Dane County school districts and bus companies using cleaner biodiesel fuel will benefit from a first-of-a kind reimbursement program funded by the Dane County Clean Air Coalition and the Wisconsin Soybean Program.
The program announced today will reimburse school districts the cost difference between biodiesel and standard diesel fuel.
“Using biodiesel means healthier school children, reduced air pollution and help for area farmers striving to expand a renewable fuels industry,” Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk said. “Thousands of our Dane County kids who will ride a biodiesel bus to school every day will be breathing easier.”
Soybean farmers and 7th grade science students from Wright Middle School in Madison joined Falk, State Agriculture Secretary Rod Nilsestuen, State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster and Madison Schools Superintendent Art Rainwater for the kick-off event at Wright Middle School in Madison.
Today’s announcement comes one year after retrofitting more than 200 county school buses with diesel pollution reduction equipment.
Biodiesel is a cleaner-burning fuel made from renewable fats or oils, such as soybean oil. It is blended with standard diesel to create “biodiesel blends” such as B20, which is 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent standard diesel. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates biodiesel reduces ozone-causing hydrocarbon emissions by 20 percent and carbon monoxide and particulate matter emissions by 12 percent. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction will administer the program.
“We are pleased to be offering schools and bus companies an opportunity to make substantial reductions in pollution emissions from school buses,” said State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster. “Recent studies have shown that children are particularly susceptible to diesel emissions.”
“Not only will this biodiesel purchase incentive program result in cleaner air, it will provide an important economic boost for many locally owned companies, cooperatives and their rural farmer-owners who are developing a growing renewable fuels industry here in Wisconsin,” said Rod Nilsestuen, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. "It is also a great chance to show kids the value of using renewable fuels in our everyday lives. I am hopeful that this Dane County demonstration program will expand statewide in the near future.”
While historically biodiesel has been more expensive than conventional diesel fuel, the current price of biodiesel is the same or even slightly cheaper than conventional diesel. During periods when the cost of biodiesel is less expensive, the purchase incentive fund will act as an insurance policy protecting school districts and bus companies from price increases.
Dane County recently signed a fuel contract that reflects the current lower price of biodiesel and plans to begin using biodiesel in its fleet.
“Our school kids since last fall have been riding on cleaner school buses as a result of the EPA grant we received to retrofit buses with pollution control technology,” Madison Schools Superintendent Art Rainwater said. “Biodiesel is a good fit for our clean school bus program that will further protect the health of our children.”
Madison Metropolitan School District last year received a $291,470 “Clean School Bus USA“ EPA grant involving a consortium of 14 school districts and five private bus companies in southern and central Wisconsin that reduced hydrocarbons by 50%, carbon monoxide by 40% and particulate matter by 20%.
“We are proud to be working with such a committed partnership on this clean air effort,” Robert Karls, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Soybean Program, said. “Biodiesel is a safe, renewable alternative fuel that will benefit the health of school children.
The Dane County Clean Air Coalition contribution of $50,000 and the Wisconsin Soybean Program contribution of $15,000 to the biodiesel purchase incentive fund will be available for the upcoming 2007-08 school year. Details of the program will be announced soon.