Monday, February 15, 2010

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

The other day I was asked if I'd seen the movie A Crude Awakening. I thought I hadn't, but after watching it this evening, I realized that I had.

I don't recall what I thought of it back when I watched it the first time (it was made in 2006, and so I probably watched it two or three years ago), but I'm pretty sure that I felt pretty much the same way I do now with one exception - I'm a little more confident about my future than I was back then.

There are a lot of things said in the movie that are very concerning, but the interviewee who caused me the most pause was Matt Simmons.

Matt Simmons is a prominent oil industry insider. He served as an advisor to George W. Bush, who also has family ties to the oil industry.

In 2000, Bush began building the Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas. Among it's features include a geothermal heating/cooling system, a 25,000 gallon cistern that collects rainwater, and a grey-water reclamation system that filters and purifies greywater and then deposits it back into the cistern to be reused.

His house is every doomer's dream off-grid retreat. Having a 4000 sq ft, ultra-modern, energy efficient, self-sustaining home on 1500 acres isn't such a bad way to ride out the coming storm. Many of us are working toward our own Prairie Chapel Ranch, albeit a little smaller, on much less land ... and probably sans the high-tech geothermal heating/cooling system ... oh, and the 25,000 gallon cistern (I do, however, have three 50 gal rain barrels ... yeah, not quite the same ;).

Compared to Bush, though, many of us are well behind the power curve. I only heard of Peak Oil and understood the implications of energy depletion four years ago in 2006, and while I've been working to change our lives so that energy depletion won't kill us, I don't have the ready capital to do something like what Mr. Bush did in building his ranch.

It's not jealousy, though. I'm not envious of his 4000 sq foot, off-grid house. It's not jealousy that I feel. It's actually ire. It makes me wonder ... what did he know back in 2000 that he didn't tell us? If he didn't know that we were on the down-side of Hubbert's Peak, why would he, the least conservation minded President since Ronald Reagan, even bother? It could be because he wanted to save money, but somehow, I seriously doubt it.

One of his advisors is a leading expert in the topic of peak oil ... and he, now, lives on a self-sufficient homestead in a small town in central Texas, just west of Waco.

One of the points made in the movie was that if our leaders would just tell us that we're in a shit-load of trouble and that to survive we have to conserve, the average American would step up and do the right thing. I agree. The problem is that no one is going to tell us that, and until we're told, we have no reason to change our habits.

Seventy percent of the oil that is being extracted is turned into transportation fuel. If every family would give up one car and bike or walk distances less than four miles - every time - we could make a significant change in when peak oil will cause significant harm, because make no mistake, this little hiccup that we're experiencing right now, is nothing compared to when the price per barrel of oil jumps back up to over $100.

And I did say when and not if, because it will happen, and likely sooner rather than later.

The price per barrel for oil was $74.13 on Friday, February 12, 2010. It's been bouncing between $70 and $85 per barrel since December 2009, and Morgan Stanley predicted that prices would exceed $95 per barrel by the end of 2010.

I'm not making any predictions, but I am making plans.

A 400-Watt Wind Generator is less than $500. A 650-Watt Solar Power Kit is just under $4000. For less than we (used to spend) eating out per month, we could have an alternative energy system that would give us 1000-Watts of electricity.

Whether we believe in Peak Oil and energy depletion is not the issue. What is the issue is that something is happening - our leaders know it, and they're all getting ready, but they aren't telling us why they're concerned. I'm a strong believer in actions speak louder than words, and if we wish to understand what's not being said, we need only look at what they're doing.

Bush has built an off-grid house. Michelle Obama is planting a garden.

The very least we can do is follow suit.


  1. Some say oil is abiotic, if I've got the term right, and that it reproduces and replenishes itself in time. That makes peak oil a myth. Though whether oil can replenish as quickly as it is used is another matter.
    Leaders won't tell us what's going on because they don't want to upset the fruit basket, so to speak. Remember the car company after 9-11 who said to keep America rolling? That's the same idea here. Keep doing your normal thing. Don't prepare. Nothing's wrong that can't be fixed, etc., etc.

  2. I understand that Bush does not live on the ranch but in some high end community in Texas - so what is he doing with the ranch and just why did he build it - his bug out retreat??

  3. Matt Simmons is investing in deep sea wind power in Maine and also live in Maine in the mid-coast region.

  4. Just to add to your list, here's a 1250 W Standby Power System from Northern Tool for under $5k.

  5. I'll have to checkout A Crude Awaking. Thanks for the tip.