Biodiesel switch could be costly

Nov. 19, 2012 @ 06:36 PM

Fuels: The Guilford school district buys 1.6 million gallons of diesel fuel a year. 

Mandate: 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.

Students could start riding school buses fueled partly with more costly biodiesel if  district leaders accept tonight the recommendation in a new report. 
School officials spent $14,000 on biodiesel for 50 test buses in which biodiesel was blended in various concentrations from 5 percent to 20 percent. The blended fuel costs 5 to 8 percent more than regular diesel.  The latest test period ended last month.
“During the test period, school buses utilizing the biodiesel blend did not experience unusual maintenance problems or incur additional operating costs,” according to the district transportation department report.
The Board of Education will meet at 6 p.m. in district headquarters in Greensboro to consider the report and a staff  recommendation that the district purchase through state contracts 5 percent of diesel bus fuels as biodiesel.
“A permanent switch with B-20 used year round would increase the department’s fuel budget,” according to the report. Using the fuel in emergency school generators also could be a problem because the engines were not designed to run on biodiesel.
As a fuel, biodiesel is best for vehicles made since 1995, many of which can use a blend of 20 percent bio-product to diesel.  Biodiesel, which burns with less pollution than pure diesel, can be used in diesel bus engines with little or no engine modification.  The blended fuel can clog fuel filters as it cleans sludge from tanks and fuel lines, but also can improve the lubrication of engines that have used low-sulphur diesel.
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. 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.
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