On February 15, 2019, thousands of students in over one hundred countries, including the United States, Germany, England, and Uganda, went on school strikes to protest the U.S. Congress’ refusal to debate House Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal. The Green New Deal, includes a proposal to reduce carbon emissions by forty-five percent and complete a transition to renewable energy by, 2030. Regardless of one’s opinion of the Green New Deal, students are committed to combating climate change, and they expect the authorities that shape their world, from schools to governmental organizations, to be equally committed to promoting environmental sustainability.
After a 2016 through 2018 pilot program showed environmental benefits for using electric buses, selected Massachusetts school districts have been awarded grants to pay for buses, batteries, and chargers for the 2018 through 2019 school year. The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources awarded roughly two million U.S. dollars in grant money from The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative for the project. The money was divided amongst three school districts: Concord-Carlisle Public Schools, Amherst-Pelham Regional Public Schools, and Cambridge Public Schools. In the short term, replacing diesel powered buses with battery powered ones isn’t cost effective. According to the data from the pilot program, an average diesel powered bus in the United States cost from ten thousand to twenty thousand U.S. dollars and lasts a maximum of twelve years. By contrast, an average battery powered bus in the United States costs three hundred ninety-five thousand U.S. dollars, and an average battery lasts a maximum of ten years. Potentially, a company using only battery powered buses could accrue additional expenses if an otherwise functional bus needed its batteries replaced.
Though electric buses are more financially costly than diesel buses, they are far less costly to the environment. According to a 2018 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, battery powered buses have more environmental benefits than buses powered by diesel or natural gas. Electric battery powered buses have roughly seventy percent lower global warming gas emissions than buses powered by diesel or by natural gas. Even taking into account regional differences in carbon emissions across the United States and carbon emissions released from powering the electric buses’ batteries, electric battery buses are 2.5 times cleaner than diesel buses in terms of lifecycle carbon emissions.
The affected local communities and the U.S. media approve of the three Massachusetts school districts’ decision to use electric battery powered school buses. However, some critics claim Massachusetts’ transition from diesel powered school buses to electric battery powered ones isn’t happening soon enough. In an article for, The Boston Globe, Vincent Petryk, David Doyle, and Veena Dharmaraj argue that all of Massachusetts’ public buses should be buses that release zero carbon emissions, because the environmental instability caused by climate change causes socioeconomic instability for all of Massachusetts’ communities, and its small businesses aren’t sustainable if whole communities worth of clients are displaced by natural disasters. The Massachusetts model may change how the nation uses energy, one bus at a time.