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Warming trend

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As if he didn’t have enough on his plate, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo must soon decide how he’ll proceed with a bill concerning the use of biodiesel in heating oil.

The bill mandates that all heating oil sold in Nassau, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester counties as well as New York City contain at least 2 percent biodiesel by Oct. 1. It further calls for all heating oil sold in the state to use at least 2 percent biodiesel by July 1, 2015.Gov. Cuomo delayed signing the bill because an amendment was needed to the refundable heating oil tax credit program for biodiesel purchases.

“That amendment would allow consumers to remain eligible for a tax credit of 1 cent per gallon for each percent of biodiesel that is blended with heating oil, but they’d no longer be eligible for a refund on the 2 percent of biodiesel that would become mandated by law,” according to a story in Wednesday’s Watertown Daily Times.

Enacting the bill could be a huge benefit for soybean farmers in Northern New York. Biodiesel is an alternative fuel made from soy, palm and canola oil.

Mixing it with heating oil produces bioheat, which burns cleaner than do fossil fuels.

“Research conducted by Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island found that bioheat has little to no negative impact on a burner’s performance, while also improving emissions, lubricity and efficiency of combustion,” the Times’ story reported. “Levels of sulfur, carbon monoxide, smoke, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide also are reduced by the blend, studies concluded.”

Using bioheat certainly has environmental and headline-grabbing advantages. But Gov. Cuomo should first ensure this bill won’t have unintended consequences if it’s signed into law.

The lesson from the federal requirements that ethanol be added to gasoline is clear:Certain engines are damaged; more energy is expended to distill a gallon of ethanol than the same gallon will produce; and the price of food has risen as mega-farmers have prospered earning unlimited bounties paid by taxpayers.

Would this expanded market for soybean producers, for example, entice them to devote more of their produce for biodiesel and less for human consumption? And if there is a shortage of soybeans for different foods, will the price of food increase?

All of us support cleaner ways of producing energy, particularly if it benefits farmers and other local businesses. But Gov. Cuomo must ensure that potential costs consumers may incur don’t outweigh the benefits before he puts pen to paper.

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