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School buses run on bio-diesel fuel

By M. Susanne Hinkle -   Feb 09, 2006

Buses lined up at the St. Charles Parish School Board.  Parish recieved funds to run buses on Bio-diesal fuel.
Photo taken by: Susanne Hinkle
Buses lined up at the St. Charles Parish School Board. Parish recieved funds to run buses on Bio-diesal fuel.

School system hopes to reduce pollution

In an effort to reduce pollution in the New Orleans area, the St. Charles Parish School System's Transportation Department received a grant from the EPA's Clean School Bus USA program for bio-diesel fuel to be used in 98 of its 149 bus fleet. The fuel, produced from a number of renewable sources including soybean old, rapeseed oil and animal fats, will replace the standard fuel normally used in the buses.

"We are excited that we received the funding to test out this new fuel," said Gary Martin of the St. Charles Parish School System's Transportation Department. "We plan to implement this fuel in more busses as soon as its efficiency and reliability are proven," said Mr. Martin.

The Transportation Department of St. Charles Parish Schools know that one bus won't make a huge difference, but it is a step in the right direction. With more buses being switched over to bio-diesel fuel in the future, St. Charles Parish and the surrounding areas are one step closer to cleaning up the rich environment that Louisiana has to offer its residents.

Bio-diesel is a clean-burning fuel containing no sulfur or aromatic compounds. The renewable sources used to make the fuel can be obtained from agriculture feed stocks or by recycling used oil, such as cooking oil. In the United States, the most common form of bio-diesel is derived from soybean oil. The environment friendly fuel can be used in its pure form or can be blended with conventional diesel. The district is using a 20 percent bio-diesel blend, with the remaining 80 percent standard diesel. The performance of a vehicle running on bio-diesel is no different than a vehicle powered by standard fuel.

There are many benefits to using bio-diesel, as opposed to ordinary diesel. Along with environmental benefits, the benefits include enhanced lubricity and fuel system cleaning properties. The increased lubricity can increase the life of a heavy duty engine such as those used in school busses. In addition to enhanced lubricity, bio-diesel acts as a solvent and cleans engine systems.

The most important advantage of bio-diesel is its environmental impact. According to the EPA's draft report, "A Comprehensive Analysis of Biodiesel Impacts on Exhaust Emissions" from October 2002 indicates that soybean based bio-diesel reduces particulate matter by 10 percent, hydrocarbons by 21 percent and carbon monoxide by 11 percent.

While the use of bio-diesel has more advantages than disadvantages, there are some drawbacks. The bio-diesel is costly at about 20 percent more than standard diesel. As more oil companies in the area begin to produce bio-diesel the cost will decrease over time. Bio-diesel also has a very short shelf life. The current industry standard is that bio-diesel is used within six months. With buses running on fuel almost every day, this drawback should not present a problem to the school system.

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