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Article 7





The on-line presence of
Peter Bell


Biodiesel and School Buses, the perfect blend is B20  - Peter Bell

Peter Bell takes aim at emissions in school busses.

Each year, one school bus emits the equivalent of 114 cars, according to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).

Biodiesel dramatically reduces school bus emissions and at the same time is a little cheaper to purchase than regular diesel fuel.

As a bonus to the emission and cost benefits gained, Biodiesel is made from a fully renewable energy source that is grown right here in the USA. Biodiesel reduces America's dependence on foreign sources of oil and suffers none of the normal issues associated with using alternative fuels.

No smoke with Biodiesel inside

Biodiesel's most noted attribute highlighted by school bus fleet operators is the similar operating performance to conventional diesel fuel.

The beauty of biodiesel is that the standard storage and handling procedures used for petroleum diesel can also be used for biodiesel. There is no problem mixing biodiesel with diesel fuel in storage tanks or in vehicles.

Blending biodiesel with petroleum diesel will actually reduce maintenance costs and increase mileage:

St. Johns Public Schools, MI - 31 school buses, 10 diesel support vehicles

Wayne Hettler - Head Mechanic: “We have experienced very positive results using a B20 Biodiesel blend in our fleet. Using Biodiesel not only solved our lubricity problem, but we have reduced costs in fuel pump injector repair and we now extend our oil services another 10 percent. Our buses don’t have the exhaust soot on the back that has to be scrubbed off and the fleet average fuel mileage has increased from 8.1 to 8.8 miles per gallon.

Other success stories around the nation of successful use of Biodiesel in school bus fleets

Medford Township, New Jersey School District

Medford Township Schools in New Jersey use biodiesel powered school buses. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, Division of Energy received $115,000 for the project under a 1997 grant from U.S. Department of Energy. Through 2002, half the district buses will participate in the project to show how biodiesel can reduce vehicle emissions and increase engine life. The project uses B20, a mixture containing 20% biodiesel and 80% diesel, in 16 school buses and 1 dump truck in Medford Township in largely rural Burlington County in southern New Jersey.

When the last school bell rings in Medford, NJ, many of the kids who take the school bus home ride in buses fueled by biodiesel. The Medford School District has used a blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum in half of its 40 school buses since 1997.

"It's been absolutely fantastic," said Joe Biluck, Jr., director of operations and technology for the district.  "We've had no down time as a result of this fuel.  We've seen no drop in miles per gallon, which means the engines aren't working any harder."

Biodiesel has given the school district year-round dependability.

"We've never had a fuel system gel up on us," Biluck said.  "We've run down to temperatures of 11 degrees below zero and haven't experienced any problems."

Biluck says the kids seem to notice a positive difference in the fumes, too.

"We transport a fair amount of physically and mentally disabled students," he said.  "One driver who drives a bus running on biodiesel told me she's really noticed a difference in the fumes her bus gives out compared to those just running on diesel.  She said her kids weren't struggling to breath when she was unloading them on the lifts.  The tailpipes happen to be right there so you can see these kids' reactions to the diesel fumes - they just don't like it.  And the biodiesel vehicles have a significantly less obnoxious smell to them."

Anyone interested in implementing this fuel as a means of securing compliance with EPACT or other issues relating to using Biodiesel in school bus fleets can contact:

Mr. Joe Biluck, Jr.
Director of Operations
Medford Township Public Schools
Medford, New Jersey 08055
(609) 953-2507

Michigan School District Reports that using B20 Saves Money

Michigan School District Reports that using B20 Saves Money The first Michigan school district to switch its entire bus fleet to B20 has logged one million miles on the alternative fuel, and maintenance records reveal that the district has saved money as a result.

The district’s 31 school buses, including 13 powered by Cummins, 2 powered by Mercedes, and 16 powered by International, have achieved this milestone “with no challenges and no modifications,” according to Wayne Hettler, garage foreman and head mechanic . The district also uses B20 in nine support vehicles including a foodservice truck and a Toro Diesel 3-wing mower.

Part of the incentive leading to the switch to B20 was the receipt of a grant in 2003 through the Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry Services which funded St. Johns for the incremental cost difference of the B20. Even though the grant ended in December of 2003, Hettler’s been able to show his staff and the school board that they are still saving money by using B20. The main cost savings is on the extended intervals between oil changes.

“I’m convinced that we are able to extend the oil changes because the B20 burns cleaner and isn’t dirtying the oil as quickly,” said Hettler. “We’re using oil analysis to determine the oil change times. We solely credit biodiesel for cleaning up the oil, thus saving the district the costs of oil, filters, labor and the like. We have our records for each bus before a single drop of biodiesel was ever put in the tank, up through our present usage. I challenge other fleets to ‘read’ their fleet records and make these cost-saving changes after switching to B20.”

Hettler also reports an increase in miles per gallon, and improved lubricity, leading to longer fuel pump life. “Prior to April ’02 we averaged one fuel pump change in our fleet per year. We haven’t had to change any fuel pumps since April ’02,” he said.

According to the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee, Hettler has used the oil from more than 15,000 bushels of soybeans to fuel his fleet with biodiesel. “There is much less smoke at the B20 level and both the mechanics and bus drivers have noted the difference, not to mention the kids,” Hettler said. “We’re using soy biodiesel for the health benefits for all of us, the environment, and to support America’s soybean farmers.”

St. Johns Public Schools, 31 school buses, 10 diesel support vehicles are maintained by Wayne Hettler, the Head Mechanic “We have experienced very positive results with B20. The B20 not only solved our lubrication problem, but we have reduced costs in fuel pump injector repair. We now extend our oil services another 10 percent. Our buses don’t have the exhaust soot on the back that has to be scrubbed off. The fleet average fuel mileage has increased from 8.1 to 8.8 miles per gallon. When all of these things are added up, we are seeing about $7500 savings per year. When we take out the price difference in the cost of the B20, we still see about $3000 per year savings. That’s about fifteen cents per gallon difference in the fuels.”

Over 1,200 school buses in Clark County operate on biodiesel fuel.

The Clark County School District accepted yet another award for its use of biodiesel to power its school buses. During the May 22 awards breakfast at the National Clean Cities Conference, the school district received the Clean Cities National Partners Award for using biodiesel in more than 1,200 school buses operating in Clark County. Accepting the award on behalf of the school district was Frank Giordano, Coordinator of Vehicle Maintenance.

Deer Valley School District - Phoenix Arizona

The Deer Valley School District in Phoenix, Arizona, began using biodiesel in 1999 following a state mandate that school districts use alternative fuel vehicles to curb air pollution. In a total fleet of 250 vehicles, 140 school buses and 5 maintenance trucks run on biodiesel. These vehicles will travel 2.5 million miles annually in Deer Valley.

The buses use a B20 blend of biodiesel mixed on site by school district staff; the other vehicles run on B100. Vehicles run on both reused oil and virgin biodiesel, depending on suppliers and availability, with no apparent differences in performance. While the school district spends more money on fuel, its alternative fuels program receives state grant money. The district also encourages surrounding school districts to use biodiesel so they can order bulk quantities at a reduced price.

A blind pilot study in Deer Valley revealed that school bus drivers noticed performance increases with biodiesel. They were baffled, however, by what they perceived as the smell of hot dogs throughout the day, apparently from biodiesel made from used cooking oil.

Bondurant-Farrar Community School District

"Our school district believes in supporting the industry that feeds us," says Dennis Moore, Bondurant-Farrar Community School District.  "And, because this is a farming community, using soy-based biodiesel in our buses is a way we can give back." The school district started using soy-based biodiesel in the spring of 2000 after Moore was approached by Norm Cummings, Diamond Oil Company.  Currently, the district uses approximately 1,660 gallons of the fuel a month.

"I've had great luck with biodiesel," says Moore.  "I especially see a difference in the older buses.  There is a lot less black smoke, and they seem to get better gas mileage."

Moore says he has been purchasing the soy-based biodiesel a couple of cents cheaper than the regular #2 diesel he's previously used; but, as long as the soy-based biodiesel remains cost competitive, he will continue using it. Currently, Moore purchases the fuel with a 4.3 percent soy-to-diesel ratio, but would like to experiment with a higher ratio. "Soy-based biodiesel is a good product, and it's good for our school district.”

Olympia, Illinois School District

Olympia, Illinois School District began using a B2 blend in August 2002 in all 33 of its school buses and about 20 operation and maintenance support vehicles such as lawnmowers, pickup trucks and tractors. The 377 square mile school district is the second largest school district in the state after Cook County outside Chicago. The buses travel 4,000 miles a day, or an average of 600,000 miles a year.

"We're thrilled to be using biodiesel - a fuel that can be used in all our diesel vehicles with no engine modifications," said Trent Keller, Transportation Director for the Olympia School District. "because of the size of our district and the fact that our bus engines run 200,000 miles before they are traded in, performance and safety are very important to us. Our buses have been running beautifully with biodiesel.”

Arlington County, Virginia School District

Last year, Arlington County, Virginia began using B20 in the county's 500 diesel-powered vehicles, including 120 school buses, according to Ric Hiller, chief of the equipment division. "We started using biodiesel in our school buses because we saw an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: clean the air and use a renewable fuel," said Hiller. "We're very pleased with biodiesel so far."

Biodiesel is a homegrown solution to the problem of dirty school buses and its widespread use could immediately benefit the health of children, while at the same time helping to protect the environment, boost domestic energy security, increase farm income, and create jobs. The schools districts across the country that are already using biodiesel are true leaders and should serve as examples for others.”

Three Arkansas School Districts Pleased with Alternative Fuels

Use of a biodiesel fuel blend in 149 school buses operated by the three districts in Pulaski County has worked out well, officials say. The districts participated last year - and plan to do so again in the upcoming school year - in a pilot program that reimburses them for the extra costs of using a blend of fossil fuel and vegetable oil. Use of the fuel is intended to reduce reliance on non-renewable fossil fuels. The biodiesel mix used last year by the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County districts is a blend of 80 percent standard diesel fuel and 20 percent soy-based oil. It costs about 20 cents more per gallon than regular diesel fuel.

But some of that extra cost was offset in a surprising way, said Mike Martello, transportation director for the Little Rock district. "We noticed something that we didn't think was going to happen," Martello said. "We actually got a little bit better fuel economy on the biodiesel than we did with the regular." Martello said his operation had no problems using the biodiesel fuel. "It makes us less dependent on foreign oil, obviously," he said. The Little Rock district used the blend this year in 103 magnet-school buses, more than a third of its fleet. "The only disadvantage I can think of is the cost," Martello said. "But as long as we are reimbursed for the increase in the cost it is tremendous advantage, I think, to the school districts to be able to use the fuel."

Reimbursement came from the Arkansas Energy Office, a division of the state Economic Development Department. The rebates are available to help other Arkansas school districts offet the costs of experimenting with the fuel, according to Energy Office director Chris Benson. Gov. Mike Huckabee says he hopes other districts will take advantage of the program.

"It shows the state's support for our agricultural economy, air quality, and smart use of energy resources," Huckabee said.

Littleton Public Schools and Jefferson County Public Schools Colorado

The Denver urban and suburban districts will join a growing list of about 50 other districts nationwide that have chosen biodiesel as a means of reducing school kids’ exposure to harmful emissions.

Two large Colorado school districts, Littleton Public Schools and Jefferson County Public Schools, already use biodiesel successfully. Littleton has used B20 for about a year and reports decreased maintenance costs since making the switch. “Having two school districts in our area tell us what a great experience biodiesel has been really made a difference in deciding what fuel to offer to other districts,” said Sara O’Keefe, DRAQC communications manager. “Biodiesel is one of the most easily available clean fuels in our area. Our hope is that if we cover the slight cost difference under this grant, then the schools will see the benefits and continue to use it.”

Biodiesel can be made from any fat or vegetable oil, such as soybean oil, and works in any diesel engine with few or no modifications. It is nontoxic and biodegradable. Biodiesel can be blended with petroleum diesel at any level or used in its pure form. In 1997, the Medford, New Jersey School District was the only school in the nation to run its fleet with the cleaner burning fuel. Today, thousands of buses and other diesel-powered vehicles use biodiesel in schools.

“Biodiesel is a good fit for the Clean School Bus program because it offers an immediate way to begin cleaning up emissions, and it works with the buses they already have,” said Jeffrey Kimes, EPA Environmental Engineer in the Colorado district. “It performs just like diesel, but tests show biodiesel is better for human health, and that is one of the major benefits of the fuel.



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