Changes for/life in a world with reduced oil accessibility?

I’ve been trying to find (or create?) a big list of approaches/technologies/products/ideas that someone could consider to a) reduce their oil dependence in the present, or b) live life in a future with reduced/nonexistent oil/fossil fuel accessibility.

I want to look at these ideas to consider adopting some now or supporting my community to develop some of the ideas. Below, I’ve given examples.

Also, to be frank, I want a list of ideas to look at when I find myself doomscrolling through peak oil and oil dependence articles. Those articles describe the stakes and the scale of the problem, but at the end of them, I’m usually left thinking “what could I do to address the issue?” That uncertainty about what to do (for me at least) often results in more doomscrolling about the general topic. I want to break a spiral by pulling up a nice big list of concrete ideas for myself and/or my community. (Then once I’ve broken the spiral, I can actually evaluate which ideas are truly useful for me personally. But first, the list to break the spiral.)

So if you’ve got a recommendation for what to learn about or where to go to learn how to be less oil-dependent (whether through traditional approaches, or modern ones, or a mix) I’d be very happy to hear your ideas and resources.

Here’s some of my examples…

  • Food preservation: Create a root cellar (attached or detached to the home) to help preserve food without spending energy on active cooling/refrigeration.
  • Food preservation: learn about fermenting (sauerkraut, kimchi, sourdough…)
  • Food supply/production: Look up local farmers and figure out what products I could potentially purchase without relying on long distance trucking to bring it to my area (and identify what I can’t acquire locally)
  • Food supply/production: Learn about household-level gardening techniques that don’t rely heavily on synthetic fertilizers, and make efficient use of hand tools vs power tools (like a scythe)
  • Transportation: Live within an e-bike’s range for commuting to most places, and combine that with setting a back-yard solar system for charging the bike (these ideas don’t have to work for everyone, just pass along the ideas that might work for someone)
  • Housing: Assess a home’s structure for retrofitting (insulation, passive solar) to reduce the energy inputs needed for heating/cooling.
  • Housing: Learn about rocket mass heaters, modern/traditional woodstoves/wood boilers to supply heating energy via a resource that can be grown locally. (learn what it takes to grow a healthy “wood lot”)
  • Clothing: Identify local resources and expertise for making and maintaining clothing (knitting and sewing hobbyists, local seamstresses/tailors, sources of fiber to make fabric, potential trade options if there’s no enough )
  • General energy: learn about household-level power generation like photovoltaic solar panels and evacuated tube-based solar hot water systems
  • General energy: learn about community microgrids to generate (electric) power locally/in a distributed manner
  • Societal structure: discuss my concerns with family, friends, community members, and elected representatives

(And if you have website/book recommendations instead of individual ideas, happy to hear that, too!)


  • Comments (12)

    • 4

      Full disclosure – I made an investment in this company about 7 years ago, but don’t have any active interest in its’ operation or sales.  I do NOT have any ownership in this firm.

      For solar tube-based hot water systems I recommend Solar America Solutions – website by the same name.  This company has been in business for over 10 years.  At the moment, their systems are probably too large for residential use, but I’m hopeful that will be changing.

    • 3

      I think you’ve already come up with a great starter list.

      Under food supply/production I would add to focus on growing local landraces and/or heirloom varieties that do well in your area, and learn the proper seed saving techniques for each plant.  For example a common beginner mistake is to either save the first seeds from everything (like the first head of lettuce to bolt, which is NOT what you want to select for) or the last seeds from everything, like greenbeans or tomatoes that will thus end up requiring a longer and longer growing season.  It is surprising how few seed generations it takes for some domestic plants to show noticeable change, for better or worse. 

      Also make sure local farmers you’re counting on trading with have a local supply chain themselves, and don’t rely too heavily on fossil fuel dependent mechanical equipment, chemical fertilizer, feed shipped in from thousands of miles away, et cetera.  Everything is so connected these days, that this part is much easier said than done!  Small organic farms are sometimes almost a closed cycle system though, and generally happy to discuss details of their operation with anyone who will listen.

      I might have more ideas to share on other aspects later, but those are the two that popped into my mind for now.  I do think it’s important to remind ourselves sometimes that all this dependence on modern convenience is a very recent development compared to the full span of human history.  People thrived without any of it for thousands of years, they were just used to hard work, and also didn’t know about all the things they were missing out on – like delicious foods grown in other parts of the world!

      I spent most of my childhood on a primitive wilderness homestead (no electric, no plumbing, no car, no gas tools) so I think I have kind of an unusual perspective on the feasibility of life without fossil fuel.  Although even so, I realize that we were indirectly relying on it in some ways, like to mine and process the iron that went into making our wood stove, for just one example out of many. 

      • 1

        Great point about actively working on local landraces/locally adapted plants during the seed saving process!

        I would be interested in hearing your experiences on that primitive wilderness homestead, whenever you have the time/energy to share!

    • 4

      There are various guides on here that could probably be helpful in getting you started on some topics, like the gardening guide or the off grid power 101. Microgrids have also been discussed in one of the latest news roundup if I recall correctly.

      • 2

        Thank you for gathering the links here! I’m definitely making sure microgrids are on the list. I’ve been reading a book called “Power from the people” about microgrids recently (haven’t finished yet though)

    • 2

      Learning how to use an open fire, wood stove, or the sun to cook might be a good idea. With reduced oil, natural gas and electricity prices would increase.

      Very good list by the way! It gives me a lot to think about

      • 1

        Cooking/preparing food is definitely a key activity that humans need to be able to do, whatever the available types of energy!

        Glad the list is helpful food for thought.

    • 3

      RS, you and I are on the same doomscroll list!

      I first read about Hubert in ’98. It was the article by Campbell and Laherrere in SciAm that I picked up in an airport of all places. Consequently, 9/11 convinced me the ramifications were real so we bugged out of California for the Ozarks. We dirt-grubbed for a while, then the fracking fiasco gave us a break to ride the government real estate bubble. We flipped a couple of fixers on the coast to improve our bank balance then moved back to the Ozarks and bought another little fixer. Our kids are older and dispersed now so we won’t go back to a farm but we will get another rural place as soon as this bubble pops.

      I was the first moderator at peakoil.com, unfortunately it has declined to a few political posts a day and none about PO. But in the day, the Planning For The Future forum there had hundreds if not thousands of threads on everything from animal power to eating bugs. You need to register to get there now but it is probably worth the effort. Just don’t expect much interaction, the few people left don’t really worry about PO.

      But kudos to you for wanting to act! I’ve talked to hundreds of people and most simply want to scroll because to actually prepare is to confront the loss of our jobs as cogs in the Great Waste Economy. Part of the reason that peak oil as a meme went away I think is that conventional peak back in the oughts, then the recession and years of high oil price scared the armchair doomers because the fantasy started looking real to them.

      PeakOilBarrel.com is surely on your list, good reviews and analysis of reports from EIA, etc. You probably know OurFiniteWorld.com, ShaleProfile.com, EnergySkeptic.com, OilyStuffBlog.com, and Resilience.org. Then there is the old guard, Robert Rapier, Kurt Cobb, Tom Murphy (DoTheMath) and Jeffrey Brown (Export Land Model). And Jean Laherrere is still increasing his URRs at ASPOFrance.org

      The real doom is not in the particulars, humans got by on muscle power for eons and we will relearn all those lessons. The doom is in the transition from energy too-cheap to meter to too expensive to waste. My favorite structural systemic collapse doomer is David Korowicz and especially his Tipping Point paper from 2011 or so—consider everything in that paper happening right about now.

      The ultimate prep is in preparing to lose your income. That is the big step most of us can’t face (nd the real reason I sometimes rail about BOBs, LOL). Wanting to turn a blind eye to economic collapse is understandable because it entails the highest opportunity cost, collapsing early. Actual energy scarcity doesn’t merely result in higher priced energy, it results in the decimation of vast reaches of the current economy. And perversely, since fossils are needed for transition and transition won’t happen before energy scarcity, the cost of transition could well be too high. We waste huge amounts of energy today, but every bit of that waste is someone else’s income. Renewables are great but they haven’t the excess energy required to both transition and propel the global waste economy.

      I could go on this little hobby horse forever!

      Just saw this this morning, This Time it’s Different…

      • 2

        Pops, this is a *wonderful* post, thank you so much! There are a lot of pieces of information that you’ve just listed that I haven’t run across before. I’m definitely going to check out the peak oil forums, long with the list of people and websites you’ve provided.

        I quickly dropped by resilience.org and even just a few of the articles there were exactly what I was hoping to find a source of to counter depression for dealing with peak oil, and I was instinctively wanting to share them with a friend of mine also periodically catches herself doomscrolling on this topic. Thank you again!

    • 2

      Probably the single best book about hands-on living I’ve owned is Carla Emery’s Encyclopedia of Country Living. She first published this near-thousand page tome back in the 1970s. I think it was released in a 50th edition a couple of years ago. The 1950s & 60s saw the transition from old time family farming to modern corporate conglomerates. The number of farms and farm families halved in that 20 years, farm size doubled. Hybrids, petro-chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers and huge machines became the norm. Families moved to town.

      In the 60’s & 70’s the last of the old timers and old timey tools and knowledge were going away and Ms Emery captured much of it, she actually lived it, up in Idaho I believe. The hayforks and scythes and snaths and corn shellers became wall ornaments. This lady gathered together literally an encyclopedic knowledge learned through experience. 

      I gave this book to my granddaughter when she moved out to the high desert of Washington state… and a treadle sewing machine, LOL

      • 1

        I will be checking out that book because that’s something I am very interested in learning about. That transition time period from “old time family farming to modern corporate conglomerates.”

      • 3

        Wessel’s Farm is a really cool place, Oily. Their site talks about old timey farming.

        Living History Farm

      • 1

        This is what I will be reading tonight. Very cool looking site from the 3 minutes I’ve been on there so far. Good of them for preserving this part of history that many would see as boring and unimportant as technology has progressed.