Written on: March 25, 2022 by Paul J. Nazzaro
You may have received a notice like this in the mail recently. If you haven’t, rest assured—it is coming. The letter goes something like this:
Time is of the essence. Energy deregulation in your state allows consumers to select the energy supply used to power their homes. Simply sign and return the form enclosed and you’ll be on your way to getting 100% clean, pollution-free energy today.
This is the approach of utility companies in Anytown, U.S. to get consumers to convert to alternative energy sources. The envelope in which this too- good-to-be-true offer is delivered does look quite convincing. I opened mine and navigated the message quite easily.
There was a well-defined Q&A enclosed that answered all my questions about switching to clean energy. I had access to a toll-free 1-800 number and web portal should I require more information to make my decision and participate. How could I turn away an opportunity to transition from power routinely produced from dirty, polluting fossil fuels and natural gas to 100% clean electricity generated from wind and solar energy?
The heating oil industry needs to stop, or at least slow, this mass conversion of space heating to so-called “clean electricity.” You have the tools to retain your customers and lower their carbon footprint. It’s called Bioheat® fuel, and it’s available now.
Although our pursuit to voluntarily transition the liquid home-heating industry and our businesses to something more environmentally-friendly has been adopted by many progressive fuel dealers—big and small—we still have come up short to unanimously commit to a full transition to 20% (B20) biodiesel-blended home-heating oil (Bioheat Plus® fuel) by 2023, B50 (Bioheat Super Plus® fuel) by 2030 and net zero by 2050. Sure, we have made progress. Yes, we are now delivering more than 450 million gallons of B20 this season throughout key Bioheat® fuel States. However, we continue to come up short in getting our message to the most valuable element of the supply chain—the customer.
We struggle as an industry to finance the communication machine required to let our customers know we have an immediate, economical and intelligent solution to carbon reduction. Our messaging is the best it has been since moving from coal to home-heating oil. We have markedly improved our fuel but remain behind the curve in communicating all the wonderful benefits associated with our progress and offering. Utility companies make their message known in a variety of ways, but—and this is a big but—they conveniently fail to share important facts about what the transition to a fully electrified platform means to the consumer. These undisclosed facts include the exorbitant costs associated with retrofitting homes with air source heat pumps, the long payback, the challenged performance in cold weather and the underdeveloped grid that will buckle under their predicted growth. It is our job to share these facts, as the utility companies will not.
We are coming out of a relatively strong Winter season as it pertains to degree days. We have lived up to our reputation of keeping our customers warm and comfortable, even during the toughest of Winter conditions and frigid temperatures, but are we going to reach out to our customers and remind them of this unnoticed, underappreciated feat? Are we going to pick up the phone and share our story?
Here are some more important facts to consider: legislation, including existing and newly proposed laws, to transition our systems from carbon intense to low and zero carbon is everywhere, and no State is exempt. Our most widely sold offering—petroleum-based heating oil, which is 100% carbon—is no longer in vogue. Moreover, your tanker trucks have targets on them and regulators’ sights are set. We do, however, have a solution today. It’s proven, available now and clearly marketable. This solution is Bioheat® fuel.
Not only can Bioheat® fuel positionus to maintain our gallons and valued customer base, but it is poised to allow us to grow and capture new market share—customers that may have adopted natural gas or electricity over the years. What oilheat-user-turned-Bioheat®-customer wouldn’t want to know they’re receiving liquid energy that aligns perfectly with government officials’ broad-based plans to clean the fuels that warm and power homes and businesses?
What consumer wouldn’t like to know the facts about air source heat pumps, such as the capital outlay of more than $25,000 to prepare a home for electrification only to be encouraged to hold onto their existing gas- or Bioheat® fuel-fired systems so, when that shiny new heat pump fails to provide the same level of comfort to which they are accustomed, they can fall back on “old reliable”? Are the utilities smarter than us? Are they being honest with consumers? Do theyknow something we don’t?
The utilities suggest they’re going to reduce air pollution and fossil-fuel use to promote a healthier future. They say the switch to clean energy is easy the only action customers must take is complete a form and return it in the postage-paid envelope to receive their renewable energy. The utilities continue to stretch the truth quietly and ratably about their products as legislation pushes us further back. Meanwhile, we continue to haul our heavy hoses over snow banks to fill ICM/March/April 2022 9 basement tanks with energy-dense liquid fuel, providing comfort to millions of legacy homes.
If you’re waiting for your wholesale partner or industry leadership group to create a Madison Avenue marketing campaign to save the day, you might want to rethink that strategy. They’re already doing everything in their power to help keep our industry viable. Progressive fuel wholesaler terminal operators are making investments in tanks and systems to store, blend and provide you with Bioheat® fuel while your leadership groups are burning the midnight oil with limited resources to fight the fight.
What is missing then? The answer is a holistic and sustained commitment from the fuel-dealer network to “tell the story.” It is a bankable story, and, most importantly, a story that must be told—not when the heating season wraps up, but now. When opponents say heating oil is dead or dying, you should be in a position to finally agree with them and say, But Bioheat® fuel is alive and well—and it’s the miracle cure that revived my business and my industry. Day in and day out, with whomever you come into contact, you should be declaring that home heat is now cleaner than ever, and it’s only getting better.
I encourage every fuel dealer that has taken the time to read this article to pick up the phone, empower their employees with the facts and start the communication process. If you don’t tell your customer that you are the new provider of clean, renewable energy, then someone else will—and it will happen quickly.
For more information on Bioheat® fuel, please visit mybioheat.com and cleanfuels.org. If you need technical or marketing training or support, phone me at 978-880-5338 or 978-258-8360. Through the generosity of Clean Fuels Alliance America (formerly the National Biodiesel Board) and its many stakeholders, we are here to support you in the renaissance of home heat. ICM