Everything Goes Full Circle

The summer is almost over again. You think last winter was challenging? I have a feeling this one is not going to be any different, but with a twist.

Last winter we saw skyrocketing prices of gasoline as well as heating oil. Oil topped over $140 per barrel in July this year, putting retail prices in the $4.75 or $5.00 per gallon range or more. Seeing that the average homeowner uses approximately 800 gallons for a typical winter, you can see the dilemma. To heat their homes they are looking at about $4,000 for the winter. They have only two choices: pay the bill or go cold. Some will pray for a warm winter, and some will threaten to switch over to the ‘blue fuel.” You can assure them that a therm of gas will be rising in price right along with fuel oil.

However, there is another possibility for the daring homeowner ‘ the home brewer ‘ and I am not talking about beer. The proliferation of data about biodiesel is being spread everywhere. The television news channels are talking about it, the newspapers are writing about it and there is more information on the Internet than I could ever have time to read. If you do a search on the Internet for ‘biodiesel home brewer,” you will get more than 77,500 hits. Some sites even describe in detail the process of doing it yourself. I found one site that allowed me to download a 128-page manual on home brewing biodiesel.

You can find sites that will sell you a kit to make your own version of home heating oil from waste vegetable oil (WVO), which you can get from most restaurants at little or no cost. This new heating method is worrisome, and if you read some words from one of the sites, you will start to see my concern. I have deleted the name of the company.

‘Our ***** fuel was not designed specifically for use as a Home Heating Oil substitute, yet in principle and in practice it appears to be working fine. There are several types of home heating systems on the market and some may work better than others so it is prudent that you consider a progressive addition of this fuel to monitor its performance before committing to 100% replacement. The good news is that the growing number of customers using the fuel are very happy with the performance. In the winter, the winterizing steps we recommend would naturally be followed to further reduce the viscosity of the fuel as needed. Additional good news is that the fuel CAN be mixed with any ratio of existing fuel to reduce your dependence on this year’s increasingly expensive home heating fuel. Storage time in an underground tank, after the fuel is mixed, should be quite sufficient during the winter months. The cooler temperatures plus the addition of our additives should keep the life of the stored fuel up to 6 months.”

Responses from their customers rave about their product and how much fuel oil they have saved. ‘I’m able to offset my Home Heating oil costs by about 60% so far by using your fuel in conjunction with less Heating oil than I normally would buy. The restaurants love me, I love *****, the world’s a better place,” said a customer in New Jersey. The kit to make 2,640 gallons of fuel is $195.99. Their customers are also our customers.

If you noticed in the wording, it referred to the viscosity of the product in the winter. ‘In the winter, the winterizing steps we recommend would naturally be followed to further reduce the viscosity of the fuel as needed.” This is one thing that really concerns me. How many of these customers actually know what that statement means? If not done properly the systems will fail and when the system fails, we are the ones who will have to deal with it.

I can remember in the mid 1970s when we had a price spike, nothing like the current one, that people were trying to burn used automobile engine oil in their fuel oil tanks, some even tried to mix gasoline with the fuel. I don’t think that will be a concern this time, but home brewers will be out there and there might be a lot of unknown product in the oil tank, so beware.

Oh, I can hear some of you now saying, John, you are thinking too much into this home brewing thing. All I can say is that I hope you are right. However, history has a way of repeating itself, and if our customers tried different things back in the ’70s, they will do so again, and this time they are much more informed and knowledgeable.

I truly hope I am wrong, and only you can let me know. E-mail me your experiences in this as well as your comments; I will be watching for them. | johngriffin@tampabay.rr.com

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