Energy and the Environment

Is there such a thing as clean energy?

All significant energy sources pose a threat to the environment. Today the vast majority of homes are heated with either natural gas, heating oil or electricity. So which is the cleaner choice?

What about heating oil? Is it clean?

The oil heat industry continues to undergo a revolution that is significantly improving oil heat’s efficiency and cleanliness, thanks to the introduction of ultra-low-sulfur heating oil (ULSHO) and the advent of Bioheat®.

10 facts about today’s oil heat

1. It has been about three years since all oil heat companies in the Garden State have been exclusively delivering heating oil with an ultra-low sulfur content.

2. Ultra-low-sulfur heating oil (ULSHO) has 99% less sulfur in it than standard heating oil.

3. The changeover to ULSHO has resulted in a reduction in emissions of over 70%, compared with the emissions produced by traditional heating fuel.

4. Since ULSHO creates fewer deposits on heat exchangers, oil heat customers benefit from better heating efficiency and easier maintenance.

5. ULSHO opens the door for the introduction of super-efficient heating systems, which are already being used with great results in other countries that use ULSHO.

6. A buildup of sulfur in the heating system can lead to system maintenance issues. The drastic reduction of sulfur means that there will be far fewer system issues, which will lead to lower maintenance costs for New Jersey oil heat consumers.

7. Because there is virtually no sulfur in the heating system, thanks to ULSHO, the system can burn the fuel more efficiently, leading to lower heating bills.

8. While regular heating oil has been very clean for decades, ULSHO is even cleaner, producing near-zero particulate emissions.

9. Much of the heating oil in New Jersey also includes Bioheat, a blend of ULSHO and renewable materials like vegetable oils. Because Bioheat integrates seamlessly with all heating oil systems, no changes to oil heating systems are necessary.

10. The National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) continues to study and develop oil heating equipment and biofuel that’s cleaner and more efficient than before. The overall goal is to transition to even higher levels of Bioheat fuel that can be matched to highly efficient, groundbreaking equipment.

What about natural gas? Is it clean?

While it’s true that there is little particulate matter released into the environment when the gas is burned, there is a good deal to be concerned about with how it is drilled.

Fracking, chemicals and methane

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking,” is the process of removing natural gas from the earth by the use of pressurized, chemically treated water to break apart the rock that contains natural gas under the earth’s surface.

Environmental concerns include the potential contamination of groundwater, risks to air quality, and the health problems associated with these concerns, such as cancer. There have been many documented cases of suspected contamination of groundwater.

Additionally, a Cornell University study showed that significant amounts of methane are escaping into the atmosphere during natural gas fracking. Natural gas is mostly methane, which is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, especially in the short term, with 105 times more warming impact, pound for pound, than carbon dioxide (CO2). The study estimates that as much as 8% of the methane in shale gas leaks into the air during the lifetime of a hydraulic shale gas well.*

There have also been environmental concerns raised about methane leaking from aging, deteriorating natural gas pipelines.


drilling rig
Underground Aquifer
Fracking Zone

A few words about electric heat

An electric heating system is an expensive and inefficient way to heat a New Jersey home. While all of the electricity used by an electric furnace is converted into heat at your home, power generating plants first need to burn coal or natural gas to create electricity in the first place.

Unfortunately, about two-thirds of this electrical energy is lost in the process—including the energy consumed in the extraction, production, processing and transportation of the fuel to the point of use. That’s not to mention the many emissions that are generated during this vastly inefficient process.

Summing up

As we stated earlier, no matter what energy you use to heat your home—heating oil, natural gas, electricity, propane or wood—that energy comes from the earth. And for all fuels, exploration, drilling and burning have an impact on the environment.

As a nation of energy consumers, our No. 1 priority should be to simply use less! As an example, if all oil-heated homes in the U.S. used modern, efficient equipment, we could save 5 billion gallons of oil each year!* 

*Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.