Thursday, November 17, 2011

Saving Energy? Changing Light Bulbs

In my essay “We Are Here”, I mentioned four things that we face as challenges: population density (how many people per area), population pressure ( how much resource use per person), tribalism, and unintended consequences of our creativity both social and physical. Here I want to see if we can reduce our resource use per capita. It will be seen that the other three challenges weave in and out of this challenge.

Worldwide fuel consumption averages 1853 kilograms of oil equivalent per person per year. The highest per person fuel users (in Luxembourg) use almost a hundred times more fuel per person than the lowest fuel users (in Bangladesh).
Handbookof development economics By Hollis Burnley Chenery, T. N. Srinivasan.2009.

Our global consumption of fossil fuel energy is threatened by the continued dwindling of easily accessible, high quality sources. This in turn threatens global conflict(oops already happening), more deadly global conflict. And this use is devastating and threatening land, oceans, rivers, the air, underground water, climate and peoples very homes and health. So what can we do?

Obviously, we need to reduce our use of fossil.
Will we? Can We?

When I held classes on “simple living” in the mid 1970s I made this suggest. That for three or four days as you move through your world with each thing you touch consider the ideas below.

What is it made from?
Where did it come from?
How much energy did it take to make?
Could I make it myself?
Can I get it locally?
Do I need it?

Some of these are questions most of us cannot answer in full or even partially. Addressing our energy and material uses at the head of the stream is a major step towards sustainability. Ask not how to reduce from our present 100 percent use to 90or 75 percent use; ask what we truly need to live non-brutishly to preserve this earth for the seventh generation.

So there are really two questions here:
1. What energy do we truly need to live a non-brutish life?
2. How do we reduce the fossil fuel energy we presently use?

I can’t decide for you what is or is not brutish. For 99% of human existence we were gatherers and hunters. There is a concept called the Human Energy Equivalent which is around 10000 joules or about 2388 kilocalories (HEE) (Odum and Odum, 1976). With the use of fire and perhaps dogs for travois, we probably used half again or twice that much daily.
Odum,Howard T. and Odum, Elisabeth C. 1976. Energy Basis for Man and Nature. McGraw-Hill. N.Y.
See also:

I don’t propose nor could we (unless we do some really stupid violent stuff) become gatherers and hunters again. This is simply a jump off point for looking at our basic needs.


With agriculture, animals (horses and oxen), mechanical wind and water, various forms of fuel (peat, wood, perhaps some coal), we used5 to 7 times the energy of gatherers and hunters. My studies of medieval Europe shows this was not a total brutish time. A major lack was basic knowledge of hygiene, chemistry, medicine and physics.
See bibliography at end of essay.

Within the European continent, differences in energy consumption among regions were relatively wide. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the average per capita daily consumption usually ranged from 63 to 84 MJ, or 15,000 to 20,000 kcal, even though minimum and maximum values were actually much further apart (Table 2).
Malanima , Paolo. 2006. Journal of Global History (2006) 1, pp101–121. London School of Economics and Political Science 2006

10 megajoules are equal to our daily calorie(kilocalorie) need or more for heavy work. So 33 megajoules are over three times our daily need and 161 megajoules are 16 times our dietary needs.

To put this in gallons of oil, daily use would be between 1/4 gallon of oil to a little over one gallon of oil per day.


Worldwide fuel consumption averages 1853 kilograms of oil equivalent per person per year. The highest per person fuel users (in Luxembourg) use almost a hundred times more fuel per person than the lowest fuel users (in Bangladesh).

1853 kilograms of oil equivalent is 13.5 barrels of oil or568 gallons of oil per year. As noted in the quote, this is not evenly distributed. In 2000, I put all the countries of the world, their per capita use, and their population on an excel spread sheet. I then rank ordered them from the least to the most and did an accumulation of population. Seventy- five to 80 percent of the people in the world have little direct access to petroleum, natural gas or electricity. They are close to the per capita consumption of pre-industrial times. The “developed” world uses many multiples of those 4 billion people.

Buckminster Fuller had the idea of energy slaves in about1944. This is number of slave equivalents for the energy we use.

It would take 11 1/3 years to replace a barrel of oil (equivalent to 1700 kwh), while a top athlete would make it in about 5 2/3 years.

How Much Human Energy Is Contained in One Barrel of Oil?
Computation attributed to David Pimentel
. . .
1 Barrel of Oil = 23,200 Hours of Human Work Output
(Energy equivalent of 46.4 gallons of gas per barrel of oil x 500 hours of human work output per gallon of gas = 23,2000 hours)

See also:



It blows my mind how much fossil fuel we use. On television, you see sea ports with thousands of shipping containers. Containers as far as the eye can see, stacked four, five, six high. Huge cranes. Huge ships. I mean HUGE ships. And you see pictures of cities all over the world with thousands, millions of cars. And you see pictures of the earth lit up at night across the northern hemisphere.



Most of the world's carrying capacity in fully cellular container ships is in the liner service, where ships trade on scheduled routes.[41][21] As of January 2010, the top 20 liner companies controlled 67.5%of the world's fully cellular container capacity, with 2,673 vessels of an average capacity of 3,774 TEU.[1] The remaining fully 6,862 fully cellular ships have an average capacity of 709 TEU each.[1]

Cargo Containers

An intermodal container (also container, freight container, ISO container, shipping container, hi-cube container, box, conex box and sea can) is a standardized reusable steel box used for the safe, efficient and secure storage and movement of materials and products within a global containerized intermodal freight transport system. "Intermodal" implies that the container can be moved from one mode of transport to another without unloading and reloading.Lengths of containers, which each have a unique ISO 6346 reporting mark, vary from8-foot (2.438 m) to 56-foot (17.07 m) and heights from 8-foot (2.438 m) to 9 feet6 inches (2.9 m). There are approximately seventeen million intermodal containers in the world of varying types to suit different cargoes.[1] Aggregate container capacity is often expressed in twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU / teu) which is a unit of capacity equal to one standard 20 ◊ 8 ft (6.10 ◊ 2.44 m) (length ◊ width) container.

The maximum gross mass for a 20 ft (6.1 m) dry cargo container is 24,000 kg, and for a 40-ft (including the 2.87 m (9 ft 6 in) high cube container), it is 30,480 kg. Allowing for the tare mass of the container,the maximum payload mass is therefore reduced to approximately 22,000 kg for 20ft (6.1 m), and 27,000 kg for 40 ft (12 m) containers.

In 2009, almost one quarter of the world's dry cargo was shipped by container, an estimated 125 million TEU or 1.19 billion metric tons worth of cargo.[8]

In 2002, 17,000 loaded containers enter the US every day.


Top 20 stadiums among the hundreds in the United States alone.


Penn State


Ohio State









Texas A&M

Florida State



Notre Dame



South Carolina


4 to a car

miles when driving 10 miles
gallons at 25 mpg

179735 gallons (conservative estimate) for just these 20stadiums, WOW!





According to NASCAR, about 6,000 U.S. gallons (~22,700litres) of fuel are consumed during a typical Sprint Cup weekend.[19] For the2006 season, which included 36 points races, the total for the season would have been 216,000 U.S. gallons (818,000 litres). One environmental critic recently estimated NASCAR's total fuel consumption across all series at 2million U.S. gallons (7.57 million liters) of gas for one season.[20]

At race speeds, Sprint Cup cars get 2 to 5 miles per gallon.[19][20][21] Consumption under caution can be estimated at 14-18 mpg,based on comparable engines generally available to the public. The rate of fuel consumption tends to be the same regardless of the actual speeds of the cars,as teams change gear ratios for each race to ensure that the engine always operates in its optimum power band; however, the fuel mileage will vary for each race,depending on the maximum speeds attained.

The fuel consumption criticism dates to 1974 and the energy crisis; NASCAR responded by showing data that racing was far less consumptive of fuel than regular air travel, etc.

According to NASCAR estimates, attendance has dropped in 14of the first 19 races of the season, and the average crowd of 99,853 projects to 3.6 million — which would be nearly a million off the total in 2003,

How much gas do you figure 3.6 million people use to drive to watch people driving?



As I mentioned gatherers and hunters with fire used about two HEE’s (Human Energy Equivalent(Odum and Odum, 1976). We in the United States use 100 plus HEE’s. Two thirds of the people in the world use considerably less. If there was an animal outside your door consuming the biologically disproportionate amount of energy used by the average U.S. citizen, that animal would end up on your dining room table. It would be war. In fact for thousands of years it has been war on plants, animals and each other.

Using appropriate technology, we need to achieve an individual HEE level of consumption at somewhere between 10 and30 units. We need not livebrutishly given all our accumulated knowledge.

We could save enough fossil fuels for generations to come. However, human nature stands in the way.
1. What we own gives us status which is power and access to mates. We can’t collect yams as they do in the South Pacific. We don’t have the potlatch as they did in the Northwest United States. (We should have the potlatch, the act of redistribution). So we buy things. They may also replace needs unmet in the social world.
2. The tribalism that comes from identifying with a team or an athlete is critical to our humanity. The church helps but doesn’t do it all except with crusades, pogroms and terrorism.
3. There is a whole soup of body chemicals that goes with both the tribal participation experience and the vicarious experience of athletic prowess, physical aggression and both victory and losing. The adrenalin rush, endorphin high may all be critical to containing in time and space behavior at the edges. These sports and sport experience may reflect conditions in the social world and be critical to a peaceful regular social life.
4. Depersonalization – let’s us act ways we would not normally act. Painting our faces and bodies,wearing costumes, screaming obscenities, and violence.

So we won’t.




Cipolla, Carlo. 1967. The Economic History of World Population. Penguin Books. Baltimore,MD.

Clark, Wilson. 1975. Energy for Survival. Anchor Books.N.Y.

White, Lynn. 1978. Medieval Religion and Technology. Univ. of California Press. Berkeley.

Catton, William. 1980. Overshoot.. University of Illinois Press. Chicago.

Chefurka, Paul. 2007. Population:The Elephant in the Room.

Cohen, Mark Nathan. 1977. The Food Crisis in Prehistory: Overpopulation and the Origins of Agriculture. Yale University Press. New Haven.

Fossier, Robert. 2010. The Axe and the Oath: Ordinary Life in the Middle Ages. Princeton U. Princeton.

Gies, Frances; Gies, Joseph. 1994. Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel. Harper Collins. N.Y.

Le Goff, J. 1980. Time,Work, & Culture in the Middle Ages. University of Chicago Press. Chicago.

Mollat, M. 1986. ThePoor in the Middle Ages. Yale. New Haven.

Newman, F. 1986. Social Unrest in the Late Middle Ages. Bhinghamton. N.Y.

Odum, Howard T. and Odum, Elisabeth C.1976. Energy Basis for Man and Nature. McGraw-Hill Book Co. N. Y.

Postan, M. 1973. Essays on Medieval Agriculture and General Problems of the Medieval Economy.Cambridge.

Price, David. 1995. Energy and Human Evolution. Population and Environment: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies. Volume 16, Number 4, March 1995,pp. 301-19

Ross, S. John . 2008. Medieval Demographics Made Easy.

Tuchman, Barbara. 1978. A Distant Mirror. Knopf. N. Y.

White, Lynn. 1978. Medieval Religion and Technology. Univ. of California Press. Berkeley.

Whitney, Elspeth. 2004. Medieval Science and Technology. Greenwood Press. London.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

OnTheWayDown #1

It is March. It is the third year in my house, 1976. It is cold. I cook and heat with wood. I am lassoing dead branches out of trees. I ran out of wood. I was born and raised in Florida. What did I know? I was learning.

The next year my neighbor had his big oaks logged for money. They left huge tops. I spent all summer cutting wood, bring it in, stacking it and covering it. I got three years worth. I stacked the dead limbs at the front. From then on, I was never without three years of wood drying. I was learning.

I left the wood unsplit. I love to split wood with a wedge and splitting maul. Each piece is different. You learn where and how to hit it. Each day I split the day’s wood. I always had a little extra in case I got sick or didn’t have time. I was learning. I still love to split wood and do a little all winter.

My first wood I cut with a six foot saw and an axe.It was a downed log. I was in fairly good condition. That was work. So I bought a huge chainsaw that weighed a lot. That is why it was so cheap. After using it a while I took the chain off to sharpen it. When I put it back on it wouldn’t cut very well. Finally I went to my farmer neighbor to ask him what was the problem. Without keeling over laughing, he suggested I turn the blade around to the cutters were going the right direction. And you don’t need to take the chain off to sharpen it. I was learning.

Water is critical to all life. I don’t understand the insanity of messing with it by fracking and oil sands.

Where do you get your water? I can’t tell you how to protect yourself and supply yourself in the city. I can tell you that if you live in a town with a water tower, make sure you have a sufficient back-up generator. You can always make alcohol or bio-diesel to run it.

If you have your own well, I can tell you how Ihave had my wells. Below you see a farm pump set up that is operated by hand. At the bottom is a cylinder that is the actual pumping part. What is nice about this is that the gasket in the cylinder and packing in the pump head are the only parts that have wear. The gasket is called the leathers because they are often made of leather and can be made on the farm. The packing is graphite cord easily found at the local hardware store but pork rind can be used also.

The pump head lever moves the rod up and down causing water to flow into the cylinder at the bottom of the well and then up the pipe to the spigot on the pump head. This well can lift water above the pump head easily 20 feet. The packing creates a water tight seal for the lifting.

When I lived off the grid, this set up was inside a small room off the main house. For ten years, when I lived with no electricity, I pumped water into a retaining tank above and it gravity fed to the sink (I had an outhouse at the time).

When I got electricity from solar panels and wind, I put on a pump jackwith a 1/2 horse power 12 volt motor that ran off my batteries. If I did not have electricity available, it took five minutes to disconnect the pump jack and be able to pump by hand. Below is a picture of how that pump jack looked.

At the orchard we are developing, I had a four-inch well put in for irrigation. I have the same cylinder and rod set up with it but a different kind of pump jack. It is run by 1/2 horse power motor. I am having a bicycle set-up built to pump the water. I am paying for the materials at the local high school shop class where they will build several. Below is a picture of the other kind of pump jack and also a possible bicycle design.

Below is the house at the orchard. The part you see was built in the 1940s. The inside was worse than the outside. We replaced the floor with insulation below the concrete. We tore out all the plasterboard and insulation, added two by two so we could have six inches of insulation on the walls and ceilings down stairs. We did the same upstairs.

Today it was 30 degrees outside and the passive solar had it to 60 degrees. If you look closely you can see a bucket in the window that has a volunteer tomato plant we transferred. There is no heat other than passive solar. So far the windows and the thermal mass of the floor is allowing the tomato plant to flourish. Our greenhouse at our home has tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and cabbage growing to beat the band. This is an experiment. We are learning.

You can see the farm pump out front. I had the electric pump replaced with this set up. I have a pump jack for it and motors but prefer it as it is. We can manually pump water to a pressure tank inside the house. Kathy’s (my partner) 7 year old grandchild can pump it.

When people would come visit me at my old place during those first ten years when I had no electricity, I told them they could use all the water they wanted. They only had to pump it. It is amazing how quickly people learned to conserve water. They were learning.

Lifting Well Pipe:

Rigid Pipe
1. Shut the power to the pump off and drain the pressure tank.

2. Disconnect the pipe from the pressure tank or pump. For a submersible pump, the point of connection with the surface plumbing will be the pressure tank. The plumbing will connect directly to the pump on any surface pump.

3. Tighten two pipe wrenches on the top of the pipe and lift. Place the third pipe wrench loosely on the pipe just above the top of the well casing. This will prevent the pipe from falling into the casing if you lose your grip. Lift the pipe until you reach shoulder height. Lower the pipe slightly until it rests firmly in the pipe wrench on the top of the well casing.
4. Tighten one of the wrenches you used for lifting just above the wrench holdingthe pipe in place on top of the casing. Lift the pipe until you can fit the second wrench underneath the two used for lifting. Place the second wrench loosely around the pipe to use as a safety lock. Continue lifting and alternating wrenches until the pipe is completely removed from the casing.

When removing steel pipe from the well, stop at each pipe joint and unscrew the pipe from the fitting. Place the loose joint well out of the way before lifting the next joint.
Electrical wire will be attached to the outside of the pipe for a submersible pump. Remove the wires from the pipe and coil them neatly as the pipe is lifted out of the well. Clean and inspect the wires for breaks or frays in the insulation before reuse.
Read more: How to Remove a Pipe From a Well Casing |

I think we need to do that with all resources. We need to be learning.