Last winter when the biodiesel in our truck congealed in cold temperatures and my daughter was late for school, it was considered an unexcused reason for tardiness. Last week, the story was different for children attending school in Minnesota.
Bloomington Public Schools were forced to cancel school when biodiesel fuel required by state law supposedly gelled in a dozen school buses due to subzero temperatures.
Much of the diesel fuel sold in Minnesota contains 2 percent biodiesel fuel, under legislation enacted in 2002 but that didn’t essentially take effect until 2005 because of a production lag.
The requirement was adopted after a tough fight at the Legislature, with soybean farmers pushing for the mandate and trucking and other transportation industry groups in opposition, citing concerns about costs and performance of biodiesel.
When our truck wouldn’t start, we were running B99 (99% biodiesel). I have always been told that B20 was safe in cold temperatures, so B2 would certainly not congeal. Unfairly blaming such transportation failures on biodiesel gives it a bad name, as well as mandated programs like those in Minnesota.
Although the school district is only following a mandate to use biodiesel, I commend them for doing so. The truth is school buses are very inefficient and toxic, and a recent regulation in California was supposed to reduce emissions by retrofitting old buses and purchasing new ones; however, this law was suspended because of the budget crisis. I wonder how our school district will respond, as they have a new bus on order that is due to arrive in March. Will they be able to pay for it? I don’t think they can win a hybrid bus for being America’s greenest school.