There are three grades of fuel oil being used in NYC.  No. 6 and No. 4 are the cheapest and dirtiest type of oil being used.  No. 2 fuel oil burns much cleaner than the other two and natural gas is the cleanest of all the fossil fuels.

Last year, a New York State law required a 99% reduction in the sulfur content of No 2 fuel oil.  Sulphur is the greatest contributor to smog, greenhouse gasses, and on a human health level aggravates asthma and emphysema and increases the risk of heart attack.  Lawmakers felt they could have the biggest impact by regulating No 2 fuel oil as it is the most common type of home heating oil throughout the state.  

New York City’s biggest problem however is the extensive use of No 4 and No 6.   The city is currently trying to phase out No. 6 fuel oil completely, but they have a long way to go before property owners will jump at the chance to retrofit or replace their boilers, which is what would be required to accept No.2 fuel oil or natural gas.  And in fact they have been given a long time to do so – like the year 2030!

There are around 10,000 buildings in New York that are still using numbers 6 and 4 oil for their heat and hot water.  Those buildings are responsible for more than 85% of the soot pollution in our air and emit up to 15 times more soot than regular No. 2 heating oil or natural gas. 

Con Ed is promoting natural gas as the answer to our air quality problems.  Although NG burns cleaner than oil, the greater environmental impact is greater than most people realize.

What kind of fuel oil does your building burn?

The Environmental Defense Fund, a national environmental group has published a map of all the buildings in New York City that are burning No. 4 and No. 6 fuel oil.  Look on the map to see if your building is on there.  If it is, what can you do?  First, realize that your management company is not necessarily an evil land baron who only cares about the bottom line.  They may not realize the true impact they are having on the environment.  It may be too expensive, or it may not make sense to convert an otherwise perfectly good boiler.  Talk to your super or try your management company. 

There are organizations helping to facilitate the change to a cleaner city.  The Association for Energy Affordability (AEA) is working with Con Edison on an exciting new program which provides substantial incentives for replacing or upgrading boilers and improving buildings’ energy efficiency. 

Biodiesel is another great solution.  It is made from waste oil produced at local restaurants and reduces  CO2 emissions by 80% compared to petroleum diesel.   

Here is something that is easy to do.  Mayor Michael Bloomberg created NYC Rules to invite members of the public to comment on proposed rules online before they become law.  You can offer your opinion on NYC fuel oil simply by clicking HERE!

Written comments on the proposed regulations can be submitted through Feb. 28, 2011.  So hurry up!