By Chris Behrens
Citizens of Iowa have a unique opportunity to positively impact our state's air quality, our children's health and the financial health of our schools. Over the next decade, the state of Iowa is expected to receive approximately $21 million in environmental mitigation trust funds as a result of U.S. Department of Justice settlements with Volkswagen (VW). These funds must be used to implement projects that reduce smog-forming nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, and Gov. Terry Branstad is asking Iowans for their input on projects they believe will achieve the greatest long-term impact.
You are urged to participate in an online survey on the Iowa Department of Transportation website by April 28 at iowadot.gov/vwsettlement.
Eligible projects include reducing NOx from heavy-duty diesel sources, such as school buses. That is why the Iowa Propane Gas Association (IPGA) is urging citizens to consider recommending that the funds be used to replace the state's aged diesel-powered school buses with new propane-powered buses.
The facts: Diesel fuel vs. propane
We believe this investment absolutely achieves the goals outlined in the VW settlement and rewards Iowans in a practical manner that spreads tremendous value across the state. Consider the facts:
• Unlike diesel, propane autogas is a clean domestic fuel that meets today's clean air standards. One of the newest propane-fueled buses is 75% cleaner than today's cleanest diesel buses. And new propane school buses will be 99% cleaner than the oldest, dirtiest buses still operating across Iowa.
• Over its lifetime, each propane school bus can save its school district an estimated $25,000 in operational costs when compared to diesel. These lower operational costs result in savings that bolster a school district's general fund year after year.
• Propane buses significantly reduce children's exposure to emissions that are associated with increased asthma emergencies and bronchitis. While waiting to board propane buses, they will be breathing clean air.
• There are already 110 propane buses in 33 Iowa school districts, saving these school districts money and reducing harmful emissions. The model of propane bus that IPGA is proposing costs about 6% more than a new diesel bus, but will deliver the most "NOx reduction for the buck." By replacing diesel school buses with propane autogas vehicles, the settlement funds can be fairly distributed across the entire state and not just in a few concentrated areas.
If the possibility to decrease dangerous emissions, protect our children's health and boost cost-savings for our schools by using a 100% North American-made fuel source sounds like a smart plan with long-lasting impact, I encourage you to register your support of IPGA's proposal through an online survey by April 28.
If you have questions or need assistance in filling out the survey to indicate your interest in the IPGA proposal, please contact IPGA Executive Director Deb Grooms at 515-564-1260 or email [email protected]. Go ahead. Make a difference in the future of Iowa and our children.
Behrens is president of the Iowa Propane Gas Association and is marketing manager for Farm Service Cooperative based in Harlan.