Letter from Matt Bracken Re: Sailboat Retreating, LP and Natural Gas Powered Vehicles, Diesel Engine Invulnerability to EMP

Dear Jim,
Excellent blog, it has really taken off, and I recommend it constantly. I have it on my desktop to read first thing every morning. Currently I’m living in coastal southern California, but plan to relocate in 2006. Much like New Orleans, Southern California is also “under water,” or in our case, dependent on distant water supplies for over 90% of our fresh water needs. In the event of a terrorist attack or major earthquake which disrupts the water supply, SoCal will “go New Orleans” in a matter of days. On the plus side, I have a 48 foot home-built steel sailboat which is a proven ocean crosser. I spent 65 nonstop days at sea sailing from Guam to California, and I could easily stretch that to over 100 days in the “bug out” mode if I’m stuck in SoCal when things fall apart.

Now, onto a question about vehicle conversion for post-collapse use. Many of the states you recommend are now major natural gas producers. If these assets come under “local control” in some future scenarios, it may make a lot of sense to have a vehicle which can run on natural gas. Is there any reference material on what is involved with this conversion? Also, I understand propane can be used as a vehicle fuel, and propane has a very long or indefinite usable shelf life. Could propane or NG be used in the same vehicle, with minor adjustments?

Also, what about making a diesel-engine vehicle EMP-proof? Would this be a difficult matter, in these days of universal availability of conversion parts? I think a simple diesel truck (either an older model or one converted for EMP resistance) would be relatively cheap to buy today, and worth it’s weight in silver during hard times. Of course, that assumes the prudent survivor has laid away an ample supply of diesel fuel.

Regards, – Matt Bracken (Author of the novel “Enemies Foreign and Domestic“)

JWR Replies: Liquid propane (LP) conversions for trucks are fairly commonplace, especially with utility company trucks. (Not surprisingly, many propane companies have their entire fleet of vehicles powered by propane.) Sometimes companies auction off their older vehicles. This is an inexpensive way to acquire a propane-powered pickup. (Buying a truck for $2,500 at auction, versus paying $2,000 for a conversion.) The rule of thumb is that the energy in a gallon of LP is equates to 9/10ths of a gallon of gas.

Up until recently, running a vehicle on propane cost about the same per mile as gasoline. But the recent spike in gasoline prices illustrated one nice thing about propane–it doesn’t usually have the same seasonal price fluctuations and news-driven price swings that gasoline does. And, of course it has a much longer storage life than gasoline. LP/NG-powered electric generators are also widely available.

Do keep in mind that propane and natural gas have differing chemistry, so they require different jet geometry. Ignoring that could cause a big fireball! The ultimate survival set-up is something like Dr. Gary North‘s home/retreat where he has his own natural gas wells. Talk about sitting pretty! Several vendors offer propane and natural gas conversions. OBTW, some states offer tax incentives for propane use. See this incentives and laws page for details.

I have briefly discussed diesel engines in EMP environments in a few previous posts. In essence, all early (pre-1990) diesels are EMP-proof. However, many that have been built since the early 1990s have used electronic fuel controls and/or electronic glow plug controllers, which could be fried by EMP. Most diesels can be retrofitted to eliminate these vulnerabilities. Any local diesel mechanic with experience with diesel powered pickups can tell you exactly what you need to know.

Letter Re: Advice on Iowa’s Retreat Potential, and Pulling Through Screenplay

Dear Mr. Rawles, Just wanted to ask why Iowa didn’t make the list of 19? If you could write a small blurb, it would be much appreciated. Also wanted to thank you for making your “Pulling Through” screenplay available. Great read!!!!!!! I can’t wait for the movie. Should be done for T.V. to put out much needed info to the greater portion of the uninformed public. It would make life much easier on the rest of us to not have to inform people piecemeal one-at-a-time of things they need to know. Should be an ongoing series after “Katrina” it should be a dead certain to get a large viewership. I would think it’ll run for years if you can find an intelligent network exec. to back it. Done right it would prove an invaluable tool for “Homeland Security”, FEMA, etc., to get the word out that you can’t wait on them, but must do for yourselves or do without! Thanks for a great site, great reads, and for reawakening the “can do” attitude. Respectfully, – K.H.

JWR Replies: I generally don’t consider Iowa to be suitable for retreating if and when things get truly Schumeresque. Its terrain is not defendable, much of the state is in close proximity to massive population centers in Illinois, and its crop diversity is marginal. Parts of the state might suffice, but in essence it is about 500 miles too far east. Read my posts from early August, 2005 in the Archives for details. (In general, the east has too much population density and is downwind of too many nuke targets.)

Further, I am not familiar enough with Iowa to make any specific locale recommendations. Perhaps someone who reads the blog who lives there will send me an e-mail and enlighten us.

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge him, and He shall direct your paths."
– Proverbs 3:5-6.

Note from JWR:

Today, I’m covering Oklahoma, the 13th of 19 western states in my rankings of states by their retreat potential.

State By State – Oklahoma

Population: 3.4 million.
Population Density: 48.5 per square mile (Rank 6 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 70,000 square miles (rank 18 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $736/yr. (rank 26 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $612/yr. (rank 5 of 50).
Crime Safety Ranking: 33 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 80%.
Per capita income: $23,650 (rank 42 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 23 of 50.
Plusses: Minimally regulated home schooling.
Minuses: Fairly high population density (by western U.S. standards.) Fairly high crime rate. Tornado prone (ranked #3 out of top 20 States) High home insurance rates. (Average of $612 per year. Ranked #5 in the country!) Low wages. High car insurance rates. High population density (by western U.S. standards.) Low wages. Tribal governments create an extra layer of bureaucracy within the Indian reservation boundaries.
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 17 of 19.

Letter from The Army Aviator Re: EMP and Troops Shortchanged on Helmets, Etc.

It seems to me that I was reading some of Reason Kearney’s writings and he said the EMP damage to cars, etc was waaaay overrated. Of course, that was back when cars had a lot of non-solid state stuff and tube radios. I do remember he said all you had to do to protect the radio was ground the antenna to the car body. (Tube radio, I expect) and not to worry about the alternator and starter (unless you were smack dab in the middle of the flash). When he wrote that, we already had alternators in lieu of generators. Seems like the Army specifies that you should disconnect all antennas and power connectors prior to a [nuclear] detonation.It appears like your engine ought to still turn over and if your ignition system survives, your car might run.[JWR comments: True for most diesels and for any vehicle with a traditional points/rotor/condenser ignition–but not true for electronic ignitions or for electronic fuel ignition electronics.]

Just a thought, with the army switching from the Personal Armor System for Ground Troops (PASGT) helmet to the Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH)–commonly referred to as a MICH (Modular/Integrated Communications Helmet) ,which it isn’t really. The real MICH meets the same specs as the ACH but is reserved for special function groups. The ACH, however, is designed (as I recall) to maximally deflect 12 mm upon impact from a 9mm at (forget what speed, something pretty average though.). More a police level resistance than a combat one. Oh that’s right, that’s what the military will be for. Sorry, I forgot! Why I brought this up is ……. Good opportunity! The PASGT helmet is rated a lot higher in projectile impact and they are about to become dirt cheap. I’ve never minded the weight or configuration of my PASGT and it’s stable as heck for using the PVS-14 [NVG]s. Good thing to have, keeps the sun out of your eyes and the rain off of your neck and projectiles from knocking the golley-whomper out of you. Just be sure to get the airborne nape pad. Although, something you might want to look at is a real MICH helmet. For general wear around the property after TSHTF, it’d be light and generally effective but then you could always grab the PASGT while locking and loading. A MICH and a pair of good gloves might save you some distress “When there is no doctor”.

Off on a Tangent: On the NOROTOS, Inc. mount… Waste of money in my opinion so far. Single point release, too easy to bump and bingo, no
NVD. I’ll give it some more time and let you know.

Comment: I have opined for awhile that “they” are reducing the ability and effectiveness of our troops equipment. Now we have a “lighter” helmet that “enhances vision and hearing on the battlefield”. Sounds to me like the REMF’s bitched about the weight and so they cheapened up the effectiveness. Just like they reduced the calorie count of MRE’s because the REMF’s were getting fat and now “Real” combat troops gotta eat two MREs to have an effective meal in combat. Look at the covers for M998’s and 5 tons. Sucky plastic. How about the 9mm sidearm while the operators in Afghanistan ordered in .45s and pallets of ammo when they found out the 9mm didn’t put their opponents down? And the 9mm [Beretta M9] magazine springs hung up, disabling the weapon. Modern military controls areas, grunts control the dirt….. AND the government fears the ex-military because the ex-military has seen that one man with a rifle can bring a government down. My grandfather told me that. Nuff bitching.

Like you I carry a .45. Since Mel Tappan’s time back in the seventies, I’ve had my pair of Detonics Combat Masters, and I carry every day.

Oh, I should mention that the FreezeDryGuy‘s food is good. You have to follow the instructions on rehydrating the meat but then it’s great on the BBQ grill
or the frying pan. – The Army Aviator

Letter Re: Report from New Orleans

I got back into the National Guard (I got an ‘old man’ waiver). I am with the [Deleted for OPSEC]th Military Police (M.P.) Company. I am presently deployed with the hurricane relief. Even though I have been a ‘survivalist’ (whatever that means) for years, I have learned quite a bit this last month, some of which may move me more from ‘armchair’ to active survivalism. Our M.P. Company was activated and we are helping with the hurricane relief not far from New Orleans. We have not seen much nastiness where we are, but our daily ‘police sheet’ sounds like something out of your novel ‘Patriots‘, and frankly, it scared me in an eerie sort of way. Reports of both Crips and Bloods a few miles one direction, Pagans and Hell’s Angels not far another, the state police arrested a group of 25 (that was one group!) looters in the next county. We are working with the local police here, to keep order. the last two days we kept order at the food stamp distribution center (at a church) there were a few thousand [recipients] over this period (and this is in small town dixie). We drove to the outlying areas to hand out water and MREs. What scared me most was the fact that in such a rural area things would be so much like your book (and this was not as widespread a disaster as in your novel ‘Patriots‘. Below is a letter you may find interesting (FFTAGFFR).

It has taken four long days for state and federal officials to figure out how to deal with the disaster in New Orleans. I can’t blame them, because it has also taken me four long days to figure out what is going on there. The reason is that the events there make no sense if you think that we are confronting a natural disaster. If this is just a natural disaster, the response for public officials is obvious: you bring in food, water, and doctors; you send transportation to evacuate refugees to temporary shelters; you send engineers to stop the flooding and rebuild the city’s infrastructure. For journalists, natural disasters also have a familiar pattern: the heroism of ordinary people pulling together to survive; the hard work and dedication of doctors, nurses, and rescue workers; the steps being taken to clean up and rebuild. Public officials did not expect that the first thing they would have to do is to send thousands of armed troops in armored vehicle, as if they are suppressing an enemy insurgency. And journalists–myself included–did not expect that the story would not be about rain, wind, and flooding, but about rape, murder, and looting. But this is not a natural disaster. It is a man-made disaster. The man-made disaster is not an inadequate or incompetent response by federal relief agencies, and it was not directly caused by Hurricane Katrina. This is where just about every newspaper and television channel has gotten the story wrong.
The man-made disaster we are now witnessing in New Orleans did not happen over the past four days. It happened over the past four decades. Hurricane Katrina merely exposed it to public view. The man-made disaster is the welfare state. For the past few days, I have found the news from New Orleans to be confusing. People were not behaving as you would expect them to behave in an emergency–indeed; they were not behaving as they have behaved in other emergencies. That is what has shocked so many people: they have been saying that this is not what we expect from America. In fact, it is not even what we expect from a Third World country. When confronted with a disaster, people usually rise to the occasion. They work together to rescue people in danger, and they spontaneously organize to keep order and solve problems. This is especially true in America. We are an enterprising people, used to relying on our own initiative rather than waiting around for the government to take care of us. I have seen this a hundred times, in small examples (a small town whose main traffic light had gone out, causing ordinary citizens to get out of their cars and serve as impromptu traffic cops, directing cars through the intersection) and large ones (the spontaneous response of New Yorkers to September 11).
So what explains the chaos in New Orleans? To give you an idea of the magnitude of what is going on, here is a description from a Washington Times story: “Storm victims are raped and beaten; fights erupt with flying fists, knives and guns; fires are breaking out; corpses litter the streets; and police and rescue helicopters are repeatedly fired on. ” The plea from Mayor C. Ray Nagin came even as National Guardsmen poured in to restore order and stop the looting, carjackings and gun fire…”

JWR’s Comments: The liberals seem to want to have it both ways: First they were begging for Federal relief. “Why isn’t the Army here?”, they cried. Now, only a week later, we have Cindy Sheehan et al complaining about the Army’s “occupation” of New Orleans. Sheeesh!

From David in Israel Re: Replacing Bugout Bag Essentials

A huge fault I see in the survivalist planning of most people is to purchase and stock their bugout bag with the best and most carefully chosen equipment that mail order and eBay can provide years of loving care go into their Bugout Bag (BOB); I consider myself in this group. The potential “survival failure” comes if this gear is lost or taken.
Some people have have no idea how to substitute or replace their gear. You should hopefully have a good idea of the chemistry and physics of your gear and at least have the possibility of repair or replace with on site materials. For example: Sleeping Pads. The est replacement is either a stack of cardboard boxes–which makes good conductive thermal protection from cold concrete very popular with the homeless. From old non-PC Boy Scout manual, pine boughs (with branches the size of a normal pencil, nice and springy stack until you have a good thermal barrier for conductive heat loss.

JWR Comments: This illustrates several things: The first is adaptability. You should be able to think on you feet. That only comes with practice. I know of one survival group that trains specifically for adaptability. They dubbed one of their winter three day training weekends “Bucket Weekend”–in which everyone had to pack everything that they needed for the entire weekend aside from their coats into in one 5 gallon plastic bucket–including their sleeping gear and tentage. That is is the sort of exercise that really gets people thinking and encourages creativity and flexibility. BTW, one of their later summer weekend outings was called “Tennis Ball Can Weekend.” That one nearly caused an insurrection

Secondly, David’s letter illustrates the folly of putting all your eggs in one basket–namely your one and only precious G.O.O.D. Kit or “BoB”, or even your one an only retreat location. Losing that one kit could cause someone to practically go into grief and mourning. Always have a Plan B,with the corresponding logistics for Plan B stored elsewhere. (Typically in a separate offsite cache.) One group that I’ve been associated with for many years by SOP has each of their members cache a spare weapon, pack and clothing in an offsite underground cache in adjoining National Forest, in the event that their retreat is ever over-run. (Each member has one P-3 Orion octagonal plastic sonobuoy storage canister and two or three big 20mm-size ammo cans in the caches.)

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

"If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds are against you and only a precious chance of survival. There may be even a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves." – Winston Churchill

Note from JWR:

Today, I’m covering North Dakota, the 12th of 19 western states in my rankings of states by their retreat potential.

State By State – North Dakota

North Dakota:
Population: 642,200.
Population Density: 9 per square mile (Rank 17 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 70,700 square miles (rank 17 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $601/yr. (rank 49 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $426/yr. (rank 33 of 50).
Crime Safety Ranking: 2 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 61%.
Per capita income: $24,708 (rank 38 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 6 of 50.
Plusses: very low population density. Extremely low crime rate. Extremely low car insurance rates. With the decline in family farming, the state has actually de-populated, leaving real estate prices low. In eastern North Dakota, in-town lots can be had literally for free–to encourage re-settlement. For various economic and demographic data, see: http://www.DiscoverND.com
Minuses: Brutally cold winters. Short growing season.With the de-population, crop diversity has decreased. (Practically a monoculture.) Many small towns in North Dakota now lack key commerce such as grocery stores, hardware stores, and so forth. (People in many small towns are now forced to drive long distances to do their weekly shopping.) Some small towns in the de-populated regions are verging on desperation, hence the aforementioned “free lots”offers. (Some schools are being closed for want of pupils.) North Dakota has major nuclear targets, so I only recommend that you look west (upwind) of the missile fields. It is estimated that in a full scale nuclear exchange Russia might direct up to 1/3 of its ICBMs at the Dakotas! Unfortunately the missile fields are all WEST (mostly upwind) of Grand Forks (which is on the eastern border). Also, much of North Dakota is downwind from the missile fields in Montana and Wyoming, at least with the prevailing winds. That makes it less than inviting in a nuclear war scenario. North Dakota also has highly regulated home schooling.

JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 8 of 19.

The Precious Metals Bull Market Continues

I was gratified to see that the spot price of gold went to a 17 year high ($459 per ounce) yesterday, while silver closed at $7.21 per ounce. (See my metals price ticker.) I expect some brief profit taking for a few days (and perhaps into October–which has traditionally been a weak month for precious metals prices), but then the metals bull will probably resume his full-tilt charge in the winter. How high will the top be? Who knows… But consider that when adjusted for inflation, the $805 top that gold saw 25 years ago would equate to around $2,200 per ounce, today.

Only one thing is for certain: Like all of the other “fiat” (by decree) unbacked paper currencies of this new century, the U.S. dollar is doomed. Any investment that you buy denominated in dollars is a loser in the long run. Because of both the huge balance of trade deficit and the Federal government budget deficit, someday–probably within the next five years–there will be a full scale dollar crisis. When that happens, expect to lose 40 to 70% of the value of all of your dollar-denominated paper assets overnight. Poof. Finis. Gone!

Your solution to all of this is to buy tangibles. Buy productive farmland. Buy guns, buy ammunition, and buy storage food. Once that is done, buy some silver, and then perhaps some gold. Then you will be sitting pretty. Take the time to read through my Profiles of retreat owners. You will note that tangibles investing, including plenty of precious metals investing is a common thread. They do this for a reason: These folks are not the Generally Dumb Public (GDP). You should invest likewise.

My current prediction is that the U.S. Housing Market Bubble is likely to burst sometime in the next two or three years. There will likely be a concomitant stock market collapse and perhaps a dollar crisis. This will make the Crash of 1929 look like a summer picnic by comparison. And depending on which party that the Powers That Be (read: The Banksters) want to occupy the White House and to control congress, then these events will be orchestrated either before or after the next mid-term elections. (Pardon my cynicism.) In any event, buckle your seatbelts.

Parenthetically, I still think that silver has a better chance of doubling or tripling than gold in this bull market cycle. So if you have the room, buy more silver than gold. Besides, all of those 55 pound bags ($1,000 face value each) of pre-1965 silver coinage make great ballast in the bottom of a gun vault–making your vault that much harder for burglars to haul away. (Which is not to say that you shouldn’t also bolt your vault to the floor, too.)

In closing…
Aside from my steadfast faith in God, the reason that I sleep well at night is the knowledge that my home has a very full larder, large stores of fuel, and a full gun vault. The last thing that I see when I drift off each night is the reassuring glow of a Colt 1911’s tritium sights beside my bed.

Letter Re: AA and AAA Batteries by the “500 Pack”

I should point out that the battery offer by Botach is a high risk issue. Botach is a scum sucking bottom feeding scammer! Check the comments at subguns.com and Sturmgewher.com – They have a horrible reputation. I can also attest personally that they and have ripped me off (on an expensive rifle scope deal) as well as two of my associates (various rifle parts). I strongly encourage folks to slit their wrists before buying from Botach! – A.M.

JWR Replies: Don’t hold back, A.M., tell us how you really feel! (Seriously, I appreciate your advice. I’ve removed that post.)

Letter Re: Advice on West Virginia’s Retreat Potential?

Mr. Rawles – I appreciate your web site and read it daily. This is in response to “Mo” in West Virginia: I wondered if you have read Mr. Joel Skousen’s book Strategic Relocation. He tends to feel there are areas of the south east that could be viable areas during a crisis . My choice would be central Idaho, but for complex reasons, I will stay in small town western North Carolina and try to prepare an adequate blast shelter. Water is plentiful here and the weather is rarely extreme. (Mr. Skousen also wrote an excellent book on survival shelters.) Respectfully, – C.G.


Letter Re: “Interest Only” Mortgages and Montana Real Estate (SAs: Economics, Montana)

I read a discussion today at Investec Research about on Mortgages and the Federal Reserve as well as price rises on property in Montana. The Fellow said that over 40% of new mortgages are adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) and then he said that over 40% of new mortgages are set up as interest only loans. Interest only means that it’s a forever mortgage. Geez, it’s just a new form of rent where the banks are becoming 100% property owners. I wonder what that connotes, huh? Another dot seems to be connected. – The Army Aviator