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Climate Matters vs. "Propane Matters"

By Jeff Kiplinger

If you have any business with longtime local heating suppliers Valley Energy (formerly Valley Oil) and Mulhern Gas, you've probably received flyers asking you to take action opposing the New York Climate Leadership and Communication Act. These flyers claim that the state will force you to convert all your propane/oil/natural gas use to electric, requiring heat pumps, new stoves and water heaters, and so on. They state that you'll have to bear huge costs to convert your home. They claim these electric resources work poorly, for example that heat pumps don't work in cold temperatures. They say you'll be forced by exorbitant taxes on fossil fuels to convert, and that our energy grid will collapse due to the conversion.

These ads direct the reader to, and you'll be asked to join up for updates. Seems reasonable until you start to receive a steady stream of alarmist mail and email, all of it asking you to give money. By now this is a familiar playbook: using fear and anger to raise funds.

There's even a claim that some fossil fuels will soon be "renewable", with reduced carbon emissions at the same energy output. This is as weird as it is untrue. There is no such animal as "renewable" propane, oil, or natural gas. And there is no way to reduce the carbon footprint from burning these fuels for energy. is a political action arm of the NY Propane Gas Association, which is a trade organization of propane suppliers. Rick Cummings of Mulhern Gas is the VP and National/State Director. The website is developed and managed by Warm Thoughts Communications, which appears to be made up of heating industry communications execs. The website, the trade group, and the fliers appear to be putting a lot of money and energy into stopping you from ever converting to electricity.

It's hard to understand why this is happening. Propane and oil aren't going away for years - no one is obligated to replace a perfectly good appliance, only to move toward electric as old systems need replacement. Why wouldn't they, with gas and oil costs more than triple what they were three years ago, and renewable electricity costs coming down every year? With all the big oil companies (BP, Exxon-Mobil, etc) investing heavily in renewables - mostly solar and wind - it's hard to guess why the NY Propane Association members aren't thinking about expanding their businesses to supply customers interested in electric systems and renewable energy.

My home is a 1957 ranch house, and we heat and cool it entirely with two electric mini-split systems. We have a heat pump-hot water heater and an induction stove. We have a solar array that powers everything, so we pay not one dollar of energy cost. We also charge our car with our house power. We also have a rarely used backup generator (thanks Mulhern Gas!) and our mini-splits were installed by Valley Energy.

All of our appliances are ten years old, and better, more efficient and longer-lasting systems are available now. But even with our old technology, we're warm on the coldest winter nights and comfortable and dry in the summer. Our hot water is endless, and my stove heats up as fast and hot as the fancy Viking gas cooktop I used to have in Boston.

All of this is just to say, I get it - fossil fuel suppliers are a little scared, and they're trying to use consumers' own fear of change to halt progress. But to me this seems silly, given that they likely won't see a lot of change in their customer base for at least ten years. I'll bet that in the meantime the smart fuel suppliers will start training some of their staff to install and service heat pumps.

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