New York pushes for increased biodiesel use despite opposition

The New York City Council is planning to pass legislation on Wednesday to give a major boost to the level of biodiesel blended into home heating oil.

But the planned policy comes amidst criticism from environmental groups claiming that the increased biodiesel percentage will do more harm than good for the nature.

Currently, New York has a mandate in place to blend 2% of biofuels, such as soybean or vegetable oil, into home heating oil.

The new law would see this amount kicked up to 5% starting October 2016, gradually rising to 10% by October 2020, 15% by 2025, and 20% by 2030.

Melissa Mark-Viverito, speaker for the City Council, told New York Post that the decision is intended to curb petroleum oil consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

‘Higher net GHG emissions’

Yet environmental groups are voicing their opposition to the plans, as they believe indirect effects of the legislation will end up hurting the planet more than the cut emissions.

Jonathan Lewis, senior counsellor on climate policy at the Clean Air Task Force, wrote to the City Council on 20 September, saying the policy change will also boost the production of harmful raw materials for biodiesel.

“Increased demand for vegetable-based biodiesel will contribute to higher levels of palm-oil production and higher net GHG emissions,” Lewis wrote.

Another group, HabitMap, claims the biofuels push will lead to increased use of the toxic herbicide glyphosate to treat genetically modified soybean crops.

The group says glyphosate causes miscarriages, birth defects, and cancer.

Council legislative staffer Edward Atkin said amendments were made to accommodate concerns, and noted that GHG emissions from biodiesel are “considerably less than those of regular oil.”

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