A few weeks ago, Renee Cipriano, the director for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, made a special visit to the Holiday Inn City Centre in Peoria. She presented a check to a school district participating in the Illinois Clean School Bus program. Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the Illinois EPA have a goal under the Clean School Bus program to provide a healthier environment for Illinois school children.
Air pollution from diesel-powered school buses affects everyone, but children are at a potentially greater risk because they breathe 50 percent more air per pound of body weight than adults. Diesel exhaust contains various air pollutants, including fine particulate matter that can increase the frequency of childhood illnesses such as asthma.
The Clean School Bus program will assist school districts in replacing buses with cleaner models, retrofitting existing buses with advanced emission control technologies, and implementing cleaner fuels. These efforts will significantly reduce the emissions of existing diesel-powered school buses and improve air quality in and around the school buildings and throughout local communities.
The cleaner fuels aspect of this initiative has farmers excited. Biodiesel is a clean-burning fuel made from soybeans that could help students breathe cleaner air.
Already, there are several school districts in the area using a biodiesel blended fuel. In Peoria County, Illini Bluffs School District #327, located in Glasford, has been using a 2 percent biodiesel blend. In Woodford County, Eureka School District #140 and Fieldcrest School District in Minonk are using the renewable soybean blended diesel. Midland School District in Marshall County, along with school districts in McLean County-Ridgeview, Olympia, and Unit 5-have created a healthier environment for children by burning biodiesel in their buses.
Is your school district using a biodiesel blended fuel? Encourage your district to contact the districts above and get their comments about using biodiesel.
There are 18,500 school buses operating in Illinois, and 70 percent (13,000) of these are powered by diesel fuel. A 20 percent blend of biodiesel can be used in a standard diesel engine without any modifications. The blend will significantly reduce particulate matter.
Biodiesel blended fuel also has significant advantages to maintaining the diesel engine longevity. At only a 2 percent blend, lubricity is increased 67 percent, which will reduce wear and tear of engine components.
Farmers across Peoria County will be planting nearly 100,000 acres of soybeans this spring. If 50 bushels per acre are harvested this fall, those 100,000 acres will yield 5 million bushels. These soybeans can help us move a step closer to energy independence, boost our local economy, and provide cleaner air to breathe. And remember, biodiesel is renewable. Just as sure as the sun will rise and set, farmers will be busy planting more soybeans every spring. IBI