the rest of the electricity savings I had been changing had been somewhat in vain. While there are sustainable solutions to this problem, they, unfortunately, aren't ones which can be easily retrofitted to homes. Passive solar houses are a great solution and proven to work in northern climates, capturing the heat from the sun in thermally massive elements in the house and slowly venting the heat into the living space. However, in dense metropolitan areas this is a challenge as not all homes have access to solar exposure.
So many of the changes I made during this project got more difficult as the weather turned colder, local foods disappearing, harder to get around by bike..., but space heating may be one of the biggest challenges for designers in cold climates as fossil fuel energy becomes increasing scarce and expensive.