Forum: Businesses have options to curb fuel costs

Small-business owners who think it may be difficult to reduce their environmental footprint can begin the process on a small scale, say those who advocate abandoning oil as a source of energy in favor of more environmentally friendly resources. More

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Forum: Businesses have options to curb fuel costs

Posted 11/21/11

Small-business owners who think it may be difficult to reduce their environmental footprint can begin the process on a small scale, say those who advocate abandoning oil as a source of energy in favor of more environmentally friendly resources.

“I think, by and large, small businesses get it,” said U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, who participated in a recent “Get off Oil” forum hosted Nov. 4 by Environment Rhode Island at Brown University. “They see the bottom line. They see the cost of fuel going up and they want to control cost.”

Cost containment is an issue most small businesses have been struggling with over the last several years and they may be looking for incentives to control costs, Reed said.

Programs such as the one National Grid has in place to assist businesses make the transition from oil to natural gas is an example of what’s available to Rhode Island small-business owners, Reed said.

When deciding to abandon oil, National Grid offers businesses a consultation and contractors help develop a plan tailored to the individual businesses’ needs.

Converting businesses to natural gas takes less time and money than thought, National Grid says.

As part of National Grid’s Business Choice Program, businesses can choose a natural gas supplier and National Grid delivers or transports the natural gas to the business site.

The natural gas companies basically “rent space” on National Grid’s pipelines. National Grid has to ensure reliable delivery through their system. National Grid says there’s no difference in service or in the price of businesses’ bills.

Switching from oil as a source of energy should be a no-brainer, considering the costs to the country as well as to the environment, Reed said.

“Our dependence on oil has huge economic costs to the country,” Reed said. “It is [also] environmental costs and significant national-security costs.

In terms of economic cost, the country’s biggest current account deficit is oil coming into the U.S. from overseas, he said.

The reasons to abandon oil outweigh the benefits to keep it, said Caroline A. Karp, a senior lecturer in Brown University’s Center for Environmental Studies, but some small businesses may not realize how easy it is to make a change.

“A lot of small businesses generate waste material from the form of carbons … so businesses that are dealing with food will generate something that can be composted. Methane is an example, methane can be used as the fuel,” Karp said.

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