By Keith Reid
One truism is that government tends to grind to a halt between March and November of any election year. Campaigning becomes the primary job during that time for those officials up for reelection. And, by and large, any legislation introduced by either party is not serious legislation, but an exercise in election marketing. At the government agency level, whatever political influence exists (which is usually very significant) similarly angles to avoid pushing controversial regulatory initiatives until safer times arrive.
Then, the election ends in any political realignments that have occurred are addressed. Finally, government from the state to federal level gets back to “doing something.” We’ve certainly seen that this year as we move into 2015.
In Washington, the Obama administration is pushing ahead through regulatory influence at the EPA to not only tighten up ozone standards (with a financial impact to the economy that will extend far beyond motor fuels), but is apparently looking to pass much more stringent regulation relative to methane leakage at the well head. For heating oil dealers that is possibly a positive thing, given that it should increase natural gas prices. However, much of our current low oil prices come from those well heads, and abundant and cheap fossil fuels of any sort don’t seem to be a priority for the current administration. We’ll just have to wait and see the details to determine if this is a win, lose or draw.
The Renewable Fuel Standard is, of course, continuing to endure its usual political gymnastics. On the positive side for the heating oil industry, biodiesel seems to have a more favored status relative to ethanol. On the uncertain side, we’re still waiting to see a decision on the 2014 RFS volumes, not to mention the timetable for 2015 volumes.
At the state level, all sorts of initiatives are in the works that stand to impact the industry. For propane marketers, the Finger Lakes storage project has at least shifted into first gear—weather it will successfully get approved is an unanswered question. There are various concerns still in play regionally from the Fred Fuller incident last year relative to pre-buy. Gov. Cuomo in New York has apparently decided it’s not the state’s business if a competitor fills the rightfully owned tank of another propane dealer. Aggressive carbon taxes have been proposed in Vermont, apparently. The industry continues to fight to get ultra-low sulfur fuel and Bioheat mandates expanded—you name it, and something is happening.
As we push before (and touched on in my last column), heating fuels dealers and marketers need to stay out in front of all of these initiatives.
Fuel Oil News Turns 80
On another note, fuel oil news turns 80 this year. A fairly impressive run, but not all that unusual in this industry where many of our readers’ companies have been around longer, in some cases selling coal or ice before heating oil even became a “thing.”
What we would like to do, and we will be developing more thoroughly in upcoming months, is to get you involved in our industry celebration. That makes perfect sense; our success has been mutually linked. If you have any materials from our mutual past, FON articles highlighting your company, for example, start collecting them. We will have a contest with prizes for those with the most interesting items. Look for more details in the next issue of the magazine. l FON