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Editorial: Encourage heating oil that contains more biofuel

Albany should should require that all heating oil

Albany should should require that all heating oil have a 5 percent blend of biofuels. (Photo: Oct. 3, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Audrey C. Tiernan

There are many good reasons to encourage the use of biofuels in heating oil. Biofuels -- derived from such plant sources as soybeans and corn, and to a lesser extent from waste grease and cooking oil -- burn cleaner and more efficiently and are cheaper than regular oil. They further reduce our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels, provide new markets for farmers and do not require retrofitting of heating systems. We should embrace and encourage their use as much as possible.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has until Friday to sign a bill mandating all heating oil in the state contain at least 2 percent biofuel. New York City already switched to 2 percent in 2012. Cuomo should sign the bill.

The delay since it was passed in June has to do with the companion issue of tax credits to encourage even more production and consumption of biofuels. Homeowners now qualify for a credit if the blend is up to 2 percent. The governor wants to tighten the tax credit to apply to blends of 5 percent biofuels. But the bill's sponsor, Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), chairman of the Environmental Conservation Committee, worries that might increase demand too rapidly, creating a shortage of biofuel.

He prefers the tax credit begin at blends of 3 or 4 percent. Industry officials say supplies are plentiful enough to handle a spike in demand and point out several major Long Island suppliers already are producing the 5 percent blend. The parties should agree to do the tax credit at 5 percent.

But all of this is just an interim step. Cuomo and the legislature should produce new legislation that eliminates the tax credits and requires that all heating oil have a 5 percent blend of biofuels. New York City is moving to that standard later this year. Uniformity is good for business, and the higher blend would benefit the environment and consumers. The state has been out in front nationally on the use of biofuels in heating oil. It should stay there.