Why the Oilheat industry is better than a utility
By Steve McCracken, President, AMERIgreen Energy
Natural gas just lost. With ASTM International’s recent decision to publish heating oil grades containing 6 percent to 20 percent biodiesel, the cleanest fuel on the market belongs to the Oilheat industry. A blend of 12 percent biodiesel (B12) and ULSHO (Ultra Low Sulfur Heating Oil) burns cleaner than gas. (Numbers vary depending on what factors are considered, but we see B12 as the tipping point.)
This is fantastic news! So what now? What do we do with this awesome revelation?
Therein lies a challenge our industry has faced for many years. What makes us stand out is also what challenges how we brand ourselves as an industry: The Oilheat business is made up of fiercely independent fuel companies that market their fuel as they see fit. The uniqueness of each company and community can present challenges when communicating what differentiates Oilheat companies from gas utilities.
The facts are on our side, but we recognize that the natural gas lobby has tremendously deep pockets as well as a broad reach that spans nearly every fuel dealer market. Their messaging has been simple and consistent for decades, and they have succeeded in convincing average consumers that gas is a natural winner. Legislatures in numerous states have even subsidized conversions. (Sorry to bring up a sore subject).
The sobering reality is that the gas industry and their lobby have done a remarkably effective job of selling customers on a purportedly “clean, American, and cost-effective” product. But robust American oil and domestic renewable fuel production are turning the tide, and the Oilheat industry is now proudly promoting red, white and blue and green as our own. With reports and news stories stacking up about the dangers and issues with gas, the Oilheat industry has a golden opportunity to turn the tide.
In a mild winter homeowners heating with gas or electric generally don’t have problems, but the last two winters were harsh, and the utilities have had major issues. Their infrastructure got pushed to the brink, and they had to shut off customers and use a secondary energy source: Oilheat! The American Energy Coalition (AEC) has a great marketing message: “When the going gets tough, Natural Gas needs Heating Oil.”
Leveling the Playing Field
With a level playing field, how do we build market momentum for ourselves? We have the fundamentals, and now we now the story and a means to tell it in a unified, consistent way. I believe Bioheat® fuel is a great way to do that.
Bioheat fuel is a smart energy choice for consumers and your company. It burns cleaner than regular petroleum, decreasing the amount of carbon monoxide, sulfates, hydrocarbons and particulate matter – making the air we all breathe cleaner, healthier and fresher.
The effects can be substantial. Tests conducted by National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) found that a blend of 80 percent ULSD and 20 percent biodiesel (B20) reduced sulfur dioxide emissions by around 80 percent. Nitrogen oxide emissions were lowered by about 20 percent. In addition, carbon dioxide emissions can be lowered by 20 percent. Not to mention (again), Bioheat is cleaner than Natural Gas.
Additional benefits include:
- Meaningful message to send to your customers and communities: a domestic, clean-burning energy source that offers superior performance
- No retrofits or equipment modifications required
- Reduces periodic maintenance intervals
- No change in service protocols
- It’s ready for distribution now
- Redefining your business and perpetuating sustainable growth for future generations.
Bioheat: Confidence In Action
Countless dealers already know that Bioheat is a great fuel. It works better than conventional heating oil. There has been over a decade of B20 usage, with great success all around.
Windsor Fuel in Long Island, N.Y., is proud to have all their heating oil blended with 20 percent biodiesel. “Not only is it more friendly for the environment, but our customers can fully benefit from the NY State Tax Credit,” said DJ LeoGrande, Windsor Fuel owner. “We’ve added addition infrastructure and storage to allow for increasing biodiesel gallons to our customer base.”
Self Heating & Cooling in Horsham, PA, is proud to supply higher blends of bioheating oil to their customer base. “We feel providing Bioheat has been one good way to look out for our community,” says Rob Self, owner of Self HC. “We are glad to try to help America lower our dependence on foreign oil and reduce emissions.”
Your Company Is the Difference Maker
But the best part about Bioheat isn’t the fuel; it is what you can do with it. Bioheat is a tangible representation of why a consumer should want to do business with you. It represents why this industry is better than a utility. Consumers have a choice to buy into Bioheat and you. The principles that lead our industry and you to use Bioheat are the same reasons consumers will believe in all of your products and services.
Ideally, we want customers to rely on us to the point where the only engagement from them is acknowledgement of their automatic payment on their monthly bank statement. We want them to think about us with confidence every time they step in from the outside or wake up in the morning to find optimal comfort at home, because they know we’ve got their back. In the event of an issue we want them to believe that we are simply a phone call or a click away from helping them. This shouldn’t sound far-fetched; this is what my Oilheat provider has been doing for my family and me for generations.
Utility customers don’t have this type of confidence. I know this, because I used to have to rely on the utility, and I didn’t have this type of comfort. Oilheat is the best option because you and your team of service techs, drivers and customer service representatives work tirelessly every single day to make sure of that. You are the difference maker. Not only do we have a better fuel than gas; we have better people and organizational structures in place to adapt quickly and respond to consumers within hours if not minutes. Utility responses are measured in days. Utilities have begun spending on developing service teams for that reason. It’s not just an opportunity; it’s a key weakness in their model.
Step Up to the Starting Line
Bioheat enables you to tell your story in a way that consumers can understand your true value to them. When they hear terms like “green” and “energy efficient,” they don’t really understand how that impacts them, but in explaining why Bioheat is a better choice for your customer you begin transitioning your role from fuel or service provider to energy expert. You don’t just know about equipment; you have your customer’s home and community in mind. It is really a beautiful thing, because the trust you’ve built over so many years is now enhanced with a deeper level of authority.
As companies grow into this authoritative role they develop an educational relationship around energy consumption. This parlays ideally into a dialog about service recommendations and opens up the relationship to collaborate on affordability through budget programs and discounts for making automatic payments.
In Bioheat sales, the dealer is truly building a relationship based on what’s best for the customer and helping them recognize their needs. This new dynamic opens the door to develop broader awareness at civic organizations and in classrooms. When used effectively, Bioheat can provide an opportunity to rebrand your company throughout the community and marketplace.
Bioheat is a great fuel. It creates opportunity to develop your company and take your customer relationships to new heights. It provides a new drum beat for us to unify our message of red, white, blue and green. The fuel won’t drive these changes in your business itself. It takes a spark and the right amount of pressure to keep the system going. It is hard to stop the momentum once it develops and begins perpetuating.
Natural gas loses again. Our fuel is better and our people are better. When combined to grow the trust and confidence that only generations of good, sound business in a community can provide, that represents an extraordinarily difficult relationship to overcome.
The fuel works. To see statistics on an equipment test performed by Beckett, NORA, Brookhaven National Labs and Pennsylvania State University, go to www.amerigreen.com/bioheat-research/