After the Summit: One Message, Many Voices
by Richard Rutigliano, PriMedia, Inc.
We are witnessing history, and we are rewriting our futures.
The resolution passed at the Northeast Industry Summit during the HEAT Show was nothing less than historic. What other industry has ever pledged to so drastically modify its core product? The dedicated leaders attending the Summit, representing hundreds - if not thousands - of years of home energy experience, looked at our past, our future, and our capabilities, and resolved to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050.
I hope you are as excited and energized as I am.
Our predecessors sold dry goods and feed … and then evolved their businesses and began delivering coal. Generations later, heating oil – cleaner, less expensive, and easier for property owners – replaced coal … and our grandparents and great-grandparents’ business model evolved. They modified and changed out equipment in their shops and their customers’ homes, retired their horses and purchased tank trucks. Home fuels became lighter and cleaner, and one-truck dealers grew to two and then six. Suddenly Mom and Pop were joined by sons and daughters, and then grandchildren, and were hiring technicians, drivers, salespeople and office staff from outside the family. Even after consolidations, acquisitions, and mergers, after evolving time and again, the average retail heating oil company is a multi-generation family-owned and –operated business with a median of 25 employees. We are the embodiment of independent, “Main Street” business. This independence is our strength and our Achilles’ heel.
Strong, Independent and Agile
We are “small and medium-sized business.” We are local. Even the larger companies retain the independence and neighborly culture of the smaller local entities from which they grew. We do not answer to stockholders.
This independence means we can be agile. Companies diversify when a business owner believes it to be in their best interest, not when a board of directors agrees the move will increase stock value. This agility is needed today. Heating oil dealers who are not currently offering renewable liquid heating fuels need to evolve without any further delay. Companies offering B2 need to increase to B5, and those offering B5 should look into B10. To protect our children’s futures, and to meet this ambitious resolution, it is time to take the lead rather than wait for legislation.
Usable, marketable B50 and higher is already visibly on the horizon. Early studies are showing that B100 will be attainable. But the home energy industry is made up of many arms, and it is here where our other stakeholders must be as agile and strong as the independent dealers. Companies that research, develop and manufacture equipment and additives; that refine, produce and transport fuels; that provide marketing, software and business tools, need to evolve as well, to accept and advance our “new” product.
It is important to realize that these changes are not propelled by legislators and politicians or by ivory-tower theoretical fabulists. The groundswell of demand for lowered GHGs has been led by respected scientists and home-grown activists. We face a crisis, and every one of us needs to embrace the solution.
We must all hang together …
Surely, if Benjamin Franklin had been born a few centuries later, he would have been speaking to the home energy industry! Our independence, one of the foundations of our companies’ cultures, could be the one thing that leads us to a situation where we all, “surely hang separately.”
As independent business owners, we make our own decisions. This, as stated above, is what makes us strong. But hundreds of our independent, decentralized voices and opinions spreading different messages could weaken our collective opportunities.
Right now, the majority of heating oil/Bioheat® customers are in the Northeast. They know all about our great service and personal touch. But even our staunchest consumers can be swayed by the power utilties’ promises of lower costs and smaller carbon footprints.
We face many challenges ahead. The gas companies power the generators for so-called “clean” electricity – and often own the electric utility. As we all know, there aren’t enough solar and wind energy resources, including production and distribution, to generate net-zero electricity and won’t be for decades. The gas/electric behemoths are chortling over the brakeless train that is the Green New Deal. As “strategic electrification” gains speed, the advertising budgets and political clout of these utilities are greasing the wheels, and the public is standing alongside the tracks cheering the politicians to go even faster.
Our message of “clean energy available today” needs to be heard and embraced in Washington, D.C. and around kitchen tables; to slow down the headlong rush toward insufficient, inefficient electrification.
- We are committed to reversing global warming
- We already have a lower-emissions renewable fuel
- We are making this fuel even better
- We will reach net-zero emissions by 2050
- Our fuel does not require expensive new equipment
- Our fuel provides virtually the same heat at virtually the same cost
- Electrification is expensive and inefficient for cold regions
- Carbon taxes will cost consumers hundreds of dollars a year.
These talking points need to be repeated in newsletters, town halls, emails and text messages. They need to be front and center on your website and social media accounts and highlighted in letters to the editor, conversations with local representatives, and in infographics, sell sheets, bill inserts, and consumer marketing. Only then will cooler heads have the chance to look at our research, and include renewable liquid heating fuels in the conversations about climate change.
Independently, we must all come together. Independently, we must all choose renewable liquid heating fuels. Independently, we must all spread a unified message. Independently, we must all continue the work of the Northeast Industry Summit. Independently, we must all protect our collective future.
PriMedia has been providing strategic solutions to the home energy industry for more than 26 years. For help promoting the future of renewable liquid heating fuels to your customers and communities, call 1-800-796-3342 or contact us at goprimedia.com.