Corn is just a stopover on the way to algae. If you don’t know what that means, you haven’t been keeping up on biofuel – the growing movement, so to speak, of using plant-based products instead of petroleum to fuel our cars, trucks, and heating-oil burners. Here are the biofuel basics (see “Hotline: Biofuel,” Habitat, March 2006): it’s less polluting, burns cleaner and more efficiently, and costs a bit more than standard No. 2 heating oil. It also fuels its own environmental concerns, most of them policy issues like how much food crop it takes to produce X amount of energy (a lot) and whether that’ll raise the cost of corn, soybeans, and other crops used for biofuel (forward-thinkers look to super-simple algae, which can theoretically yield 30 to 100 times the oil of soybeans).
Since 2006, there are now a couple more biofuel boys in the boroughs. In addition to The Bronx’s venerable Fred M. Schildwachter & Sons, which sells the “B20” mix that building boilers use, and Brooklyn’s Environmental Alternatives, which only sells the pure “B100” mix to heating-oil companies who blend it to B20 themselves, the new biofuel bandwagoneers are: Metro Fuel Oil in Brooklyn, which has been selling trucked-in product, but now has the city’s first biofuel refinery, a Greenpoint facility set to produce 110 million gallons a year, more than 40 percent of that produced by the entire country in 2006; Stuyvesant Fuel in The Bronx; and Manhattan’s Tri-State Biodiesel, which is gearing up its own refinery in Red Hook and plans to be distributing in the spring. (If you run across UMR Energy Systems on trade-group lists, forget it; that Staten Island company no longer exists.)
“We began getting it at our terminal probably within the last six months,” says Stuyvesant Vice President Lou Romano. “It’s part of the feeling of being a green company,” he says of biofuel’s appeal for heating-oil firms. “Anything to help the environment – it’s our obligation to do so.”