All posts by Julia Selker

Investing in Resilience – BCSE Weighs in on New Federal Program

The saying goes that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; a more exact quantification by the National Institute of Building Sciences finds that $1 of mitigation spending can reduce future costs by as much as $13.

Many Business Council for Sustainability (BCSE) members, from lighting and HVAC manufacturers to electric and gas utilities, build and install efficiency and resilience technologies that protect the built environment from natural disasters and save customers and communities expense and heartache.

Learn more about how BCSE members are delivering technology solutions and systems that are on-the-ground today and enhancing the resilience of local communities through this selection of case studies on Readiness for Resilience.

Based on member expertise in the field of infrastructure resilience, BCSE supported the passage of the Disaster Recovery and Reform Act (DRRA) in 2018, which led the U.S. federal government to expand its disaster mitigation work. This included the creation of a new program at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), (BRIC).

The BCSE views the newly created BRIC program as an important opportunity to advance clean energy and energy efficiency projects that enhance community resilience and advance the nation towards a sustainable energy future. Because of this, the coalition has worked to expand awareness and understanding of the program through a recent webinar that the BCSE and the Clean Energy Business Network hosted on the BRIC program on April 24.

Based on the coalition’s experience in public contracting for resilience projects, the BCSE submitted comments on the proposed program. In the BCSE's May 11 comments to FEMA, the Council offered several recommendations, including:

  • Eligibility for clean energy projects that improve resilience, especially accounting for emerging climate risks such as heat waves and wildfires
  • Prioritization of projects that advance multiple policy objectives of a state, to increase resilience as well as efficiency and climate impacts
  • For buildings, preference for projects that utilize the most modern building codes
  • Preference for projects that leverage private-sector finance through performance-based contracts

The reasoning for these recommendations, along with other comments, are available in the full comments.

Propane Vehicles Expand School Bus Market Share

When most people think of propane, they might imagine the tanks that they attach to their outdoor grills. But grills only make up 3.36 percent of propane use; home heating and commercial, agricultural and industrial applications all create bigger demand than summer cookouts. Over 10 percent of American propane use is in internal combustion engines in cars, trucks and school buses.

Propane Beyond the Grill and On the Road

There are two significant benefits to propane vehicles: cost savings and emissions reductions.

On average, propane fuel costs up to 50 percent less than diesel and up to 40 percent less than gasoline. In addition, maintenance service and costs are reduced due to the fuel’s clean operation. School districts have reported up to $4,000 in yearly savings.

We all want good air quality in the vehicles that take our children to school every day. Unfortunately, stop-and-go driving along school bus routes leads to significantly higher emissions from diesel engines. A 2019 study linked diesel fumes to reduced academic performance for students.

Propane, on the other hand, is a clean fuel for stop-and-go driving. Diesel school buses are measured to have 34 times the emissions of propane buses, and modern propane engines have been shown to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by at least 95%. Propane is also a more climate-friendly fuel, with 13% lower CO2 emissions than diesel buses. 

New Mexico’s First Propane Buses Begin Operation in the State

There are more than 18,500 propane-fueled school buses in the U.S. today, but until February there were none in New Mexico. This year, three school districts purchased 17 Blue Bird Vision propane buses.

The superintendent of Moriarty-Edgewood School District noted that transportation fuel and maintenance costs have put a strain on their budget for the last eight years. Propane buses will allow more of the district’s resources to go towards education.

Bryan Baca, transportation director for Magdalena Municipal School District noted anticipated benefits for the districts after a training session with Tillery Bus Sales: “Our drivers learned a lot about propane school buses, including their cleaner and quieter ride and quick fueling. They were impressed with the benefits and can’t wait to drive them on their routes.”

School districts have several other options for costs savings. One is from the extension of the federal alternative fuel excise credit, which covers propane at 36 cents per U.S. gallon and propane fueling equipment up to $30,000 per property. In addition, the VW Environmental Mitigation Trust and diesel replacement funds can also help districts with propane bus purchases.

Bus drivers in New Mexico at a demonstration of propane school buses.

Expanding Opportunities for Propane Vehicles

With all of these benefits, it’s easy to wonder why propane isn’t the default fuel for all vehicles. In fact, propane is a more popular fuel in other countries: more than 27 million vehicles travel worldwide with propane fuel.

While there are public fueling stations in every U.S. state, fueling infrastructure is not as expansive as it is for gasoline. Many propane vehicles in the U.S. are part of corporate or municipal fleets, because private fueling infrastructure can often be installed at low or no cost.

The benefits of propane as a transportation fuel are maximized for large vehicles with stop-and-go routes, from school buses, to shuttles, to delivery trucks. We congratulate the New Mexico school districts for taking advantage of cost savings and offering healthier environments for children.

Data from used in this article courtesy of the Propane Education & Research Council