The world’s climate exhibits worsening episodes of heat waves, droughts, extreme rainfall, floods, and sea level rise as global warming accelerates further.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its Sixth Assessment Report, as well as other groups, point out that we must undertake radical changes in behavior to minimize further greenhouse gas emissions and constrain the global average temperature increase, referred to pre-industrial times, to less than 1.5°C (2.7°F).
Bioheat® fuel and similar products intended as heating fuel are blends of manufactured biodiesel oil and heating oil. The vegetable oils used to make the biodiesel, commonly soybean oil, are grown industrially in the U. S. on farms that consume fossil fuels to drive the farm machinery. They also use nitrogen-containing fertilizers. These fertilizers, once in the soil and/or washed into streams and rivers, are converted by naturally-occurring microorganisms into nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas almost 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Raising the animals that provide fats for the blends also release a potent greenhouse gas, methane. In summary, producing biofuel blends entails significant releases of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Biofuel blends typically used for heating are up to 20% biodiesel oil with the rest being heating oil from fossil fuels. As long as we use such blends for heating they still emit the proportion of carbon dioxide arising from the fossil fuel component of the blend as a net increase in the greenhouse gas content of the atmosphere. As we use them indefinitely into the future they will continue to add net new greenhouse gases, furthering global warming and worsening climate change. Their continued use would defeat the goal of Connecticut’s statutes intending to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The path to decarbonizing Connecticut’s energy economy is to transition all its sectors to use renewable energy, which does not emit greenhouse gases.
For space heating of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings this involves a program, to be executed over the next two decades, or at worst the next three decades, to replace fossil fuel-dependent heating with electric-powered heat pumps. In the winter, heat pumps, which operate much like a refrigerator, transfer heat from the outdoors to the interior. In the summer, heat pumps switch modes to become air conditioners; the same apparatus cools our living and working spaces by reversing the heat transfer processes. As our state continues to decarbonize, the electricity needed will be provided from renewable sources. Neither the power for the heat pumps nor their operation will emit greenhouse gases.
Contrary to burning biofuels for heating, the expanded use of heat pumps will eliminate all emissions of greenhouse gases during their operation. The state-mandated Conservation & Load Management program for 2022-2024 evaluates that replacing liquid fuel-burning furnaces with heat pumps is financially advantageous. This is the goal we in Connecticut should be striving for in our buildings.
Henry Auer is the Publisher of Global Warming Blog.