By Shelly Sindland
Chief Communications Officer
Connecticut Energy Marketers Association
Did you know that what you’re eating for breakfast or dinner could also be helping to heat your home while helping the environment? If it sounds far out, it’s actually not! In fact, discarded cooking grease and soybean oil are being processed everyday here in Connecticut and turned into a safe, burnable fuel that also lowers carbon emissions!
“I’m very optimistic about the future of our industry, and what we have to offer, and just making changes to the environment and contributing to a greener, cleaner, future,” said Nickey Kollie, director of Legislative Affairs & Member Services at Connecticut Energy Marketers Association (CEMA).
It’s called biodiesel and if you heat with oil your tank already has a mix of this processed fuel in it, which is helping the environment today.
“We are here to help. We are not the enemy. We are not trying to destroy the planet; that’s not what we are trying to do. As a millennial, trust me, I want to make sure that I have a beautiful world to have children in one day, and so, I’m not against a cleaner environment but we do want everyone to know that we are part of the solution,” Kollie added.
At CEMA’s headquarters in Cromwell, Kollie, other staff members, and students at its premiere advanced energy training school (ENTECH) are constantly testing biodiesel to make sure it meets rigorous standards. As of July 1st, a new Connecticut state law requires all home heating oil contain a 5% biodiesel mix, which will go up to a 50/50 mix by 2035. Most home heating oil today already has a 7% biofuel mix but this new law will guarantee a statewide standard.
“Contrary to what many people believe, we have been changing our fuel over the last decade. We’ve decreased the amount of sulfur in our fuel. Years ago, we were at 5000 parts per million. We decreased that to 500 parts per million, and now we’re at 15 parts per million of sulfur in our fuel. That’s down 98% in the last decade,” Kollie said.
“We decided that we needed to make changes not because of the government telling us what to do, or because of environmental laws, we were doing it because we knew something needed to be changed in our fuel and in our industry. Everything is evolving and as an industry; we have been evolving as well,” Kollie added.
That’s why as the Connecticut considers a new plan that would pretty much electrify the way we heat our homes, businesses, and drive to work as a way to curb carbon emissions, CEMA is urging state regulators not to leave biodiesel out of the plan.
“Not only should we be included in the plan, we should probably be the lead part of the plan. I think there is room for all fuels at the table. All clean fuels can help the state achieve global warming solution act goals of a 50 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 and an 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2050,” said Chris Herb, CEO and President of CEMA.
Nearly half the homes in Connecticut already heat with liquid fuels. Using biodiesel is a cost effective way to lower emissions without breaking the bank. Converting to electric heaters is expensive and costs anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 per household. The price tag would leave out many in low and middle-income communities, especially those who rent, and it’s not equitable unless the state gives these electric heat pumps away for free.
“The truth is, electricity is not ready for prime time from an environmental perspective, and it’s decades off, and it will cost billions of dollars to get there,” Herb said.
A huge price tag that would no doubt be paid for by utility ratepayers who already pay some of the highest electricity rates in the nation. Herb said the future is already here with biodiesel, which will eventually be 100% of the fuel used to heat your home without the expensive upgrade.
“It’s sustainable! It’s green! It’s locally produced. It comes from plant-based products and used cooking grease. This is the essence of what’s good for Connecticut’s economy because it’s creating jobs and giving local benefits. We don’t have to build a wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts to bring clean electricity to Connecticut when we have biofuel being produced right here in Connecticut, from Connecticut restaurants, and used soy bean oil,’’ Herb said.