Published by Indoor Comfort Marketing – January/February 2023
Written on: January 16, 2023 by Jackie Hart
ICM continues its interview series chatting with Jackie Hart, VP Operations, Hart Home Comfort in Oakdale, NY. Hart has been one of the earliest adopters of low-carbon renewable fuels and to this day, is one of the most progressive marketers of high blends of biofuels.
JH: Back in 2007, my father, Ray Hart, who founded the company, felt that we, as an industry, weren’t doing enough environmentally for future generations, including his young grandchildren. We knew that sooner or later; customers would become interested in “Going Green.” To him, having a product that was sustainable, not only for us, but also for U.S. jobs, was and still is extremely important to him and our entire family. He therefore made the decision that we were going to create an infrastructure to provide an environmentally responsible and sustainable fuel to our customers.
ICM: It seemed like a choice of conscience, that this was the right thing to do.
JH: At the time , biodiesel was not anywhere close to heating oil on the MERC—it was more expensive. To use biodiesel would have absolutely no financial benefit to us whatsoever. Also at the time, our initial investment in the injection blending system at the terminal was $250,000, but my father felt like this was the way it was going, that it was the right thing to do and that somebody needed to take responsibility.
ICM: In 2007, the discussion around biodiesel and bioheat was that it is a renewable, sustainable, U.S.-made fuel from U.S. farms. This was before the hard push to reduce greenhouse gases in our industry, which is the driving force behind the current transition to low carbon liquid fuels.
JH: We now believe it’s the way that the industry is going to go and it is for our own survival. At the time, we started with just a B5 blend; we currently deliver B100 to ten homes to evaluate it. It has taken a very long time for some of our business associates and people that are in the industry to jump on board with this. However, right now, we’re faced with New York City banning new fossil fuels in new construction and some NY counties (Nassau, Suffolk) and towns out east, including the Hamptons, banning any fossil fuels in new construction. The companies in our industry are forced to really look at what’s really happening here and what’s going to happen if they don’t make a move.
ICM: In 2007, your dad says, “I’ve got to do the right thing here for the environment, for my family, for my community.” He invested a fair amount of money to get off the ground with the injection. In those first few years, were there any specific obstacles that the company hit?
JH: Our biggest obstacle was trying to figure out how we were going to get product. Fortunately, we were able to reopen a rail spur on our property and we have rail cars that come in with biofuel. For the first couple of seasons, we had issues such as what other types of feedstocks can be used or what types of additives are out there so that if it’s freezing outside, the fuel doesn’t gel up and become unusable. There were those in the industry who thought that this was never going to work and we were never going to be able to use this product. It was just going to contaminate everybody’s system and rot everybody’s tank. We dealt with customers who felt that way, as well as some suppliers. We also had those who felt that the unusable part of the soybean that we utilized was taking food away from hungry families.