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Times Union Letter to the Editor: Propane School Buses Should be Included in Move Away From Fossil Fuels

Bill Overbaugh, Trumansburg

Times Union

There is a lot of money available to promote the electrification of bus fleets. However, that’s because they are not economically viable on their own and require significant public grants to overcome the cost differential.

A diesel bus costs $170,000. An electric bus costs $470,000, plus the charging infrastructure, which in some cases (especially rural upstate school districts) can be over $1 million. The sad truth is that, even with all the incentives, grants, rebates, and loans, electric school buses still cost significantly more money than the other alternatives.

But there is a way to have your cake and eat it, too. New York state has more school districts operating propane school buses than any other state in the country. Propane buses cost $10,000 more than diesel buses and have extremely low nitrogen oxides and absolutely no sulfur dioxide emissions.

They achieve the same public health benefits that an electric bus does at a fraction of the cost. What’s more is that the fuel is significantly less than diesel or gasoline, the infrastructure is already in place, and manufacturers are already turning out thousands of propane-powered school buses every year.

The smart move would be to include ultra-low-emission propane buses as part of the mandate. Propane can drive both environmental and fiscal responsibility from the statehouse down to individual districts.

It is a shame that New York state is taking a very narrow-minded approach of electrification when there are cost-effective, reliable, proven technologies that can achieve carbon reduction goals, public health benefit goals, and reduce the taxpayer burden. We encourage the state to open up to these alternatives.

The writer is the Executive Director of the New York Propane Gas Association.