I live in the relatively small part of the US where most homes are heated with oil. This makes the relevance of the whole peak oil situation quite obvious to us. When the price of a barrel of oil fluctuates, we're very aware of it. Other people might be able to heat with sustainable electricity, but we're looking down a dead-end street as far as our heating system is concerned. With the rather severe winter weather we've been having lately, we're down to a quarter tank of heating oil. Which means it's time to order a refill of our 275-gallon capacity tank. It's going to cost us about $440 if we pay cash. We spent almost that much for a smaller amount back in October when oil began its descent from the painfully high summertime prices.
This really ticks me off. Despite my frugality streak, it's not so much the expense that gets to me. We can handle the cost, at least for now - and I am very mindful that we're fortunate to be in such a position. It's just a mounting feeling of helplessness and dependence that unnerves me and then makes me angry. You see, we pull out all the stops to conserve our heating oil and try to minimize our carbon footprint in an admittedly carbon-heavy set up. We heat only two rooms of our home, and the daytime thermostat setting is never above 64 F (less than 18 C). Overnight it gets set down to 52 F (~11 C). I wear multiple layers, fingerless gloves, and a fleece hat indoors all winter long. I play with the shades to let sunlight in when it's available, and close them when there's none to be had. We close off little used rooms and on some days rely on several warm cups of tea to feel comfortable. Living this way looks extreme to many people. We've gotten used to it and don't mind. I feel we're doing what we can and should be doing to save money and conserve resources. And yet, with the days and nights of sub-freezing temperatures we've had this month, we've gone through more than 50 gallons of heating oil in three weeks.
Just at the beginning of this month, Julie over at Towards Sustainability posted an update on her Riot for Austerity efforts for this year. This was the first article that made me really stop and think about what it would mean for us to consume only our fair share of the earth's remaining resources. Turns out if we did that, we'd have to find a way to heat with just 75 gallons of heating oil per year. That didn't seem even remotely possible, but it prodded me to at least record the level of our oil tank on January 5th. And now, three weeks later, I see that even with all our "extreme" efforts we've already blown through more than two thirds of our annual fair share of heating oil. We're really trying here, and we're not even coming close.
I don't know what we're going to do about this. But my anger is really motivating me at the moment to look into alternatives - again. I've looked at this before for our home, and there aren't many viable options. We don't have the space for a geothermal system. Zoning codes make an outdoor wood furnace highly impractical. We're not in a great part of the country for solar, and topography is against us for wind power. Ugh! It's so frustrating to have no good options.
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