Answers to America’s Clean-Energy Challenge
by Sean Cota, NEFI & Tom Tubman, AEC
Five heating fuel industry leaders respond to the key question: “What’s one thing our industry can do to help secure our place in the clean-energy future?”
It’s not every day you get three of the country’s biggest heating oil wholesalers together in the same room alongside the leaders of the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) and Oilheat Manufacturers Association (OMA). But that’s what happened at the industry summit on September 15, 2021, as Global Partners President and CEO Eric Slifka moderated a panel featuring Sprague Resources President and CEO Dave Glendon, Buckeye Energy Services Director of Marketing & Distribution Quincy Longacre, NORA President John Huber, and OMA Executive Director Don Farrell.
When you bring that much experience and insight together on one stage, it’s almost impossible to distill it all down to one single article. Thankfully, summit moderator Eric Slifka made our job easier by asking each of the panelists this key question: “What’s the one thing our industry can do to help secure our place in the clean-energy future?” Below we have included each of their answers, with minor edits for length and clarity. For a full recap of Industry Summit III, click here.
John Huber, NORA: Embrace the future. NORA has a European Conference, which helps us look at what the future is going to be 10 years from now. It’s not that hard of a problem to solve when you can look at California and see that’s where we’re all going to be in the Northeast in 10 or five years. It’s not like you have to go into a new frontier. You know, basically, the ground rules for the game and then just play it as well as you can. You know what the future is — you can’t avoid it — so play hard.
Don Farrell, OMA: Make sure your staff is on board, particularly your service technicians. That’s the only person in your company your customer ever sees, so make sure they’re trained properly and on the right side of the argument. We need to talk about radical acceptance or an accelerated movement forward, because when you look at how fast this electrification-decarbonization movement has taken place, we’re already playing catch-up. So, we need to reframe our thinking into this isn’t something we can do tomorrow — this is something we’ll get done today.
Quincy Longacre, Buckeye Energy Services: The key is promoting the stories we have to tell. The story of renewable liquid heating fuel is an important one. We talked about heat pumps and what their limitations are, but we need to educate the public and policymakers about the limitations of the upstream side of electric grids. I just ran into a dealer yesterday that has a truck in Louisiana right now from New England. Our industry is very good at being reactive to emergencies. The challenge now is to be proactive, and the steps we’ve taken at this conference show that we’re moving in that direction.
David Glendon, Sprague Resources: Talk to your suppliers about your interest in biofuel, because we’ve got it there for you now in many locations. We’re willing to give you B20. We’ll get it there sooner than the mandates if we know you’re willing to take it. In many cases, we’re on the cusp of an investment decision and one or two more commitments would get us over those hurdles. Additionally, you all provide newsletters to your customers. Take NORA’s carbon calculator. Those are compelling data points about the difference we can make, and you have so many customers that will embrace that message if you provide it to them.
Eric Slifka, Global Partners: We can make our inventory a positive public headline and an answer to solving the problem of lower greenhouse gases, but we need to activate our legislators, our local politicians, and let them know that we’re the fuel of choice. I think our story should be about expanding our business and our industry, because we can actually deliver something no other industry can.
We couldn’t agree more, and that’s exactly what NEFI and AEC are working on at this very moment. But we need the support of all of you readers out there if we are to be successful. So please consider making a contribution at nefi.com/donate and americanenergycoalition.com/donation.
Sean Cota is President and Chief Executive Officer of NEFI. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tom Tubman is Executive Director of AEC. He can be reached at email@example.com.