Seminole County schools look to buy new buses that use cheaper fuel

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SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - The Seminole County School District isn't satisfied with how little it's saved by switching to a different kind of fuel, so now leaders may switch buses instead.

The district said it didn't see a dime of savings from a program testing a cheaper propane-blend fuel.

The buses that transport Leon County students around Tallahassee look like the ones Seminole County schools use, but what's going inside the fuel tanks isn't traditional diesel.

The buses run on compressed natural gas, and now, Seminole County is thinking of making the switch.

"I think that's the way to go. We definitely would save a lot of money," said Charles Aquino, supervisor of fleet services for SCPS.

A gallon of diesel goes for about $4. A gallon of CNG costs $1.40.

"We buy about a million gallons of diesel fuel, so it doesn't take much to figure out how much money we'll be saving," Aqunio said.

The CNG fuel also seems to be a safer alternative. If a typical fuel tank is cracked in a crash, diesel fuel would spill out on the roadway where it could ignite and would have to be cleaned up.

Natural gas simply evaporates.

Still, the switch wouldn't be cheap. The district would have to buy new buses, which are about $30,000 more apiece than a diesel bus. The district would also have to build a $3 million fueling station.

Still, some taxpayers think the switch would be worth it.

"You'll probably make it up over the long run," said taxpayer Steve Early. "It's going to take you awhile to get it back, but you will."

So far, the district hasn't made a final decision.