WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – As more homeowners turn to biofuel as their preferred energy source, Robison Oil co-President David Singer recalled how his grandfather started in the business in a similar transition more than 70 years ago.
“Our company started when we were converting from coal to oil,’’ said Singer, the co-owner of Robison along with his brother, Daniel. “Fast forward 75 years later, and we have to be on the forefront for moving to the energy source that people need. That’s where we are now. We’re your energy provider. It’s our job to bring the most affordable, cleanest energy available.”
For many homeowners, that means biofuel. The product, which Singer said is in use in about 20 percent of the homes Robison services, is made with 80 percent regular heating oil and 20 percent biodiesel. The B20 blend is made with vegetable oil such as soybean and palm oil with 80% regular heating oil. It burns cleaner than regular diesel and is considered to be a renewable source of energy. It also reduces the dependence on foreign oil.
Biofuel costs about the same as heating oil. But a state tax incentive gives people 20 cents back on every gallon of biofuel used, thereby reducing costs. “It saves the customer money, it’s more efficient and it’s cleaner,’’ Singer said. The tax credit is available until 2017.
Singer said biofuel is not for every home. The product does not store well in outdoor tanks and it can damage rubber seals in the heating system. “It can start to gel in cold temperatures, so we won’t sell it unless there’s an indoor tank,’’ Singer said. “And more manufacturers are moving to make Teflon products that won’t be impacted by biofuel.”
The trend toward biofuel is one of Robison’s steps to diversify its range of services for homeowners. Robison can provide multiple heating sources, but also can perform energy audits, equipment upgrades and other services that can reduce a family’s carbon imprint.
Singer said his company now sells more natural gas than it does heating oil. He also believes biofuel will become more popular and less costly than heating oil as the distribution network becomes more efficient.
“We’re putting together a one stop shop,’’ Singer said. “There are multiple strategies on how we can do that. We’re the company to turn to, to affect change in multiple areas of your house.”
Singer said homeowners like Robison's diversification and their ability to keep up with the emerging trends.
"The customers want it and they want it from somebody they trust,'' he said. "We're responding to our customers by helping them save energy, switch fuels and upgrade equipment. That’s where we fit and what we strive to do."
The company’s vision has not altered since it started back in the 1920s, but customer demands have. Robison has kept pace with those changing demands.
“Our role is to bring the energy and help people reduce their use so that they can continue to be good customers,’’ Singer said. “We need to have the systems and staff in place for what our customers demand, and that’s what we’ve done.”