In the coming weeks the Portland Hall shuttle will begin running on biodiesel. Last spring the USM student body passed an initiative, by a vote of 564 to 114, to switch the shuttle buses over to B20 biodiesel, a blend of 80 percent petrodiesel and 20 percent vegetable oil. Student Sarah Ferriter, an environmental science and policy major, spearheaded the effort.
Originally, a $1 addition to the student fees was to cover the cost of running the biodiesel, but that has not happened. Instead the University earmarked $10,000 to cover the incremental costs of running biodiesel in the Portland Hall bus and in University owned diesel vehicles on the Gorham campus.
Biodiesel produces at least 20 percent less unburned hydrocarbons and 12 percent less carbon monoxide than standard petrodiesel. Biodiesel generally costs $.30 more per gallon than petrodiesel. Dudley Greeley, environmental and economic sustainability coordinator said, “the $10,000 goes a long way.”
Union Oil now has a biodiesel fueling station at their Commercial Street location, where the bus will fill up.
“[Union Oil’s] decision to sell biodiesel at the pump had everything to do with USM’s well-publicized commitment to uphold the student mandate,” said Ferriter.
USM’s effect on the community has not stopped there. The University received an anonymous $10,000 matching donation to be used for biodiesel last week.
Greeley said that, “Someone in the community was so pleased with our efforts, they decided to donate $10,000. It couldn’t have been done without the efforts of the students. This is the result of a lot of hard work on their part.”
Ferriter is still confident that eventually the whole fleet of buses will run on B20. “I think it’s the administration’s commitment to making a good-faith effort to meet the spirit of the biodiesel initiative that matters the most,” said Ferriter. “In conversations with the administration, I realized that running more than the Portland Hall shuttle on B20 this year would probably not be feasible. I see this year as a trial run.”
Greeley said that this step exemplifies the University’s ongoing commitment to work with students for a healthier campus environment. “The President and University are all committed to this. And not just the specific use of biodiesel but efforts in other areas as well. We’re using solar panels and on the new campus buildings, we’re not even going to have smokestacks.”
Ferriter said that she was hopeful that boilers would be burning a biodiesel blend by the end of this semester. Greeley could not confirm a starting date, but said that burning biodiesel in buildings is also imminent.
Ferriter also said that she was concerned about buses idling outside the Woodbury Campus Center.
“When it’s very cold idling might be necessary, but during the remainder of the year the buses do not need to idle. VIP is avoiding the cost of replacing starters in order to externalize the costs of fuel and pollution onto us. This isn’t right and it needs to stop.” she said.
Greeley said he is working out a policy with VIP. According to the proposal, idling will be allowed only if the ambient temperature is below 20 degrees or in stops that are less than one minute. “These buses blowing diesel into the Campus Center, it’s not only unhealthy, but it is a waste of fuel. These buses are idling for 15 and 20 minutes at a time.”