B5 heating oil mandate could be part of the solution
New York City is doubling down on its commitment to fight climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and Oilheat dealers are part of the solution.
The New York City Council recently approved a local bill, known as Intro 78, that strengthens the greenhouse gas reduction targets set forth in the New York City Climate Protection Act, which originally passed in 2007. That original bill committed the City to two emissions targets: reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from city operations by at least 30 percent by 2017, and reducing GHG emissions citywide (including from homes and businesses) by at least 30 percent by 2030.
Sponsored by Council Member Costa Constantinides, who represents Astoria and other neighborhoods in Queens, Intro 378 adds a bold new target by committing the City to an 80 percent reduction in citywide GHG emissions by 2050. The bill does not lay out a specific roadmap for emissions reductions. Instead, the City Council and the Mayor are expected to develop policies that support the goals.
Oilheat Is at the Table
Unlike some other jurisdictions where regulators shun the petroleum industry and focus on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, New York City takes an inclusive approach that reduces emissions by making improvements wherever they are available. The New York Oil Heat Association (NYOHA) began working closely with City officials such as Council Member James Gennaro six years ago to reduce carbon emissions from buildings and vehicles.
The 1939-established NYOHA is eager to help New York City reduce its carbon footprint, according to CEO John Maniscalco. “Heating oil dealers in New York City are committed to selling Bioheat® fuels that blend conventional petroleum with biodiesel, because these blended fuels reduce greenhouse gas emissions and particulate matter (PM),” he said.
NYOHA embraced Bioheat® fuels nearly six years ago and encouraged New York State to mandate the use of ultra low sulfur heating oil (ULSHO). “The combined products of ULSHO and biodiesel ‘say aloud’ that NYC’s home heating oil is the cleanest in the nation,” Maniscalco said.
“The NYC Mayor’s Office has taken a visionary’s approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and PM that encourages innovative, fresh ideas. NYOHA’s Board of Directors saw an opportunity to make the heating oil industry and its fuel part of the solution, not the problem, as the City moves to cleaner fuels, so the Board committed to biodiesel blending in the form of Bioheat® fuel. Rather than clash with the Mayor’s Office and the environmental community, we moved decisively to provide an innovative product which supports the goals of a cleaner environment.”
NYOHA’s Board is optimistic, following CM Constantinides’ passage of Intro 378 and its ‘80 by 50’ initiative, that New York City will continue to increase biodiesel blend levels and work with NYOHA member companies to reduce harmful emissions, Maniscalco added.
B5 Mandate Coming Soon?
Constantinides recently told Oil & Energy that Intro 378 sets the City on a journey to minimize GHG emissions. “It will inspire additional innovation and the use of new technology as well as enhanced collaboration between the public and private sectors. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the City to move forward, and we are ready to implement it,” he said. “To get to where we want to go with the 80 percent emission reduction, we will create green jobs and expand the use of alternative energy, including the use of biodiesel.”
In the months ahead, Constantinides will be looking to update the City’s Bioheat® fuel mandate to require a minimum of B5 blends in all heating oil applications, with a B20 mandate to follow. The City currently mandates the use of Bioheat at B2 or higher. He is also pursuing a new requirement that the City’s ferries switch from diesel to biodiesel blends.
Constantinides praised NYOHA for getting involved early and committing to cleaning up New York’s fuel supply. “They have been great partners,” he said. “They recognized the need to be part of the conversation and direct it to where it makes sense. I am very happy and excited to have them as a partner.”
It is important for the City to take a reasoned approach to emissions reduction that is supported by science and industry, according to Constantinides. “We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water,” he said.
A Boon for Biodiesel
The City’s commitment to Biodiesel for emissions reductions is great news to Renewable Energy Group Inc. (REG), which has built out an extensive biodiesel infrastructure in the New York Metropolitan Area.
Daniel Falcone, REG’s Biodiesel Sales Manager for the Northeastern United States, said REG is “fortunate to be working with NYOHA and a City administration that is embracing biodiesel and looking at how energy and environmental policy can go hand in hand.” He praised NYOHA for understanding the value of cleaning up the fuel supply early in the game and getting prepared to help the City. He also noted that by switching to ultra low sulfur heating oil with a Bioheat mandate, New York City is setting a great example for other cities and states as they look to address climate change.
During a Public Hearing on Intro 378 last October, NYOHA’s Maniscalco commended Mayor Bill De Blasio on his One City Built to Last initiative, which sets a course for reducing carbon emissions from City’s buildings.
“It is important to acknowledge that what made the move to B2 so successful was that it did not go too far too fast. It considered affordability and supply,” he said, adding that he would like to see more focus on Bioheat® heating as an important means for reaching emissions goals. Bioheat fuel mandates have already displaced 50 million gallons of petroleum usage in the City, he noted.
Green Jobs in Biodiesel
Also speaking at the hearing was Daniel Gianfalla, President and COO of United Metro Energy Corp., of Brooklyn. UMEC supports the goals of Intro 378 and believes that Bioheat is an essential component of the City’s plan to reduce GHG emissions by 80 percent. His company has offered incentives to convert buildings to cleaner fuels and has educated owners and tenants about the benefits of Bioheat, he added.
United Metro is also planning to open a state-of-the art biodiesel production facility in Brooklyn’s Green Point section, capable of producing up to 50 million gallons of biodiesel a year. The plant will use multiple feedstocks to produce biodiesel, including waste grease from restaurants, he said. The company has also opened a public marine fueling dock where it sells biodiesel. “We feel strongly that Bioheat has an important role to play,” Gianfalla added.
Of course, biodiesel blending is just one piece of the City’s multi-faceted approach: New York is also working to integrate solar, wind, geothermal and any other technologies that can help reduce harmful emissions, according to Constantinides. “We are looking to do a combination of both, looking at both the existing infrastructure and also new ideas as we move forward. We are a hybrid that way. We don’t want to set anything aside. Instead we want to be deliberate and get it right.”
One important source of emissions that Constantinides is targeting is the power generation sector. Power plants are under the jurisdiction of the state Public Services Commission (PSC), which has not yet pursued the kind of restrictions that New York City has. Consequently, power plants in the City are still burning No. 4 oil and No. 6 oil, which the City is eliminating or cleaning up in other buildings. The City is reaching out to the PSC for cooperation in curbing emissions in the City.