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Great Death or Die Off stories

pocketrocket

These are distinct from post holocaust stories, because they are not self inflicted. Comets and/or meteor strikes and alien attacks are the primary cause. Let's think through what the survivors 1) need to do and 2) what they have to work with.

For purposes of this thread, let's assume no hostile natives. Only those sheltered survive. Other than uncontrolled fire, nothing but weather and inattention threatens civilization's constructs.

J

Dominions Son

@pocketrocket

Let's think through what the survivors 1) need to do and 2) what they have to work with.


No electricity, no petroleum, no natural gas, no agriculture. They may have modern steel hand tools, but no capacity to make more.

Look into history books about what life was like for stone age, pre agriculture people and that will give you a good idea.

MarissaHorne

@pocketrocket

Try reading Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle for some ideas of social problems.

sejintenej

Look at the Greenies stories and what happened on earth when one group infected the poor around the world. That shows one picture of what can happen.

madnige
Updated:

@pocketrocket


let's assume no hostile natives.


I can immediately think of three stories of this type - Al Stiener's Aftermath (comet), the Great Death series by Crumbly Writer (primarily disease), and Big guy on a bike's Hard Winter (extreme climate change). In all of these, a significant part of the story is keeping the hostile natives at bay, and I think that will always be the case. Any survivors will contain a subset of people who will not have the vision to 'do the right thing', and when the easy pickings run out, will look at other survivors as just slightly less easy pickings.

However, assuming no hostile natives. If civilization's constructs are to have a chance of continuing, then no great proportion of people can die: specifically we need to keep the agriculture indusrty going, else we'll all soon starve. We need to keep the transport and distribution industries going, else the food won't move around and we'll all starve. We need to keep the mines and oil wells going to feed these industries, as if they shut down for too long, we'll loose them and we can't start again because all of the resources which are easier to get to than 'bloody difficult' have been used already. We need the electricity to keep things running, to keep the electricity on - sort of catch-22. In fact, the only people we can do without are the hairdressers, advertising executives, telephone sanitisers and the rest of the 'B' ark. Because there's so much which is essential, we can't afford to loose much of the population, Also, we'll have to shift people around to fill holes in the essential workforce. A big problem is it'll look so like buisness as usual that people won't believe it isn't until things start failing - then it might be too late. Niven, Pournelle and Flynn give a possible way to recover from this situation in Fallen Angels - get our asses off this damn rock!

At the other end of the scale, a major die-off would leave plenty of resources to be scavenged for a fair while (generations possibly), but ultimately there won't be any pickings left, there won't be resources or manpower to restart industry, and we'll drop back to the stone-age, without the possibility of bootsrapping ourselves out of it - we'll all become subsistence farmers. With only wooden tools. Forever.

richardshagrin
Updated:

@madnige

Well, pessimists are seldom disappointed even if they insist on being called realists. I am not sure why you are fixated on electricity. Or even oil and gas.

Amish and some Mennonite farmers get by fine on horses, buggies and mules. Their farms won't support 20 urban dwellers for every farmer and post apoplectic cities won't be large (in population).

Most people will have gardens, at least. Wood is a renewable resource. Most metals already refined won't go away. Being a Smith will be a very viable way to make a living. Some medical technology will go away. Life will be more like the 1800s than the 2000s. The knowledge won't disappear, unless they burn books to stay warm. Transportation and trade will be lots slower and more local.

Stone age technology sounds unlikely to me. Are dams and hydropower going away, too? Or windmills and overshot waterwheels to run relatively primitive factory machines? Steam power works as long as we have coal or wood. We might lose whale oil for lamps, but most of the technology from 1776 will still be around.

Might have slaves again, too, to grow sugar cane, cotton and tobacco. I don't know what color their skins will be, but they won't be from Africa. Africa won't lose their (currently lower) technology, just their cities will likely be much smaller, too.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

@madnige

In fact, the only people we can do without are the hairdressers, advertising executives, telephone sanitisers and the rest of the 'B' ark.

Don't forget the lawyers. In my "Seeding Hope Among the Ashes" (Great Death book 3), the survivors decided it best to eliminate the lawyers lest they erect too many restrictions on the rebuilding process.

Much of the problem with this type of story is where do you want it to go? Is it primarily an internal struggle, bringing people together, or an external one, where they're fighting off others. But Madinge is right, once the manufacturing is lost, it's hard to rebuild. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, there are specific skills we've never recovered. Once you lose the knowledge base (and all the electronic records), you risk never being able to regain what you once lost. You essentially go from having electronics to living in caves over several generations.

sejintenej
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


But Madinge is right, once the manufacturing is lost, it's hard to rebuild. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, there are specific skills we've never recovered. Once you lose the knowledge base (and all the electronic records), you risk never being able to regain what you once lost


Happened in real life; a few examples

- The great fire which destroyed the library of Alexandria (think of how much further the Arabs could have taken mathematics!

- the loss of the knowledge/abilities of the Maya and other Central American astronomers and builders

- the conscious decision to investigate current electricity instead of magnetism

richardshagrin

@Crumbly Writer

The choices are not electronics or caves. The ancient Egyptians knew how to make paper, and animal skins can make papyrus. You don't need to lose all records once you don't have electricity. Calculations can be made by clerks, who can also do double entry bookkeeping. Secretaries may be reinvented from what are now personal assistants. They might even be men! Lets think about reverting to 1900 or 1850 or even 1066 before we insist on living in caves as stone age technological nincompoops.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@richardshagrin


Lets think about reverting to 1900 or 1850 or even 1066 before we insist on living in caves as stone age technological nincompoops.


I was being dramatic. I was thinking more 1400s (pre-industrial revolution) rather than either the 19th or 11th centuries.

Another issue to consider, most wide-spread changes to society happen when there are manpower shortages. (The breakup of Feudal Europe following the Great Death, the development of the Industrial revolution, etc.). Manpower shortages directly impact on an individual's value to society, and if the rich can't hire cheap workers, they'll invest in new technology instead. Inventing a new technology (magic, anyone), might be an interesting twist on an apocalyptic story.

Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

I am not sure why you are fixated on electricity. Or even oil and gas.


Because only around 1% of the existing population in any industrialized nation has the skills necessary to survive without them.

Are dams and hydropower going away, too?


physically no. However, the power grid necessary to make use of that power will. The power grid requires constant adjustments to keep generation and load in balance. If they get more than a very small amount out of balance, protective devices will automatically take power plants off the grid. If those protective devices failed and allowed the imbalance to grow, at a certain point, things connected to the grid start to explode. The electric grid does not and cannot run on autopilot.

Putting a tripped off power plant back on the grid takes hundreds of people with specific skills and knowledge and a week or more of careful planning, coordination and execution.

Or windmills and overshot waterwheels to run relatively primitive factory machines?


How many people exist today that would know how to build something like that, no to mention building the "relatively primitive factory machines?"

For that matter, where are you going to get the materials to build all of that without modern machinery? How many people have the skills needed to mine and smelt iron ore without modern technology? How many people in modern society even know how to start a fire without modern tools?

We would be back to the stone age because we would have to recreate much of the underlying knowledge, even fire more or less from scratch.

Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

The ancient Egyptians knew how to make paper, and animal skins can make papyrus. You don't need to lose all records once you don't have electricity.


Once the electricity goes out how many people will be able to access that knowledge?

Without modern transportation, you aren't likely to be able to travel more than 8 miles in a day. A library 3 days away isn't going to do you much good when you don't have the skills to feed yourself today. Further more, the original postulate is for most of the survivors to be in polar areas, areas with harsh terrain and low population density. The nearest library with the information you need to make paper could be a year's journey

Also, knowing how to make paper isn't enough. You have to know how to make the tools to make paper, make the tools you need to make those tools and the tools to make those tools....

99% of the combined populations of the US and Canada wouldn't have the skills needed to survive more than a couple of weeks once the power grid fails.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

99% of the combined populations of the US and Canada wouldn't have the skills needed to survive more than a couple of weeks once the power grid fails.

A key aspect of these stories if creating a character back story which explains how they know how to survive, without making him seem like a plant (i.e. not a 'typical' survivor). A survivalist would be plausible, but they're not as sympathetic as an 'everyday man'. An aspect of this is making them clearly out of practice in many aspect (and thus requiring the help of others, who have to appear to be random meetings).

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

A key aspect of these stories if creating a character back story which explains how they know how to survive, without making him seem like a plant (i.e. not a 'typical' survivor). A survivalist would be plausible, but they're not as sympathetic as an 'everyday man'. An aspect of this is making them clearly out of practice in many aspect (and thus requiring the help of others, who have to appear to be random meetings).


My problem with post-apocalyptic fiction in general is that nearly all of the ones I have read, (or seen in movies) simply hand wave away the the very real problems with modern people surviving in such a situation.

Even a hard core survivalist should have a lot of trouble making it through the first year. tools and weapons wear out and break, and they do so faster when they are used constantly.

Even among hard core survivalist, how many know how to make a functional bow and functional arrows entirely from raw materials (including stone arrowheads? Or even more primitive, an atlatl? How many would have the skills to use such primitive weapons effectively?

Even the Amish don't have the skills or tools to produce their own iron from raw ore. What do even they do once the last of their iron tools breaks?

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

My problem with post-apocalyptic fiction in general is that nearly all of the ones I have read, (or seen in movies) simply hand wave away the the very real problems with modern people surviving in such a situation.

Even a hard core survivalist should have a lot of trouble making it through the first year.

That's why the first three books of my "Great Death" series only cover the first three months after the series' apocalyptic event. They're trying to save as much knowledge, and rescue as many people as they can, but acknowledge they're badly equipped for what they face.

Books don't have to answer every question, they just have to build a credible universe, and resolve the primary conflicts. Stories tell bigger tales than how someone got from point A to point B.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Books don't have to answer every question, they just have to build a credible universe


I agree that they don't have to answer every question. However, in my opinion, how you put enough food on the table to survive is a question that no post apocalyptic world universe can be credible without answering.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
sejintenej
Updated:

@Dominions Son


Even among hard core survivalist, how many know how to make a functional bow and functional arrows entirely from raw materials (including stone arrowheads? Or even more primitive, an atlatl? How many would have the skills to use such primitive weapons effectively?


I think Roustwriter in Arlene and Jeff whilst writing about Morales on the Prison Planet is illustrating the extreme difficulties even when being surreptitiously supplied with carefully chosen tools and written instructions.

As for the atlatl my granddaughter proved remarkably adept at using it but not a blow hard enough to bring down a major wild animal. (It is one of the skills tested in the local annual "prehistoric Olympics")

edit: grammar

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

I agree that they don't have to answer every question. However, in my opinion, how you put enough food on the table to survive is a question that no post apocalyptic world universe can be credible without answering.

Most PA stories focus on the immediate aftermath, not on the long-term struggles to survive. In the short term, there's generally plenty of canned and packaged food, and most survivors set about to set up farming so they'll have enough down the road. That buys them time to learn skills with atlatls and lighting fires for when they have time to seriously study it.

There's also a new class of PA stories, led by the Survivalists, which focuses on building 'hideouts' which are apocalypse resistant (i.e. not dependent on modern services). Those stories focus on issues like making weapons, water pumps which work without electricity, etc. It sounds like you'd prefer the Survivalist books, as they're more geared to the longer term survival issues than with how society might change immediately after a disaster.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


In the short term, there's generally plenty of canned and packaged food, and most survivors set about to set up farming so they'll have enough down the road.


I don't buy it. In an urban area where you might be able to forage enough caned and dry food to live off of, there is not enough open ground to farm.

In a rural area where there is enough open land to farm, buildings are too far apart to realistically forage for enough caned / dry goods to live off of.

Furthermore, the first years effort at farming is likely to be a massive failure.

There are a number of problems with attempting to farm in the immediate aftermath of an apocalyptic event.

Farming is itself a skill. You have to know what to plant and where and when and how. And farming with nothing but hand tools is a very different skill than farming with modern equipment. Few people these days keep even small scale vegetable gardens.

Then there is the problem of getting seed to farm with. Many modern farm crops have been breed/engineered so that they only germinate under special conditions. This prevents farmers from saving a portion of the harvest to plant next year, forcing them to buy seed from the seed companies every year.

Assuming you can even find appropriate seed stock, that kind of subsistence farming with no irrigation, no fertilizers and no pesticides is extremely labor intensive.


There's also a new class of PA stories, led by the Survivalists, which focuses on building 'hideouts' which are apocalypse resistant (i.e. not dependent on modern services). Those stories focus on issues like making weapons, water pumps which work without electricity, etc.


All of that would all have to be built before the apocalyptic event happens. I've seen some shows on cable detailing some of the shelters you are talking about. In my opinion they are no where near adequate for a full on permanent collapse of modern society. They brag about being able to house a hundred or more people and store a years worth of food. Unless your shelter is stocked with people with the right skills it isn't enough.

If you're stuck with a hundred average city dwellers, you are going to need 3 or 4 years to establish any sort of useful agriculture.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

DS, few PA stories begin with a complete collapse of civilization. Generally, while the electrical system fails, the survivors can find isolated pockets (such as intact cars with enough gasoline to run electric tools like radios, or to scour the area for supplies. In other words, the collapse of civilization takes time, so the survivors have time to prepare for it.

Of course, if you write your own PA story, feel free to place impossible odds before everyone. Then you can watch them all die before the fifth chapter.

Instead, you'll find that virtually all (that I've read anyway) PA stories feature the use of gas engines for at least the first couple years, with people squirreling away gasoline preservers.

In my story, since the temperature dropped so substantially, the survivors set up window gardens to maximize sunlight while retaining the maximum heat retention (with gravity providing most of the plumbing, as NYC has utilized for hundreds of years).

But, PA stories typically aren't about survival, they're studies in how people respond without government regulation. In short, they're political tracts, either suggesting that government is the root of all evil, or all that prevents us from turning into ravenous animals. That's why the deaths of billions is considered an inconsequential detail in these stories, only warranting a page (at most) of the story.

My story was a reaction to these stories, where I examined how the survivors responded to losing everyone they knew. It was meant as a one-off story (one book only), but I found everyone watching all their friends die changed how the rest of the story unfolded. In short, no one was interested in fighting, they only wanted to be left alone. The challenge thus became convincing survivors to band together to survive, when all they want is to grieve in private.

That's what I meant about the long-term survival being immaterial to the story. Few stories last beyond the first year. They're short studies into the society of structure, rather than complete histories.

I can understand why they'd frustrate you, and I'm not trying to convince you to waste your time reading them. I'm just pointing out that long-term survival isn't the point of the stories.

By the way, in my "Great Death" series, the Survivalists are among the first to die, leaving their food stores unavailable to everyone else. :(

Replies:   Dominions Son
ustourist

@Dominions Son

Your responses give the impression you have no idea what life is like in rural America. I live in a small southern city surrounded by ranches. The majority of kids are members of FFA or 4H and rear livestock. Farm implements used generations ago are still in barns in the surrounding area and horse riding and competing are still a major pastime. Most people possess (and often carry) guns for hunting or vermin. Both city and rural dwellers still have vegetable gardens and can their own produce. They aren't survivalists, they just have knowledge passed down from older generations and like that lifestyle. Those generational skills include what is politely called 'southern engineering' which includes the ability to repair or modify almost anything to do a task.
Accepted, the urbanites you appear to be familiar with may be totally incapable of anything more than looting canned produce from shops, but the vast majority of the USA is rural and survival skills are handed down as a way of life in many areas. Irrigation isn't necessarily done using mainstream power sources, crops are held back for reseeding next year, and many people have ancillary wind generators anyway. They would be perfectly capable of surviving without most modern conveniences and would probably adapt very quickly.
You appear to be basing your comments on perceptions, not knowledge or experience of people who live outside urban areas. My immediate neighbors include two teachers, a veterinarian, a retired rancher and a former US army marksman. Just that combination of skills goes a long way to assisting survival of a community, and that is within a 100 yard radius. Coastal areas aside, I would guess most of the USA has similarities to my locality and would have little problem either short or long term. After all, they only have to feed and protect their community, not outsiders.

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

Generally, while the electrical system fails, the survivors can find isolated pockets (such as intact cars with enough gasoline to run electric tools like radios, or to scour the area for supplies. In other words, the collapse of civilization takes time, so the survivors have time to prepare for it.


That right there is one of my problems with the whole PA setup. It simply isn't realistic that available local gas supplies in most areas would last more than a few months.

Refining capacity is really tight in the US these days, the US is importing not just crude oil, but refined gasoline. At normal usage levels there is only about a week or two worth of gas in inventory nation wide.

Once the electric grid fails, gas refineries stop (assuming they didn't fail sooner) and the long distance pipeline that move refined gas across the continent shut down as well. You are stuck with what ever is left in local inventory.

Unless you have access to a tanker truck, it won't take nearly as long as you think before you run out of gas that you can reach without burning more fuel than you can bring back.


The challenge thus became convincing survivors to band together to survive, when all they want is to grieve in private.


The only good reason to band together is long term survival.

Of course, if you write your own PA story, feel free to place impossible odds before everyone. Then you can watch them all die before the fifth chapter.


The odds are not impossible. However, for the survivors of the initial cataclysm there will be little time for leisure, simply surviving day to day will take hard work through all their waking hours.

I haven't seen a PA story yet that doesn't make simple survival unbelievably easy.


By the way, in my "Great Death" series, the Survivalists are among the first to die, leaving their food stores unavailable to everyone else.


If they are real survivalists, their food stores are well protected, locked away behind tons of concrete and steel and no one else is getting to them without high explosives, heavy equipment or both.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
tppm

@Crumbly Writer

Don't forget the lawyers. In my "Seeding Hope Among the Ashes" (Great Death book 3), the survivors decided it best to eliminate the lawyers lest they erect too many restrictions on the rebuilding process.


And the whole world turns into a bunch of strong man kleptocracies, which only last till a stronger man comes along. Some variation on lawyers are required for settling disputes.

tppm

@richardshagrin

Animal skins can make parchment and vellum, papyrus is made for hammered and crosshatched reed stalks.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

isn't realistic that available local gas supplies in most areas would last more than a few months.


A lot will depends on how many survive. The gas, by itself, will last months, but how long you get to use it will depend on the survivors. In a city where each station expects to sell 2,000 gallons a day to it's client base 2,500 people and has a bit over two days' supplies would last a survivor pool of ten people a long time because so few are using it and they wouldn't be doing as much running around on non-critical errands as most people do.

People living on the edge or urban areas or beside large parks would be able to get cultivated land going, as would rural survivors. One worry in the cities will be to account for the pets - did they survive or didn't they - are they forming feral packs etc.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

ast a survivor pool of ten people a long time because so few are using it and they wouldn't be doing as much running around on non-critical errands as most people do.


You are wrong. They would be doing twice as much running around on critical errands foraging for vital supplies.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

People living on the edge or urban areas or beside large parks would be able to get cultivated land going, as would rural survivors.


Assuming that they have or can find the necessary supplies, tools and skills.

Replies:   tppm
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son


You are wrong. They would be doing twice as much running around on critical errands foraging for vital supplies.


Depending on how the catastrophe happened and what it left, they may not be able to move a single vehicle at all. However, the most common situation in such stories they'd be taking direct trips to the stores they know has the supplies they want, load up, and on to the next until fully loaded then back to base. No stopping for traffic, no stopping for lights, no side trips to eateries or work etc. Overall they'll use less fuel per day than the station would normally sell or they'd use on a normal day.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

Overall they'll use less fuel per day than the station would normally sell or they'd use on a normal day.


Yes, but the station only has a few normal days worth of inventory. Even running only one vehicle off a single station, the available fuel isn't going to last more than a month or two.

Then you have to get into octane level issues. Most stations sell three octane levels, but they only actually have two in inventory (the middle octane is usually created on the fly by blending the top and bottom octane fuels. Where octane matters is that every gas based ice is designed to run fuel with a certain octane level. Run it with a lower octane and you can damage the engine. Running with a higher octane lowers your fuel efficiency.

Another factor is if the survivors are using gas to run generators to try and keep some electric equipment running. If so, they will burn through the available fuel even faster.

Replies:   madnige
madnige

@Dominions Son

Running with a higher octane lowers your fuel efficiency.


Does it? I think the fuel efficiency of that engine would be the same with higher octane as the correct octane, but it's less efficient when compared to an engine optimised for the higher octane level. The high octane fuel has a lower proportion of light volatiles, so engine compression can be higher without causing compression-ignition - allowing the increased effeiciency because more power can be extracted - but without changing the compression and timing, the available power should be the same (except for a very slight increase due to the slightly heavier molecules). The lower octane rating fuel, with increased light volatiles, can suffer compression-ignition (like in a diesel engine, called 'pinking' or 'knocking' in a petrol (gas) engine) too early in the cycle causing great stresses on the engine, and probable failure.

In the UK there are usually two fuels available, unleaded petrol and diesel, and these are not mixed. Some, even most filling stations also have gas (propane I think, but don't know for sure) available (there's a tax break for running on this); in very rare cases there may be a higher octane available.

Replies:   sejintenej
sejintenej
Updated:

@madnige


In the UK there are usually two fuels available, unleaded petrol and diesel, and these are not mixed. Some, even most filling stations also have gas (propane I think, but don't know for sure) available (there's a tax break for running on this); in very rare cases there may be a higher octane available.


Petrol (gas): there is almost always 95 and 98 octane sold at fuel pumps: almost all cars sold this century can take 98octane but some can't take 95. Diesel (gasoil) comes in "basic" and often an enhanced more efficient version.

Diesel seems to be far more efficient than petrol - I have just averaged over 70mph over a nine hour drive and got 55mpg from diesel fuel(in an old car - it used to be nearly 70mpg) but my son's brand new petrol car does about 24mpg!!!

In your discussions don't forget that fuel stations are not the only sources - farms stock diesel, often in large quantities. The tax dye does not affect its performance.

BTW a US gallon is I think one quarter smaller than ours.

Dominions Son

@sejintenej

In your discussions don't forget that fuel stations are not the only sources - farms stock diesel, often in large quantities. The tax dye does not affect its performance.


If you have a diesel vehicle. Personal Diesel cars are fairly rare in the US. Even consumer trucks don't come with diesel engines standard. Not all gas stations here even have diesel fuel unless they are close to a major highway.

Replies:   tppm
Dominions Son

@sejintenej

BTW a US gallon is I think one quarter smaller than ours.


Where are you that you are buying gas in non-US Gallons? I thought everyone else bought gas by the liter.

Replies:   sejintenej
ustourist

@sejintenej


BTW a US gallon is I think one quarter smaller than ours.

Almost there.
The US gallon is 20% smaller than the UK one, or conversely, the UK one is 25% larger, just in case anyone is checking. (Pint is 16oz US, 20oz UK).
I often wonder if the media corrects for this when making comparisons in mpg.

Replies:   sejintenej
sejintenej
Updated:

@Dominions Son


Where are you that you are buying gas in non-US Gallons? I thought everyone else bought gas by the liter.


We may buy by the litre but Ford computers show miles per gallon - even on cars bought two months ago. My son and I both drive Fords because .....

As for your other comment that may be in the US but in France the ratio petrol to diesel is about 1:1 because diesel is far cheaper. (In UK terms we were talking about 80p against £1.00 per litre but both have increased slightly recently) In the UK there are plenty of diesel cars but not such a high ratio. I don't know what the present scandal and health terror reports out of the US will do

Don't forget that a diesel engine car won at the 24heures du Mans.

edit; more detail

sejintenej

@ustourist

The US gallon is 20% smaller than the UK one, or conversely, the UK one is 25% larger, just in case anyone is checking. (Pint is 16oz US, 20oz UK).

I often wonder if the media corrects for this when making comparisons in mpg.

I wonder if American car manufacturers allow for this when programming their cars outside the US of A. (Mine was built in Spain but I know parts came from all over the world)

ustourist

@sejintenej

I believe it was NASA that neglected to specify dimensions in inches rather than cm, so parts didn't match when produced by outside suppliers, but hopefully Ford and Vauxhall are smart enough to get it right when working in imperial or metric.

Replies:   sejintenej
Dominions Son

@sejintenej

As for your other comment that may be in the US but in France the ratio petrol to diesel is about 1:1 because diesel is far cheaper.


In the US, diesel is actually more expensive than gas. It's taxed much higher because it is seen as being mostly a commercial fuel and it is considered to be more polluting.

The US average for regular gas in the US is $2.28/gal and diesel is $2.498/gal

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Dominions Son
Updated:

@sejintenej


We may buy by the litre but Ford computers show miles per gallon - even on cars bought two months ago. My son and I both drive Fords because .....


That's interesting, I can configure the units used for both distance and fuel volume in my 2015 F150. It will display FE in M/G, K/L or even L/100K.

sejintenej

@ustourist

hopefully Ford and Vauxhall are smart enough to get it right when working in imperial or metric

I just asked and got an unrepeatable reply!

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

In the US, diesel is actually more expensive than gas. It's taxed much higher because it is seen as being mostly a commercial fuel and it is considered to be more polluting.


Diesel engines are much more efficient and use less fuel than gasoline engines. Petroleum based diesel is cheaper to produce than gasoline. The exhaust components can also be processed to be less polluting than gasoline engines. Also biodiesel is fairly easy to produce and has less pollution than petroleum diesel and the original engines were made to run on a range of oils. The only reason diesel costs near the same (or more) than gasoline is due to higher taxation rates.

Thus it would make sense to have the survivors quickly use up the gasoline fuel while organising to produce biodiesel and then use only diesel engine vehicles and clean out the petrol storage tanks to use for storing biodiesel to build up supplies.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

The only reason diesel costs near the same (or more) than gasoline is due to higher taxation rates.


I believe that is exactly what I said. I also didn't say diesel was more polluting than gas, I said it is perceived as being more polluting by the US government.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

Also biodiesel is fairly easy to produce and has less pollution than petroleum diesel and the original engines were made to run on a range of oils.


If you have the right equipment and viable source oils, survivors in a PA world are unlikely to have either.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

Thus it would make sense to have the survivors quickly use up the gasoline fuel while organising to produce biodiesel and then use only diesel engine vehicles and clean out the petrol storage tanks to use for storing biodiesel to build up supplies.


Assumes that they even have diesel vehicles available which is unlikely in the US, even more so in northern states or Canada. Diesel is very unreliable in cold weather because the fuel will gel if it gets too cold.

As for cleaning out the petrol storage tanks to store biodiesel, where are they going to get the tools for that? Or the time. Do you really expect people working 16hour days just to barely feed themselves to take on a project like that?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
madnige

...or run a gas engine on alcohol.

Problem being, any producible fuel will be outside what modern engine management systems would accept, so you need vehicles that you can fix engine problems without needing a laptop...

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

I believe that is exactly what I said.


I know, I was simply confirming it and adding more info.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

If you have the right equipment and viable source oils


It's easier to make than moonshine, and any vegetable matter can be used to make it, you just get a better quality with some vegetation over other vegetation. There are small systems being used by householders that don't use a heating distillation process and some that do. The available biodiesel production systems run from units smaller than a compact car to huge production plants like a refinery.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

any vegetable matter can be used to make it, you just get a better quality with some vegetation over other vegetation.


In a post apocalypse situation using any plant matter that is usable as food (or food for livestock) to make bio-diesel is epic stupid.

Any survivors can expect to be living on the edge of starvation for at least the first year.

The available biodiesel production systems run from units smaller than a compact car to huge production plants like a refinery.


Sure, but if you don't have one pre apocalypse, building one post apocalypse will be nearly impossible. And if you are in a part of the world where diesel cars weren't common, finding one is drastically unlikely.

tppm

@Dominions Son

Assuming that they have or can find the necessary supplies, tools and skills.


Skills can be learned, tools can be made, supplies would be the hard part. Most importantly for farming, seeds.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

In a post apocalypse situation using any plant matter that is usable as food (or food for livestock) to make bio-diesel is epic stupid.

Any survivors can expect to be living on the edge of starvation for at least the first year.


There are always plants that are not used as food and parts of plants that aren't eaten that can be used for the production of biodiesel. Also, you can render animal fat and use it as diesel as well.

As to living on the edge,the survivors will either be in a rural area or an urban area or a mix. Depending upon the type of devastation they may or may not have viable food supplies for a long period. For example, a disease that kills 99% of the population won't harm the pre-packaged foods in the stores and warehouses or the current crops in the field. Yet a worldwide meteor shower could leave some places OK or totally destroy everything and leave the survivors slowly starving to death - depending on the damage levels. There are many options and ways to deal with things.

BTW there are a number of seed banks around the world which were set up just to help with racial survival in those types of situation. How accessible they are I don't know.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

Sure, but if you don't have one pre apocalypse, building one post apocalypse will be nearly impossible.


No more impossible than building a moonshine still.

Replies:   Dominions Son
tppm

@Dominions Son

f you have a diesel vehicle. Personal Diesel cars are fairly rare in the US. Even consumer trucks don't come with diesel engines standard. Not all gas stations here even have diesel fuel unless they are close to a major highway.


If the population has decreased sufficiently there will be diesel vehicles available. You don't have to keep the vehicle you had before the collapse. Harder will be finding analog vehicles (with no electronics, which will have failed if the collapse included an EMP).

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

No more impossible than building a moonshine still.


Not an easy thing to do if you don't have access to the right materials and zero knowledge of how a still actually works.

Dominions Son

@tppm

If the population has decreased sufficiently there will be diesel vehicles available.


In a post apocalyptic world, a diesel vehicle that is 40 or 50 miles away might as well not exist.

Replies:   sejintenej  tppm
jimh67

I'm really enjoying this discussion because so many of these stories just hand wave this stuff. Way too many of these stories are little more than a list of what the author would gather (loot) in a situation where the vast majority of people died and civil authority broke down.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

Assumes that they even have diesel vehicles available which is unlikely in the US,


That makes it much easier to set the story in Europe or Australia where more and more personal cars are diesel. Down here any vehicle over a certain kerb weight has to be a diesel engine, thus all the larger SUVs are diesel because they exceed that weight. Similar laws exist in many European countries and I expect to see the US handling a higher number of those personal vehicles in the future, even if the laws don't follow suit.

Replies:   Dominions Son
sejintenej

@madnige

...or run a gas engine on alcohol.

Did that in Brasil decades ago. Big problems with timing the engines and also the ethanol dissolved the lubrication oil. There were serious problems starting the engines when it was "cold" - remember we are talking Rio de Janeiro cold - not Michigan in winter. (I think they solved that by starting the engines on conventional petrol/gas but I never had that problem in a VW). I don't think they make those engines any longer. Another problem was the sheer quantity of ?maize or sugarcane they needed to make the fuel: not viable in the circumstances we are considering

The exhausts used to smell sickly sweet all down the street.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

Similar laws exist in many European countries and I expect to see the US handling a higher number of those personal vehicles in the future, even if the laws don't follow suit.


Current US law while it doesn't outright prohibit diesel engines for personal vehicles, actively discourages them.

Then you have to get passed a strong consumer bias against diesel in the US both for being dirty and for being unreliable in winter.

Then you have to find a way around cold weather reliability problem. Unlike gasoline, diesel fuel turns into an unusable jelly at temperatures commonly reached during winter in the northern US.

Replies:   sejintenej
sejintenej

@Dominions Son

In a post apocalyptic world, a diesel vehicle that is 40 or 50 miles away might as well not exist.

Look on a map of Europe; the Cathar perfects (like priests) used to travel from the Pyrenees and Normandy to what is now Albania to be consecrated before returning home. In good flatish conditions a man should be able to cover 30 miles a day, day after day - an average of 3mph with a heavy rucksack is on the low side..

Replies:   Dominions Son
sejintenej

@Dominions Son

Current US law while it doesn't outright prohibit diesel engines for personal vehicles, actively discourages them.
Then you have to get passed a strong consumer bias against diesel in the US both for being dirty and for being unreliable in winter.

Perhaps that is the repair garage and manufacturers of spare parts pressurising the government like your gun lobby?
With proper filtering as we have here diesel is not dirty.
Remember that your big Macks etc. are built/hoped to last an average of one million miles between major services

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ernest Bywater

@madnige

...or run a gas engine on alcohol.


During both world wars and for part of the time in between many cars ran on methane gas.

Replies:   Dominions Son  ustourist
Dominions Son

@sejintenej

Perhaps that is the repair garage and manufacturers of spare parts pressurising the government like your gun lobby?


Nope in this case it's mostly the environmentalists.

With proper filtering as we have here diesel is not dirty.


I am well aware of that. Try to convince the US government and the US environmental movement that you can make that work in a car.

Of course you still haven't dealt with the poor reliability of diesel in cold climates.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

During both world wars and for part of the time in between many cars ran on methane gas.


The US has vehicles now that run on either compressed (CNG) or liquefied (LNG) natural gas which is mostly methane. Of course in a PA situation making LNG would be out of reach and CNG very difficult.

Dominions Son

@sejintenej

Look on a map of Europe; the Cathar perfects (like priests) used to travel from the Pyrenees and Normandy to what is now Albania to be consecrated before returning home. In good flatish conditions a man should be able to cover 30 miles a day, day after day - an average of 3mph with a heavy rucksack is on the low side..


Sure, for people who were used to walking everywhere. Try and take a group of US suburbanites who haven't ever in their lives gone more than a mile on foot and see how far you can march them in a day. :)

Besides. Lets say I tell you there is a specific vehicle somewhere in a 50 mile radius, but you don't know exactly how far or what direction. Just how quickly do you think you can search a 1,963 square mile area on foot?

ustourist

@Ernest Bywater

I believe cars were also converted to run on coal gas as well, though since methane is a large constituent of that we may be referring to the same thing with a different name.
I also knew several people who ran vehicles illegally on paraffin (kerosene) as it had a much lower tax and it was possible to get reliable combustion just by retarding the ignition if I recall correctly.
Aviation fuel is usually stored in very large quantities and can be used in both types of engine, so presumably would be readily adaptable for motor vehicles and I doubt if supplies would be exhausted that quickly.
As far as diesel is concerned, the majority of ranchers round here use it because it can be safely stored in gravity fed tanks near the house. They buy in bulk for the tractors and heavy equipment so it makes commercial sense to use it for personal transport as well. There are a few of those tanks present in my city behind the houses on the service roads as well. The only reason I use a gas powered truck is because I don't know enough about diesel engines, but I haven't met any bias against them. I think that may be an urban/rural difference in mindset rather than a generic consumer bias.
Also, in rural or semi-rural areas there are a lot of vehicles still running that don't need electronic expertise just to maintain them - including tractors decades old - so a lot of the difficulties quoted against your arguments are rather specious.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

a pre-ignition warmer in the engine and good insulation on the tanks and pipe solves that issue fairly well. At least well enough to allow the use of diesel motors in the Antarctic.

Replies:   sejintenej
Ernest Bywater

@ustourist

Aviation fuel is usually stored in very large quantities and can be used in both types of engine, so presumably would be readily adaptable for motor vehicles and I doubt if supplies would be exhausted that quickly.


Aviation fuel comes in two main types - Avtur which is like kerosene, and Avgas which is a much higher octane than normal car gas and will eat out the engine very fast. However, in a PA situation you would probable have enough spare cars to not worry about the engine being eaten up by the Avgas.

Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

I wonder if American car manufacturers allow for this when programming their cars outside the US of A. (Mine was built in Spain but I know parts came from all over the world)

And here we get into the reason why most PA stories gloss over the 'essential details' of survival. Discussions like these, about what survives and which don't, bore the hell out of non-survivalists, who read for different reasons. Most people want to read stories with/without messages, and not be forced to read instruction manuals. If they wanted the latter, they can always read their car manual again!

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Any survivors can expect to be living on the edge of starvation for at least the first year.

Assuming the standard 99.998% die off of the population, there's more than enough canned and packaged goods to last until they can set up a small scale farm (only big enough to fee a dozen people). You're assuming the current population without resupplies or any modern technology.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

You're assuming the current population without resupplies or any modern technology.


No, I'm not.

Yes, there would be a vast amount of canned and dry goods out there relative to the number of survivors. However, that supply is spread out over a very large area.

I think you are over estimating how large an area that survivors would be able to forage effectively for those supplies and how much of that supply will be close enough to the survivors to matter. You also have to consider the nutritional diversity in what is available. A 100 year supply of canned corn isn't going to keep a survivor alive if that's all that's available.

They won't be able to set up any kind of farm if they have to spend 10-16 hours a day foraging for precollapse preserved foods over hundreds of square miles.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
tppm
Updated:

@Dominions Son


In a post apocalyptic world, a diesel vehicle that is 40 or 50 miles away might as well not exist.


There are easily 10 million people within a 40 mile radius of me. I'm pretty sure I could find a diesel vehicle within easy walking distance. And only a little more effort to find one no one else is claiming.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son


Yes, there would be a vast amount of canned and dry goods out there relative to the number of survivors. However, that supply is spread out over a very large area.


Every urban development, even small towns, has stores with stockrooms of supplies. The bigger the urban area the larger the storerooms and when you get to urban areas of over 20,000 people there are usually warehouses of pre-packaged foods there. In the larger distribution centres there are warehouses with hundreds of tons of food in storage because of the time it takes to deliver around the country and it's more efficient to use distribution centres you ship to in large quantities.

jimh67

There may not be many diesel cars in the U.S., but there are millions of diesel pickups and other small to medium size diesel trucks out there. Not to mention that you don't have to pull the trailer behind the Peterbilt.

pocketrocket

@pocketrocket

Wow. A lot of response.

From the way I posed the question, you might have inferred that more than 3/4 of the relevant population is gone. Food and refined petroleum are initially available in considerable quantity, if you know where to find it. Even grid power can be obtained if anyone has the knowledge.

That said, food is perishable and fuel is volatile. Also, no one spoke of uncontrolled fire. Surely that would be a major problem.

What if the cause of the disaster also killed livestock?

Ernest Bywater

@pocketrocket

That said, food is perishable and fuel is volatile. Also, no one spoke of uncontrolled fire. Surely that would be a major problem.


Food You'd be very surprised how long a lot of those pre-packaged foods can last on the shelf if left sealed. Some have years of shelf life. Heck they've found canned goods that were still good to eat 60 years after they were canned.

Fuel Some fuels, like gasoline / petrol, is volatile, while some a much less volatile, like diesel. A lot will also depend on the additives they have and their storage conditions.

Fire In general a fire needs to be started. Yes, lightening can start a fire, so can electrical faults, but most are started by people either intentionally or accidentally. Also, any fire will only burn for as long as it has enough fuel and oxygen to keep it going. Firestorms require a heck of a lot of heat and fuel to get going. The biggest fire risks would be from situations where someone had a gas fire going and it was able to get beyond it's designed area - very hard to do; or a volatile material is spilled in a large quantity and a spark ignites it; or lightening in a heavy undergrowth forest area (this is the biggest danger in a PA situation).

Livestock could be killed off, but if something was such to kill all the livestock, then it's likely it had a similar effect on all pets and all wild life as well. One common situation is to have almost all the land animals killed by the sea life survives. Another common one is for only the humans to be killed off and then the majority of domesticated livestock in feed areas starve to death without anyone to feed them while those in open fields survive.

Ernest Bywater

@pocketrocket

Here's a wikipedia page about how things could go, you just need to expand on it a bit.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_Without_a_Summer

Then read this article and think on how things would go if it let loose with a major eruption.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellowstone_Caldera

Keep this in mind as well.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supervolcano

If Yellowstone goes it'll make The Year Without Summer look nice and the west half of North America would be uninhabitable and most of the people in North America would die in the explosion or the next few days. Any that do survive would by in a PA situation, as would be the rest of the world. If a couple of the super-volcanoes go, then the game plan goes up a lot.

Replies:   tppm
Crumbly Writer

@pocketrocket

That said, food is perishable and fuel is volatile. Also, no one spoke of uncontrolled fire. Surely that would be a major problem.

What if the cause of the disaster also killed livestock?

Again, those were major plot points of my "Great Death" series. A prolonged meteor storm eliminates the world's communication/electrical systems, while a subsequent series of plagues wipe out not just humans, but most animal and plant life. It then posits, how do the few humans respond. The enjoyable thing about PA (and sci-fi in general) is in positing new situations, and then exploring how they unfold.

tppm
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


Any that do survive would by in a PA situation


Why are you all limiting it to Pennsylvanian?

Oh, PA = Post Apocalypse. Never-mind.

jimh67
Updated:

I would think you would lose a significant number of survivors to depression and suicide probably mostly by pharmaceutical means. Some people just won't be willing to work harder than they ever have in their lives to live in primitive conditions while wondering if they're going to make it through the winter or be enslaved by a gang.

BTW, unopened distilled spirits can keep for a century or more. Use the cheap stuff for an antiseptic when the other stuff has run out.

sejintenej

@Ernest Bywater

a pre-ignition warmer in the engine and good insulation on the tanks and pipe solves that issue fairly well. At least well enough to allow the use of diesel motors in the Antarctic.

This warmer seems to be standard on Fords (which don't seem to have special insulation here) and show on the dash as a coil: when it goes out then everything is ready though in warmer (32°F plus) you can ignore that. As for the reference to unreliability in cold climates, well we only get down to about minus 20°C and that is occasional (the car is kept outside; though we don't I know some Americans use sump heaters at night

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

As for the reference to unreliability in cold climates, well we only get down to about minus 20°C and that is occasional (the car is kept outside; though we don't I know some Americans use sump heaters at night

They use sump heaters in their cars? Where do they store their cars, in the bottom of the lake? 'D

Replies:   tppm
tppm

@Crumbly Writer

As for the reference to unreliability in cold climates, well we only get down to about minus 20°C and that is occasional (the car is kept outside; though we don't I know some Americans use sump heaters at night

They use sump heaters in their cars? Where do they store their cars, in the bottom of the lake? 'D


In a car the sump is the oil in the oil pan. In cold climates it has to be heated to be liquid enough to be lifted into the engine where it can do it's job.

Depending on how cold it gets the oil might be the consistency of candle wax without heating.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@tppm

In a car the sump is the oil in the oil pan. In cold climates it has to be heated to be liquid enough to be lifted into the engine where it can do it's job.

Depending on how cold it gets the oil might be the consistency of candle wax without heating.


With a diesel engine, you can have the same problem with the fuel tank, the engine block and the fuel lines. And yes, you can get block and fuel tank heaters, but these are electric and require grid power. In a PA situation where the electric grid is likely to be down, they may not be much help.

The other option that is typically used in very cold climates, particularly with the large diesel engines in heavy equipment, is to keep diesel engines running constantly so the engine/fuel system never get's cold. Of course in a PA situation that option significantly increases the rate at which you burn through available fuel.

sejintenej

@Dominions Son

With a diesel engine, you can have the same problem with the fuel tank, the engine block and the fuel lines.

I know that in some arctic countries heavy lorry drivers divert their exhausts so that they play on the outsides of the fuel tanks. I don't know what they do when not working - I suspect that they may drain their systems at night and refill with warmed fuel and lubrication before starting up again.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@sejintenej

I don't know what they do when not working - I suspect that they may drain their systems at night and refill with warmed fuel and lubrication before starting up again.


You really have no idea what you are suggesting.

A typical semi-tractor (what you call a heavy lory) has two 150 gallon fuel tanks. What you are suggesting is an fairly time intensive operation each way presuming you have some kind of heated storage for it which wouldn't be cheap.

Very likely they do what I suggested, they leave the engine idling overnight.

Replies:   Capt Zapp
Capt Zapp
Updated:

@Dominions Son

"...some kind of heated storage for it which wouldn't be cheap."

A storage garage of some sort with a wood-stove works nicely and would not be very expensive. Engine oil handles cold better than diesel fuel. If they can keep the fuel from gelling, the engine should start just fine.

When I was in Alaska, we would add ethanol at 1:100 to the fuel tank. I can't say if it really helped since the vehicles were stored inside at night anyway.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Capt Zapp

A storage garage of some sort with a wood-stove works nicely and would not be very expensive.


For a car or a pickup maybe. If you are dealing with a semi-tractor or a large farm tractor, not so easy.

It would take one heck of a wood stove to heat an entire pole barn without needing anyone to tend it overnight.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

It would take one heck of a wood stove to heat an entire pole barn without needing anyone to tend it overnight.


There's a show about truck drivers in Alaska and in a few of the episodes they covered this subject with some of the drivers. I don't remember exactly what they did, but do remember some did things differently. In one a larger firm with several trucks had a huge insulated cinder-block building with a door on each end just big enough to allow a tractor rig through and some heating system, they had all the rigs were parked inside at night during winter and the trailers were left in another big building that did no more than keep the wind and snow off. Another had a bunch of blankets he placed in different places.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Capt Zapp

@Dominions Son

Wouldn't have to heat it to where people are comfortable, just enough to keep the fuel from gelling. And it wouldn't need to be a pole barn either. Many farms use prefabricated buildings that stay quite comfortable, even in winter. There will probably also be plenty of unoccupied maintenance type buildings that should be large enough to park several bob-tail semis. One place I worked up north had a 3-bay shop they kept warm overnight with a single kerosene heater.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

There's a show about truck drivers in Alaska and in a few of the episodes they covered this subject with some of the drivers.


If you are thinking about Ice Road Truckers, that takes place in northern Canada, not Alaska.

My point is not that the issue can't be dealt with, it's that it has to be dealt with, and methods used to deal with it in the present might not work in a PA situation.

Take that large cinder-block building you mention. How is it heated? By electricity? By liquid or gas hydrocarbon fuels that might be impossible to restock under PA conditions?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Dominions Son

@Capt Zapp

One place I worked up north had a 3-bay shop they kept warm overnight with a single kerosene heater.


How large? I've seen some pretty big propane heaters.

How much kerosene did it burn per day/night? How many days/nights supply did they have on site at any one time? How long could they keep it warm enough if they weren't going to be able to get any more kerosene ever?

The issue for this thread is not per say how we deal with diesel vehicles in cold climates now, but how to deal with them in a PA situation.

Replies:   Capt Zapp
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

Take that large cinder-block building you mention. How is it heated? By electricity? By liquid or gas hydrocarbon fuels that might be impossible to restock under PA conditions?


Don't know, they didn't say.

heating in a PA situation would depend on the general climate and location. One option would be to raid places for solar panels and set them up. Another would be to set about collecting and using methane, if you could. Biodiesel is a good one as well.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

One option would be to raid places for solar panels and set them up. Another would be to set about collecting and using methane, if you could. Biodiesel is a good one as well.


Solar panels for heat in an arctic area? Solar panels don't work at night when you need the heat the most. They also don't work when covered in snow. And then there is the small problem with it being night 24 hours a day for months on end.

Methane? Getting methane in the arctic is not simple. Making it by some kind of compost process would be difficult in sub-freezing temperatures so the process would itself require significant heat input, which leaves you with ROI problems. You probably won't get enough methane to break even on heat.

Biodiesel has the same gelling problems as fossil diesel. All the bio-diesel reactors I have seen are made from purpose made parts kits and all the parts are plastic. How many people are there with the knowledge to build a bio-diesel reactor from scratch using whatever raw materials are handy. Will the bio-diesel reactor function at low temperatures?

How much heat does the process need? How many BTUs vs the potential BTUs in the Bio-Diesel produced? How do you get enough vegetable oil in the arctic? Can you use animal fat? Of course animal fat not being liquid at room temp would require even more heat assuming it can be used at all.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

Will the bio-diesel reactor function at low temperatures?


The original diesel engine was designed to run on what we now call bio-diesel, one early diesel engine ran for years on peanut oil. Bio-diesel can be made without the need for heat in its production, although some processes use heat to speed them up.

As to the arctic conditions, if you're in a situation where you need the heating right this second with absolutely no time to get set, you're already dead and just don;'t know it. In many cases you'll have some preparation time to set up for some changes.

Solar panels will work in daylight and will thus help you extend what other systems you set up by lowering the usage of fuels. I've seen solar panels set up and used in heavy snow conditions, they just angle the panels a lot more so the snow will slide off.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

I've seen solar panels set up and used in heavy snow conditions, they just angle the panels a lot more so the snow will slide off.


That will also reduce the amount of power they will produce.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater  madnige
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

That will also reduce the amount of power they will produce.


depends on how they're set up, the way you set them up will vary with the location and the way to get the best results can be calculated. But even if you don't get the full capability out of them, you're way ahead of not having them at all.

madnige

@Dominions Son

reduce the amount of power they will produce


--or increase it, in the Arctic, as the sun doesn't get above 46 degrees, and the optimum angle would be something like 25 degrees from vertical - but you could put another set on the north-facing walls (the panels would work best so near vertical, you may as well mount them vertically), and if you're scavenging panels PA, on the east and west walls too (angled just a bit there).

sejintenej

@Dominions Son

Methane? Getting methane in the arctic is not simple.

I don't know about Canada but in the Russian arctic they are finding that with global warming etc. the sludge at the bottom of lakes is producing methane which, in winter is trapped under the ice; they demonstrate by making a hole and setting fire to it. In summer the dancing flames are called "Will o' the Wisp". Enough plastic sheeting and you have fuel. My local sewage works burns off the decomposition gasses instead of using them

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@sejintenej

Russian arctic they are finding that with global warming etc. the sludge at the bottom of lakes is producing methane which, in winter is trapped under the ice;


And if the cause of the apocalypse is a new ice age? Global warming isn't guaranteed to continue forever and ever without end.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Capt Zapp

@Dominions Son

How much kerosene did it burn per day/night?


I'm not sure what the capacity was on it. It was just a regular one that you can pick up for home use. The shop was at a salvage yard. Another thing they did was use the waste oil and fuels in the heaters.

How long could they keep it warm enough if they weren't going to be able to get any more kerosene ever?


If there was a possibility they wouldn't be able to get more kerosene, they would most likely put in a wood-stove of some sort. Keeping it fed would probably be part of the watch duties in a PA situation if there were hostiles around, or part of some youngster's chores otherwise.

Capt Zapp
Updated:

@Dominions Son


in an arctic area


I must have missed something. When did we move to an arctic area? I thought we were talking about extreme winter conditions.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Capt Zapp


I must have missed something. When did we move to an arctic area? I thought we were talking about extreme winter conditions.


We are talking about post apocalypse conditions. If the apocalypse is a new ice age, that moves arctic conditions further south.

If the apocalypse is some kind of plague, the people most likely to survive are the people in the remotest areas.

In modern times the majority of the remote, hard to reach permanent human communities are in the arctic. That will heavily bias survivors towards the arctic. In fact, that remoteness will bias initial survival towards the arctic areas across a number of apocalyptic scenarios.

Replies:   madnige
madnige

@Dominions Son

that moves arctic conditions further south.


...which negates my arguments for steeper angles being OK.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

The other option that is typically used in very cold climates, particularly with the large diesel engines in heavy equipment, is to keep diesel engines running constantly so the engine/fuel system never get's cold. Of course in a PA situation that option significantly increases the rate at which you burn through available fuel.

I remember the quickest solution (back when I live in New York and Massachusetts) was to never allow the gas level to drop. With a full gas tank, it's much less likely to get sluggish.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

And if the cause of the apocalypse is a new ice age? Global warming isn't guaranteed to continue forever and ever without end.

The key to most PA stories is that the heroes have access to an alternate source of electricity (and not live in Alaska, the Arctic Circle or Siberia!)

In my Great Death series, the cinders from thousands of comets raining down on the Earth eliminated most of the warming, but not the resulting super storms. However, the hero build a hideout where he could hide from the world and had an independent source of electricity, which gave him a huge advantage, and most of the required electrical cabling was lost.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

I remember the quickest solution (back when I live in New York and Massachusetts) was to never allow the gas level to drop. With a full gas tank, it's much less likely to get sluggish.


That's for gas engines, not diesel.

In sub zero weather a full tank of diesel even a 100 gallon tank won't last that long before it gels. Once it does gel, it's not just sluggish, it's too thick for the fuel pump to move at all.

The reason you want to keep the tank full with a gas engine is cold weather is very different. gasoline sometimes has some moisture in it. If the fuel level in the tank is low enough and there is moisture in the tank, the moisture can get into the fuel pump and freeze.

Replies:   sejintenej  REP
sejintenej

@Dominions Son

In sub zero weather a full tank of diesel even a 100 gallon tank won't last that long before it gels. Once it does gel, it's not just sluggish, it's too thick for the fuel pump to move at all

Interesting item today from Norwegian winter rescue workers; cheap diesel sometimes has a few drops of water which freezes and causes he problems. Alledgedly quality diesel is OK.

Ernest Bywater

@sejintenej

Alledgedly quality diesel is OK.


One of the reasons for higher prices with some fuels is the additives the company puts in for various reasons. Maybe the dearer ones come with the anti-gelling additive in it, while the cheap ones don't. Or it may be as basic as better filtering at the pump keeping crap out.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@sejintenej

Interesting item today from Norwegian winter rescue workers; cheap diesel sometimes has a few drops of water which freezes and causes he problems. Alledgedly quality diesel is OK.


Even the best quality dry diesel fuel will turn into a thick sludge if it gets cold enough. This is because it contains wax not because it contains water. The only difference between the higher quality and lower quality diesel fuels is how cold they have to get before gelling.
There are also summer and winter blends where the winter blends have additives that lower the temperature at which gelling occurs.

Replies:   tppm
tppm

@Dominions Son

Paraffin (American, made into candles, not white gasoline used for (Coleman) lamp and stove fuel which Brits call paraffin.) is actually a very high viscosity liquid oil. All petroleum products are semi-fluids* at various viscosities. They never solidify completely, but they do increase viscosity as the temperature drops, so that motor oil at -40 degrees has about the same viscosity as candle wax at 60 degrees F. And, while gasoline and diesel fuel are still liquid they are much thicker at such temperatures.

*Glass is a semi-fluid.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@tppm

while gasoline and diesel fuel are still liquid they are much thicker at such temperatures.


yes, but the gelling point for gasoline is much lower then for diesel fuel.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

One of the reasons for higher prices with some fuels is the additives the company puts in for various reasons. Maybe the dearer ones come with the anti-gelling additive in it, while the cheap ones don't. Or it may be as basic as better filtering at the pump keeping crap out.

Getting back on topic, in a PA environment, how long will those gels (either already in the gas or as an additive in a closed contained) last?

As far as PA stories go, it might not hurt having survivors huddling for safety and saving their resources for when they can do the most foraging, rather than running the crap out of their equipment during the bleak winter months. I had mine set up mushroom farming in caves (with housing build around them to maintain the productive environments), while also capitalizing on solar panels and wind generators to keep them going while they burrow. That allows everyone (both good and ill) to come out eager to work come early spring.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Getting back on topic, in a PA environment, how long will those gels (either already in the gas or as an additive in a closed contained) last?


The reason for adding some of the extras is so the fuel (both diesel and petrol) will last for years in storage. How long, I don't know.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

The reason for adding some of the extras is so the fuel (both diesel and petrol) will last for years in storage. How long, I don't know.

Without knowing any better, I'd guess they'd last between 5 and 10 years (depending upon storage). In a PA story, they're likely to run out long before then as they'd become valuable commodities. Though I remain skeptical about all the survivors moving to the Arctic. More people might survive there, but it would be so difficult to survive without sufficient resources (electricity, heat, food, access, etc.).

Then again, few PA stories cover more than a year or two after the initial massive die off.

REP
Updated:

@Dominions Son


gasoline sometimes has some moisture in it. If the fuel level in the tank is low enough and there is moisture in the tank, the moisture can get into the fuel pump and freeze.


What happens is a partially filled gas tank has a lot of humid air. The water condenses and sinks to the bottom of the tank. If it freezes at night, the ice blocks the fuel line. If the water gets to the engine, it won't burn and the engine dies. Someone in an earlier post mentioned adding alcohol to the fuel tank. The alcohol mixes with the water lowering its freezing point and the water alcohol mixture is combustible.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer  Not_a_ID
Crumbly Writer

@REP

What happens is a partially filled gas tank has a lot of humid air. The water condenses and sinks to the bottom of the tank. If it freezes at night, the ice blocks the fuel line. If the water gets to the engine, it won't burn and the engine dies. Someone in an earlier post mentioned adding alcohol to the fuel tank. The alcohol mixes with the water lowering its freezing point and the water alcohol mixture is combustible.

All the more reason for setting the story in a warm climate. Fewer people might survive, but the story gets less complicated and cumbersome.

Not_a_ID
Updated:

As an (US Based) over the road trucker who transports goods into and out of Canada. I'll contribute these points:

"Untreated diesel" begin to gel at around 18 degrees(F).

A standard big rig engine at idle will burn off about half a gallon an hour. Assuming it is using all cylinders, some newer trucks have advanced idle options manufacturers are working on to reduce that further.

There is fuel recirculation going on in the bigger engines, it gets pumped out, filtered, passed through the engine block where some is burned,but the rest is returned to the fuel tank(s).

Trucks equipped for operation in colder climates also frequently include one of or both: An electric heating element in the fuel tank(primarily for when the engine is off). A heating element that is part of the coolant system for the truck's engine, so waste heat from the engine has an additional place to go to shed heat rather than just the radiator.

There also are APU's(Auxiallary Power Units) which are often retrofits, and come in many flavors. Of interest to this thread is: Can run on diesel so it can use the trucks already installed fuel tanks. Almost always used to maintain charge of the trucks batteries in order to reduce idle time tied to using the alternator only. Can also be tied into the heating/cooling system for the truck(less common) so it can be used to keep both the engine and fuel warm instead of running the engine itself.

Many newer trucks also have a "optimized idle" mode which can do various things for driver comfort if so programmed, but the two you're interest in runs alongside the APU mentioned above. Keep the truck batteries charged above a specified voltage, and keep the truck engine temperature above 80 degrees(F). Once one of its specified criteria is met, the truck will start the engine on its own, and shut it off once it's specified stop criteria is met.

Obviously in the EMP case, such a truck being operational is unlikely(someone would have to have either had the truck in a repair state such that it was protected(electrical was torn out/apart), or managed to have parts on hand and time/skill to repair after the fact) but not impossible. (I guess it's also possible the truck may have been at a facility/location that somehow shielded it from an EMP. Such as at an underground warehouse complex, there are a few of those around. Kansas City and the San Francisco bay area seem to come up a lot for cave deliveries, or some other kind of (government) facility)

Another thing you're overlooking is all those silos out there in farm country. If some great plague wiped out 99.9+% of the population just after a potato harvest for example, between grainaries and potato cellars alone, someone in Idaho for example would be in enough food to last dozens of people a few YEARS without touching the canned food supply, giving plenty of time to identify and otherwise consolidate scattered resources from elsewhere.

From a pure scavenging perspective, why would I stick to a fixed base? If the closest area not scavenged by my group is 20+ miles away and that's how we're surviving, sounds like it's time to make a 20 to 30 mile move. Even if we are also farming, that doesn't preclude sending out a scavenging party for a few weeks at a time who could set up a temporary base elsewhere.

Which isn't to mention that area(Southern Idaho) being part of "Mormon Central" with its proximity to Salt Lake City and their focus on food storage on both a family and religious organizational level. They collectively already were "survival preppers" in many respects back in the 19th century, and remain so to this day. A full on collapse of society and the economy that supports it happening is something they EXPECT to happen(only the timing is unknown), and they've been instructed to be prepared to live through those chaotic times since the 19th century.

Short of Yellowstone blowing up and burying them alive, at least in terms of food stockpiles and resources dedicated to ensuring resupply of said stockpile. I think the people in the heavy part of the footprint of Mormon colonization in the last half of the 19th century probably have the best odds of survival in most PA scenarios right now.

Not_a_ID

@REP

This is also a thing for the big trucks, particularly as they have bigger tanks for condensation to occur in. There also is a type of algae that likes watery diesel fuel as well.

For diesel and gasoline tanks alike, the standard tanks don't insulate well at all, but liquids do retain heat(or cold) better than plain old air does. So in cold weather, a full tank will always be preferable to one that is under the halfway mark.

docholladay

The problem with survival is that there are many forms.
1: short term or what is required to survive right now.
2: Long term or what is required for a multi generation situation. (this is one that probably requires the most planning on the initial survivor generation's part.}

And of course all the multiple stages and procedures inbetween the two extremes. Each stage after number 1 incorporates the previous stages as well, since those levels are requirements for the next stage.

Most stories only incorporate the initial planning stages and the efforts of the survivors to plan for the future generations. The variations possible to plan and build from are almost countless. The stories can only touch on a few portions of this process in any given story or the readers would probably quit reading the story. A series can of course skip from one generation to the next, in order to give details at a later stage in the process. No matter what the story includes its basically a study in human nature under extreme conditions.

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