Designer diesel

Studies have shown that school buses are a safe mode of transportation for children—but the exhaust they release isn’t. Buses in one school district, though, are starting to cut down on exhaust by using more environmentally friendly fuel.

Chicago Public Schools recently announced a pilot program to introduce cleaner-burning ethanol-diesel blend fuel for some of the district’s school buses.

The program has converted 25 buses owned by Falcon Transportation Inc. to use the new fuel blend, and school officials say they hope to eventually convert 600 buses to be more environment-friendly.

“This is just another example of our school district’s commitment to our environment,” says Arne Duncan, CEO of Chicago Public Schools.

The cost to fit each bus with new fuel intake equipment is about $500, according to Katheryn Hayes, a program spokeswoman. All costs of the equipment are currently covered by the CityHome Program, a national group that helps municipal transit districts and school bus operators switch to O2Diesel fuel at no additional cost. CPS contracts out all of its bus services, so the program comes at no cost to the district. According to Hayes, if the program is expanded bus companies will likely seek additional sponsors.

The Chicago Public School system currently transports about 30,000 students a day on 2,355 bus routes.

Duncan says the program is one of many initiatives the district has explored to determine the most efficient way to reduce emissions in school buses. Although current CPS bus contracts do not require buses to use any specific fuel, the district hopes more bus companies will switch to O2Diesel.

Through the National Arbor Day Foundation, a tree will also be planted in Illinois for each student that rides a bus now fueled by O2Diesel.

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