Written on: March 15, 2021 by Paul J. Nazzaro
With the stroke of a pen, President Joe Biden eliminated more than 10,000 U.S. energy jobs on day one of his presidency by killing the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline through an Executive Order. Now, he faces pressure to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline to move domestic crude from North Dakota to Illinois. Next, they are coming for you.
By “they” I mean decision-makers at all levels of government, from the highest Federal officials to local councils and everything in between. And by “you,” I mean fuel oil dealers who are unwilling to transition your heating oil business to Bioheat fuel.
However, you are needed, and not just by your customers who rely on you for that comforting warmth only liquid heating fuels can provide. While customers are the end of the supply chain for your fuel, this is only the beginning of the story. Your employees depend on your business—on the jobs it provides—to feed their families. Your company is needed by the local community where the paychecks get spent.
By incorporating Bioheat fuel, you help feed U.S. farmers who help feed the world and whose soybean oil provides more than half of the material inputs for sustainable biodiesel. In doing so, you support livestock producers who—as the providers of the steaks, pork chops and chicken wings you love so much—depend on cheap soybean meal in order to keep costs down and food prices in check. Drivers transport feedstock, biodiesel and Bioheat fuel from factories to local terminals. You are needed by the manufacturers in whose equipment your fuel is used, who have spent time and money testing and approving Bioheat fuel and Bioheat Plus for use in their burners, pumps and more.
Closing up shop is not an option. We all need you. As constituents to your Federal, State and local leaders, we all need you to speak up and tell them why you—providers of renewable liquid heating fuels like Bioheat—deserve a seat at the energy table, where to many of us it appears there are fewer and fewer chairs than ever before.
There was a time not so long ago when people wisely favored an “all-of-the-above” strategy to tackle our energy and environmental issues. A “shotgun approach” was the preferred method, as each of the many balls of shot represented a technology, a pathway meant not solve the problem on its own, but to contribute one of many solutions that, together, take down the target.
Climate change—Every one of our State trade associations voluntarily committed fuel oil dealers to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 via the Providence Resolution. By 2023, B20 blends of Bioheat Plus will achieve 15% carbon emission reductions. By 2030, B50 blends of Bioheat Super Plus will cut carbon emissions by 40% and by 2050, pure B100 Bioheat Super Plus, in addition to other measures we take, will get us to the goal line of net-zero carbon.
Cost and impact on low-income populations—Studies show that the cost of home conversions to airsourced heat pumps can range from $20,000–$60,000, depending on the extent of work and involvement of water heaters or existing oilheat systems. While middle- and upperclass homeowners may be able to absorb this hefty investment, what about low-income homeowners and renters? Will landlords be willing to write these big checks for their tenants? In addition to installation costs, what about monthly electricity bills?
The wholesale cost of electricity is typically highest in winter. Also consider this—if middle- and upperclass homeowners make the switch to heat pumps, this will put greater demand on the electric grid and force prices up for everyone, including low-income communities. Therefore, while the well-to-do enjoy certain benefits of heat pumps, the poor, who can’t afford to convert, are paying for it in higher electricity bills.
This only exacerbates systemic inequity. The cost of Bioheat fuel, however, is comparable to low-priced petroleum fuel and any slight cost increases are spread out over time among allincome users equally. The takeaway is that the use of Bioheat fuel by the rich doesn’t mean low-income populations have to pay for it, as with electrification.
Environmental justice—History has unfortunately demonstrated that communities of color and low-income populations have both been situated in areas of lower air and water quality, including shipping docks, fuel terminals and electric transmission stations and substations. Increased build-out of the electrical grid will only increase the number of transmission stations.
Does anyone believe these will be located in high-income communities? History tells us otherwise. Furthermore, the transition to biofuels in marine engines and fuel terminals, including Bioheat fuel storage for home heating, will vastly improve the air and water quality of these communities, reduce disease and death rates and improve the quality of life.
Better warmth—Air-sourced heat pumps may perform as needed in mild winter climates but it gets cold in the Northeast during the winter, and it is very likely that backup systems will be needed. Therefore, one might ask, What’s the point? I have to invest all this money, perpetuate systemic inequity and environmental injustice only to use the reliable Bioheat fuel system I was using all along when it’s cold? When else would I use my heat, in the middle of summer? This all, then, appears to be an exercise in futility.
Bioheat fuel is truly renewable, electricity is not—The ambition of the electrification movement is that the grid will be renewable at some nebulous point in the future. That is the only climate-change argument that makes this push even worth considering. Otherwise, we are simply shifting carbon emissions from tailpipes and chimneys to power plant smoke stacks.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), only 17% of U.S. electricity in 2019 was derived from renewables. Globally, coal-fired power plants alone provided nearly 40% of all electricity in 2018. Not only will renewable power need to continue to make up a larger share of the existing power demand, but it will also have to satisfy more traditional increases in demand that organically occur over time as both populations and standards of living increase. Introduce these massive influxes of electricity demand from projected policies favoring electric vehicles, and we enter problematic territory. The EIA projects that world energy consumption will grow by nearly 50% between 2018–2050. Growth in end-use consumption will result in electricity generation increasing 79% between 2018–2050. Essentially, what is 17% renewable energy generation in the U.S. in 2019 would be approximately 9.5% in 2050.
We know it’s unrealistic to transition an entire economy to electrification in a matter of a few decades, but legislation is targeting the path of least resistance. If we don’t stand up and make ourselves heard, then that will be on us.
While upstream petroleum companies have powerful lobbyists in the halls of Congress and State legislatures across the country, who’s arguing on your behalf? By the looks of future- focused regulatory policy—no one. Sure, we have a multitude of trade associations doing great work and representing us as best they can, but we need to tackle this “existential threat,” to use the parlance of these climate change times, with a unified voice. While we may not be able or want to do much to slow the transition to electrification in light-duty vehicles, we can—and we must—do something about electrification of home heating.
Enter Project Carbon Freedom. This is a new effort to provide you with the education, advocacy and support you need to get your voices heard by decision-makers who hold your future in their hands. We frame up the situation, we offer a solution and we detail the strategy to get this done.
We know you are busy running day-to-day operations and keeping customers happy and warm, so Project Carbon Freedom makes it easy for you to effectively advocate well- reasoned positions to your legislators. These include the low-cost benefits our industry will continue to provide to fight climate change, improve air and water quality, create and retain jobs, support local communities and much more.
Project Carbon Freedom also provides letter templates for you to quickly and easily tailor the message to your needs—whether you are a fuel dealer, equipment manufacturer or employee—and submit them to policymakers and regulators to ensure we, and the many benefits we offer, are not left out in the cold. Visit projectcarbonfreedom.com for more information.
Not long ago, I wrote about being a lone voice in this fight, but with your help—and with Project Carbon Freedom’s assistance offered to you—I will be a lone voice no more. ICM