PARKERSBURG - West Virginia is considering moving more state vehicles, including school buses, to alternative fuel systems.
The West Virginia Board of Education Wednesday approved a waiver of Policy 4334: "Minimum Requirements for Design and Equipment of School Buses" in favor of adding propane as an alternative fuel source for the state's school buses.
"The switch will save money and promote a cleaner environment," said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple in a press release Thursday. "About 3,000 buses currently run every school day in West Virginia and travel over 46 million miles a year. The adoption of propane could save an average of $3,100 per bus, annually."
In addition to the cost savings, the use of propane and propane accessories have many advantages over gasoline fuel. Propane is less flammable, the tanks are more puncture resistant and it will not contaminate water or soil. Propane is domestically produced and comes from wet gas in natural gas wells. Propane has been adopted by over 25 states including Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Propane joins compressed natural gas and bio diesel as an approved alternative fuel source.
Wood County Schools officials say the local school system piloted a liquid natural gas program in the 1990s, but various issues caused the fuel to be abandoned.
"It didn't save money, it caused problems with other components of the bus and it never grew, so it was impossible to fill up on the road," said Sue Woodward, assistant superintendent of school services for Wood County Schools. "It never took off as a viable alternative."
However, Woodward said the use of bio-diesel has been extremely successful for the school system.
"It has improved everything from emissions to equipment longevity," she said.
Wood County Schools officials said they do not yet know if Wood County will be among the district's piloting the propane buses. Woodward said the school system would be willing to look at how propane-fueled busses could be used locally.
"We are always looking for ways to save money and the environment," she said.
State officials said the initial investment for propane-powered buses is about $10,000 more per bus, or about $95,000 each. However, fuel- and repair-cost savings are expected to offset the initial investment cost.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has expressed his intent to convert more state vehicles to natural gas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.