July 4th, 2015 – My Day of Independence from fossil fuels!


"Last Gas"

“Last Gas”

On April 26th, 2010 I placed a $99 reservation for the Nissan LEAF. Little did I know at the time it was going to be a long wait, but my first electric vehicle arrived on March 9th, 2012…I’m currently driving a 2014 LEAF. While waiting, I read everything that could be found on electric vehicles and their benefits…the more I read, the more I wanted that car.

This one remaining spark plug I found in my toolbox still serves a purpose…it’s now a paperweight on my desk

This one remaining spark plug I found in my toolbox still serves a purpose…it’s now a paperweight on my desk

After driving the LEAF for a year or so, it became obvious that the internal combustion engine is doomed…driving without relying on gas is the better way. Having come to that conclusion, the next step was to rid myself of heating oil. I contacted ReVision Heat of Portland, Maine and made arrangements to have a Kedel, imported from Denmark, renewable wood-pellet furnace installed.

In total, the gas and oil amounted to approximately 1,100 gallons per year representing about 99% of my fossil fuel utilization which left a mere 1%.  Just a few times a year it was necessary to fire up my gas-powered generator which is now in the hands of a neighbor making me 100% free of the DIRECT burning of those fuels including butane, propane, and paraffin candles.

My home was built in 1986 as an energy efficient, double-walled, super-insulated structure to which solar panels were added a few years ago.  This fall the Tesla Powerwall, a confirmed reservation has been received, will be installed and coupled with the photovoltaic system for emergency backup power.

Marc And His LEAF At Home

Marc And His LEAF At Home

This transition was a 3+ year process of elimination, if you will, and demonstrates that the personal use of fossil fuels is not immutable.  The salient point of this article I wish to convey, especially to the youngest generation, is that the best way to deal with a fossil fuel habit/addiction is not to develop it in the first place.


About the author:  Marc Lausier is a retired pharmacist living in the coastal town of Scarborough, Maine.  He is a former Plug In America city captain who helped organize Maine’s first two National Drive Electric Week events (formerly National Plug In Day) and is currently on the transportation committee of the local Sierra Chapter.

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62 Comments on "July 4th, 2015 – My Day of Independence from fossil fuels!"

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I’ve taken much the same journey:

1) LEAF reservation 20 April 2010
2) LEAF arrival 3 May 2011
3) 8kW solar June 2011
4) Toyota RAV4 EV, Mercedes Benz B-Class ED and Tesla Model S
5) last gasoline car turned in on lease July 2014

The weed eater, GoPeds, pressure washer, and lawn mower haven’t been used in years, but someday, they will be replaced with electric.

Safety Warning: Petrol or Gas should only be stored in approved containers like the red one in the photo.

Ford Focus Electric
Solar panels
Electric Lawn mower
Solar Pool heater

Slowly making the conversion

Not one word about the tires? Tires made (mostly) of renewable raw materials are still in development (see Continental).

And how toxic was the battery production? There’s a cell manufacturer saying they’re using a water-base process to have less toxic waste…


It’s only around 1 barrell of oil to make a set of 4 tires that might last 60k miles, so…

As for batteries:

Argonne Labs on the life cycle impacts of lithium mining and battery production. The main points are:

1) Batteries are small contributors to life-cycle energy use and CO2 emissions

2) Impacts from lithium “mining” (brine extraction) production are minimal

3) Battery manufacturing steps are not energy intensive

4) Tesla battery packs have such low toxicity that they can legally be disposed of by throwing them in a landfill… altho it would be preferable to recycle them by giving them a “second life” in a grid storage application.

I talked about the substances in the production process!


You’re absolutely too optimistic. 70-90Mm is a very good kilometer reading for my tires (depending on front or rear axis). But you forget:
– You won’t reach that with much stop’n’go.
– In some countries you need more tire profile before you have to throw them away than here.
– People with low kilometer readings who need to have winter tires will have to throw them away after much less kilometer readings than I do, because the tires harden after some years.
– Tires get quite often damaged in a way they can’t be repaired.

E.g. my parents had to throw their old car away (expensive engine damage) with ca. 50Mm. While they had that car they bought at least 3 sets of tires (winter + summer) + 2 tires because of damages + plus the tires deliverd with the car.


Well, we’re still going to be using petrochemicals, in the form of plastics and pharmaceuticals, for quite a while, but it’s better to save the crude for those purposes anyhow, rather than to refine and burn it.

Like Mr. Lausier , I’m also on my second Leaf, also after waiting over a year on the waiting list. It’s definitely true that you take steps as you can afford them. We began with solar hot water in 2007, then the Leaf in 2012, then solar PV in 2014, along with our second Leaf, although, unlike many EV drivers, the two weren’t related. The money savings from solar hot water let us buy 100% wind power for home.

>Not one word about the tires?
>And how toxic was the battery production?

I again can’t resist smart-assed comment about some people never being satisfied until we return to the stone age.

Let’s make fire by rubbing two sticks together.
Let’s wear animal skins and leaves as clothing.
Let’s make some stone tools because we have no metals.
Let’s weave rope from plant fibers and animal hair.

Don’t worry, you just completely misunderstood my posting. I wrote that because quite often I’ve the feeling (e.g. when reading such articles) such people often point s.th. out, say like “Now it’s perfect!” and forget completely about similar problems and side effects.


it will never be perfect but better is better so keep striving for better and dont be negative when pointing out the next challenge.

A 20 pound tire has around the same embedded CO2 as 4 gallons of gasoline. Even burning it only produces the CO2 of another 3 gallons.

The problem is CO2 emissions not use of oil.


Your story is inspiring and encouraging. I LOVE how far you’ve come and am traveling on the same path. May the numbers of people gaining personal energy independence grow quickly.


The biggest thing I’ve done to improve my “transportation experience” and minimize its environmental impact required two steps:

1. Start driving a leased Leaf (which I just bought last week, thanks to Nissan’s promotion).

2. Sign up for 100% green electricity, for about 1 cent more/kWh.

The part about laughing like The Joker from the first Batman movie every time I go by a gas station is a minor bonus, albeit a really fun one.

Congrats on being free of fossil fuels!

I’m curios why one would use a wood pellet boiler? Being an electricity/energy geek, I would have looked into solar (vacuum tube/heat pipe) hot water heaters to hook into my boiler system. If that wouldn’t work, I would look into electric boilers and adding more solar panels. Granted I live in the southeast US where it doesn’t go below freezing much. Home heating oil and home boilers are kind of alien for me. For what it’s worth, I’m completely sold on BEV + solar PV living. Just wondering about the wood boiler thing.

Thanks Marc and a happy Independence Day! Shared on Seattle Leaf’s FB forum.

Can you provide a bit more details about the renewable-pellet furnace? Forgive the naivette, but how is it renewable if you are still burning fuel? An answer here for all readers’ sake will be helpful. It is also directly relevant to us, as we heat our home with natural gas, but have been contemplating a change.

Thanks again, Assaf

Burning wood is generally better than burning fossil fuels as wood is a renewable source. To replace it you (hopefully) plant another tree which as it grows removes CO2 from the atmosphere. You can continue like that with a net zero change in atmospheric C02.

The trouble with coal, gas and oil is that it was created from plants that locked in their CO2 millions of years ago and hence is no longer part of the overall atmospheric CO2. By burning it you’re unlocking that ancient CO2 but you aren’t offsetting it by removing any.

What you say answers Assaf’s Q but it always puzzles me why no-one ever mentions the net energy gain that burning FFs generates within our atmosphere. Obviously, those FFs were once plants and plankton that used the suns energy to grow and that energy was locked up in them along with the CO2. When burnt both are released. CO2 and its green-house effect are one aspect of the result of burning FFs but surely the other is that we are releasing energy that represents millions of years-worth of the suns radiant power in only a 150 years or so (so far). Surely this is just as much an issue as the CO2?

The amount of energy produced by the combustion of fossil fuels is dwarfed by the extra energy from the sun that is retained due to greenhouse gases. To get a feel for the relative magnitudes, the solar energy received by the earth in two hours greatly exceeds the total energy generated and consumed in a year.

Also, only a insignificant fraction of the energy from the sun over those millions of years was stored into fossil fuels. Consider that the amount of energy radiated back into space is almost equal to the amount of energy received from the sun.

martinwinlow asked:

“…we are releasing energy that represents millions of years-worth of the suns radiant power in only a 150 years or so (so far). Surely this is just as much an issue as the CO2?”

No, it’s not as important a problem by several orders of magnitude. Nearly all the waste heat will quickly be lost by being radiated away into space. Almost none of it contributes to a build-up of global temperatures. Contrariwise, the fossil CO2 being released into the air stays trapped in the atmosphere. Basically, CO2 says there until something absorbs it.

The definition of renewable is that it will renew once you use it. Plants and animals are by definition really the only true renewables.
You use some. Then it grows back. Then you use some. Then it grows back. Renewable.

Solar and wind are endless sources, but not renewables by definition.

But nowadays solar energy (nuclear), wind energy (derived nuclear), geothermal (nuclear) are almost always in popular terms added to the group of renewables.

You have a rather perverse definition of “renewable” that includes a life cycle driven by solar energy, but not including solar energy itself! The solar energy which hits the Earth in the form of sunshine certainly is renewed from instant to instant, all day long.

And to quibble, geothermal power isn’t entirely dependent on nuclear power… heating of radioactive materials deep in the Earth.

There are three sources of the Earth’s heat:

1. Radioactive decay of materials deep in the Earth

2. Leftover heat from the gravitational collapse of the material which formed the Earth

3. Direct solar heating of sunshine on the Earth.

So far as I know, nobody has yet come up with a robust way to determine just what fraction any of these three sources contributes to the Earth’s heat. So it may well be that #1 is a minority contribution.

It’s not my definition, it’s one as old as the term itself. And I personally don’t mind solar and wind being put into the group of renewables.
But it annoys me when when someone tries to exclude the main core of renewables (biomass and other living things)…

Especially when wind and even more so solar are extremely small contributors to the non-fossil energy and where the big heroes of biomass, hydro and nuclear are often neglected.

And yes, I know about geothermal and where the energy comes from, and I’m sure you got the point.


The flow of heat from Earth’s interior to the surface is estimated at 47 terawatts and comes from two main sources in roughly equal amounts: the radiogenic heat produced by the radioactive decay of isotopes in the mantle and crust, and the primordial heat left over from the formation of the Earth.

173,000 terawatts of solar energy strikes the Earth continuously.

Thus I think we can compute to a reasonable accuracy that at the surface of the planet the heat comes from

99.97% solar
.013% radioactive decay
.013% primordial heat left over from the formation of the Earth

That ratio changes as you approach the center of the earth but most geothermal heat pumps work on scales of feet not miles so the change is minor.

solar is considered to be “renewable” because you don’t use up the sun when you produce solar power. the same holds true for the wind. by contrast, the reason why fossil fuels are *not* renewable is because when you use them you reduce the amount or remaining available fossil fuel.

so when it comes to fossil fuel, there is such as thing as there being too many people using fossil fuel and you end up with none left. by contrast, everyone on this planet could use solar power and it doesn’t affect the sun one bit.

Something which is easier to do when talking about renewables and something I often do, even though per definition it’s not renewable.

Pellet heaters might work fine for you, but they aren’t going to work for everyone. Not only is there not enough wood, but the air pollution they create is frowned on. Yes, even though modern pellet stoves are fairly clean they still pollute.

Right, but he lives in Southern Maine, and it’d work for Maine (we have 1.3M people and 22B trees), especially in combination with superinsulation and other efficiency measures.

Ambulator said:

“Pellet heaters might work fine for you, but they aren’t going to work for everyone. Not only is there not enough wood, but the air pollution they create is frowned on.”

Are you in a position to cast stones? How does your personal carbon footprint compare to Marc’s?

This looks like a case of “The perfect driving out the good.” Marc should be praised for what he has accomplished, and for “spreading the word” with his article. Not castigated for not quite achieving 100% sustainable living.

I doubt anyone living in a first-world society can actually achieve 100% sustainability. Those who want to live that way are welcome to give away all their possessions and move to central New Guinea or the Amazon, to live as a subsistence-level hunter-gatherer. The rest of us need some good examples of coming as close as we can to sustainable living while still living better than a stone age savage.

I wasn’t casting stones. Wood pellets may work fine for him, but they won’t work for everyone. I get concerned when I read about some power plants in Europe burning wood pellets. It’s a bad idea.

In any case, if we want better solutions we have to enable people to use them. I don’t think he had a better choice feasibly available to him. We need to provide more affordable clean solutions to people.

Ambulator said: “I wasn’t casting stones. Wood pellets may work fine for him, but they won’t work for everyone. I get concerned when I read about some power plants in Europe burning wood pellets. It’s a bad idea.” It’s a bad idea compared to what? The typical baseload coal-fired power plant burns nearly 4000 tons of coal each and every day. Let me say that again: Just one single average coal-fired power plant burns nearly four thousand tons of coal every day! Forty train cars full of coal, every day. Mind-boggling, innit? Providing the same energy from wood would be preferable, so long as the source of wood is renewed. The problem with burning wood is that all too often, forests and woods are cut down faster than they can regrow. Consider: If it takes an average of 50 years for a tree to grow to full size, then you can only harvest 2% of the trees in the forest per year. Yet in all too many regions, they practice clear-cutting, entirely denuding the landscape of trees. Obviously we can only do that for so long until the forests are gone… as they almost entirely are in the USA, outside… Read more »

I’ve reduced my annual gasoline usage by about 1/2 (500 now instead of 1,000 gallons per year). If I start throwing money at it, I could get down to maybe 250g/year, but my estimation is it’ll cost at least $2,000/ year, and that’s with the fuel savings figured in.

I like this article, its simple steps like this that make a big difference. I am on a similar but completely opposite path to zero emissions.

I started 10 years ago getting rid of-

1- 2 stroke dirt bike and lawn mower(now have a reel mower)
2- buying a electric weedwacker and hedge trimmer
3- when building my house(2010) i went 100% electric with water heaters and a heat pump. No oil and no natural gas.

My last step is vehicles. right now i have 4 gas vehicles but am hoping to sell 2 and replace with a Leaf next year. Then in 3-4 years replace my wife’s Sonata with a phev Sonata of Volt etc.
Last is a antique truck which i would like to do a conversion to electric some year.


You deserve a BRAVO! from everyone for your heroic efforts to reduce your carbon footprint and the pollution you produce, directly and indirectly.

I question that the Earth’s ecosphere can support sustainable living for 7.2 billion human beings, but one thing is certain: If everyone was as dedicated as you are to reducing their carbon footprint and pollution emissions, then neither would yet be a significant concern in modern society.

Very well-said, Lensman!

Marc, thank you for your work and for sharing it with us!

It’s too bad that Marc lives where solar power is too feeble to be of much use. For those living in sunnier regions, or perhaps where their roofs are in less shade, they should look into direct solar heating of water. Even in areas where it gets below freezing in winter, there are two-step systems that can eliminate the need to use fossil fuel for heating water.

Another great way to reduce your carbon footprint is to use a ground-loop heat pump for central heating and air conditioning. Marc clearly has an energy-efficient house, with double walls and super-insulated. If that was coupled with a ground loop heat pump system, it could get by on very little energy for climate control! The latter is not cheap, so the home owner must consider how many years it would take to “pay back” the investment.

lensman, are you now an AGW believer?

EEStorFanFibb “lensman, are you now an AGW believer?” Not the way you mean, no. That is, I don’t doubt that some portion of the current warming trend is caused by human activity, while other portions are part of the natural cycle of ongoing climate change. I don’t regard a mere two degrees of global warming to be a significant concern. Nobody talks about the benefits of global warming; they only focus on the negative aspects. This is not balanced reporting, it’s mere fear-mongering. But after watching a National Geographic documentary on the effects of the CO2 buildup in our atmosphere causing acidification of the oceans and a die-off of coral reefs, I now realize that we can’t ignore the effects of CO2 buildup, even though the slight amount of global warming we’re experiencing isn’t an important problem. Seems to me the “global warming” issue is being used mainly as a distraction from the real, very serious, and immediate problems of overpopulation and resource depletion, altho the acidification of the oceans is also a serious problem. All of these problems are already causing regional disasters, in Eastern Africa, the Mideast, and other regions. Depletion of groundwater is happening right now in… Read more »

thanks lens. come by and see the old gang sometime at chatwing.com/eestorchat


i can’t tell from the photo that solar energy would be “too feeble” at that location. it was apparently not a very sunny day when the photo was taken so it’s hard to determine the orientation of the house but it looks to me that the roof might be high enough to get unobstructed sunlight for most of the day if the photo is taken from the south side of the house. that said, he’s probably losing at least a couple of hours of sunlight under the best of circumstances.

Maine’s insolation is very low in winter with fixed panels. I have read that in northern latitutes you can still get reasonable insolation in winter but you really need a tracking system and unobstructed line to low sun. Marc’s house is looking typically Maine: lots of trees around it.

Nice progress getting off of the heating oil. Wood pellets are the cleanest wood burning solution for heat: high efficiency and low PM pollution. I’ve pretty much stopped using our inefficient fireplace because it’s such a waste of physical effort to haul and split the wood when it rapidly pulls the hot air from the house and pumps lots of PM into the air. Solar electric and solar hot water are in our future plans, in addition to upgrading the heat pump to the latest efficient model.

The new Li-Ion lawn mower I have is clean too, but the neighbor across the street was blowing blue smoke today while mowing the lawn. Oh well, someone has to lead a change in behavior.

I have a colleague who uses “BioBricks” (which are compressed wood) in a wood stove. He uses them. His house also had propane but recently had an air-source heat pump installed, which will give him heat and AC. I’ll be keeping an eye to see how it works out.

That’s a very sharp-looking house considering it is 30 years old! Good luck to you, Marc.

i suspect that the house has been resided with what looks like vinyl siding.

it appears that there were a few builders who were doing energy conscious building in the 1980’s. my house was built about the same time and it was built with 2×6 framing with r-19 batt insulation in the wall cavities, 2×12 rafters and triple glazed windows [although the triple glazed windows of 30 years ago probably have performance that is more in line with a good modern double glazed window; after an apparently brief experiment with triple glazing it was apparently ditched when they introduced lo emissivity coatings for glazing which allowed for sufficient thermal performance with double glazed windows]. the building structure would meet today’s building codes and it was built 30 years ago at a time when a lot of guys were probably using 2×4 framing.