Submitted by the American Energy Coalition
The Oilheating industry is standing at a precipice: we’re coming off a two-plus year span of record high prices; “fossil fuels” have been deemed the cause of most – if not all – the environmental concerns of global warming; carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas is in the news daily; geopolitical concerns make crude oil imports a point of contention; and the natural gas industry has thrown its financial and political weight behind the causes of “cleanliness” and “efficiency.” Singularly, we have faced each of these issues before, and remained a viable industry. Combined, they form a “perfect storm” that threatens our very existence.
We already have in place the means to answer some of these challenges. NORA and the industry have spent years fostering and publicizing Oilheat’s efficiency, cleanliness, and low-emissions. WE know that new technologies and products like ultra-low sulfur fuels and Bioheat® make Oilheat as good or better for the environment than natural gas. NORA is the make-up artist that “beautifies” our industry and ensures we put our best face forward. This effort has likely made a marked improvement in the public’s perception of Oilheat, and hopefully will continue in the future with NORA’s reauthorization. And yet, over the past decade, NORA states have lost nearly one million homes to natural gas according to the Census Bureau – or close to one billion gallons of oil sold each year.
So, with a well-funded organization promoting the benefits of a better, cleaner product, why are so many homeowners and businesses spending thousands of dollars to convert to natural gas, and what can we do about it? That answer is clear – the natural gas industry is better funded, and has focused its attention on the “threats” from Oilheat with commercials showing that a system conversion is the equivalent of removing four SUVs from the road a year … stating that it’s the “smart environmental” choice … and let’s not forget the heartstring-pulling images of “Floe” the polar bear following an adorable child through the streets, and being saved from extinction on the gas company’s Web site. We’re being attacked daily, and “hopping on board” the natural-gas-is-good message by tying our message to theirs is not the answer.
Fighting with everything we’ve got
The American Energy Coalition was formed to do what NORA can not – directly and competitively respond to these attacks by telling the truth about natural gas. AEC is made up of representatives from every stage of the Oilheat industry, from independent Oilheat dealers to equipment manufacturers, refiners, wholesalers, hedging firms and business management solutions. Many have interests in both the oil and gas markets. But, like you, we are all on the front lines of this fight and understand that every one of those one million lost homes affects every one of us. Our future is at stake, and we will not sit by as Big Money spreads outright lies and undermines our livelihoods.
There has been much discussion in our planning sessions and throughout the industry about how best to fight. It is almost universally agreed that simply “going negative” is not the best answer. It is also agreed that the benefits of Oilheat, low-sulfur, and Bioheat need to be broadcast loudly and repeatedly. But while “going to beauty school” and making Oilheat look better – as has been suggested as the answer to all our ills – is important, it’s just as important to practice self-defense. If your fifteen-year-old daughter is infatuated with a cool senior … or a bully is starting a fight … you have to stand up for what’s right. That means fighting back – telling your daughter the facts of life, and sometimes even bloodying the nose of the bully. It might not stop the relationship right away, and you might lose the fight … but on the other hand, it could make a big difference in the long run. You’ll never know until you try.
NORA, by law, cannot discuss other energy sources – period. For the past decade, $12 million dollars or more per year has been collected and distributed to “improve education and training for employees in the industry, provide customers more information, and develop new products for customers.” But when the “other guys” mis-represent themselves … like that cool senior with your daughter … NORA can’t say, “hey, that’s just not true.”
Some plain talk …
In the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes, an entire country was hoodwinked by scam artists claiming, over and over again, that only the wisest would see the Emperor’s finery – and so he paraded through the streets stark naked. Not until a child spoke the truth would anyone contradict the grifters’ lies. We have to be that child.
When natural gas pushes its environmental friendliness and ignores the methane emissions throughout the recovery and transmission processes; when our government’s leaders proclaim it a non-fossil fuel; when its non-renewable energy is considered the engine of the “green train;” and when retrieval methods praised as offering “jobs and new tax revenue” actually pose a dire threat to the country’s groundwater supply; someone has to point a finger and tell the truth.
The truth is that even the International Panel on Climate Control has deemed methane as 72 times more dangerous as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. The truth is that natural gas is as much a fossil fuel as Oilheat, and we are the ones offering a renewable future. The truth is that shale drilling may be the worst of natural gas’s “big lies,” as this method, which they claim will provide a 90-year supply of American fuel, may very well be responsible for reducing natural aquifers, contaminating what groundwater remains, releasing more methane into the atmosphere, and destroying the natural environment. The truth is that the NY DEC found that wastewater extracted from wells had radium-226 levels thousands of times the limit safe for people to drink; that two of the largest hydraulic fracturing companies have admitted to using diesel fuel in violation of their memoranda of agreement with the EPA; and that both Congress and the EPA are in the middle of new studies on the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water.
It’s our job to tell the truth. If we don’t stand and fight … if we don’t do everything in our power to make the powers that be, the government, legislators and public get the full story before they make a decision about their energy source, then we don’t have a future at all. That includes promoting Oilheat’s renewability, higher efficiency and lower emissions … and reminding – or informing – the people about the issues natural gas doesn’t like to mention. Few homeowners in our area are converting from Oilheat systems to coal, because coal is seen as “dirty” and environmentally harmful … it’s our responsibility to make sure they think twice about switching to natural gas, too.
The country needs a diverse energy supply, and we have to be sure to be part of it. But all the advancements in the world won’t mean a thing if the most memorable message people hear about Oilheat is coming from the natural gas industry. A strong, competitive and truthful marketing campaign is the best way to reach the homeowner and the legislature.
Where’s the beef?
Some people affiliated with the Oilheat industry have suggested that since the natural gas industry is spending almost $100 million in advertising, we should pull back, focus solely on the “new heating oil” of bioblends and ultra-low sulfur, and let the chips fall as they may. NORA has been telling our pro-Oilheat story for years, and is legally barred from going further. If we don’t supplement the NORA message by also telling the truth about natural gas, we’re giving up without a fight.
We’ve also been told to look to the pork industry’s “the other white meat” campaign. That pork didn’t disparage chicken, but rode the tail feathers of chicken’s ascendancy over beef. Well, the chicken industry wasn’t holding hen parties and clucking over pork’s supposed nutritional deficiencies. And consumers didn’t have to decide to eat only chicken or pork for 30 years.
We’d rather look to other campaigns – those that have opened up conversations about important political issues and political opponents; or informed consumers about diseases and treatments; or even compared high-fat, high-calorie fast-food hamburgers with the nutritional benefits of a sandwich franchise’s meals and completely repositioned the company as a diet and health-conscious choice.
We’re not going to be “Oilheat, the other fuel choice.” We’d rather try harder and fight before anyone else switches. Beauty school may be a great vocational choice, but you need a self-defense class to survive.
American Energy Coalition Executive Committee
Michael Anton - CEO, HOP Energy
Christopher Behrens - Vice President, Dowling Oil
Neil Bianco - Sr. Vice President & General Manager, Champion Energy
Dan Donovan - President and CEO, Star Gas/Petro/Meenan
Martin Romanelli - President, Romanelli & Son
Daniel Vessio - President, Nulite Fuel Oil
American Energy Coalition Investment Committee
Phil Baratz - Managing Member, Angus Partners/Angus Energy
Kevin Beckett - CEO of R.W. Beckett Corp.
Bruce C. Bott - Vice President, ADD Systems
Judy Delaney - Regional Sales Manager, Global Companies LLC
Judy Garber - Executive Director of NAOHSM
Sid Harvey - President, Sid Harvey’s
Tom Santa - President, Santa Energy Corporation
Eric Slifka - President & CEO, Global Partners LP
The American Energy Coalition brings together dealers, wholesalers, manufacturers, resellers and service providers in a united front to provide a competitive defense against attacks on the Oilheat industry. For more information or to become involved in our efforts, email email@example.com.