According to the US EPA, “school buses travel about four billion miles yearly, providing the safest transportation to and from school for more than 25 million American children daily.” One problem with diesel-powered school buses is the toxic fumes that are emitted. Thanks to government mandates requiring cleaner diesel fuel and updated engine technologies, there has been a significant decrease in school bus emissions over the past decade. The more promising news is that the electrification of transportation can completely remove these diesel emissions.
The recently passed federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides a significant amount of federal funding, $5 billion, for electric school buses. According to a Columbia University study, the conversion to one electric bus reduces human health costs by $150,000 per year. The American Lung Association estimates nearly $68 billion in public health benefit by changing New York’s buses to clean vehicles. In addition to cleaner air (especially when the electricity for charging is from clean energy sources), studies show that schools using electric school buses are spending 14 cents per mile compared to 49 cents per mile for fuel. According to Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), every $1 spent on clean buses can stimulate $2.60 in private investment. This federal investment for cleaner school buses is anticipated to add $6 billion to the US economy.
As these vehicles become healthier and ultimately more cost-effective, it makes sense that parents with access to bus transportation utilize this resource. Many parents drive their children to and from school every day, and the personal vehicle lines before and after school are surprisingly long. Riding school buses and public transportation conserves fuel and reduces emissions. The earth and its inhabitants depend on everyone to do their part to conserve energy and reduce the burning of fossil fuels in all possible ways.
Julie Peller, Ph.D., is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ). Julie has been writing a weekly column for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), and student and citizen participation in environmental work.