NYOHA Helps Build a Major Biodiesel Market in NYC

nyoha_logo-with-slogan.pngNEW YORK, NY – Every movement needs its allies, and biodiesel has some of its most important backers in New York City.

The largest city in the United States has been a bold leader in biodiesel adoption, and one of the key players is the New York Oil Heating Association. NYOHA’s Board of Directors and their Chief Executive Officer Rocco L. Lacertosa and his predecessor, John Maniscalco have made the association an essential and vocal supporter of biodiesel blending.

“We exist to serve our members, and incorporating biodiesel in heating oil has been an important part of our mission,” Lacertosa said. “Energy suppliers need to be pro-environment these days, or you become a target instead of a participant.”

With the oil dealers themselves stepping to the podium time and again and meeting with lawmakers to advocate for new fuel standards, New York’s environmentalist policymakers have had the wind at their back.

The results have been phenomenal for the biodiesel industry. Since 2012, New York City has had made biodiesel part of its uniform fuel standard for heating oil, while also adopting biodiesel widely in fleets and setting the stage for Bioheat adoption in three adjacent counties.

The breakthrough event occurred in 2010, when the New York City Council, led by Council Member James Gennaro, adopted legislation changing the city’s heating oil standard to B2, effective in 2012. Given the enormous mass of New York’s heating oil consumption, a 20-million-gallon biodiesel market was born, and the biodiesel industry had its East Coast beachhead.

While the victory was an immense one, the biodiesel advocates at NYOHA and within the city government were just getting started. The first wave of biodiesel champions, Maniscalco and Gennaro, left the stage with their victories intact, and their mantle was picked up by Lacertosa and City Council Member Costa Constantinides.

In 2016, the City built on its B2 success story by passing the landmark local law Intro 642-A, which changed the heating oil standard to B5 in 2017 and enacted incremental increases that will culminate in a B20 standard in 2034. The City is also using B10 biodiesel in sanitation vehicles and firetrucks, and there is a study under way of biodiesel usage in ferries. “This is a great victory for all New Yorkers and, of course, for our members,” said Lacertosa.

NYOHA’s successes were closely watched by oil dealers in the greater New York metro area, and in 2017, NYOHA’s confederates in the Downstate region led a drive at the Statehouse to make B5 the new fuel standard for Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties effective later this year. Together with New York City, the region is home to 1.3 million oil-heated homes.

The switch to B5 in New York City alone raised biodiesel demand to 50 million gallons last year. As the adjacent counties come online and the City’s biodiesel blend standard increases to B20, the biodiesel industry will have a concentrated market measured in hundreds of millions of gallons.

When NYOHA first emerged as the leading voice for biodiesel blending, its members were acting in self-interest. Heating oil had a target on its back, because environmentalists were pushing hard to reduce harmful emissions from the City. The long-running pursuit of cleaner air was converging with the emerging sentiment to make the city a leader in climate change, and petroleum was in the crosshairs.

Rather than sit back and let others decide their fate according to their petroleum-hostile agendas, NYOHA’s leadership elected to push for a seat at the table. The association showed the region’s environmental advocates that they could make great progress by addressing fuel quality instead of focusing exclusively on fuel conversion.

“The City wanted to clean up this environment, and we found this way to do it” Lacertosa said. “We succeeded in positioning our dealers and their cleaner fuel as an important part of the solution. Bioheat is a great way to improve the environmental performance of the equipment that is already in place at thousands of locations throughout the City.”

NYOHA successfully pursued two vital changes to fuel standards. One was blending biodiesel into the fuel, and the other was reducing the sulfur content. On-road diesel and other distillates were already in the process of converting over to ultra-low sulfur, as mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the oil dealers saw an important opportunity. NYOHA and the state’s other OIlheat associations successfully pressed the state to make ultra-low sulfur (15 parts per million) the standard for heating oil statewide.

With both victories in hand, New York City became the home of what NYOHA called “Clean 2,” a one-of-a-kind ultra-low-sulfur Bioheat® Fuel blend that was the cleanest heating oil sold anywhere in the country.

“We are now the epicenter of this whole movement, and we have built a great market for biodiesel,” Lacertosa said. “There was some hesitation in the beginning, but now everyone seems to have warmed up and embraced it,” he said.

Biodiesel suppliers have taken advantage of the Bioheat standard to build out a robust infrastructure of terminals around the City. “As far as I know, no one has had any trouble securing biodiesel supply,” Lacertosa said. The city’s legislation calls for waivers of biodiesel requirements in an emergency, and that option was invoked in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. “We were having trouble just getting diesel into New York Harbor at that time,” Lacertosa said.

Through its advocacy, NYOHA has gained an impressive list of political allies, such as the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) and the New York League of Conservation Voters, who have welcomed the oil dealers’ leadership on the environment.

NYOHA can never rest on its laurels, according to Lacertosa. “The mayor and the governor are no fans of fossil fuels, and we have our work cut out. But the more biodiesel we blend, the more petroleum we take out of the system, so that can only help.”

The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) has supported NYOHA every step of the way and expressed its gratitude. In 2016, the Board honored Maniscalco with a Biodiesel Pioneer award, and last year Constantinides won a Climate Leader award from NBB.

“We have been trendsetters all along on biodiesel,” said Lacertosa. “I definitely see biodiesel continuing to grow, and it is great to be out front on this.”