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Denver school buses switch to biodiesel


The Denver Public School district -- with the largest school bus fleet in Colorado -- will use biodiesel fuel made by a Fort Collins company in 50 of its 450 school buses, said Blue Sun Biodiesel on Tuesday.

The district is using the fuel as part of the federal Environmental Protection Agency's "Clean School Bus" initiative to reduce diesel pollution and improve air quality.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Blue Sun Biodiesel is a supplier of premium biodiesel, made from pure vegetable oils. The company produces biodiesel energy crops such as canola and mustard seed through cooperatives with regional farmers, and is currently implementing state-of-the art production and distribution facilities.

"Biodiesel speaks for itself on the emissions. We're looking at the engine and drive train running much cleaner," said Guy Champlin, director of transportation and support services for DPS, in a statement.

But the cost of using alternative fuels is an issue for cash-strapped school districts, Champlin said in the statement.

The district spends about $1 million a year to fuel its 450 buses, which travel 5 million miles a year, and administrative cars that log another 1.8 million miles. Blue Sun's biodiesel is being used mainly to fuel elementary and middle school route buses.

Diesel prices have risen 38 percent in the last year. Federal subsidies for alternative fuels that took effect in January 2005 are expected make biodiesel prices more competitive.

"Denver Public Schools is making an important choice by using biodiesel in their school bus fleet and I'm glad they are in a leadership role," Blue Sun President and CEO Jeff Probst said in a statement.

Several school districts in the Denver area are now using "B20" biodiesel fuel in buses. B20 is a mixture of 20 percent biodiesel blended with 80 percent diesel fuel.

In addition to school districts, municipal and commercial fleets are converting to Blue Sun's biodiesel, including city and county fleets in Denver, Boulder, Durango and Fort Collins. B20 can reduce hydrocarbon emissions by 20 percent, as well as lowering carbon monoxide and particulates.

The use of biodiesel can also provide the necessary lubrication for engines running ultra-low sulfur diesel, but without the pollution that is caused by sulfur. The EPA will begin mandating ultra-low sulfur fuels next year. 



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