We must drastically reduce the use of fossil fuels to limit the worsening of climate change

The global climate exhibits worsening episodes of heat waves, droughts, extreme rainfall, floods and sea level rise as global warming accelerates.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its Sixth Assessment Report, along with other groups, point out that we need to undertake radical behavioral changes to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and limit the increase in global average temperature, referred to pre-industrial times, to less than 1.5°C (2.7°F).

Henry Auer

Bioheat® fuel and similar heating products are blends of manufactured biodiesel oil and heating oil. The vegetable oils used to make biodiesel, usually soybean oil, are grown industrially in the United States on farms that burn fossil fuels to run farm machinery. They also use fertilizers containing nitrogen. These fertilizers, once in the ground and/or washed into streams and rivers, are converted by natural microorganisms into nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas almost 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Raising the animals that provide fat for the mixes also releases a powerful greenhouse gas, methane. In summary, the production of biofuel blends results in significant releases of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Biofuel blends typically used for heating contain up to 20% biodiesel, with the remainder being heating oil from fossil fuels. As long as we use such mixtures for heating, they still emit the proportion of carbon dioxide from the fossil fuel component of the mixture as a net increase in the greenhouse gas content of the atmosphere. As we use them indefinitely into the future, they will continue to add net new greenhouse gases, making global warming worse and climate change worse. Their continued use would defeat the purpose of Connecticut’s statutes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The path to decarbonizing Connecticut’s energy economy is to transition all of its sectors to using renewable energy, which does not emit greenhouse gases.

For space heating in residential, commercial and industrial buildings, this means a programme, to be carried out over the next two decades, or at worst the next three decades, to replace heating dependent on fossil fuels with electric heat pumps. In winter, heat pumps, which work much like a refrigerator, transfer heat from the outside to the inside. In summer, heat pumps change mode to become air conditioners; the same device cools our living and working spaces by reversing heat transfer processes. As our state continues to decarbonize, the electricity needed will be provided from renewable sources. Neither the power of the heat pumps nor their operation emit greenhouse gases.

Unlike burning biofuels for heating, the expanded use of heat pumps will eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions during their operation. The state-mandated conservation and load management program for 2022-2024 assesses that replacing liquid fuel furnaces with heat pumps is financially beneficial. This is what we in Connecticut should aim for in our buildings.

Henry Auer is the editor of the Global Warming Blog.

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