By Dan Shapley
It's Not Just About Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithmetic Anymore
Pollution from the nation's school bus fleet contributes to asthma, the leading cause of absenteeism from chronic illness. That has schools focused on a new set of 3 R's those related to reducing pollution from school buses:
- Replacement (of the oldest buses)
- Renovation (of pollution controls)
- Restraint (from idling)
Why Do It?
- School buses are the safest method of transporting students to school, and preferable to countless individual SUVs taking up the task. But buses built before 1990 spit out 60 times as much pollution as those built to 2007 standards.
- Technology is available, at a cost of $600 - $10,000 per older bus, to reduce pollution emissions.
- Diesel exhaust, which can build up inside buses, produces fine particles that penetrates deep into the lungs, triggering asthma attacks, aggravating bronchitis and leading to thousands of premature deaths nationwide every year. Some 40 compounds in diesel exhaust are classified as possible human carcinogens, and exhaust also includes compounds that contribute to smog and haze, acid rain and global warming.
- Idling consumes a half gallon of fuel per hour, and idling for more than three minutes produces 66% more pollution than stopping and restarting the engine.
What's Been Done?
What Remains to Be Done?
- As of 2006, the EPA required the use of ultra low-sulfur diesel fuel, which results in less air pollution and is also compatible with more advanced pollution control technology.
- The Diesel Reduction Act of 2005 set new standards, requiring all buses built after 2007 to come equipped with advanced tailpipe pollution controls that reduce emissions by 90% to 95%.
- The Environmental Protection Agency's Clean School Bus USA Program has spent $31.5 million, and state and local governments have spent another $40 million to replace or renovate the tailpipe emissions equipment on 30,000 older school buses. Because of the program, 2 million students ride cleaner buses.
- Local school districts around the country have approved anti-idling laws, and the EPA promotes voluntary guidelines that districts can adopt.
- Several states including California, New York, Ohio, Texas, Connecticut and Washington have led the local charge to renovate and replace old buses by contributing money to the effort.
- There are about 75,000 to 130,000 older, pre-1990 buses on the road about one third of the nation's fleet, according to a Union of Concerned Scientists estimate.
- Of the nation's 450,000 buses, 390,000 are diesel, and approximately two thirds should be either upgraded or replaced, according to the group.
- Congress has approved spending up to $200 million annually to improve pollution from diesel engines. Last year, it appropriated just $12 million, and this year is considering appropriating between $50 million and $65 million.
For more on this topic, see Pollution Math: School Bus = 2x Tractor Trailer
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