By Shelly Sindland
Chief Communications Officer
Connecticut Energy Marketers Association
Jamie Densmore is a third generation owner of Densmore Oil Company of Mystic, Connecticut. A city staple for more than 60 years, their cozy, salmon-pink office building sits on the corner of Mystic Pizza, that nostalgic spot that inspired the legendary 1988 Julia Roberts film.
Not exactly the image many people picture when they think of a residential heating oil dealer, but the truth remains that people like Densmore are literally changing the face of the industry. Today, more women than ever have taken charge of their family businesses and are helping to steer them in a new direction.
“The industry has changed a lot,” Densmore said. “I mean, do you think 70 years ago there would have been a woman running an oil company? Probably not, but I’m seeing more and more women at our Industry Summit! It’s great to see that we’re becoming a more diverse industry, not just with our fuel, but with the people who run our businesses.”
Densmore, a young mother with a 14-month-old toddler at home, also has two degrees: a bachelor’s in life sciences and a master’s in public administration.
“Where this industry is going aligns very well with my school background and what I believe in,” Densmore said. “We offer a cleaner, greener fuel and our customers love it!”
In fact, Connecticut’s home heating oil industry has made significant strides in reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the past decade. Connecticut heating oil is now an ultra-low sulfur fuel blended with biodiesel, a renewable green fuel made from discarded cooking oil and soybean oil. The brand name is Bioheat® fuel and it is more environmentally friendly than natural gas!
“It’s made right here in the United States, which is very important to us,” Densmore said. “All of our heating systems are also made in the USA, which is important to us because it helps maintain good-paying jobs here at home. It also reduces our dependence on foreign oil.”
In fact, the largest biodiesel producer on the east coast of Connecticut is at the Port of New Haven, creating jobs and boosting the local economy.
“The narrative is that fossil fuels are just this horrible thing, and the missing piece is that the industry in Connecticut — and New England for that matter — has really taken it upon itself to transition to a greener, cleaner fuel,” he told Kate Childs with Tuxis-Ear’s fuel in Meriden.
“The sulfur content has essentially been removed from the product. We regularly blend it with biodiesel and I believe the future is bright for us as we will be adding more and more biodiesel to the fuel in the coming years and maybe one day not too far away our fuel will be 100 percent renewable! “
That’s why Childs, Densmore and other Connecticut heating oil retailers are urging state regulators NOT to let them out of the state’s new energy plan, which aims to transition residential and office buildings away from fossil fuels and toward electric heating for lower greenhouse gas emissions.
“We don’t want anyone who has no heating in the middle of winter because the electricity is out. Our network cannot handle everything. Connecting more homes and cars to an already congested regional grid will only create more problems and I fear putting people at risk,” Childs said.
Not only that, the state’s new plan to electrify everything would turn the utilities into giant, monstrous, all-powerful monopolies.
“I think it’s best if consumers have a choice about how they want to heat their homes,” said Sue Santopietro of Baribault Fuel in Oakville. “If people want electric heat, they should be able to get electric heat. If you want heating oil, propane gas or natural gas, you should be able to get it. The more choices consumers have, the better prices and services. People should have the freedom to choose what is best for their family and household.”
The key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The only way to keep people safe and warm during the harsh winter months is through fuel variety. All green and renewable fuels deserve a place at the table in this proposed plan. The women are urging regulators not to put all our energy eggs in one basket — a move they say would be risky, costly and severely jeopardize the energy future, economy and life of our state.