The Missing Car

I let slip in one of my recent posts that I know exactly how much greenhouse gas we would be pumping into the atmosphere if we were to fill up the fuel oil tank again.

Nobody challenged me on how I knew that. You trust me that much?

In fact, I know because Rodrigo Mora, who is on faculty in the Building Science Department at BCIT (British Columbia Institute of Technology) did a little calculation for me.

You might remember Professor Mora got a couple of students interested in studying this old house. One of them got a job and had to drop his project, but one completed a study and submitted a paper. I’m going to share those results, but first, here is what Rodrigo told me about what our furnace does to accelerate climate change.

The bottom line, as you can see, is that if we burn all 1100.7 liters of fuel oil in a full tank we create the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 3841 tons of CO2. Most of that is CO2 but some of it is methane (CH4) and N2O.GHG conversion

Rodrigo compared that to an average wagon-type car and it turns out that our furnace creates about the same amount of GHGs as driving for one year.


Here we are, a one-car family who supplements that gas-electric hybrid Toyota Prius with bus rides and an electric scooter, thinking we are doing well keeping another car off the road, when we realize that our house is polluting just as much as the missing car.

Our house is just sitting here. The sun beats down on it. The earth a few feet beneath retains a constant temperature year-round. The wind blows on it. Why do we talk about new windows and weather-stripping and saving 5-10% on our gas bill when we can go all the way and save 50% or 75%?

As a consumer I am bored by minor reductions in my fuel bill. If I fixed the storm door on our front door I bet we would save 1-2% right there. Yaaaawn. I’ll get to it but I do have better things to do.

But tell me I can save 80% and I’m listening. Tell me I can produce my own energy and sell it back to BC Hydro so that my energy bill for the year is a big fat zero, and I am yours. Well, that is what I’m telling you. The expertise and technology exists to do this right now and that’s the goal for Hammond Forever House.


There is nothing stopping us from retrofitting every existing home in Canada so that they simply do not require oil or gas to heat them. Nothing except us.

Am I tempted to buy some fuel oil while the price is temporarily low? Yes. However, burning cheap oil intensifies the greenhouse effect just as much as burning expensive oil.

We’re all in this together. There is no Planet B.

Published by

James Rowley

James lives in Maple Ridge, BC, Canada with his amazing partner, Leanne Koehn, and their two amazing kids in their beautiful house. He studied Science and English Literature at the University of British Columbia where he met Leanne. He also studied acting for a while at Studio 58 in Vancouver. He works as a teacher of English and curriculum writer for new Canadians.

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