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Natural Gas Law in Colorado Not Expected to Impact School Busing for a While

Colorado upped the ante in the race against other states to embrace alternative energy as Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law a bill earlier this month that moves away from coal-burning power plants towards natural gas. But don’t expect an influx of CNG school buses anytime too soon, said Bruce Little, a senior transportation consultant at the state department of education.

Colorado became the fourth state to pass a law reducing carbon emissions from power plants, joining California, Massachusetts and Washington. Over the past year, the Colorado General Assembly passed grants and low interest loans for school districts so they could move toward alternative energy systems in both school buildings and school buses. But those incentives, so far, have done little to stimulate a green movement.

“There has not been any interest, at least that I’m aware of, from districts to go to natural gas or propane under any of these systems,” said Little, adding that only a couple new hybrid-electric school buses have been purchased utilizing grant money. “There is just not a lot of interest in any of this at least as far as vehicles. If a district can’t afford a generic new bus, they’re not interested in going to alternative fuel systems.”

Robert Pudlewski, the chair of NSTA’s Manufacturers, Suppliers, and Technology Committee, said many school districts in the Midwest and on the East Coast have yet to embrace natural gas or propane for their school bus fleets because there is limited infrastructure in most areas. Local government agencies have not been quick to make grants available, unlike what has been the case in states like California and Texas that have well-established natural gas and propane opportunities, respectively.

Richard Kolodjiez, president of the coalition Natural Gas Vehicles for America, countered that natural gas requires far less new infrastructure than other alternative fuels such as hybrids.

“W’e’re not trying to build a playground out of superfunds,” he added.

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