R-Squared Energy Blog

Pure Energy

Grading My 2007 Energy Resolutions

At the beginning of 2007, as I was preparing to move to Scotland, I made a number of resolutions:

My Energy Resolutions for 2007

I updated the story once in Walking the Talk.

Time to look back and see how I did.

1). I resolve to get the most fuel-efficient car I can find in Scotland.

While I could have found a more efficient car, I got a Nissan Micra which gets very good fuel efficiency. The cars that were more fuel efficient would not have fared well on my drive to work.

2). I resolve to search for a house that allows me to take public transport or my bike to work.

I consistently considered the public transport options as I looked for a house, but my work location made this difficult. I ended up getting a house not too far from work (4 miles) but there is no public transport available (unless I want to spend an hour and 2 bus changes getting to work). As far as being able to ride my bike to work, 4 miles would be a piece of cake most places. But on the winding, narrow country road I live on, it would have been a death wish. Most parts of Scotland are unfortunately not conducive to getting around by bike.

3). I resolve to place a very high priority on energy efficiency as I search for a new house.

Done. I rented a house with sky lights, a lot of natural lighting throughout, and a lot of southern exposure. During daylight hours, we never have to turn lights on in the house. Our gas and electric usage have both been very low since moving into our house.

4). I resolve to reduce the meat in my diet (it takes much more energy to produce meat than to produce vegetables).

Done. I have almost cut beef completely out of my diet (much to my father’s chagrin, since he raises cattle). I eat a fair amount of fish and chicken, but I probably eat three times as many vegetables as I did a year ago.

5). I resolve to support local farmers’ markets.

While I think there are some farmers’ markets in the downtown part of Aberdeen, I live in the country. So I never did encounter any farmers’ markets this year.

6). I resolve to continue instilling the importance of energy conservation into my family.

This has been a challenge. My daughter proclaims that she is an environmentalist, and then leaves lights, televisions, etc. on all the time and takes 20 minute showers. (She has been learning a lesson while we are on vacation in Oklahoma, because the hot water only lasts 10 minutes). I point out her energy usage, and ask her – tongue in cheek – why she hates the environment so much. It’s an uphill battle with kids (or adults, for that matter) who just can’t connect the dots of their energy usage to the big picture. But I persevere. I did get into composting this year, and I was able to get the kids involved in that. I think they understand the energy savings from doing this.

7). I resolve to get completely out of debt (easy, since my only debt is a mortgage).

Done. No debt at all.

8). I resolve to talk to at least 1 person a month about Peak Oil and/or the importance of living sustainably.

Done. High oil prices have made it very easy to talk with people about Peak Oil. This is especially true for someone working for an oil company, because oil and gas prices are one of the first things people ask me about. I have had Peak Oil conversations this year in the airport, on a bus, in Walmart, in a restaurant, at work (including one with a member of senior management), and sitting around the Christmas tree.

9). I resolve to preach conservation as something each one of us can do to stretch energy supplies and better prepare for Peak Oil.

Done. This resolution goes hand in hand with the previous resolution. Once people hear about Peak Oil, the first thing they ask is what can be done. I explain that the best thing you personally can do is to get out of debt and tailor your lifestyle toward using less energy. That way, if gas prices go to $5 or $10 a gallon, your budget will be less susceptible to these increases (acknowledging that it is impossible to completely inoculate yourself against escalating prices).

10). Not energy related, but I resolve to read at least 40 books in 2007. I read 48 in 2005 and 34 in 2006.

I fell way short on this one. Between my blog, The Oil Drum, starting a new job, an international relocation, and various other projects, something had to give. It was my reading time. I still managed to read 21, but that was far short of my goal. The five best books I read in 2007 were Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, Sylvia Nassar’s A Beautiful Mind, Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan, Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin, and Charles C. Mann’s 1491.

Final grade? I give myself a B+. I would give myself an A if I had found a location that would allow me to bike to work. I know it’s only 4 miles, but I chose to live instead.

For 2008, big changes are in store. More on this during Q1 of 2008.

December 26, 2007 Posted by | book review, composting, conservation, oil prices, Peak Oil | 39 Comments

Grading My 2007 Energy Resolutions

At the beginning of 2007, as I was preparing to move to Scotland, I made a number of resolutions:

My Energy Resolutions for 2007

I updated the story once in Walking the Talk.

Time to look back and see how I did.

1). I resolve to get the most fuel-efficient car I can find in Scotland.

While I could have found a more efficient car, I got a Nissan Micra which gets very good fuel efficiency. The cars that were more fuel efficient would not have fared well on my drive to work.

2). I resolve to search for a house that allows me to take public transport or my bike to work.

I consistently considered the public transport options as I looked for a house, but my work location made this difficult. I ended up getting a house not too far from work (4 miles) but there is no public transport available (unless I want to spend an hour and 2 bus changes getting to work). As far as being able to ride my bike to work, 4 miles would be a piece of cake most places. But on the winding, narrow country road I live on, it would have been a death wish. Most parts of Scotland are unfortunately not conducive to getting around by bike.

3). I resolve to place a very high priority on energy efficiency as I search for a new house.

Done. I rented a house with sky lights, a lot of natural lighting throughout, and a lot of southern exposure. During daylight hours, we never have to turn lights on in the house. Our gas and electric usage have both been very low since moving into our house.

4). I resolve to reduce the meat in my diet (it takes much more energy to produce meat than to produce vegetables).

Done. I have almost cut beef completely out of my diet (much to my father’s chagrin, since he raises cattle). I eat a fair amount of fish and chicken, but I probably eat three times as many vegetables as I did a year ago.

5). I resolve to support local farmers’ markets.

While I think there are some farmers’ markets in the downtown part of Aberdeen, I live in the country. So I never did encounter any farmers’ markets this year.

6). I resolve to continue instilling the importance of energy conservation into my family.

This has been a challenge. My daughter proclaims that she is an environmentalist, and then leaves lights, televisions, etc. on all the time and takes 20 minute showers. (She has been learning a lesson while we are on vacation in Oklahoma, because the hot water only lasts 10 minutes). I point out her energy usage, and ask her – tongue in cheek – why she hates the environment so much. It’s an uphill battle with kids (or adults, for that matter) who just can’t connect the dots of their energy usage to the big picture. But I persevere. I did get into composting this year, and I was able to get the kids involved in that. I think they understand the energy savings from doing this.

7). I resolve to get completely out of debt (easy, since my only debt is a mortgage).

Done. No debt at all.

8). I resolve to talk to at least 1 person a month about Peak Oil and/or the importance of living sustainably.

Done. High oil prices have made it very easy to talk with people about Peak Oil. This is especially true for someone working for an oil company, because oil and gas prices are one of the first things people ask me about. I have had Peak Oil conversations this year in the airport, on a bus, in Walmart, in a restaurant, at work (including one with a member of senior management), and sitting around the Christmas tree.

9). I resolve to preach conservation as something each one of us can do to stretch energy supplies and better prepare for Peak Oil.

Done. This resolution goes hand in hand with the previous resolution. Once people hear about Peak Oil, the first thing they ask is what can be done. I explain that the best thing you personally can do is to get out of debt and tailor your lifestyle toward using less energy. That way, if gas prices go to $5 or $10 a gallon, your budget will be less susceptible to these increases (acknowledging that it is impossible to completely inoculate yourself against escalating prices).

10). Not energy related, but I resolve to read at least 40 books in 2007. I read 48 in 2005 and 34 in 2006.

I fell way short on this one. Between my blog, The Oil Drum, starting a new job, an international relocation, and various other projects, something had to give. It was my reading time. I still managed to read 21, but that was far short of my goal. The five best books I read in 2007 were Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, Sylvia Nassar’s A Beautiful Mind, Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan, Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin, and Charles C. Mann’s 1491.

Final grade? I give myself a B+. I would give myself an A if I had found a location that would allow me to bike to work. I know it’s only 4 miles, but I chose to live instead.

For 2008, big changes are in store. More on this during Q1 of 2008.

December 26, 2007 Posted by | book review, composting, conservation, oil prices, Peak Oil | 39 Comments

My Composting Experiment

“We stand, in most places on earth, only six inches from desolation, for that is the thickness of the topsoil layer upon which the entire life of the planet depends.” R. Neil Sampson in Farmland or Wasteland: A Time to Choose

One of my interests, dating back 25 years to when I was a member of my local FFA land judging team, is soil conservation. I have long been interested in things like terra preta and composting because of their ability to build topsoil. But I never thought much about how difficult it can be to build up topsoil until I read Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy – Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars(great books, by the way). The books trace a future hypothetical terraforming of Mars, and one of the major difficulties the characters face is producing topsoil on the planet. It was then that my interest in the mechanisms for topsoil erosion and topsoil production greatly increased.

While I would eventually like to get some experience with producing terra preta, earlier this year I got a flyer from Waste Aware Scotland for discounted composters. So, I bought one, and started to experiment. I wish I had done so years ago, because it has really been a fascinating exercise.

My 330 Liter ecoMax

I got the larger 330 L (87 gallon) model shown above and started dumping all things cellulosic into it. There is quite a little tropical ecosystem inside the composter. Even when it is cold outside, the waste is always steaming. And not only has it attracted numerous earthworms, but there are beetles, slugs, and lots of insects I haven’t been able to identify. Besides being an interesting science experiment, there are major environmental benefits from composting. According to the most recent newsletter from Waste Aware Scotland:

• It reduces waste sent to landfill

Scotland produces 900,000 tonnes of organic waste a year. That’s enough to fill Hampden Stadium more than 18 times. We could divert a large amount of organic waste from landfill by using it for home composting.

• Reduce global warming

Organic waste sent to landfill cannot decompose properly because it doesn’t have access to air. As a result, it produces methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

• Your garden benefits

Compost improves soil, so plants in your garden become healthier and more pest and disease resistant. They will produce better fruit and vegetables and more beautiful blooms.

As I explained to my daughter, who recently told me she wants to become more environmentally responsible, there are two ways in which composting combats global warming. The first is the reduction of anaerobic digestion, which results in methane production as explained above. Because methane is such a potent greenhouse gas, this is not something you want occurring in an open landfill. But the second benefit is that home composting reduces the mass of material that would be transported (via fossil fuels) to the landfill. So home composting is much more environmentally responsible than throwing your waste in the trash.

So, what can you compost? Again, referring back to the newsletter:

Kitchen waste:

✔ Fruit scraps and vegetable peelings
✔ Tea leaves/bags and coffee grounds
✔ Egg shells
✔ Paper items which can include scrunched up cardboard, egg boxes, toilet roll tubes, vacuum cleaner bags, cereal boxes and paper towels

Garden waste:

✔ Cut flowers
✔ Garden and house plants
✔ Grass cuttings
✔ Young annual weeds
✔ Shredded twigs
✔ Hedge trimmings
✔ Straw and hay
✔ Wood chippings and sawdust
✔ Hamster or other pet bedding

If you start to segregate your garbage, you will find that these items make up a substantial portion of what would normally go to the landfill.

Inside My Composter – Yuck

In the picture above, the composter contains about 30 gallons of composting material. But I have filled it to the top at least 10 times and haven’t taken anything out of it. In other words, that 30 gallons of material was originally around 1,000 gallons. It is amazing how much the volume is reduced as it decomposes. But that also goes to show how much material it takes to produce an inch of topsoil.

So get yourself a composter(or make one) and do a bit more for the environment. You may even find that you enjoy it.

September 2, 2007 Posted by | composting, environment, global warming | 25 Comments

My Composting Experiment

“We stand, in most places on earth, only six inches from desolation, for that is the thickness of the topsoil layer upon which the entire life of the planet depends.” R. Neil Sampson in Farmland or Wasteland: A Time to Choose

One of my interests, dating back 25 years to when I was a member of my local FFA land judging team, is soil conservation. I have long been interested in things like terra preta and composting because of their ability to build topsoil. But I never thought much about how difficult it can be to build up topsoil until I read Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy – Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars(great books, by the way). The books trace a future hypothetical terraforming of Mars, and one of the major difficulties the characters face is producing topsoil on the planet. It was then that my interest in the mechanisms for topsoil erosion and topsoil production greatly increased.

While I would eventually like to get some experience with producing terra preta, earlier this year I got a flyer from Waste Aware Scotland for discounted composters. So, I bought one, and started to experiment. I wish I had done so years ago, because it has really been a fascinating exercise.

My 330 Liter ecoMax

I got the larger 330 L (87 gallon) model shown above and started dumping all things cellulosic into it. There is quite a little tropical ecosystem inside the composter. Even when it is cold outside, the waste is always steaming. And not only has it attracted numerous earthworms, but there are beetles, slugs, and lots of insects I haven’t been able to identify. Besides being an interesting science experiment, there are major environmental benefits from composting. According to the most recent newsletter from Waste Aware Scotland:

• It reduces waste sent to landfill

Scotland produces 900,000 tonnes of organic waste a year. That’s enough to fill Hampden Stadium more than 18 times. We could divert a large amount of organic waste from landfill by using it for home composting.

• Reduce global warming

Organic waste sent to landfill cannot decompose properly because it doesn’t have access to air. As a result, it produces methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

• Your garden benefits

Compost improves soil, so plants in your garden become healthier and more pest and disease resistant. They will produce better fruit and vegetables and more beautiful blooms.

As I explained to my daughter, who recently told me she wants to become more environmentally responsible, there are two ways in which composting combats global warming. The first is the reduction of anaerobic digestion, which results in methane production as explained above. Because methane is such a potent greenhouse gas, this is not something you want occurring in an open landfill. But the second benefit is that home composting reduces the mass of material that would be transported (via fossil fuels) to the landfill. So home composting is much more environmentally responsible than throwing your waste in the trash.

So, what can you compost? Again, referring back to the newsletter:

Kitchen waste:

✔ Fruit scraps and vegetable peelings
✔ Tea leaves/bags and coffee grounds
✔ Egg shells
✔ Paper items which can include scrunched up cardboard, egg boxes, toilet roll tubes, vacuum cleaner bags, cereal boxes and paper towels

Garden waste:

✔ Cut flowers
✔ Garden and house plants
✔ Grass cuttings
✔ Young annual weeds
✔ Shredded twigs
✔ Hedge trimmings
✔ Straw and hay
✔ Wood chippings and sawdust
✔ Hamster or other pet bedding

If you start to segregate your garbage, you will find that these items make up a substantial portion of what would normally go to the landfill.

Inside My Composter – Yuck

In the picture above, the composter contains about 30 gallons of composting material. But I have filled it to the top at least 10 times and haven’t taken anything out of it. In other words, that 30 gallons of material was originally around 1,000 gallons. It is amazing how much the volume is reduced as it decomposes. But that also goes to show how much material it takes to produce an inch of topsoil.

So get yourself a composter(or make one) and do a bit more for the environment. You may even find that you enjoy it.

September 2, 2007 Posted by | composting, environment, global warming | Comments Off on My Composting Experiment

My Composting Experiment

“We stand, in most places on earth, only six inches from desolation, for that is the thickness of the topsoil layer upon which the entire life of the planet depends.” R. Neil Sampson in Farmland or Wasteland: A Time to Choose

One of my interests, dating back 25 years to when I was a member of my local FFA land judging team, is soil conservation. I have long been interested in things like terra preta and composting because of their ability to build topsoil. But I never thought much about how difficult it can be to build up topsoil until I read Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy – Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars(great books, by the way). The books trace a future hypothetical terraforming of Mars, and one of the major difficulties the characters face is producing topsoil on the planet. It was then that my interest in the mechanisms for topsoil erosion and topsoil production greatly increased.

While I would eventually like to get some experience with producing terra preta, earlier this year I got a flyer from Waste Aware Scotland for discounted composters. So, I bought one, and started to experiment. I wish I had done so years ago, because it has really been a fascinating exercise.

My 330 Liter ecoMax

I got the larger 330 L (87 gallon) model shown above and started dumping all things cellulosic into it. There is quite a little tropical ecosystem inside the composter. Even when it is cold outside, the waste is always steaming. And not only has it attracted numerous earthworms, but there are beetles, slugs, and lots of insects I haven’t been able to identify. Besides being an interesting science experiment, there are major environmental benefits from composting. According to the most recent newsletter from Waste Aware Scotland:

• It reduces waste sent to landfill

Scotland produces 900,000 tonnes of organic waste a year. That’s enough to fill Hampden Stadium more than 18 times. We could divert a large amount of organic waste from landfill by using it for home composting.

• Reduce global warming

Organic waste sent to landfill cannot decompose properly because it doesn’t have access to air. As a result, it produces methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

• Your garden benefits

Compost improves soil, so plants in your garden become healthier and more pest and disease resistant. They will produce better fruit and vegetables and more beautiful blooms.

As I explained to my daughter, who recently told me she wants to become more environmentally responsible, there are two ways in which composting combats global warming. The first is the reduction of anaerobic digestion, which results in methane production as explained above. Because methane is such a potent greenhouse gas, this is not something you want occurring in an open landfill. But the second benefit is that home composting reduces the mass of material that would be transported (via fossil fuels) to the landfill. So home composting is much more environmentally responsible than throwing your waste in the trash.

So, what can you compost? Again, referring back to the newsletter:

Kitchen waste:

✔ Fruit scraps and vegetable peelings
✔ Tea leaves/bags and coffee grounds
✔ Egg shells
✔ Paper items which can include scrunched up cardboard, egg boxes, toilet roll tubes, vacuum cleaner bags, cereal boxes and paper towels

Garden waste:

✔ Cut flowers
✔ Garden and house plants
✔ Grass cuttings
✔ Young annual weeds
✔ Shredded twigs
✔ Hedge trimmings
✔ Straw and hay
✔ Wood chippings and sawdust
✔ Hamster or other pet bedding

If you start to segregate your garbage, you will find that these items make up a substantial portion of what would normally go to the landfill.

Inside My Composter – Yuck

In the picture above, the composter contains about 30 gallons of composting material. But I have filled it to the top at least 10 times and haven’t taken anything out of it. In other words, that 30 gallons of material was originally around 1,000 gallons. It is amazing how much the volume is reduced as it decomposes. But that also goes to show how much material it takes to produce an inch of topsoil.

So get yourself a composter(or make one) and do a bit more for the environment. You may even find that you enjoy it.

September 2, 2007 Posted by | composting, environment, global warming | 25 Comments