Soy Biodiesel Folks Score Coup in Marion County

Two large school districts switch to soy biodiesel for buses.

Published on: Nov 8, 2006
The announcement came last Tuesday, on Halloween Day. But it certainly was a treat, not a trick, for both Marion County students who ride buses in two suburban school districts, and for farmers who grow soybeans in Indiana.

Both Franklin Township and Warren Township, very large school districts located inside Marion County, but not part of Indianapolis Public Schools, announced they would switch all diesel buses in their fleets to soy biodiesel fuel, i.e. B20.

This time it wasn't just soybean backers attending the news conference and providing quotes. Those who support clean air for kids are taking notice, and this time even joined the news conference.

"This is especially valuable to the school children who are riding these buses," says Nancy Turner, Executive Director of the Indiana Chapter of the American Lung Association. "Diesel exhaust poses a greater health risk for children because their respiratory systems are still developing and they have a faster breathing rate. Burning B20 soy biodiesel reduces the amount of particulate matter emitted into the air where students are breathing, which improves air quality."

That's one of the reasons that led Mike Clark, head of transportation for schools in Bloomington, Ind., to switch to B20 two years ago. Once a big skeptic, he is now a huge promoter of soy biodiesel. "We don't see that blue haze in the bus parking lot on cold mornings anymore," he says. "It has to be a better environment inside the bus for students and the driver."

Officials claim burning B 20 in school buses reduces hydrocarbon emissions into the atmosphere by 20%. It reduces particulate matter emissions by 12%, and particulate matter will soon be coming under closer scrutiny as the Environmental Protection Agency targets air quality improvement. Marion County and surrounding Counties have been tabbed in the past as non-attainment counties when it comes to meting air quality standards and regulations. Going with B20 also reduces carbon monoxide emissions, also by about 12%.

In fact, officials note that this move by these tow school corporations is a step toward getting Marion County back into full-attainment status on EPA air quality guidelines.

Expect EPA to put on a push for other school corporations to switch to biodiesel for their bus fleets in the near future. One of President Bush's initiatives calls for having transportation partners on biofuels by 2012. Franklin and Warren townships in Marion County are simply getting out in front of the curve.