Dear Ms. Lilore:
Thank you for your letter regarding biofuel. Mayor Bloomberg does believe this is an important focus for air quality improvements.
PlaNYC, which the Mayor issued in April 2007, included an initiative to promote the use of cleaner burning heating fuels. In June 2007, the Mayor announced our commitment to purchase heating oil containing biofuel for municipal buildings.
Mayor Bloomberg also supports moving to require biofuel in home heating oil citywide. However, before we do so, we need to be able to define which biofuels are, in fact, environmentally sound. Recent studies at Princeton University, the University of California, Michigan State University, the Global Forest Coalition, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development raise serious questions about some types of biofuels, both in terms of life cycle impacts on carbon emissions and on food supply. New York City cannot define or enforce its own unique definition of a sustainable fuel. As a result, we are awaiting an accepted sustainability standard for biodiesel and other fuels before we move forward with a local mandate.
Both the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) are currently developing such standards, which will enable New York City to analyze and adopt those criteria for the selection of heating fuels. Once those are available, and if it is clear they are effective and enforceable, the Mayor will support adopting a citywide mandate that incorporates one of them.
In the meantime, we are pressing ahead with the other air quality measures in PlaNYC, including advocating for the reduction of the sulfur content in heating oil, reducing road vehicle emissions by greening our yellow taxi and corporate black car fleets and piloting alternative fuels, including biodiesel, in City vehicles, and installing more efficient boilers in many city-owned school buildings.
James B. Hicks
Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability
The City of New York
253 Broadway, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10007