Bobby Monacella is tired of sending two children on a bus filled with diesel fumes to school. The pollution levels inside these iconic yellow buses may be 10 times higher than outside.
“They sit on the bus for more than an hour every day, and when you learn that the emissions are concentrated in the bus, it’s terrible,” said Monaseira, a volunteer with the climate advocacy organization Mothers out Front.
So she worked with other moms in Fairfax County, Virginia, to do something about it. The school district, the second university district in the country, agreed to replace its 1,650 diesel buses with electric buses by 2035.
But other families face longer waits.
The infrastructure package proposed by the Senate and the White House on Wednesday provided far less funding for electric school buses than what President Biden sought.
Without the federal government’s cash and incentives, advocates worry that zero-emission school buses—which may cost three times as much as internal combustion engines—may be unevenly distributed, leaving low-income families and students of color. The first to bear the brunt is environmental pollution.
Trisha DelloIacono, legislative manager of the Mom’s Clean Air Force, said: “Schools that are able to make the transition and not only pay for school buses, but also for the charging infrastructure, are located in wealthy communities.” “So federal investment is very much needed.”
According to the package, electric school buses will receive 2.5 billion U.S. dollars, enough for about 11,000 zero-emission buses. Another 2.5 billion US dollars will be spent on what legislators and the White House call low-emission buses.
This one-time payment is significantly lower than Biden’s initial proposal of $174 billion in March last year to promote the entire electric vehicle market, including cars, trucks and buses. The plan aims to electrify 96,000 school buses, accounting for approximately 20% of the US fleet.
“We need full funding,” said Sybil Azur, a mother and community organizer who has been working to expand the use of electric school buses in Los Angeles. “It’s about my child’s future, my child’s health, and their ability to lead a productive and healthy life.”
She and other advocates worry that the allocation of “low-emission” school buses in the infrastructure package may prioritize other fuel types over electric technology.
“In essence, this is just a small part of what is needed to protect our children from harmful diesel pollution,” DelloIacono said. “To make matters worse, if it is used to pollute fossil fuel buses under the guise of improving our country’s infrastructure, it will not help our children at all.”
There are 480,000 school buses nationwide, 95% of which use highly polluting diesel. More than half of the public school students in the country, with approximately 25 million children, ride buses to and from school every day.
Research Research by Environment & Human Health Inc. shows that the pollution levels of these school buses are often 5 to 10 times higher than those in the surrounding areas, endangering the health of students and causing greenhouse gas emissions. The transportation sector is the largest single source of carbon pollution in the country.
Although scientists have long known that diesel pollution can cause many health problems, including asthma and bronchitis, developmental disorders and cancer, recent studies have shown that the health effects may be more severe than previously thought.
A sort of Meta-analysis Hundreds of studies published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2018 found a close connection between pollution exposure and heart and lung diseases.other learnA study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2018 found that air pollution can significantly exacerbate dementia. According to a 2019 report, even a slight increase in air pollution caused by a car will cause more children to go to the hospital and lead to premature births. work documents From the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
For children whose brains are still developing, environmental pollution is more serious than adults. Black children are hospitalized for asthma twice as often as white children, and are four times more likely to die from the disease than white children. Latino children are also at higher risk.
This is why Cinthia Moore, a mother and advocate who lives in a predominantly Latino community in East Las Vegas, does not allow her son Liam to ride the school bus.
“He has breathing problems,” she explained. “Whenever we encounter days with bad air quality, such as today, if he stays outside for a period of time, he will have a runny nose and sneeze, and because of the extreme heat, a rash will also appear around his body.”
Monacella of Mothers out Front said that funding details and the placement of charging infrastructure can determine whether electric school buses are fairly distributed.
She mentioned a pilot program in Virginia in which Dominion Energy deployed 50 electric school buses as part of a wider vehicle-to-grid plan. Monacella said she is concerned that the utility company may not prioritize low-income school districts.
“Dominion will help pay for some buses; maybe our state subsidy fund will help pay for some buses; and, you know, the more the better,” she said. “But the way the Dominion project is set up, they want to have the battery and charging infrastructure, and they want to show where it can be installed. So the place with the highest incidence of asthma is not important; the lowest air quality is not important. What is important is right They are useful.”
A Dominion spokesperson stated that the utility company has deployed 50 electric school buses in geographically and economically diverse areas and intends to weigh fairness when expanding its vehicles to the grid.
Spokesperson Samantha Moore wrote in an email: “Every student in the Commonwealth should have access to safe, zero-emission school transportation. Our goal is to help the school district make this transition.”
As health effects associated with climate-induced events such as extreme heat or wildfires become more common among children, parents are increasingly calling on their elected officials to take action.
“If your child has difficulty breathing due to wildfires and smoke caused by climate change, it is very important for these families to have the opportunity to ride an electric school bus without being exposed to additional pollution,” said DelloIacono of Moms Clean. air force.
“Therefore, they have been at the forefront of advocating the transition to electric school buses.”
Controlling school bus emissions can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 5.3 million tons per year. According to a recent report, although the current purchase cost of electric buses is higher than that of diesel buses, schools can save hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel and maintenance costs. Report Led by the American PIRG Education Fund.
“Therefore, the injection of new federal funds is very important because it can indeed help finance upfront costs,” said John Stout, a transportation advocate for PIRG in the United States.
Despite funding hurdles, as the infrastructure debate on Capitol Hill intensifies, the momentum for electric school buses is growing.
Last year, a school district in Sacramento, California became the owner of the largest electric school bus fleet in the country, with 40 zero-emission buses. A county in Tennessee received the state’s first all-electric school bus last month. In Maryland, Montgomery County Public Schools announced a contract earlier this year to replace all diesel buses with 326 buses within four years. The list goes on.
recent polling The American Lung Association found that among all major population groups, 68% of American voters support Congress’s nationwide investment in zero-emission school buses.
This month, more than 100 local school board officials across the country signed a letter Biden and Congress called on the federal government to invest 30 billion U.S. dollars within 10 years to replace half of the school bus fleet in the United States with electric buses.
Several lawmakers have proposed similar legislation.recent measure Representatives from Rep. Tony Cárdenas (California) and Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), as well as Sens. Alex Padilla (California) and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) will authorize $25 billion for transitional state school bus fleets over 10 Serving low-income and frontline communities first.
Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) also floated a bill Earlier this year, originally launched in 2019 by former Senator Kamala Harris, this will enable school districts to replace diesel buses with electric buses.
Although there are still many uncertainties — such as how to best install charging infrastructure — Monacella said that electrifying the nation’s school bus fleet is a vital step, not only to protect the health of children, but also to reduce carbon emissions. There are four times more school buses on the road than public transport buses.
“Climate change is happening around us. This is beyond the crisis period,” she said. School bus electrification “is only part of the puzzle, but I think it will have a big impact. This is something I can do to try to make a difference.”
forward from Electronics News With permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2021. E&E News provides important news for energy and environmental professionals.