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Natural gas ahead for buses?

MARTHA K. SEAGLE, STAFF WRITER

The potential for changing some of Lincoln County Schools’ bus fleet from diesel fuel to compressed natural gas (CNG) is looking somewhat more optimistic.

Board of Education Budget and Finance Committee chair Bob Silver, with supporting information from District Transportation Director Eric Eaker updated the full board on progress toward this goal during their October meeting.

Both Eaker and Darell Gettys, executive director of facilities, met with representatives from Piedmont Natural Gas in early October, where they learned that about 50 percent of Lincoln County has natural gas available.

“Most of the natural gas is in the eastern part of the county,” Gettys said.

“The western end of the county does not have gas.”

However, Piedmont was willing to study the situation to see how the schools could make use of gas for the district’s buses feasible, Silver reported.

Currently, the bus supplier — Carolina Thomas — does not plan to offer a CNG-powered “C2” model bus for about two years. The only available method to equip existing buses to be run with CNG is a complete engine change-out, as no conversion package is available.

Silver also characterized discussions with the State Department of Public Instruction as “supportive,” should the district decide to move forward with using CNG.

Silver has been urging the school district to evaluate the use of CNG seriously along with other cost-saving measures.

“CNG is capped at $1.81 a gallon when diesel costs around $3.80 a gallon,” he said.

Board member Tommy Houser questioned what would happen if the cost of CNG increases in the future, but was assured by Silver that $1.81 is the maximum price.

Discussion of progress and next steps will continue at the board’s Nov. 16 meeting, which will begin at 6:30 p.m. and be open to the public.

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