There are a lot of different scenarios that could take place with absolutely no warning, and leave you bereft of any means of heat for warmth and cooking, or light. You could consider yourself a sitting duck if you want, but I have other plans for when that happens. And it does happen too, with what seems to be an increasing frequency as well. As the ability for the government and the utility providers become less and less able to perform in the way we require them to, we will indeed see more situations where power outages occur more frequently, and last longer. So what do you do, and how should your preparedness planning consider these probabilities?
To start with, we need to consider that there are three areas of need when it comes to energy in a dead energy world such as we see when there are widespread and lasting blackouts. You need warmth, you need to cook, and you need light. Light, by the way, is not an absolute necessity. Do what you need to do when it’s daylight out and sleep when it’s dark. It’s what we humans did before fire came along. All too often we get trapped into a routine of flipping switches and pushing buttons, and voila! We have light, we have hot food, and we are nice and warm. My suggestion is for you to try and vary your lifestyle to acclimate yourself to doing without the switches and buttons.
But today we have a vast array of alternative fuel items that we can use to provide all we need, but it does take a little more work.
Preparedness planning involves a lot of thought before hand to be successful, and the fuels issue adds to the necessity of thinking before leaping. I’ve heard and read of people insisting that you can use gasoline as a source of heat and cooking, so long as you’re careful and feed the fire slow. And I bet they believe the moon is really made of green cheese too. But they’ll learn an expensive lesson if they ever have the opportunity to test the theory.
The smart Prepper is going to have alternative fuels at hand and ready to go. My preferred plan of action is to look at being prepared for these events as getting ready for camping. You can obtain a fairly inexpensive propane camp stove and lantern, and for cold weather a catalytic heater at most sporting good stores and mass merchandisers. One pound canisters of fuel can be simply screwed onto the threaded fitting making them easy for nearly anyone to use. Some have piezoelectric starters and start with a push of a button, or you can start them with a match. While experimenting a few years back with trying to determine needed supplies for a long term situation I found that you can cook food for two with one 1# canister for a week or more, depending upon what you cook. Try cooking solely with one of these rigs for a week or two with your own family, and use your own experience as a guideline to determine how many canisters you need.
An alternative would be the twenty pound, or larger tanks, but these need to be commercially filled, and that may not be an option when you run low, so if you do use the bigger tanks, have some pounders on hand for a back up just in case.
Propane lanterns give off an incredible amount of light for their size, and as a plus they create heat which will help some with keeping warm. And they use the same size canisters as the stove. Same thing with those little catalytic heaters that work so good in an ice fishing shack. See where I’m going here? Three devices that provide all the heat and light you need and they all use the same fuel.
Coleman stoves are remembered for their pioneering use of unleaded fuel, or white gas as it’s popularly called. That being the case, you could conceivably use the gas from your car in these appliances, although under normal times I wouldn’t recommend it. One of the problems I can see by using regular gasoline is the additives used in highway fuel to try to accommodate the enviromorons need to make us believe we are responsible for global warming. Coleman failed to respond to my queries on the potential for using regular gasoline in their appliances in an emergency situation, so I cannot say for certain what level of effect non-white gas fuel would have on them.
Kerosene or K-1 is my preference for heating needs though. K-1 is easily obtainable and has the same qualities as diesel fuel, only with a higher BTU rating than regular diesel. Bear in mind that highway fuels always have additives that help reduce emissions, as well as stabilize it for storage and transportation from the refinery. These additives have a negative effect on the BTU rating, making them less efficient and decreasing your mileage, which in turns makes you need to by more fuel to get to the same places you’ve always driven to.
Those top hat style heaters such as the Omni and Kerosun are ideal heaters, and put out great amounts of heat. I’ve used mine for cooking on as well in prolonged power outages. During the great ice storm of ’98 we were without power for over two weeks, and using one of these heaters I was able to keep the home at 72 degrees and cooked all of our meals on top of the heater. I did use the camp stove for heating water for coffee though. Water for washing was heated on the Omni. It worked well for us then and it will work well for you as well. The problem long term is the availability of finding fuel in the first place after you have run out of stock at home. Fortunately I was able to see down the road and found a store out of town that had generator power and was open 24-7 for the duration of the outage. I utilized them before and after the outage, and I suggest you do the same when you find your ideal supplier. By making acquaintances in the way of these out of the way places you can have an advantage in an emergency situation that other people would not have. Smart business people take care of their loyal followers first. And by the way, I also have used regular #2 heating oil in these heaters as well in a pinch.
And in a pinch there are other fuels out there that you could use in makeshift appliances. Methyl alcohol burns well and is available as many different brands and types of fuel additive. Any alcohol stove or heater can use these fuels. While expensive to buy under normal circumstances for use in these appliances, if nobody’s buying gas for their cars, this stuff will just sit on the shelf and would most likely be reduced for quick sale. But even this source will dry up in the end. Used motor oil can also be used in makeshift heaters and stoves when needed.
There are also various vegetable based fuels as well, such as olive and peanut oil etc that can be used.
I think in the end it will all return to the use of wood for heating and cooking, and small candles or oil lamps for light if a widespread disaster were to occur. It’s important that you take time now to research your options and abilities to fend for your needs in the future. Have the equipment now, and you won’t be caught without it in the future. One of the key elements of being prepared is planning and knowledge is one of your key tools in developing your plans. Learn and live.