Biodiesel costs delay fuel switch
Production: A commercial partner could collect tax credits and green carbon credits from the federal government based on the amount of biodiesel used and split them with the school district.
BY DAVID NIVENS
ENTERPRISE STAFF WRITER
GUILFORD COUNTY — School district leaders will wait to see where biodiesel prices go and what other districts decide about going green with their bus fleets.
The Board of Education took no action Tuesday on a staff recommendation to buy 5 percent of diesel bus fuels as biodiesel. The blended fuel costs 5 to 8 percent more than regular diesel.
Transportation Director Jeff Harris discouraged a quick leap into full biodiesel conversion because of the prices. The Guilford school district buys 1.6 million gallons of diesel fuel a year.
“We may need to see how it works in smaller counties,” Harris said.
State agencies are under state and federal mandates to start using biofuels. State regulations require school districts to buy as much as 2 percent of their bus fuels as biodiesel if they have vehicles that can use it.
During a recent test period with 50 buses, no maintenance problems arose and there were no additional operating costs with biodiesel, Harris said. Biodiesel is best for vehicles made since 1995, many of which can use a blend of 20 percent bio-product to diesel.
“We can look at this again at budget time,” said Chairman Alan Duncan. “It could be a double win on costs and for the environment if we can make it work.”
The school board also has discussed producing biodiesel or forming a partnership with a vendor to use it in more buses. Biodiesel production also offers a way for restaurants, farmers and others to participate in a new green economy.
Outgoing board member Paul Daniels has been a proponent of starting the “green cycle” to produce biodiesel from cooking oils collected from school cafeterias and commercial restaurants.
“We should make our own to make this works on the price,” Daniels said. “We are not taking full advantage here. We could save 20 percent of our fuel costs. That is a lot of money.”
Just a few school districts have moved to switch to biodiesel. Gaston County recently lost a contract for waste cooking oils and stopped biodiesel production last month.
“Many school cafeterias and restaurants use less cooking oil now,” said board member Nancy Routh. “We have no free supply now and there is not as much of it.”