October 10, 2016
Council votes in favor of increased biofuel in home heating oil
By Bill Parry
New York City took another step toward a greener future last week when
the City Council voted overwhelmingly to pass the Clean Oil Heating Bill
sponsored by Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria).
The legislation ensures more sustainable energy consumption by
increasing the use of biodiesel fuel in home heating oil from the
current standard of 2 percent to a 5 percent blend by October 2017 and
then raises that blend up to 20 percent by 2034 on an incremental basis.
“Expanding use of biofuel in our heating oil would reduce pollution,
upgrade air quality and improve our public health,” Constantinides said.
“INT. 642-A is a tested solution that will bring us closer to our goal
of reducing carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050 and help us combat the
effects of climate change.”
Biodiesel is a significantly cleaner heating fuel than petroleum, as it
can emit up to 90 percent fewer greenhouse gases and 10 times less
particulate matter, according to Constantinides. The increase from a 2
percent to 5 percent blend would have an environmental impact equivalent
to taking 45,000 cars off the road. A 20 percent blend would reduce the
citywide petroleum consumption by over 150 million gallons and could
decrease carbon emissions by up to 40 percent, equivalent to taking
175,000 cars off the road.
Environmental advocacy groups New York League of Conservation Voters,
Environmental Defense Fund and Empire Clean Cities supported the
“The fact of the matter is buildings make up 75 percent of our emissions
and we have to take every opportunity to reduce them if we are to meet
our 80 by 50 goal,” New York League of Conservation Voters President
Marcia Bystryn said. “Not only will increasing the biofuel blend in our
home heating oil help fight climate change, but it will also save lives
by reducing the particulate matter released into the air.”
Blending biofuel in heating oil has been a citywide practice since 2012,
when then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law a bill that required
home heating oil to contain a 2 percent blend. In New York City,
biodiesel is predominantly sourced from restaurants that sell their used
cooking grease to grease collectors to turn into biofuel.
The legislation did have some detractors. A coalition of environmental
groups, including HabitatMap and Vets4Energy, agree with a recent study
by the World Resources Institute which concludes: “Bioenergy that
entails the dedicated use of land to grow the energy feedstock will
undercut efforts to combat climate change and to achieve a sustainable
Constantinides contends that a “substantial portion of our biofuel comes
from recycled greases, fats and the waste product from soybean crops”
rather than crops grown specifically for that purpose.
“This is a doable policy that will make our city more sustainable and
support green jobs,” he said. The City Council voted 47-3 in favor of
the measure and Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign it into law.
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