It’s said that competition brings out the best—in athletics, in business—in almost any endeavor you can think of. Fuel marketers face intense competition from other energy sources and other technologies, and that’s where the National Oilheat Research Alliance comes in. NORA has released its latest annual report, and it notes that since its authorization by Congress in 2000, it has “aggressively pursued its mission of improving the oilheating experience for consumers by driving technological innovation and technical education.”

The Alliance’s efforts extend far and wide, as the state-by-state section of its report, excerpted in this issue, shows (see “NORA: State by State,” page 15). Signaling a focus on making the fuel and the equipment competitive over the long term, the NORA report notes that the innovations it is pursuing “are the forces that will carry oilheating through the 21st century, as oil-fired systems become more efficient and able to optimize their performance based upon operating conditions, while reducing the release of greenhouse gases (GHG). This offers Oilheat the unique opportunity to meet GHG reductions being considered by both federal and state regulators.”

Electric heat pumps are being promoted in many markets as a cleaner, competitive, alternative, but Chris Herb, president of the Connecticut Energy Marketers Association, and others, hasten to provide a fuller, and not-so-flattering picture of electric heat pumps. Connecticut’s latest proposed energy plan calls for wider implementation of electric heat pumps. Fuel marketers in the Nutmeg state had expected to see legislation proposed that would incentivize electric heat pumps “because that’s what the plan is recommending,” Herb said. Such legislation has “not materialized,” Herb said, and so CEMA members seized the opportunity to educate legislators on how heat pumps “are not a solution.”

Herb said, “If they’re looking to lower emissions [electric heat pumps] are not a solution because our electric grid is filled with natural gas-produced electricity” and natural gas “leaks” and “is not clean.”

Moreover, changes that have been made and are being made to heating oil are key to its competitiveness, NORA points out in its report. “With the assistance of NORA research, funding and leadership, traditional heating oil is being phased out and replaced by a truly 21st century product that has effectively removed the sulfur from the fuel while adding a renewable, GHG-neutral component: biodiesel. The transition is already in progress and the sulfur from most states where oilheating exists has been reduced to near-zero levels. The removal of sulfur results in an extremely clean burning system, reducing the need for service tune-ups/cleanings, as well as eliminating sulfur and its byproducts from chimney emissions.”

During a lobbying trip to the state legislature in March (“CEMA Marches on Hartford,” page 3), Herb and members of CEMA worked to spread the word about the changes in the composition of heating oil.

“We reiterated the good news about our fuel” to legislators, Herb said. “We’re moving to ultra-low sulfur heating oil on July 1,” he said of Connecticut, “like most of the region.”

He added, “We drew a contrast between the state energy plan that continues to ignore biodiesel blending and continues to talk about electric heat technologies that are not clean and definitely not cleaner than bioheat.”

In competition, it’s always important to know the score.

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