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$4 gas at Exxon in Bayside spurs pols to push biodiesel

Two Queens City Councilmen stood at a Bayside gas station on Earth Day to promote a bill that would require city homeowners to have 20 percent of their home heating fuel come from biodiesel within the next five years.

City Councilmen James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) and David Weprin (D-Hollis) gathered at the Exxon gas station Tuesday on Horace Harding Expressway, where the price of regular unleaded gas hit $3.99 a gallon, to highlight their claims and the need to reduce dependence on foreign oil.

"The more we use foreign fossil fuel to drive our cars and heat our homes, the more we're making foreign economies rich and hurting our environment," Gennaro said.

The bill, written by Gennaro and co-sponsored by Weprin, would require all home heating oil used in the city to contain 20 percent biodiesel by the year 2013. The other 80 percent would remain standard heating oil. Gennaro, chairman of the Council's Environmental Protection Committee, calls the mixture "B20 bioheat" and said it would reduce pollution by producing less sulphur.

Gennaro said Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently signed legislation he sponsored that compels the mayor to stick to the goal he set of cutting down the city's greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

That goal was part of the mayor's sustainability plan for the city, which was rolled out in December 2006 and dubbed PlaNYC.

Some 79 percent of the city's greenhouse gas emissions come from homes and buildings and not vehicles, contrary to what many people think, Gennaro said.

At the gas station, Gennaro and Weprin displayed small vials of biodiesel made from 25 different renewable sources, such as soy or vegetable oil.

Gennaro said a common concern about biodiesel is that producing the agricultural fuel will compete with agricultural products that people eat. Gennaro said the fuel, however, is mostly made from agricultural waste never fit for eating.

The Fresh Meadows councilman also described biofuel as being derived from algae in the near future.

"You can't tell me someone's not taking advantage of the situation, that someone's not taking advantage of our dependence on foreign oil," Weprin said, voicing his frustration over the disparity in gas prices throughout the borough.

The United States is the world's largest energy consumer and burns one quarter of the global oil supply on its roads each day.

Weprin said he was driving home the night before when he purchased gas from another nearby Exxon station for $3.55 a gallon.

Both men wore buttons promoting a documentary called "Fields of Fuel," which Gennaro took part in.

Gennaro said he already has received surprising support from local petroleum companies and hopes the bill will be passed as soon as possible.

"We can do something that is in the environment's and the Earth's best interest," he said.

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