Preparing For a National Fuel Shortage
By: Tom Chatham
The availability of fuels in society is what literally makes the wheels go around. The U.S. is addicted to petroleum products and we would find it hard to suddenly go without. Our fuel supplies and distribution system are just as fragile as our electrical grid and food supply chain and could be cut off for any number of reasons.
An EMP/CME, war or financial collapse are just some of the situations that could cut our supplies and leave the nation in a very bad situation. Without liquid fuels we won’t get to work, go to the grocery store, grow process and transport food, or mine and transport fuel such as coal to keep the power on. We may not be able to get shipments of goods from overseas such as food, clothing, building materials or oil. The sudden lack of fuel would shut down society as we know it.
In a technologically advanced country it is only prudent to have sufficient backup systems to enable society to continue functioning if a catastrophe should happen. Fuel is one of the linchpins of an advanced society and contingencies should be in place to replace conventional supplies in an emergency.
While we have the ability to create several different types of fuel locally in an emergency, most of them require a feedstock that we must grow and process before they can be used. Fuels such as alcohol and bio-diesel are good for emergencies but will be difficult to acquire in many places such as urban areas where the crops cannot be grown in sufficient quantity to be viable. Even if these fuels were produced in rural areas in quantity, we would still need to use a considerable percentage of the fuel for transport to other areas just as we need to burn petroleum for transport of gas and diesel today. A more widely available source of fuel needs to be used to insure availability in most areas.
The most widely available source of fuel that we have is wood. It can be used in many different ways from wood stoves for heat to producing steam power to producer gas for vehicles and generators. Wood is a versatile fuel that can be used on site in its raw form with little modification and can be procured almost anywhere from locally available sources.
The most prominent use of wood fuel today is for heating. Those that have a wood stove and a supply of wood have the ability to produce heat to stay warm and cook food when other forms of power are not available. These capabilities are tremendous in themselves when times of crisis arrive but with a few additions to your wood burning accessories you can increase your capabilities many times.
A wood gas production unit burns wood in an oxygen starved environment to create a flammable gas that can be used to run most gasoline engines. These units can be of moderate size and provide the fuel needed to run a car or generator when needed. A unit can be attached to the rear of a vehicle to provide power for road use to enable transportation when no liquid fuels are available otherwise. The use on agricultural equipment can assure the continued production of food products to insure a supply of food for the population. Wood chips provide the fuel for the unit and 16 to 20 pounds of wood will equal about one gallon of gasoline. In a fuel emergency this type of unit can help to provide transportation and electricity reducing the hardships you will be facing.
An old truck with a producer gas system can provide you with many capabilities while keeping your investment relatively low. Not only can this vehicle provide you with transportation but with a few additional items, can provide you with a backup power source. The addition of a few deep cycle batteries to the cargo area of the vehicle connected together and connected to the vehicles charging system utilizing a battery isolator, they can be connected to a power inverter to provide AC power to your home in a limited way. This system will allow you to not only have emergency transportation but limited power as well.
As mentioned earlier, a fuel disruption can also cause a power disruption if it continues for very long. This can put you in a very difficult position unless you have sufficient backup systems to provide for your needs. This one system can provide many uses while depending on only one fuel source that is locally available in most cases. In an urban environment where a wood stove and firewood can be used, this system is a logical fit to enhance your resources. Where a wood stove cannot be used, a vehicle equipped with the system outlined can be kept anywhere a typical vehicle can be kept. The amount of wood fuel will be limited but can enable you the ability to relocate when others can not.
An enhanced system where a slide in camper is placed on the truck and battery storage is located under the truck bed and the producer gas system is located on a swingout carrier on the rear bumper can provide you with a portable shelter, transportation and power unit all in one. In an urban environment, a unit such as this can make a prolonged disruption of fuel and power a more survivable event by allowing relocation to a less dangerous area while maintaining a reasonable living standard.
While supplies can be cut off in disasters they can also be cut off on purpose in some cases. A terrorist action targeting production and distribution systems can happen at any time and even the government might cut supplies if they wish to restrict movement by the population in any way. While it is possible to store large quantities of fuel it is also required in many places to notify the local authorities of this storage due to fire regulations which may result in them confiscating your fuel in crisis situations. The storage of wood is not as regulated in many cases and allows the stocking of fuel reserves without much notice from locals.
The ability to restock your fuel supply from multiple sources frees you from the limiting factors placed on society by energy sources, regulations and people in general. A producer gas system will allow you the flexibility to take advantage of opportunities that the general public will not. While others will be reeling from shortages, you will remain mobile and well supplied with power.
The ability to fuel your vehicle may also open up job opportunities during a shortage. Products will still be needed by the population and being able to transport some of those products can earn you a regular income and the ability to provide yourself with free fuel will make you very competitive in the transport market.
Where might you get a supply of wood if you own no woodlot? You can buy it of course in the form of cord wood which can also supply a wood stove. You may be able to get a free supply from neighbors in the form of tree limbs and cuttings. Another source is the many tree cutters that clear the power lines around the nation. They cut and chip truckloads every day and must dispose of the chips somewhere. You may be able to get an ample supply just for asking. Having a few hand tools to cut limbs for fuel from local sources is advisable should you find yourself on the road and in need of fuel in an emergency evacuation.
This fuel source has the ability to replace the current fuels we require and provide unlimited energy for independent homesteads in emergency as well as normal circumstances. The ability to produce local energy on a sustainable basis provides the nation with security in many forms that cannot and should not be dismissed for the sake of convenience. The availability of cheap, renewable energy sources at the local level will be necessary in years to come if our energy situation changes drastically in a negative way.