Propane helps public schools reduce their emissions


It’s important that Knox County School District R-1 in northeast Missouri recently took possession of the first electric school bus to operate in the state. The district’s interest in reducing tailpipe emissions is a laudable goal.

However, it does not take into account the cost of an electric bus and the fact that significant upstream emissions are required to charge the battery. At about three times the cost of a conventional bus or other alternative fuel, few or no school districts could afford to trade in their current fleets for electric models. And, the reality of power generation outweighs any supposed benefits in emissions. At least 60% of the energy needed to provide electricity to customers is lost in generation and transmission. With over 70% of Missouri’s electricity generated by coal, the truth is that electric vehicles generate substantial ‘displaced’ emissions – disproportionately affecting those who live near power plants – in order to claim the absence exhaust emissions.

This is why it is important to recognize the leadership of public schools in adopting a viable and economical clean air fleet. For example, after adding propane school buses last year, Kansas City public schools are not only saving money on fuel and maintenance, but improving air quality with lower verifiable emissions. . Neosho, Grain Valley and Independence school districts report environmental benefits, as well as year-to-year savings in fuel and maintenance.

Reduced emissions are the reason more and more school districts are adding propane buses to their fleets every day. In Missouri alone, school districts operate more than 300 propane buses, which is roughly the total number of electric buses in service nationwide. Across the country, 1.3 million students in more than 1,200 school districts get to school every day on propane school buses.

The latest academic research adds weight to the propane bus argument:

• According to a West Virginia University study published in 2019, propane school buses reduce nitrogen oxides by at least 95%. In actual stop-and-go bus driving applications, diesel emissions are 34 times higher than with propane.

• A 2019 Georgia state study found that diesel school bus fumes lower test scores. The study correlated increased school performance when children were exposed to lower levels of school bus emissions. Student test scores improved in math and English.

The local economic advantage is important. Kansas City public schools pay 50 percent less per gallon for propane compared to diesel, for an expected savings of about $ 500,000 per year. It provides additional savings of $ 55,000 each year in maintenance costs and takes advantage of federal alternative tax credit refunds to further increase fuel savings. The Independence School District estimates the savings per propane bus at $ 2,000 per year just on fuel costs. It’s the budget they say can go straight to school, not the fuel.

Schools now have several funding opportunities to help replace diesel buses with cleaner, lower carbon propane models, including the Missouri Propane Education & Research Council Clean Bus Replacement Rebate which offers $ 2,000 per bus, or its interest-free finance on lease-purchase acquisitions that allow a district to spread payments without interest charges. Recently, the Missouri Propane Education & Research Council presented Liberty Public Schools with a check for $ 20,000 for the purchase of 10 new Blue Bird propane school buses.

Reducing emissions to benefit the health of students and the community is not only helpful, it is a must. I encourage public school districts to join the 1,200 districts across the country and consider propane-powered buses.

Steve Ahrens is the president of the Missouri Propane Education & Research Council (MOPERC), based in Jefferson City.

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