NORA reauthorization a boon for Bioheat

Written on: March 3, 2014 by ICM

By Ron Kotrba —
Part of the massive, nearly $1 trillion Farm Bill that President Obama recently signed included reauthorization of the National Oilheat Research Alliance, which is resuming full operations after four years of no funding. The extension is for five years. NORA is a checkoff program that allows industry, not government, to support and fund initiatives for heating oil businesses, technicians and consumers. Heating oil retailers will once again begin paying the 2 cents per gallon fee, and ensure a strong future for the industry. The fee collections will begin April 1.
The reauthorization makes important modifications that will affect how NORA operates. The new bill encourages greater research on Bioheat with the goal of moving up the percentages of biodiesel in heating oil.
“When NORA was founded in 2000, the product was almost nonexistent,” said John Huber, NORA CEO. “But through a partnership between NORA and the National Biodiesel Board, we have moved this into a product used by nearly every heating oil retailer at concentrations between 5 and 20 percent.  We expect those percentages to continue to grow as the biodiesel industry continues to provide a compelling product to our industry.”
The organization’s executive committee and board of directors will work diligently to integrate those changes into the program. Most importantly, there will be an increased emphasis on research and development. This additional research will pave the way for a better product for the heating oil consumer—a product that will be more efficient and more dependable.
“The heating oil industry has worked diligently for several years to get their checkoff reauthorized, and their increasing commitment to Bioheat seems to have played a role in that successful effort,” said Paul Nazzaro, petroleum liaison for the National Biodiesel Board. “More oilheat dealers becoming Bioheat dealers demonstrates that they can adapt to a society placing a higher value on environmentally friendly, American-made products. The checkoff’s passage in the recent Farm Bill will enable NORA to once again assist the industry in moving forward and improving the product they provide to their customers, and Bioheat should be a significant part of that.”
NORA and the biodiesel industry have worked closely to expand the use of Bioheat in home heating oil markets through research, consumer advertising, educational campaigns, dealer outreach and much more, Nazzaro said. “With NORA back to a level of full funding, the organization has committed to working with NBB to amplify the messaging of Bioheat being a cleaner burning, renewable, and domestically produced source of home heating.”
Part of the reauthorization includes NORA compiling a report to Congress describing the advantages of Bioheat, and at what levels it can be safely used.  NORA will work with the NBB to communicate the advantages of Bioheat to consumers in advertising and educational campaigns, some of which soybean farmers have already funded generously.  Through the years, NORA has invested millions of dollars in educating the public and the oilheating industry to the environmental benefits of Bioheat.
“Now we should be able to partner up with NBB to have a strong message that resonates, and one that reaches more people,” Huber said.
Huber said a last minute effort by Nebraska soybean farmer Greg Anderson, U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson (North Dakota) and biodiesel producer Ron Marr from Minnesota made a difference with some key Congressmen. U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (Illinois) also worked to ensure that this important biofuels bill made it into law.
“With the Farm Bill’s recent passage in Congress and being signed into law by the President, one of the most important aspects of that bill to me as a soybean farmer was the reauthorization of NORA,” said Anderson, who serves on the Nebraska Soybean Board and on NBB. “Now the soybean industry can work with the heating oil industry in a much more powerful, dynamic way to work toward the aggressive goal of completely replacing petroleum-based heating oil with a B100 blend of Bioheat by the year 2050.”
The support from the oil heat industry will create more demand for biodiesel and ultimately provide expanding markets for soybean oil, Anderson said.
“I am excited about what this means for soybean farmers, for consumers and for the energy security of our nation as we move forward,” Anderson said.
The law also provides resources to help low-income consumers. The recent cold winter and the high cost of energy shows the need for continuous conservation strategies. These funds will help consumers who have limited means to improve the efficiency of their home.
Additionally, NORA will continue to focus on improving education for employees who work in the heating oil industry. The companies in the industry are dependent on having a high-quality and well-trained workforce. This provides companies with a competitive edge, and helping these employees expand their abilities is paramount to the heating oil industry’s continued success.
NORA is now working to ensure that the collection system that takes effect April 1st is efficient and comprehensive. New forms have been posted to the website. In addition, NORA will also mail them to wholesale and retail collectors and all heating oil retailers in the coming weeks.