GCS Will Test Biodiesel Fuel in School Buses

What do you get when you mix leftover cooking oil from restaurants with fuel for school buses? Hopefully cleaner air as Guilford County Schools (GCS) tests biodiesel fuel in a portion of the school bus fleet this spring. The Guilford County Board of Education approved Tuesday for the district to research and develop a process for using biodiesel fuel in approximately 50 school buses.

GCS will purchase biofuel - made of cooking oil waste - from a certified vendor and mix the product with fuel in various concentrations to find the right mix for its buses. Throughout the testing period this spring, GCS will monitor the overall vehicle maintenance and cost impact to learn more about how biodiesel could be used on a larger scale to reduce costs and pollutants.

"The positive impact on the health of children, the community and the environment must be considered as a primary reason for using biodiesel," said Jeff Harris, director of transportation. "Biodiesel has the potential of becoming a prominent energy source in school buses on a national level in the future because it is a renewable energy source."

Information from other school districts, state agencies and departments of transportation provided mixed results on the use of biodiesel. Some reported concerns such as mechanical wear on equipment and additional costs of personnel for agencies that produced their own biodiesel, however all reported that planning and having a process in place is important.

"As with any new product, we must make sure we put procedures in place and follow those guidelines in order to see positive results, so we will move slowly and test biodiesel to develop a process that works in GCS before diving in on a larger scale," Harris said.

GCS currently spends about $4 million a year purchasing diesel fuel. During the testing period this spring, no additional funds will be required to purchase the biofuel.