Doing the right thing-environmentally-sometimes means digging deeper into pockets already economically threadbare, but for Canal Winchester Local Schools, state funding is removing part of the financial burden.
The cash-strapped district was recently notified it was awarded a $15,000 Ohio Department of Development Clean Energy Office grant to offset the cost of purchasing biodiesel versus regular diesel fuel.
According to the National Biodiesel Board, biodiesel is a clean burning alternative fuel, produced from domestic, renewable resources. It contains no petroleum, but it can be blended at any level with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend and used in compression-ignition (diesel) engines with little or no modification.
Biodiesel is less toxic than table salt, biodegrades as fast as sugar, and is essentially free of sulfur and aromatics.
It fuels trucks, cars, buses, and tractors and is usually made from soybeans. In comparison with petroleum diesel, biodiesel generates fewer harmful emissions, keeps air cleaner, and does not contribute to global warming. Unlike fossil fuels, it is renewable and made in the United States.
Canal Winchester Schools Operations Director John Gifford said the district’s fleet was converted to biodiesel over a year ago through a pilot project coordinated by Circleville Oil. In exchange for participating in the program, Gifford said the district was not charged the difference in price between regular and biodiesel during the project.
"We did the right thing," said Gifford. "It costs about 25 cents more a gallon, but biodiesel is the right thing, is American, and can help break our dependence on oil. This is a commitment to the taxpayers and the environment and it smells a lot better. I was standing behind a bus the other day in the garage and, while it didn’t smell like French fries, it didn’t smell like diesel fumes, either.
"We didn’t experience any of the problems people said we might have in converting the buses. We asked the drivers to keep an eye on their buses, but there’s been no clogged filters or drop in power. If we would have had problems, they would have shown up before now.
Collectively, Canal Winchester school buses log 381,000 miles per year and use 60,000 gallons of fuel at an annual cost of approximately $200,000. For the 2006-07 school year, the price at the pump was $174,000. However, with three months yet to be tallied and despite route consolidations, the district has already spent $163,000 for 2007-08.