By Tyler Woods 12/17/11 the11hr.com
Fuel runs every tool we use. Even our manual tools use human effort and that
requires food for fuel.
Loss of infrastructure would block access to most of the fuels we commonly use.
Electricity runs the banks (payment), gas pumps (transportation) and stores that
sell batteries making energy backup a major concern. Most energy we use has
limited shelf life or is dependent on a fragile distribution system. Gasolene only
keeps about three months without stabilizer and just under a year when carefully
stored in an underground steel drum with stabilizer added. Diesel is a little better
but can be fouled with bacteria. Propane is one of the best fuels because it never
goes bad but storage of large quantities is cumbersome and not replaceable if the
trucks can't deliver more.
Life as we know it would drastically change without our current energy sources.
Fuel needs for our two vehicles is nearly fifty gallons per week or 2600 gallons
in one year. Storing that much fuel requires special permit and would certainly
make the neighbors nervous even if I could find a way to keep it from going bad.
A reasonable plan for energy backup starts with having enough motor fuel to
drive to your bug-out location or hold out through a two week disruption of
services. In the Gulf coast we call that hurricane preparedness.
If you plan to run a home generator for temporary backup, I would recommend
fueling it with propane. Gas powered generators need to be run for about an hour
each month or the fuel gets old and will foul the carburetor. As an RV technician,
I have seen many lightly used generators fail and need a new carburetor because
the old one couldn't be cleaned enough to save it. (The federal plan to add
ethanol to our fuel was never a good idea.) Propane doesn't have that problem.
Propane does have it's limitations though, it is stored as a compressed liquid and
struggles to boil back to its gas form when the temperature drops to about twenty
degrees (F). Pure propane functions well to about forty below zero but
regulations allow LP providers to mix butane with the gas they sell you and that
creates a problem in cold weather. Those of us in the southern states don't worry
Energy backup can fill a book by itself but we need to focus on an energy
strategy that moves us from what is convenient to that which is sustainable. I
don't plan to go “off-grid” as long as the grid is available and cheaper than my
alternatives but I do need an implementation plan for when that happens.
Short term – a few days to two weeks
Motor Fuel – 100 gal. Get a transfer tank for your pick-up and use it to cart fuel
from the station to your home tank. Always fuel up from your home tank and
transfer the freshest fuel to those tanks. Two fifty five gallon steel drums will
work but never store your fuel next to anything more valuable than the fuel.
Propane – Cooking, heating and hot water need not be dependent on the electric
grid. Unless you expect extended periods of twenty degree or lower
temperatures, use as much LP as will work for you. Many LP appliances use
electricity for ignition. Make sure you have a plan for backup electric power.
Same for furnace blowers and programmable thermostats. Whatever your LP tank
requirements are, get the largest tank you can afford and keep it full. If you own
your tanks, you can buy your LP from any distributor and shop for best price.
Leasing a tank from a gas company often limits you to buying your fuel from
Generator – For short outages, a home generator is a good option. Some will
detect an outage and automatically come online. Be sure to consult local electric
codes for proper installation. Again, buy an LP fueled generator for greatly
Batteries – Returning soldiers will tell you the war in Afghanistan could be won
or lost for the availability of batteries. LED flashlights are cheap and have
rendered incandescent lights obsolete. LED's are rugged and last multiple times
longer for the same battery. Have lots of them that use the same battery, put them
everywhere (every room, glove box and shed) and keep plenty of batteries on
hand. Start using rechargeable batteries. New technology batteries will hold a
charge longer and recharge many more times than early designs.
Long term – longer than two weeks, possibly a permanent change
Bicycles and animal transportation will replace motorized transport due to fuel
and engine parts availability. Even bicycles will need tires and tubes.
Cooking and heating will have to move to wood fueled methods. Having a
charcoal kiln would be a real asset and is easy to make now. The advantages of
charcoal is heat without smoke. Rocket stoves also provide cooking and heating
without smoke and they burn wood not regularly gathered.
Refrigeration is really helpful but regular refrigerators take too much power to
continue using. Re-purposing a chest freezer as a chest refrigerator reduces
power demand to just over 100w per day. A simple solar panel, deep cycle
battery rack, and inverter would provide useable power for years.
If you have flowing water with about twelve feet of elevation difference on your
property, you can use that to power a micro hydro-electric unit. Many options
Those of us who plan and practice now will be those who make it when the
bottom falls out. Those who don't will be its victims.