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 sub zero temperatures.
But is biodiesel really to blame for the stalled school buses? According to the Star Tribune, the biodiesel content is very low:
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.
Image: ecksunderscore on Flickr under a Creative Commons License
Everyone became skeptical about this news story because if the buses wouldn’t start, why not other vehicles in the area that also use the biodiesel? A logical question that no one seemed to think about.
We had temps between –20 to –40 that week, and it was just too damn cold. People were lucky to get their vehicles started on those days.
At least the school district had enough sense to close the schools- it was dangerously cold. Too bad the bus service and media (who jumped on the story without further investigation) were quick to blame the biodiesel.
Jennifer Lance says
Good point Meg. I have a friend from Alaska that said she had to use three different heaters on her car to get it started in subzero temperatures. B2 really shouldn’t make a difference.
Exactly- my vehicle was in the garage and my husbands was outside but plugged in and both barely turned over…and we are in for another arctic blast, beginning tomorrow.
I am just so surprised no one thought it out before coming to that conclusion. Cripes, NOTHING wants to move at those temps!
Emiliano Jordan says
Come to Tucson!!! No problems here. I have the door wide open and I’m not to happy I had to put on my pajama PANTS to sit and drink coffee and surf blogs. Sorry, that was mean. Best of luck 🙂
Here in Montreal, public buses use biodiesel all the time. And the average temperature in winter averages -15c.
Bob Moffitt says
The final word on the matter, from the Star Tribune: